Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D., N.H.) is facing a fierce backlash for accepting thousands of dollars and the endorsement of the liberal Middle East advocacy group J Street, which has long stirred controversy for political candidates and recently came under fire for accusing Israel of "fanning growing flames of anti-Semitism."
Shaheen, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, has taken at least $4,300 from J Street’s political action committee (PAC), which funnels money to candidates that J Street believes will carry out its fringe policy objectives in Congress.
While many members have avoided being endorsed by J Street—which Democrats and Republicans on Capitol Hill have described as a dangerous albatross in foreign policy circles—Shaheen, and a handful of other far left Democrats, have risked their pro-Israel credentials to back the group.
Shaheen’s decision to join forces with J Street has drawn criticism in political circles from Washington, D.C., to New Hampshire, where observers accuse the senator of abandoning Israel at a critical time in the Jewish state’s history.
The New Hampshire Republican State Committee (NHRSC) on Tuesday demanded the Shaheen "sever her ties" with J Street, which it described as a "radical fringe group."
"Radical organizations like J Street are determined to attack Israel and undermine Israel's right to defend itself from terrorist attacks. It is disgraceful that Senator Jeanne Shaheen would associate herself with a fringe group like J Street and support their shameful advocacy efforts," NHGOP chairman Jennifer Horn told the Washington Free Beacon in a statement. "As a member of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, Senator Shaheen needs to immediately denounce J Street's shameful statements and return the contributions that it has funneled into her campaign bank account."
A spokesman for Republican Scott Brown, who is challenging Shaheen, told the Free Beacon that there is a stark difference between the two candidates when it comes to the Israel.
"Scott Brown has always stood shoulder-to-shoulder with Israel and supported its efforts to defend itself," Brown spokesman Colin Reed said. "He understands the challenges they face, as one of his first trips as a senator was to the city of Sderot, which faces the daily threat from Hamas rocket attacks. Israel is our strongest ally in the Middle East, and Israel will have a strong ally in the Senate once Scott Brown is elected."
Shaheen, who, like J Street, has criticized Israel for its so-called "settlements" and chastised what she termed the Jewish state’s "provocative actions," received a ringing endorsement from J Street on its website.
"She has been a leader in the Senate on national security issues and a vocal proponent of U.S. leadership toward a two-state agreement," J Street wrote.
Pro-Israel insiders and sources in Congress warned that Shaheen is aligning herself with a group known for its radical stances.
On Friday, J Street finally took a stance on the most recent conflict between Israel and Hamas by accusing the Jewish state of "fanning the flames of anti-Semitism."
"Failure to solve this conflict is eating away at support for Israel around the world, damaging the country’s legitimacy and, in some cases, fanning growing flames of anti-Semitism," J Street leader Jeremy Ben-Ami said in a posting on the group’s website.
Ben-Ami also called Israeli lawmakers "racist" and accused them of not being a "credible partner" for peace.
Ben-Ami did not make note of Hamas’ commitment to destroy Israel and commit genocide against Jews across the world.
J Street, which has failed to gain legitimacy in mainstream pro-Israel circles, has been engulfed in controversy since its inception.
One senior congressional aide who works on Middle East issues said that J Street’s endorsement of Shaheen is already raising eyebrows on the Hill.
"An endorsement from J Street could be the kiss of death for vulnerable Democrats like Senator Shaheen," said the source. "By pressuring Israel to negotiate with terrorist-backed governments and opposing new Iran sanctions, J Street has rendered itself irrelevant at best and dangerously anti-Israel at worst. Any true friend of Israel would be hard-pressed to defend J Street's fringe, liberal agenda."
Noah Pollak, executive director of the pro-Israel Emergency Committee for Israel (ECI), said that Shaheen cannot accept J Street’s money and still purport to be pro-Israel.
"Shaheen can of course take money from whoever she wants. But she cannot take money from a group that blames Israel for fueling global anti-Semitism and still call herself pro-Israel," Pollak said. "No campaign donation is worth putting yourself in league with such people."