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Some CAP employees call out Netanyahu’s ‘crimes,’ including slaughter of Gaza children

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The good news about Benjamin Netanyahu’s appearance at the liberal thinktank the Center for American Progress today is that it is becoming a huge embarrassment.

Update: The Nation has just published a letter from a dozen Center for American Progress employees who object to the Netanyahu invitation. Some of them are upset by Netanyahu’s “crimes” of last summer:

Some of our teams have a concern that there’s something distinctly not bold or progressive about referring to the Prime Minister as “someone with whom we disagree” or “someone who said some terrible things.” We disagree with Mitch McConnell; Don Lemon has said some terrible things. So this is not just a “policy difference,” this is a person who continues to defend the deaths of over 2000 people—many of them children—last summer alone. What do we call a disagreement of that magnitude? A thing that terrible? Would we bring other leaders to this institution who had committed similar crimes?

The Washington Post is questioning the invitation and quoting extensively from real progressives like Eve Ensler, Samer Khalaf, Zaid Jilani, Naomi Klein and Noura Erekat attacking the center for the invitation. Dana Milbank, a pro-Israel columnist at the Post, blasts Netanyahu for soliciting the invitation, saying that the engagement will only further politicize support for Israel and lead the left to boycott. It will.

That protest letter to CAP explains what the Democratic establishment is missing.

The outrage over CAP’s invitation to Netanyahu illustrates how out of touch one of the Democratic party’s leading institutions has become with the changing opinions of the Democratic base in regards to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

As Rebecca Vilkomerson of Jewish Voice for Peace adds:

“It is unconscionable that a think tank that professes liberal values is giving a platform to a warmongering, racist, neo-conservative like Netanyahu to make his case.”

Exactly: Why is the Democratic Party so infused with neoconservatism? This is the great puzzle that the media and even our leftwing analysts fail to comprehend. When CAP famously censored three excellent journalists in its employment four years ago because they dared to express criticisms of Israel, it did so at the urging of Republicans and neoconservatives: beginning with Josh Block now of the Israel Project and Benjamin Weinthal of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies– who said that the writers were “infected with Jew hatred.”

Rather than standing up for its writers, leaked emails show that CAP tried to obtain a Good Housekeeping seal from four rightwing Israel lobby organizations: the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), the Anti-Defamation League, the American Jewish Committee, and the American Israel Education Foundation– which took some members of CAP on an Israel trip.

CAP tried to remove the stain by hiring Matt Dorf, who had worked for a Sheldon Adelson project, to do pr pushback. Dorf counseled CAP president Neera Tanden to reach out to Alan Dershowitz.

And when Americans for Peace Now issued a statement in defense of the CAP writers, saying that neoconservative attacks must not be allowed to succeed, a top official at CAP brought the news to Tanden and Tanden scoffed at Peace Now. According to a CAP email never published:

[S]he laughed and sarcastically said something like, “that’s really gonna help us!!”

One of the censored writers, Ali Gharib (a friend of mine), wrote in the Nation that the Netanyahu invitation is no surprise to him; AIPAC urged the invitation, and CAP was bending over backwards to AIPAC and the very rightwing groups who attacked the CAP journalists at the same time as it was censoring their work. He told me:

“Watching what unfolded was really remarkable because it was watching the various nodes of the Israel lobby light up… And instead of standing up and saying, Hey if you want to point to errors in our journalists’ work, we’ll correct them, CAP said, How can we play ball to make this all go away? I was miserable. I was totally demoralized. I didn’t have to correct any of my stories about the Israel lobby and here I was being told I had to change the work I was doing. They folded like a cheap suit.”

Again, though, the $64,000 question is Why? Why is the progressive thinktank so beholden to neoconservatives? And it’s not just CAP. Why is CAP’s friend Hillary Clinton’s foreign policy position virtually indistinguishable from the neoconservatives’ policy? Why did President Obama crack down on the Democratic Party rank and file who wanted to leave out the Jerusalem-is-Israel’s -capital language from the Democratic platform in 2012? Why are leftwing groups like Peace Now who worked hard for the Iran Deal getting no goddamn dividend from the president today? No, Israel is getting the dividend. More aid. Yet another White House meeting between Obama and Israel’s fascistic premier who slaughtered 500 children in Gaza just a year ago. The most meetings Obama has had with any foreign leader.

The answer is not a conspiracy of donors. Though, yes, donors matter. The answer is the importance of Zionism inside the US establishment. It is the sincere belief among empowered Jews like Dana Milbank, Alan Dershowitz, and Matt Dorf that the establishment of Israel was the redemptive end point of a tragic European Jewish history, and that American Jews are equal partners in the fulfillment of that redemption. This is a sincere, core belief on the part of countless Jewish politicians, journalists, donors and thinktank officials, many of them liberals.

It is a powerful idea that many young Jews are taking on, notably Jewish Voice for Peace. But it is the reigning idea inside Jewish political life, and a giant problem for U.S. foreign policy.

Update: Forgot to say: Ali Gharib is a good friend of mine. Should have noted that originally.

Philip Weiss

Philip Weiss is senior editor of and founded the site in 2005-06.

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18 Responses

  1. Boomer on November 10, 2015, 10:53 am

    As I noted in an earlier comment today on a different thread, Milbank’s criticism is limited to his concern that Nutty’s tactics may reduce support for Israel. He dismisses Jews who don’t support Zionism as “bizarre,” and says not a word about Palestinians.

  2. CigarGod on November 10, 2015, 10:56 am

    The price tag Zionists were willing to pay for a state…was to become a _______, _______, _______ state.

  3. Kay24 on November 10, 2015, 11:47 am

    “Dana Milbank, a pro-Israel columnist at the Post, blasts Netanyahu for soliciting the invitation,”

    What is it with the zionist captain, that he “invites” himself to places he is not welcome? Didn’t he just do the same thing in Congress too? Nothing like an unwelcome guest, who ends up causing more friction, and only show how arrogant his appearance is.

  4. annie on November 10, 2015, 11:50 am

    this reminds me of something i read last night:

    Mr. Kristol said he, too, sensed “more willingness to rethink” neoconservatism, which he called “vindicated to some degree” by the fruits of Mr. Obama’s detached approach to Syria and Eastern Europe. Mr. Kagan, he said, gives historical heft to arguments “that are very consistent with the arguments I made, and he made, 20 years ago, 10 years ago.”

    Mr. Kagan, 55, prefers the term “liberal interventionist” to the neoconservative label, but believes the latter no longer has the stigma it did in the early days of the Obama presidency. “The sort of desire to say ‘Neocon! Neocon! Neocon!’ has moved out a little bit to the fringe,” he said.

    Both Mr. Kagan and his brother are taking considerable pains to describe their advocacy as broadly bipartisan.

    …….Exhibit A for what Robert Kagan describes as his “mainstream” view of American force is his relationship with former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, who remains the vessel into which many interventionists are pouring their hopes. Mr. Kagan pointed out that he had recently attended a dinner of foreign-policy experts at which Mrs. Clinton was the guest of honor, and that he had served on her bipartisan group of foreign-policy heavy hitters at the State Department, where his wife worked as her spokeswoman.

    “I feel comfortable with her on foreign policy,” Mr. Kagan said, adding that the next step after Mr. Obama’s more realist approach “could theoretically be whatever Hillary brings to the table” if elected president. “If she pursues a policy which we think she will pursue,” he added, “it’s something that might have been called neocon, but clearly her supporters are not going to call it that; they are going to call it something else.”

    neocons are the new liberals! neolibs?

    • CigarGod on November 10, 2015, 12:00 pm

      He says it right out in the open. Obviously comfortable in his belief that the masses won’t understand it even if they hear it.

    • John O on November 10, 2015, 1:28 pm

      “liberal interventionism”. That was what Tony Blair saw himself as. Successes in Kosovo and Sierra Leone made him “comfortable” with the idea of invading Iraq.

  5. pabelmont on November 10, 2015, 11:58 am

    Nutty invites himself places where hs may be unwelcome to demonstrate his strength, i.e., the money which Big-ZION will spend in his support in spite of whatever anyone else (the disapproveniks) may think or wish. Mme. Clinton evidently believes she cannot be elected w/o showing herself worthy of that money and CAP is attached to her, not to Bernie Sanders,

    It’s all part of the broader “citizens united” thing. We’ve got to take big-money and corporate money out of politics. TPP will likely pass Congress and its terms will (it is said) prevent action on global warming/climate change. It all comes back to money. Obama (Mr. pro-TPP) acts as if he himself were still chained to the big-money. I guess he still is, for whatever reasons. Sad to think that Big-Pharma (a big-shot proponent and winner from TPP) might take down efforts to deal with GW/CC.

  6. hophmi on November 10, 2015, 11:59 am

    “American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), the Anti-Defamation League, the American Jewish Committee, and the American Israel Education Foundation”

    None of these are right-wing organizations. They’re centrist, and in the case of AJC and ADL, they lean left. You’re just lying.

    • Boo on November 11, 2015, 3:15 pm

      Bah. If someone stands at the South Pole and leans in any direction, they’re leaning north.

      Which way you lean isn’t nearly as significant as where you stand.

  7. Tim Driscoll on November 10, 2015, 12:08 pm

    The CAP was founded by John Podesta who is a current board . Mr. Podesta is a political operative who represents whoever pays his lobby firm the most money. His public persona is as a liberal and progressive. Behind the scenes he is a corrupt as any of the major players on the political scene.

    Check out his participation in the attempted extortion by Pharma of South Africa during the AIDS crisis at the turn of the century. After reading this, you will understand why Netanyahu was invited.

  8. Ossinev on November 10, 2015, 12:23 pm


    “None of these are right-wing organizations. They’re centrist, and in the case of AJC and ADL, they lean left. You’re just lying.”

    And you are just pulling plonkers.

  9. ckg on November 10, 2015, 1:12 pm

    Oh well. There is always the U.S. Green Party, which today issued a press release expressing support for the proposed resolution of the American Anthropological Association for Israel boycott.

  10. Boomer on November 10, 2015, 1:48 pm

    You ask “why” and you say “The answer is the importance of Zionism inside the US establishment . . . it is the reigning idea inside Jewish political life, and a giant problem for U.S. foreign policy.” What you say is true enough, but for me your answer begs the question. Why does Zionism reign, not only inside Jewish political life, but in the political life of the nation as a whole? That’s a real question but also a rhetorical question, in a way. We see the answer here in bits and pieces every day. Gilad Atzmon and others spell it out too. Yet somehow, I continue to be surprised at the extent to which a small group so dominates a huge nation, often to its moral and practical detriment.

  11. lysias on November 10, 2015, 6:54 pm

    Piece at ThinkProgress details Netanyahu’s lies at the CAP session today: 10 Falsehoods That Netanyahu Told During His Appearance At CAP.

    Methinks a lot of people at CAP are mighty unhappy.

    • Kay24 on November 10, 2015, 7:13 pm

      It amazes me that a leader of a nation can boldly, and shamefully, lie that way to the entire world, when it is so easy to fact check these claims, and disprove them within minutes. How can anyone have any credibility when they keep lying and being caught lying time and time again? Didn’t the recent lie about the Palestinian Mufti make this master prevaricator be cautious about what he says? Are those listening to these lies so ignorant, that they keep believing it over and over again. Nutty has been called a liar by world leaders. Even Obama was exasperated that he had to deal with this man every day.

      Once a liar, always a liar, and you have to be naive to believe one.

      The third lie about leaving Gaza can be checked out at Wikipedia:

      “The International Court of Justice,[4] the UN General Assembly[5] and the United Nations Security Council regards Israel as the “Occupying Power”.[9] UN Special Rapporteur Richard Falk called Israel’s occupation “an affront to international law.”[10] The Israeli High Court of Justice has ruled that Israel holds the West Bank under “belligerent occupation”.[11] According to Talia Sasson, the High Court of Justice in Israel, with a variety of different justices sitting, has repeatedly stated for more than four decades that Israel’s presence in the West Bank is in violation of international law.[12]

      I am beginning to believe that those supporting this liar are pretending to do so, just so they can justify the endless massacres, land theft, and the occupation. I cannot come up with any other answer.

  12. bopfromthedarkside on November 11, 2015, 12:08 am

    Exactly: Why is the Democratic Party so infused with neoconservatism?


  13. chris o on November 11, 2015, 8:31 pm

    All these objections about CAP hosting Netanyahu seem a little incongruent in light of the fact that Netanyahu was welcomed to the White House the day before. I didn’t hear objections to that like I am hearing about the CAP event.

    Netanyahu is the elected leader of a Democracy. He represents the people of Israel. I think that reflects extremely poorly on Israel, but it’s reality.

    Recent efforts to NOT allow various speakers at colleges or think-tanks is disturbing. We don’t want to shut down the speech, especially when it represents large constituencies. We want to expose the speech. Expose the lies.

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