Democratic congressman Bob Filner spent a week in Israel last month courtesy of a tax-exempt group run by J Street, an advocacy organization that casts itself as a liberal alternative to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, known as Aipac, famous for its hard-line view of Palestinians. According to House travel-disclosure records, Filner traveled from Washington D.C. to Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, Amman, and Ramallah and returned to San Diego during a weeklong trip that began February 12. Travel expenses included $5434 for a business-class seat; lodging cost $1749, with $548 in meals and $530 in “expediting fees at the airport and border crossing.”
According to the disclosure, the trip’s purpose was to “provide an opportunity for Members of Congress to achieve a more complex and nuanced understanding of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.” During the Jordan leg of the trip, according to an advance itinerary, the group was to “receive a face-to-face introduction to the Separation Barrier and other major manifestations of the occupation.” At another stop, labeled “Settlement Watch,” tour members were scheduled to “get a first-hand look at the on-the-ground manifestation of settlement expansion and outpost development and its impact on Palestinian communities.”
The J Street Education Fund, formerly known as the Union of Progressive Zionists, which paid for the trip, raised $81,000 from unidentified sources in 2008, according to its 2009 IRS filing. J Street, its parent group — formerly known as Americans for Peace and Security for Israel — raised $474,750.
In October, the New York Times reported that Obama administration national security advisor James L. Jones spoke at J Street’s convention in Washington, while Israeli ambassador Michael B. Oren declined to attend.