Lobby’s bedfellows: CAP’s new PR outfit also worked for Sheldon Adelson’s pet project

Israel/PalestineUS Politics
on 9 Comments

The public relations firm hired by the Center for American Progress, the Democratic Party-linked thinktank, to restore its image after it was charged with being critical of Israel has also worked closely with Republican Sheldon Adelson’s pet project, Birthright Israel, which sends young American Jews for free to Israel so as to cement American Jewish support for the country.

Rabinowitz/Dorf Communications had Birthright as a client for at least three years, from 2006-2008, and got nearly $300,000 for its services, according to federal tax forms filed by Birthright.

Dorf was hired lately by the Center for American Progress (CAP) as a form of damage control because the PR firm has such close ties to the Jewish community and Zionist groups. CAP had come under attack from a neoconservative smear campaign that said CAP was sheltering anti-Semites because some of its bloggers had criticized Israel. One of those bloggers has since left the organization, and CAP has backtracked on some of its writings.

The hiring of Dorf underlines the fact that the Israel lobby transcends political parties. The smear campaign against CAP was led by neocons and Republicans. Had the issue been women’s rights or immigration or gay rights, the Democratic Party surely would have taken on the fight. But the smear campaign gained traction inside the Democratic Party establishment, and even the White House distanced itself from the CAP writings.

Birthright is one of Republican Sheldon Adelson’s favorite charities. He has given it more than $100 million since 2007, including $10 million last year. In December he told a gathering of hundreds of Birthright travelers in Israel that he agreed with Newt Gingrich’s comment that the Palestinians are an invented people.

Adelson has also given millions to Gingrich’s campaign and said that he might spend $100 million on the race this year. 

Adelson is a close ally of Israeli Prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu. His gifts to the Republican Party in 2000 helped consolidate the neoconservative hold on the George W. Bush administration. 

In choosing Dorf, CAP chose an organization that has worked closely with several pro-Israel groups. Federal 990 forms show that Dorf has also worked for the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, whose mission statement includes this language–


and which today is helping to promote a militant response to Iran.

Other clients of Dorf include Human Rights First, a human rights group with close ties to the Democratic Party; the Taube Center for Jewish Life and Culture; and the Obermayer Foundation in Massachusetts, which supports liberal Zionist organizations including Peace Now and Meretz.

One of the posts that got CAP in trouble from the neoconservatives was Eli Clifton’s groundbreaking piece last summer showing that the Israel lobby’s strategy on Iran war mirrored the runup to the Iraq war. I wonder how much room CAP will have for such groundbreaking journalism in months to come?

About Philip Weiss

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

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9 Responses

  1. dalybean
    February 28, 2012, 9:24 am

    This really points up how brave one still has to be to take on these battles because the shunning and campaigns of destruction still work very well.

    Dershowitz is going after Media Matters too with a vengeance until they fire MJ Rosenberg. He adds a new twist–criticism of AIPAC is antisemitic and disgraceful.

    link to nydailynews.com

  2. Newclench
    February 28, 2012, 9:38 am

    You’ve linked Adelson to Birthright to Rabinowitz Dorff as if it’s an unbroken change. Casual readers might not realize that:
    Rabinowitz Dorff are firmly on the Dem side of things, and Adelson couldn’t care less for them. He would probably veto them on the grounds that they work with J Street professionally.
    Birthright was founded by a lefty Israeli politician Yossi Beilin (last of Meretz) with funders who are not on the right (Steinhardt and Bronfman). Adelson is a latecomer. Readers might want to know that Adelson’s recent fascination with crazy right wing politics is relatively recent (last few years), while Birthright emerged in 1994.

    This piece seems (to me) to implicitly make the charge that in order to curry favor with Zionist Jews, CAP is turning to a communications firm linked with far right Republican funder Adelson, proving that CAP is willing to betray Democratic principles and consort with the enemy over a shared bond to Israel. That’s just not an accurate reading of the situation.
    Better to say that R/D as a firm is known for the intersection of Jewish, liberal and Democratic causes, and as such it makes perfect sense for them to work with Birthright (founded by a liberal) and with CAP. The Adelson connection is tacked on for shock value. It’s…. irrelevant.
    Not that I care about R/D, CAP or Adelson. But pick on them for better reasons than this.

    • Chaos4700
      February 28, 2012, 9:57 am

      So? The only thing you’ve really managed to point out that is that the difference between the left in the right in Israeli politics, to anyone who exists outside of the Jewish Israeli bubble, is the color of the wallpaper.

    • Sand
      February 28, 2012, 12:43 pm

      Dorf might be operating “…firmly on the Dem side of things…”, however I would still highlight Phil’s observation that the “…The hiring of Dorf underlines the fact that the Israel lobby transcends political parties…”

      Dorf’s job has definitely been in the past to keep Jewish/Israel politics front and center within the Democratic Party. For example, when he had a hand in keeping neo-con Joe Lieberman’s political life alive, as well as crushing ex-President Carter’s view on Israel.

      From the Jewish Week (my link is now broken, but the quotes are correct):

      “…Members of the [pro-Israel] team headed off another crisis during the summer by convincing the DNC to kill a resolution calling on Sen. Joe Lieberman (D-Conn.), who enjoys iconic status in the Jewish community, to drop out of the Senate race when it became apparent he would lose to anti-war newcomer Ned Lamont, who won the August primary. “If the DNC had done that, it would have been a tremendous problem for the Democrats” because of Lieberman’s stature, [Matt] Dorf said…”

      Remembering Lieberman never paid a price for screwing the Democrats@!

      Dorf from the same article also played a hand in attacking President Carter:

      “…Price (aide to Nancy Pelosi), a former Jewish Council for Public Affairs (JCPA) official, played a major role in formulating strategy and lining up supportive statements and op-eds by Democrats in response to potential crises—including pre-election leaks about an inflammatory new book on the Middle East by former President Jimmy Carter.

      “That was one we dreaded because we feared it could go mainstream,” Dorf said this week. Statements blasting Carter from Democratic leaders like Pelosi and Dean, as well as Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.), a leading Israel critic, helped prevent that from happening. “We were able to get in front of the story,” Dorf said.

      • Annie Robbins
        February 28, 2012, 3:14 pm

        exactly sand, there is no Dem side of things wrt the lobby. it’s all the same crap. just like the 100-0 senate vote. just like the pressure at the coming aipac to sign even more legislation taking us to war. the only thing that mattered here was hiring a zionist overlord to gain approval and probably have first crack at reviewing and editing everything CAP and affiliates publish. we know what that means, it means everything any of those reporters write will get cleansed prior to us reading it.

    • Annie Robbins
      February 28, 2012, 3:00 pm

      it’s really not important who started birthright or when. what matters is how it functions:

      The summer after my freshman year, I embarked on a 10-day Birthright excursion through the Lubavitch House at Penn. What I believe now — especially upon reflection of my experience — is that the trip is inherently political, very ideological and often manipulates impressionable young minds searching for a religious identity. It churns out — in machine-like fashion — hordes of Zionists without them even realizing it. My biggest concern about all of this, as someone who strongly values difference of opinion and balance of information, is that many participants return from the trip believing that they now fully understand the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. If anything, I came back confused.

      One would only need to look at the trip’s goal, which in the words of its own founders (one of whom is Wharton alumnus and Penn Hillel benefactor Michael Steinhardt), is to present Israel in the best way possible, saturate participants with information (a carefully selected curriculum, in fact) and create an emotional experience that transcends the physicality of it. The situation in Israel is much more complex than what one takes away from a 10-day experience, but the trip is designed to make everything seem cut and dry.

      My birthright trip schedule, like that of all others I presume, was jam-packed with visits to the country’s “most important sites.” As someone who loves to travel, taking in such sights was truly incredible. Thousands of years of world history were sitting in front of me to soak in. However, the sites themselves, and the way they are presented, all slanted toward the Zionist perspective that Birthright holds dear. But one need not be a right-wing Zionist to support Israel and want to work toward a peaceful future. Unfortunately, Birthright’s efforts subvert this diversity of opinion.

      from yesterday’s daily penn:
      link to thedp.com

      implicitly make the charge that in order to curry favor with Zionist Jews, CAP is turning to a communications firm linked with far right Republican funder Adelson, proving that CAP is willing to betray Democratic principles and consort with the enemy over a shared bond to Israel.

      implicitly? phil didn’t even mention ” Democratic principles” what he said was “The hiring of Dorf underlines the fact that the Israel lobby transcends political parties. “ and it does. the very fact they had to hire a pr firm at all is pathetic. the dem party should be standing behind them, instead they are nervous their zionist overlords will chomp down and blame them for not shunning CAP. this is like a movie star agreeing to go into rehab after some embarrassing episode AS IF cap committed some massive faux pas that needs atoning. they didn’t.

      if anything phil is making the charge that in order to curry favor with Zionist Jews, CAP is turning to a communications firm linked with strong supporters of zionism (right or left is irrelevant), implying that CAP is willing to betray journalistic principles and place “a shared bond to Israel” over and above providing honest reporting to their readers and standing up for their reporters. what a shame. or sham..take your pick.

  3. DICKERSON3870
    February 28, 2012, 11:44 am

    I once visited ‘Think Progress’ on a daily basis, but I stopped doing so when CAP more or less capitulated to the neocons. ‘Think Progress’ is now a mere shadow of its former self.

  4. Kathleen
    February 28, 2012, 12:01 pm

    Interesting choice by CAP. CAP’s head was on a question and answer segment on CSPAN. Dr. Zbig sure had a great deal to say about Netanyahu’s upcoming visit with President Obama on March 5th during Zbig’s visit to Fareed Zakarias GPS program. Dr. Zbig said Obama really need to draw a solid line between US and Israel’s national interest. Phil know you would be interested

  5. Justice Please
    February 28, 2012, 3:55 pm

    Fuck CAP.

    We have plenty of other courageous commenters, we can do without this PEP outfit. Let them fade into irrelevance.

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