Ann Lewis and AIPAC pressured Democratic thinktank to censor writers deemed ‘anti-Israel’

US Politics
on 27 Comments

Three years ago two writers got run out of the Democratic thinktank the Center for American Progress by the Israel lobby. We wrote a lot about it at the time. Rightwing Republican Israel supporters smeared the writers for stuff they were writing about Israel at Think Progress; and lo and behold they were gone in months. Ali Gharib and Eli Clifton–all moved on to more independent pastures after they were censored by CAP.

We kept hoping it would be a scandal. It showed neoconservative/lobby influence in the Democratic Party. But the press largely ignored the story.

Well now, in the runup to Benjamin Netanyahu’s red-carpet invitation to the Center for American Progress on November 10, Glenn Greenwald has published CAP emails from 2012 showing that the neocons and AIPAC had Democratic friends pressuring the writers. Ann Lewis and Howard Wolfson, former Hillary Clinton aides with a lot of clout, came down hard on CAP, and CAP wilted.

Greenwald writes in the Intercept :

[The emails] show [CAP president Neera] Tanden and key aides engaging in extensive efforts of accommodation in response to AIPAC’s and Lewis’ vehement complaints that CAP is allowing its writers to be “anti-Israel.”

Greenwald says that CAP exerts “massive influence” on Dems in Washington. And that it is trying to please donors by pleasing AIPAC.

Under Tanden, the group has repeatedly demonstrated it will go to almost any length to keep AIPAC and its pro-Israel donors happy, regardless of how such behavior subverts its pretense of independent advocacy…

These newly published emails reveal AIPAC-pleasing efforts far more heavy-handed than previously known. On January 20, 2012 — at the height of the controversy over ThinkProgress’ publications on Israel — Tanden wrote an email to CAP founder John Podesta and several of her top aides, including ThinkProgress editor Judd Legum. In that email, Tanden recounted an angry call she received from Ann Lewis who, among other D.C. roles, served as the representative of Hillary Clinton’s 2008 campaign on Jewish matters and is also a board member of Block’s hard-line group The Israel Project. The email reflects the censorship demands being imposed on CAP over Israel and how seriously Tanden was taking those demands:

Ann Lewis– Barney Frank’s sister– has said that the job of the president of the United States is to support the decisions of the people of Israel. She was all over Tanden because Israeli ambassador Michael Oren was called a “liar.” Yes, the guy is a fabulist. But you can’t say so in Democratic circles:

That phone call was preceded by a rambling, detailed email from Lewis to Tanden, describing the audit she conducted of ThinkProgress’ output over several weeks about Israel and identifying all of the offending material. “Ambassador Michael Oren was called a liar in two posts,” complained Lewis, and “there are regular criticisms of the Israeli government” but “no mention of rocket attacks from Gaza.”

After Clifton and Gharib had established connections between funders of Israeli settler groups and an Islamophobic film being promoted in the U.S., Center for American Progress censored the piece under pressure from Howard Wolfson:

It begins with an email from long-time Democratic Party operative Howard Wolfson, formerly a top aide to Hillary Clinton and Chuck Schumer, which provides a link to the piece with one simple message: “For the love of god!”

Soon after their article was published, it was severely censored. Virtually every reference to Israelis was simply deleted.

[A]fter his article was censored, Gharib was told by a CAP editor that he was to avoid criticizing American Jewish groups, such as AIPAC, under any circumstances. When he asked whether this was a temporary ban in light of the controversy or a permanent one — i.e., when he could once again write about such groups — the editor told him: “For AIPAC? Probably never.”..

The censorship worked. Ken Gude was chief of staff at CAP:

[E]xactly one week after publication of the heavily censored post — Gude wrote an excited email to top CAP officials, including Tanden. The subject was Gude’s meeting with AIPAC’s deputy director of policy and government affairs, Jeff Colman, which Gude gushed was “very positive.”

In light of “the steps we have taken” — the public apologies, the censorship, the denouncing of CAP’s own writers — AIPAC, said Gude, deemed that CAP “now was moving in the right direction.” The AIPAC official singled out several CAP staffers for praise, saying AIPAC now believes “CAP/AF is in good hands.” Gude celebrated the rewards CAP was likely to receive for its good behavior: “I bet we get a lot of invitations to attend” an upcoming AIPAC event, Gude predicted.

Brian Katulis, a national security expert at CAP who gets interviewed a lot, is also caught up in the scandal. Jeff Colman at AIPAC likes him; Katulis must be doing something wrong.

“Jeff is a big fan of Rudy and Brian.” “Rudy” is Rudy DeLeon, who, in addition to serving as a CAP senior fellow and being a former Pentagon official, is now a member of the board of directors of General Dynamics; he’s literally being paid by weapons manufacturers as he helps manage CAP’s positions. “Brian” is Brian Katulis, also a CAP senior fellow whose “work focuses on U.S. national security policy in the Middle East and South Asia”; he simultaneously works as a senior adviser to the “strategic consulting” firm Albright Stonebridge Group, “assisting clients with issues related to the Middle East and South Asia.” Katulis was one of the first to publicly distance CAP from the work of its own writers on Israel. 

This is just more evidence if we needed any that the Israel lobby is a corrupting influence in our politics, that leading Democrats kiss up to it to keep donors happy. And many of these Dems do so because they are true believers, by the way. Ann Lewis is a true believer. Bernie Sanders, too. They’re Zionists.

Oh and it turns out Donald Trump sucked up to Sheldon Adelson. I thought he didn’t suck up to anyone. No: he sent him a book of photos of himself at a pro-Israel event. Even Trump knows, you gotta serve somebody.

Update: This post initially said that three writers got run out of CAP. But Matt Duss, who was also targeted by the lobby, didn’t leave for another two years, in 2014. The post has been changed to correct the error.

About Philip Weiss

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

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27 Responses

  1. Pixel
    November 5, 2015, 9:35 pm

    .
    GREAT mention of – and link to – Mondoweiss in GG’s piece!

    You were way out in front on this one, guys!

  2. Donald
    November 5, 2015, 9:47 pm

    I will be very surprised if this is covered in the NYT. Have they covered Clinton’s pandering in the Forward? Has MSNBC? I’m not being rhetorical, but I’m again guessing the answer is no.

    • Kathleen
      November 6, 2015, 4:18 am

      Will Maddow ask Clinton any questions about this during the debate tonight? Folks should put up questions and challenges at her fb page.

      • Kathleen
        November 6, 2015, 4:50 am

        So over at The Rachel Maddow’s facebook page she has said she wants questions for the candidates. Although sure she has her softball’s all ready picked out. Still worth a try. At least the Maddow team will know about this issue. Although do believe they stop by here.

  3. Pixel
    November 5, 2015, 10:08 pm

    Leaked Emails From Pro-Clinton Group Reveal Censorship of Staff on Israel, AIPAC Pandering, Warped Militarism

    (My bold)

    COMMENTS SECTION:

    Amelia ↪ Victor
    Nov. 5 2015, 7:53 p.m.

    Hey Victor – I think you, that’s you personally, can amend that Wikipedia entry to include that fact.

    While you’re at it, maybe you can do something about the fact that the Mondoweiss Wikipedia entry, includes the fact that David Bernstein referred to it as a “hate site” on his blog. Surely the only reason that factoid is in there is because David Bernstein planted it there himself. That really pisses me off!

  4. Elliot
    November 5, 2015, 10:55 pm

    “Ann Lewis is a true believer” but Ann Lewis is also a “former Hillary Clinton aides with a lot of clout”.
    We know Hillary was bought by Haim Saban to oppose BDS for $2m. As a former aide, Ann Lewis likely hopes to be rewarded with a job in the next Clinton Administration. Sounds like she is acting as an enforcer for Hillary/Saban.
    It’s not to say that Bernie Sanders et al don’t have Zionism in their blood but it’s not impossible for Bernie to change. OTOH, Hillary machine cannot afford to upset their donors.

    • Kathleen
      November 6, 2015, 4:20 am

      Bernie is in lock down on this issue. Gay rights…huge Palestinian rights NO.

      • Citizen
        November 6, 2015, 9:14 am

        Bernie Ignores Israel Aid Leverage 2 Make Israel Stop Settlements, Occupation https://youtu.be/Dap9fNZIKwc via @YouTube

        Or try this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dap9fNZIKwc&feature=youtu.be

        He looks really uncomfortable too. Basically he just says the usual pablum re US should pressure the two contenders to sit down and chat since Pals deserve a state of there own, ignoring the question asking will he use the huge aid we give to Israel to make Israel stop its occupation, pull out its settlements, provide compensation to Palestinians, etc.

  5. amigo
    November 6, 2015, 6:30 am

    Speaking of silencing anti Israel activists.

    Last week we were treated to a video of Gideon Levy,s speech in which pro Israel Jewish fanatics disrupted the process and the police refused to eject them using the excuse of maintaining the right to free speech.No such consideration was given to Pro Palestinians voices at a Minneapolis University.

    “Pro-Palestinian Activists Disrupt Talk by Israeli Scholar at University of Minnesota

    Activists attempt to silence IDF ethics code co-author Moshe Halbertal at lecture; Police clear protesters and make three arrests, as incident sparks condemnation from university officials.
    read more: http://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/.premium-1.684538“.”

    Sorry guys , pay wall and I have not yet managed to conquer (sic) the Cache link that Kris provided.

  6. JLewisDickerson
    November 6, 2015, 9:55 am

    RE: “Even Trump knows, you gotta serve somebody.” ~ Weiss

    Bob Dylan: Gotta Serve Somebody

    Etta James: Gotta Serve Somebody

    • ckg
      November 6, 2015, 10:53 am

      Dylan recorded Gotta Serve Somebody in 1979 just a few years after he said about Kahane in a 1971 Time Magazine interview, “He’s a really sincere guy. He’s really put it all together.” Kahane acknowledged that Dylan had been attending JDL meetings. Kahane served a one-year prison sentence for a 1971 JDL incendiary device-making incident.

      • JLewisDickerson
        November 6, 2015, 12:22 pm

        SEE: “Bob Dylan turns 70; still hasn’t Recanted Praise for Rabbi Meir Kahane”, by Amago, SpencerWatch.com, 5/24/11
        LINK – http://spencerwatch.com/2011/05/24/bob-dylan-turns-70-still-hasnt-recanted-praise-for-rabbi-meir-kahane/

        P.S. The Etta James rendition is outstanding! ! !

      • Kathleen
        November 6, 2015, 12:47 pm

        Yeah that human rights activist Bob Dylan…not. As ethnocentric as one can be

      • ckg
        November 6, 2015, 4:39 pm

        Yeah that human rights activist Bob Dylan…not.

        Agreed. In 2011 Dylan crossed BDS lines to play in Tel Aviv. A few months later Amnesty International released a fund-raising CD Chimes of Freedom: The Songs of Bob Dylan Honoring 50 Years of Amnesty International. I vociferously protested on the Amnesty web site using the Kahane info but found myself very much in the minority. Universal human rights apparently mean different things to different people.

      • ckg
        November 6, 2015, 4:54 pm

        Thanks, JLD. As always you are a wealth of excellent links.

  7. pabelmont
    November 6, 2015, 10:58 am

    Readers of Mondoweiss will be interested that a few scientists, historians of science, environmental reporters, psychologists, and so on have — together — created a “subject” and written an interesting book called “Agnotology: The Making & Unmaking of Ignorance” (Proctor, Schiebinger) which touches on our subject only very tangentially in the introductory chapter 1 (p.3), immediately after stating: “The point is to question the naturalness of ignorance, its causes and its distribution.”, asking Why have so few Americans heard about the Nakba as one of many examples of things about which there is a surprising ignorance. The book makes much of the efforts by Big-Tobacco to suppress the information that smoking causes cancer — and, in its last chapter “Smoking Out Objectivity: Journalistic Gears in the Agnogenesis Machine” takes on the press as an agent of the obscurantists.

    We should encourage these authors to take on the re-branding efforts of Brand-Israel (a parallel to the Big-Tobacco smoking-is-not-bad-for-you effort) and the huge cooperation of the media (or is it only the corporately-owned and corporately-controlled media?).

    • Mooser
      November 6, 2015, 11:08 am

      “and, in its last chapter “Smoking Out Objectivity: Journalistic Gears in the Agnogenesis Machine” takes on the press as an agent of the obscurantists.”

      Of course the press is “an agent of the obscurantists”! It has been proven that if Americans read too much about the bad effects of smoking, it makes them give up reading! No journalist wants that.

      The biggest example of “Agnotology” in the US, my opinion: guns. Even more so than sex.

      • RoHa
        November 7, 2015, 5:45 am

        Repetition is very much the key, Mooser. If, like the beat, beat, beat of the tomtoms, when the jungle shadows fall, or the tick – tick – tock of the stately clock as it stands against the wall, you keep on repeating your claim, you might not get everyone to believe it, but you will certainly make it part of the mush of fashionable ideas that slosh around the media, the politicians, and the artsy-fartsy chattering classes. People will accept the idea as being a respectable position to take, even though it may be (and usually is) unsupported by, or even contrary to, evidence, logic, or basic human decency.

        Iran has a nuclear weapons programme.
        Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction.
        Your food causes cancer.
        Morality is just a set of social conventions
        The Russian army is fighting in Ukraine.
        Man-made CO2 is causing dangerous global warming.
        The WTC towers were brought down by a couple of Arabs crashing planes into them.
        Israel was created as a response to the Holocaust.
        New Zealand is a real country.
        Russia invaded Crimea.
        A subject clause should be followed by a comma.

        And so forth. Add your own favourites. In a sensible world, all these would be met with hoots of derision. But in our world, these ideas are fed to us in a continual drip, drip, drip (not unlike that of the rain drops, when the summer shower’s through) that has numbed our minds to their fundamental inanity. As a result some of them are accepted, and even promoted, by people who otherwise show intelligence, wisdom, and critical acumen.

        There is, in that list, one which even I, in my weaker moments, have almost believed.

    • JWalters
      November 6, 2015, 7:30 pm

      Very glad they’re doing this. It looks to me like all these Big Lies emanate from the same octopus head, the big banks that steer all the other big corporations. A willingness to commit crimes is essential for promotion.

  8. JWalters
    November 6, 2015, 7:18 pm

    It’s not surprising that blocking ALL criticism of AIPAC is a top goal of a weapons manufacturer.

    “Rudy DeLeon, who, in addition to serving as a CAP senior fellow and being a former Pentagon official, is now a member of the board of directors of General Dynamics; he’s literally being paid by weapons manufacturers as he helps manage CAP’s positions.”

    This is like “agency capture”, in which a federal agency is captured by the very PEOPLE it’s supposed to monitor and regulate. This is not done by “organizations”; it’s done by individual human beings making personal decisions.

    For readers who missed it, here’s a recent article on how the Military-Industrial Complex plays a key role in committing and maintaining Israel’s crimes.
    http://mondoweiss.net/2015/10/because-global-supplier

    Realistically, there is NO WAY a small group of religious fanatics can lead the U.S.A. around by the nose. This is only possible because of men with huge amounts of money, such as vast war profits, behind the scenes.

    Here’s Colin Powell’s former Chief of Staff, Col. Lawrence Wilkerson, saying that W was a pawn of war profiteers, and the current crop of GOP candidates are also pawns of war profiteers.

    These guys push their tentacles into every space they can, strangling discussion and pushing the world into needless, but profitable (for them), wars.

  9. TwoRedDogs
    November 6, 2015, 11:28 pm

    NYT publishes another piece mentioning Netanyahu’s upcoming CAP talk without mentioning the controversy.

    Netanyahu May Try to Mend Fences in First U.S. Visit Since Iran Deal

    By JULIE HIRSCHFELD DAVISNOV. 6, 2015

    And in an Editorial piece, NYT states:

    “But it is in the strategic interests of both countries to find a way to work together more constructively”

    without telling us what our strategic interest exactly may be in spending so much on a single country.

  10. Rafi
    November 7, 2015, 4:00 am

    Far left lexicon:

    Independant advocacy- advocacy i agree with
    Censorship, silencing- when powers block independant advocacy
    Irrational hatred- advocacy i don’t agree with, stems either by greed or brainwashed true belief
    Lending legitimacy- when powers air irrational hatred

    So cap censors the independant advocacy of antiziocainists, which is wrong, bash their corruption-induced silencing. At the same time, cap lends legitimacy for bibi, not by paying his supporters to write for them, but by having him over for a qna, validating his irrational hatred. The right thing to is to promote independant advocacy and mute hatred, free speech galore.

    • RoHa
      November 7, 2015, 7:04 am

      I am dubious about a lexicon whose compilers cannot spell “independent”.

  11. Mooser
    November 7, 2015, 11:13 am

    “Rafi”, you don’t communicate well using words. You should try another method.

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