The New York Times and the "Conservative" American Jewish Committee:

The New York Times story on the American Jewish Committee's report criticizing left-wing opponents of Israel describes the AJC as a "conservative advocacy group."

This statement is very hard to reconcile with the facts, unless the Times is using an extremely idiosyncratic definition of "conservative." Like most mainstream Jewish organizations, the AJC is in fact dominated by political liberals.

The AJC's positions on public policy issues reflect this orientation. For example, its web page listing "Domestic Policy Statements" includes press releases decrying conservative criticisms of the "independent judiciary," supporting equal rights for gay couples and opposing the federal anti-gay marriage amendment, opposing Republican efforts to change Senate rules that permitted Democratic senators to filibuster Bush's judicial nominees, embracing the cause of DC statehood (a position supported by most liberal Democrats and opposed by most Republicans and conservatives), advocating for the rights of illegal immigrants and so on. The AJC has also taken generally liberal positions on separation of church and state (e.g. - opposing religious displays on public property), and education policy, among other issues.

Many of the AJC's leaders are also liberal in their politics. For example, Kenneth Stern, the AJC's "specialist on anti-Semitism and extremism" is best known for a book he wrote denouncing right-wing militia groups.

If the Times can be so wrong about the simple and fairly obvious fact that the AJC is a liberal organization (or at the very least not a "conservative" one), it is difficult to put much faith in the validity of the other statements in the article.

There are, to be sure, different definitions of what it means to be "conservative." But it's hard to believe that a group with the above set of positions could reasonably be described as "conservative" in a way that conforms to the generally accepted usage of that term in modern American political discourse.

Perhaps Times reporter Patricia Cohen merely meant to say that the AJC is "conservative" on Israel-related issues. Even this characterization is questionable, given that the organization endorses the idea of a Palestinian state and strongly supported the Oslo "peace process" (which most Israeli right-wingers and American Jewish conservatives opposed). But if this was the meaning that Cohen had in mind, she should have at the very least indicated that the AJC is "conservative" on Israel-related issues, while taking liberal stances on most other issues.

UPDATE: Here is the AJC's own statement denying that it is a conservative organization. The AJC claims that "it is a strictly nonpartisan organization long viewed as centrist in its orientation." I think that "liberal" is a more accurate classification of the AJC than "centrist." Be that as it may, it certainly isn't conservative.