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

US Politics
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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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