AIPAC has worked closely with leaders of a D.C. thinktank that has close ties to the Obama administration
Ron Kampeas has a good wrapup report on the CAP bloggers affair, the writers at the Democratic-Party-linked thinktank who were targeted by a smear campaign because they were critical of Israel. Kampeas concludes that the public attack on the writers was so over-the-top that it hurt the accuser, Josh Block, an Israel lobbyist formerly with the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC).
But it also caused the thinktank, the Center for American Progress, to pull in its horns. Kampeas:
Officials at some pro-Israel groups expressed frustration with the public attack on CAP at a time that they were trying to address their differences with the group through quiet diplomacy. A number of Jewish organizations had been making representations to CAP before the Politico story was published.
“At the highest levels of AIPAC, there is a philosophy of never going to the media with policy disputes,” an AIPAC official said on condition of anonymity.
“We’re not happy this has taken the course it has,” the official added. “We would have preferred it was dealt with quietly.”
Block declined to respond to suggestions by some Jewish communal officials that the issue should have been handled more discreetly. But within minutes of Block being approached for comment, the same AIPAC official, spurred by Block, called JTA and said that he would prefer not having his quote used. But he agreed that since he had said it for the record, it was fair to publish.
The AIPAC official made clear that his organization remained frustrated with CAP. Top AIPAC officials would meet with top CAP officials, the official said, and these meetings would conclude with an agreement by CAP to monitor blog posts more closely. AIPAC recently took CAP officials on an Israel tour, the official noted.
Yet CAP and its Middle East shop in particular would consistently return to what AIPAC perceived as unfair depictions of the policies of Israel and its supporters.
Oh yes why did they keep returning? Because they are good journalists.
Speaking of good journalists, Kampeas also offers details on the campaign against one of the CAP bloggers, Eli Clifton, for a great article he wrote last summer warning that the Israel lobby was pushing for war with Iran. CAP now says that Clifton’s article was “problematic”:
it is the contours of that very debate that trouble pro-Israel groups. Abraham Foxman, the ADL’s national director, singled out an article by Eli Clifton, a Think Progress staffer, that seemed to suggest that AIPAC was driving the country toward war with Iran.
In an Aug. 10 post, Clifton described an AIPAC statement applauding a bipartisan Senate letter urging sanctions on Iran’s central bank as drawing “eerie parallels between the escalation of sanctions against Iran and the slow lead-up to the invasion of Iraq in 2003.”
Foxman said it was legitimate “to say that there are those in the Jewish community who feel very strongly about confronting Iran. But when it’s linked to a conspiratorial view of the Iraq war, ‘It’s the Israel lobby, it’s the Jewish community,’ that parrots a line.”
Sources close to CAP say the organization recognizes how Clifton’s language may have been problematic, and that it would be more useful to describe groups like AIPAC as backing measures that could escalate into military conflict, as opposed to accusing AIPAC of seeking war.
…In a later clarification appended to Clifton’s post, Think Progress said that “Given Iran’s horrible record on human rights abuses and outright hostile and anti-Semitic rhetoric towards Israel, an Iran with nuclear weapons is very concerning and we support responsible measures to reduce that threat.”
This is the whole problem with the “Israel Firster” controversy. That language speaks to a real problem in our politics: that the interests of the American people and the Israelis have been conflated when the United States is issuing warlike threats against Iran. These interests need to be separated. But of course you are not even allowed to diagnose the problem.