Invite to Netanyahu brought a big donor to Dem thinktank– and ‘we’ll never be called anti-Semitic again’

Jonathan Lavine of Bain Capital

The latest emails from the Clinton campaign released by Wikileaks are radioactive. Two emails last year to campaign chairman John Podesta from Neera Tanden, head of the Clintonite thinktank Center for American Progress, lay bare the influence of Zionist money on the political process as nothing else has.

“Netanyahu was worth it….” “the far left hates me.”

The emails relate to Tanden’s controversial invitation to rightwing Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu to come to the thinktank, months after he had tried to destroy President Obama’s Iran deal– for a fawningly-positive “interview” in which Tanden barely touched on the prime minister’s racist appeals to win reelection in Israel earlier that year.

On November 11, the morning of the Netanyahu lovefest, Podesta asked Tanden for a bottom line on the event: “what has been gained and what has been lost?”

Tanden wrote back to him that afternoon that it was awful, but it was worth it, because CAP scored a big donor, and we won’t be called anti-Semitic again.

Nothing we have done has pitted being a think tank and being ideologically action oriented against each other more harshly. At the end of the day, we had to choose.

So answer is complicated. If I could have the whole thing not happen, would definitely have it not happen. But it happened to us.

Things gained: We will never be called anti-Semitic again. No matter what anyone writes. Mainstream press and people think we handled it just right- tough questions. I think for any dismissers, not that i think there were a lot, but we have definitely proven we’re a think tank. And it may have sealed the deal with a new board member.

Things lost: Staff is riven. On both sides. We are holding a lot of meetings on that. Worse thing – someone leaked staff statement. That kind of thing really changes the culture. How to keep that culture with that kind of leaking is going to be hard, but need to navigate. And far left hates me.

We do have a broader issue of expectations in the organization. I had an intern tell me that she was upset we did not tell her ahead of time…


Neera Tanden and Netanyahu at Center for American Progress

Tanden followed up with this jubilant email to Podesta on December 23:

Jonathan Lavine… Is joining the board. So Netanyahu was worth it :)…

Merry Christmas to you and Mary! Neera

We noted how much Jonathan Lavine, of Bain Capital, and his wife Jeannie, Boston Jews, are committed to Israel in this earlier post, also based on a Tanden email.

As to CAP’s fears re a reputation for anti-Semitism, that is because a bunch of neoconservative Israel lobbyists bird-dogged it in 2011-2012 for staffers who were writing posts critical of Israel and the Israel lobby on Think Progress. All those staffers were in essence purged/walked out the front door in the end.

But the thinktank is riven. And our site played a role, because we ran a leaked email about staff dissension over Netanyahu, back when.

This is precisely what Jeffrey Goldberg talked about at Temple Emanu-El in New York last week: the Democratic Party is divided between the progressive rank-and-file, who have had it with Israel, and “what I would delicately call the donor class of the Democratic Party, which is disproportionately Jewish, and has been so for many years.” It is precisely what Stephanie Schriock of Emily’s List said last spring at a J Street event in D.C. where she described Congressional candidates around the country having to get an AIPAC line on Israel in order to get Jewish donors, whose role she said was gigantic inside the Democratic Party. J.J. Goldberg said the same thing at that event: “You ask a Democratic fundraiser, where do you get the money from? ‘Well from trial lawyers, from toys, from generic drugs, from Hollywood. From Jews.’ Those are all essentially Jewish industries… When you are raising  money, you need to find rich people who are not right wing, and there are not– pardon me for saying this, there are not many rich goyim who are not right wing. Forgive me for saying that.”

So the dead hand of the past inside Jewish life– rich old donors– are controlling ME policy in liberal institutions. This is why progressive activism including by countless Jews saying “not in my name” is so necessary. And P.S. this battle threatens the Democratic Party in much the way that Trump broke up the Republican Party. The divide will only get more pronounced; and candidates will at last run openly against the special relationship with Israel.

The emails also expose issues of racism inside the Democratic Party. False accusations of anti-Semitism are poison to the thinktank; and meantime, Netanyahu’s explicit racism in his last campaign — “Arabs are coming out in droves” — doesn’t move the dial.