Under pressure from smear campaign, Center for American Progress abandoned assertion that Israel lobby is pushing war with Iran

US Politics
on 11 Comments
Gali Tibbon AFP photograph from Getty Images
Gali Tibbon AFP photograph from Getty Images

The drama of Israel lobbyist Josh Block’s raid on Israel critics inside Democratic Party-linked thinktanks is getting more mainstream attention. Maybe it will finally make the Times?

The story is in the Daily Beast today, with the graphic at left. I haven’t read the piece; but that picture is not helping the Jewish state, honey.

Meantime, Nathan Guttman at the Forward produces a solid piece on Josh Block’s effort to smear the Center for American Progress and Media Matters. Though Guttman ignores the large political question surrounding Block’s raid– the fact that Block, a former AIPAC staffer, worked with Republican neoconservatives to put pressure on the Democratic establishment (yes, explain how that works!)–Guttman gives this bottom line:

The Center for American Progress, a leading progressive policy think tank closely aligned with the Democratic Party, was forced to distance itself from terms such as “apartheid,” referring to Israel, and from claims that the pro-Israeli lobby was pushing for war with Iran, due to a barrage of criticism hurled at the group from Jewish and pro-Israel activists.

But another group, Media Matters, which came under fire for similar statements, has stuck to its guns and is continuing to use the term “Israel firsters,” a reference to hawkish defenders of Israel that is seen as offensive by many in the pro-Israel community….

CAP was founded and is chaired by John Podesta, who served as chief of staff to President Clinton. The center is generally perceived as having close links to the Democratic Party. These ties brought it under the most pressure when Block launched accusations that some of CAP’s staffers were engaging in anti-Israel rhetoric. The group quickly moved to stress its support for Israel and to delete statements seen as controversial.

“We’ve tried to reiterate what our positions are,” said Ken Gude, CAP’s managing director of national security. These views, Gude told the Forward, include “robust support” for the State of Israel. “We have no intention to break with the mainstream,” he added….

Following the Politico story, CAP launched an effort to purge its website and asked staffers to delete offensive remarks from their Twitter feeds. [Journalist Ali] Gharib posted a message: “I do apologize for the crudeness of the flippant Tweet in question,” referring to his reference to Kirk. [“Mark Kirk (R-AIPAC).”]

In contrast, Media Matters, a much smaller organization also seen as close to the Democratic Party, fought back against Block’s accusations. M.J. Rosenberg, the group’s senior writer on foreign policy — and once an AIPAC official himself — defended his use of the term “Israel firster.” The term, he said, was a legitimate one for criticizing those who see the policies of Israel’s Benjamin Netanyahu as always being right while viewing those of America’s president, Obama, as always wrong.

P.S. My headline is the most important part of this piece. And if mainstream media would only start doing the reporting on who is giving to Romney’s Super PAC and why, and what Obama is doing policy-wise to keep Israel lobby money in the Democratic Party, and why Iran-war-drum-thumper Jeffrey Goldberg is hosting a panel with George Mitchell for the Slimfast-billionaire-funded Dem establishment next week (the S. Daniel Abraham Center for Middle East Peace), then maybe more people, including me, would understand just what financial pressure CAP was under…

Speaking of money, the Forward piece ends with a scholar spanking anyone, including Tom Friedman, who says that Congress is bought and paid for by the Israel lobby. I’m ashamed to discover that the words “bought and paid for” are anti-Semitic. I believe Will Rogers’s definition of a politician– “the best looking man money can buy”– is also anti-Semitic? Forward, illuminate. 

And as for “Israel firster,” please hold your breath as one of these days Jack Ross and I comb the anti-Zionist archives, from Rabbi Isaac Wise to Hannah Arendt to Rabbi Berger to Theodor Herzl, to show you how double loyalty was on their minds a long time ago. Wait– Herzl!?

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Philip Weiss is Founder and Co-Editor of Mondoweiss.net.

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11 Responses

  1. Annie Robbins
    January 6, 2012, 12:26 pm

    i’m just working my way thru the links now. daily beast was doing fine til they started tweaking their report like this:

    Iran recently announced it successfully test-fired several missiles during naval exercises near the Strait of Hormuz, and also that it has created the country’s first nuclear fuel rod, a key component in a nuclear reactor that also can be used to produce weapons-grade uranium. Iran also has threatened to close the Strait of Hormuz, through which 20 percent of the world’s oil passes, if tougher economic sanctions are imposed because of its nuclear program.

    The International Atomic Energy Agency published a report (PDF) in November that found “credible” the idea that Iran has carried out work toward developing nuclear weapons and may be secretly working to design a nuclear warhead, something Iran has repeatedly denied.

    note iran isn’t the only one critical of the debunked IAEA report, not by a long shot. the daily beast shouldn’t be carrying so much neocon water here. also note how they mimicked the msm ratcheting up campaign about iran doing test firings omitting the info the jerusalem post leaked thousand US troops headed to Israel for ‘unprecedented’ joint missile defense exercise characterized “with the ultimate goal of establishing joint task forces in the event of a large-scale conflict in the Middle East.

    all tho they bring up oil prices which Barack Obama would not want to do in an election year they fail to mention, in the context of the 100-0 senate aipac written sanctions vote that all those dem senators were voting AGAINST the president.

    those are just my beginning comments. perhaps they remedy their biased reporting in the next couple pages but something tells me they won’t.

    • MRW
      January 6, 2012, 1:52 pm

      I don’t have a Daily Beast account for commenting, don’t want one, but if anyone does, they ought to point readers to the Moon over Alabama takedown of the so-called credible account of the IAEA report on Iran’s nuclear weapons. That’s just scurrilous journalism to repeat those damn lies.

      • Annie Robbins
        January 6, 2012, 2:11 pm

        mrw, not sure if you were referencing my link to that story in my comment there but i certainly wasn’t the only one claiming moa broke the story. it was heavily reported and the guardian fessed up b was the source. even garth porter updated his report saying moa got on it first. there are no scientific experts claiming the IAEA broke anything new whatsoever and nothing in the report backs the idea iran is developing nukes. it just isn’t there. no amount of humping those news bites is going to change that. give us expert witnesses in the field to back their claims because all they are is neocon claims and the daily beast should fess up to what they are reporting.

        just because wapo and eli lake and so and so repeat this stuff that’s no replacement for expert opinion. like someone from the scientific community. this is no different than the iraq WMD allegations. BS.

  2. Bill in Maryland
    January 6, 2012, 12:54 pm

    Sorry, but the contention in the Forward article that the term “bought and paid for” is somehow anti-Semitic is preposterous. The hypersensitivity of Ken Jacobson of the Anti-Defamation League to this term makes me laugh. It’s all about policing the public discourse to ensure Israel and its Lobby are protected from taking responsibility for their corrosive effect on U.S. foreign policy.

  3. dbroncos
    January 6, 2012, 1:03 pm

    Two Canadian citizens are suing the US Federal Election Commission:

    “Benjamin Bluman a Canadian citizen, and Dr. Asenath Steiman, a dual citizen of Canada and Israel, sued the Federal Election Commission (FEC) to overturn its prohibition on foreign residents pouring money into U.S. campaigns. The plaintiffs claim that the federal regulation constitutes a violation of their right to free speech—which was the basis for the U.S. Supreme Court in the Citizens ruling to throw out campaign contribution limits on corporations and unions.”


    Steinman, and his connection to Israel, were left out of the story in the NYT “self hating news” (credit Annie Robbins). I wonder why these Canadians would want to influence the American electorate? Are they seeking to improve good neighborliness?

  4. MRW
    January 6, 2012, 1:48 pm

    MJ Rosenberg, if you’re reading this and crawling through the comments, good for you!

    The truth of the matter is that Israel and the Israel Lobby here are pushing war with Iran…and I have saved every delicious bit of proof of it, from General Odid Tira to Norman Podhoretz. I’ve saved every Israel Lobby smear of the 2007 NIE for stating that Iran does not have nuclear weapons and does not present a threat to us. The 2011 NIE has not been officially released even though it’s been ready for a year because it says the same thing, according to the leakers: there’s no threat, there are no weapons.

    The Israel Lobby and Israel (with the exception of some smart military guys and former Mossad head Meir Dagan) are pushing war with Iran, and the Israel Lobby is twisting the arms of US congressmen to go along with it using campaign money.

  5. Kathleen
    January 6, 2012, 2:36 pm

    Phil having a hard time getting up another comment at your NPR thread. Putting up some challenges over at Hardball for Chris Matthews who is focused on Santorum, Santorum…not giving the “sharp distinction” between Rep Paul and the other Republican candidates as well as with President Obama the time of day. Keep using “sharp distinction” because the other day on the Diane Rehm show he had the nerve to say that there was NO “sharp distinction” between the Republican candidates Diane and the guest did not object to this false description of the situation. When will any of them talk about anti war folks of all persuasions are with Paul on his non interventionist foreign policy stances especially foreign policy decisions based on false claims promoted by special interest groups.

    “speaking of money” and warmongering

    Check this out look where David “axis of evil” is headed

    Bet my comment does not make it up I said.

    No surprise there the Daily Beast and Newsweek promote false information about Iran just like David “axis of evil” Frum continues to do. Interesting how in some countries they hold individuals complicit in crimes against humanity here in the states they are just promoted by and given well paying jobs by the MSM.

    Bet that will not make it up

    Jane “waddling on over to interfere in the Aipac invesigation” Harmans late husband bought Newsweek…is that right?

  6. atime forpeace
    January 6, 2012, 4:52 pm

    ” I haven’t read the piece; but that picture is not helping the Jewish state, honey.”
    Phil Weiss.

  7. ToivoS
    January 6, 2012, 5:11 pm

    I have no doubt that the lobby is pushing the US to go to war against Iran. But here is some good news from Uri Avnery — neither Israel nor the US is going to attack:


    I sort of agree with him though I will throw in a caveat — Obama is maneuvering himself into some uncomfortable spaces where a small provocation or crude false flag operation may set off a chain of events that lead to war even if he doesn’t desire one.

  8. Matthew Graber
    January 7, 2012, 4:21 pm

    Any ideas as to what the content of the “pressure” applied to CAP by the Israel lobby consisted of? The Forward article just says it was “due to a barrage of criticism hurled at the group from Jewish and pro-Israel activists”, and then goes on to cite CAP’s links to the Democratic party. But there isn’t a clear distinction between the supporters of CAP and the supporters of Media Matters.

    My guess is that there is some division within CAP, and it seems like a very likely ally in the future – but not at present.

    And meanwhile, M.J. Rosenberg does some great work.

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