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On George Soros, J Street acknowledges a wrong turn

A Jerusalem development plan calls for the demolition of 22 homes in the crowded Palestinian neighborhood of Silwan to make room for a park that would flank a promenade of restaurants, art studios and shops. Palestinians who live there say it is an Israeli ploy to evict them from the area.

Rabbi Steve Gutow, a president of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, called J Street "irresponsible" for its handling of the Soros issue and said it would hardly have been controversial to acknowledge the funding from the beginning.

"It will be somewhat damaging" to J Street's credibility, Gutow said. "But I don't think it will be a lethal blow or anything like that. I think they have a role and they will continue to fulfill it."

Soros adviser Michael Vachon said the Hungarian-born billionaire "made no secret" of his support for J Street, but he added that "no one ever asked."

Soros, who has described himself as a non-practicing Jew, has come under attack from some conservatives for his sharp criticism of Israeli policies toward the Palestinians. Vachon said right-wing critics "create a caricature of his views and then attack him."

(READ RELATED ARTICLE: Soros gives $100 million to Human Rights Watch)

"Mr. Soros believes that J Street plays an important role in the policy debate over the Middle East," Vachon said. "He is a financial contributor to the organization."

A brewing battle

The nation's alcohol wholesalers have been in a panic over the threat posed by direct sales from beer, wine and liquor producers to consumers, which have been gaining ground in the wake of favorable court rulings.

As The Post noted last month, the National Beer Wholesalers Association helped craft a bill to limit the practice - while also giving hundreds of thousands of dollars in contributions to House lawmakers. The group's main goal was to get a hearing on the legislation.

On Wednesday, it got one. The House Judiciary Committee, chaired by Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.), heard testimony from lawmakers and others about the alcohol-sales legislation, which has been watered down from its earlier incarnation but still considered anathema to major producers.

The beer wholesalers rank as Conyers's biggest contributor this cycle, funneling more than $50,000 to him. The beer group and its ally, the Wine & Spirits Wholesalers of America, together have donated more than $4 million to lawmakers in 2010, records show.

Even so, it's unclear where the bill will go from here. There's always next year.

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