Posted by on January 19, 2012 in Blog
This morning, the Washington Post ran a pretty awful article by Peter Wallsten entitled “Center for American Progress, group tied to Obama, under fire from Israel advocates.” It’s no Jennifer Rubin-type drivel, but it's still hard to read. Using other people’s accusations without ever explicitly invoking its own, the article paints a rather ugly picture of the Center for American Progress (CAP), portraying it as tolerant of anti-Semitism simply because some of CAP’s bloggers criticize Israel. As Glenn Greenwald of Salon outlines, this appears to be a continuation of the smear campaign initiated by Josh Block, a former AIPAC spokesman who has been “encouraging neoconservative journalists and pundits on a private email list to attack as ‘anti-Semites’ various Middle East commentators.” Greenwald goes on to note:
Block’s own business partner, Lanny Davis, publicly repudiated Block’s smears, and the Democratic-aligned Truman National Security Project then expelled Block for using “mischaracterization or character attacks” in order to impede “the ability to debate difficult topics freely.” But despite Block’s public humiliation, the disgusting smear campaign against these CAP and MM analysts rolls on undeterred.
Wallsten’s article in the Post surveys a range of so-called “pro-Israel” voices who portray CAP either as anti-Israeli or anti-Semitic, then surveys CAP officials who assure the public that “the center is staunchly pro-Israel.” Nowhere in the article is there a voice defending the legitimacy of criticizing Israel, except at the very end with a brief comment from J Street’s Jeremy Ben-Ami. But instead of identifying J Street as a mainstream pro-Israel organization (which it absolutely is), the author merely calls it “a left-leaning voice on Israel issues.”
Ben-Ami argued specifically against the loose employment of the "anti-Semitism" accusation for those who use the term “Israel-Firster.” As I noted in my dispute with our friends at Paranoia Magazine a few months ago, “Israel-Firster” does not refer to members of any particular ethnicity or demographic group, but merely to those whose blind commitment to unconditional support for any and all Israeli policies is not always consistent with American interests and policy goals.The term is even frequently used by former AIPAC employee MJ Rosenberg. Nonetheless, CAP blogger Zaid Jilani was made to apologize for using the term in a personal tweet, and has subsequently left CAP for another job.
If this campaign of smears and intimidation against critics of Israel contributed to Jilani’s departure from CAP (and I don’t know if it did), then this would be yet another example of Israel’s so-called “supporters” stifling free thinking and open discussion regarding Israel. Of course, I keep saying “so-called” when referring to those who call themselves “pro-Israel” because they are causing immense damage to Israel’s long-term health. By shielding Israel from the criticism and pressures required to bring it to its senses so it can pursue a more constructive course with the Palestinians, they are ensuring that Israel will continue down this self-destructive path of perpetual conflict. The longer this mindless demand for single-minded thinking on Israel is enforced, the worse the situation gets for everyone. This is precisely why voices like Jilani’s are indispensable.
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