" />

Right Web

Tracking militarists’ efforts to influence U.S. foreign policy

Turning the Tide on the “Pro-Israel” Debate

With key members of the "Israel Lobby" acknowledging the importance of providing a broader space to Israel’s critics, the indelibly beltway Politico recognizing the influence of such critics in a full-length feature, and core Democratic organizations showing an increasing sensitivity to inappropriate uses of the anti-Semite charge, is the United States finally willing to undertake a real debate on what are the best U.S. interests in the Middle East?

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

The tide may have finally begun to turn in a drawn out battle over what entails legitimate criticism of Israel in U.S. politics, particularly within the Democratic Party. During the past several months, writers at the ThinkProgress blog hosted by the Democratic-allied Center for American Progress (CAP) have been diligently deconstructing the core talking points of “pro-Israel” hardliners in the United States in an effort to broaden discourse about U.S. Middle East policy and help prevent another misguided war (i.e. in Iran).

They have had some notable successes, such as the media splash surrounding CAP’s August 2011 report on leading anti-Islamic figures and their funders, “Fear Inc.: The Roots of the Islamophobia Network in America.”

Nothing, however, has thus far matched the notoriety they and other likeminded writers achieved last week with the publication in Politico of a story by Ben Smith arguing that the increasing willingness of Democratic groups like CAP and Media Matters to criticize unequivocal U.S. support for Israel has “shaken up the Washington foreign policy conversation and broadened the space for discussing a heretical and often critical stance on Israel heretofore confined to the political margins.”

This assertion—along with the fallout from it, including an explosive follow up piece by Salon.com’s Justin Elliott—reveals the success of ThinkProgress writers (and Right Web contributors) Ali Gharib and Eli Clifton, as well as other writers at CAP, Middle East Progress, and Media Matters, to bring criticism of unbridled U.S. support for Israeli actions into the liberal mainstream.

An important part of this success has been the growing backlash against efforts by neoconservatives and “pro-Israel” hawks to marginalize critics by calling them “anti-Semitic.” A key culprit in this smear campaign has been the Progressive Policy Institute’s Josh Block, a “pro-Israel” Democrat, former AIPAC spokesman, and one of Smith’s primary sources for the feature, who blasted the Politico piece out—along with 3,000 words of his own opposition research on the writers mentioned in the article—to a predominantly neoconservative listserv, bidding readers to “amplify” Block’s reporting on the alleged “anti-Semites.”

Perhaps Washington Post blogger Jennifer Rubin was on that listserv. She quickly penned a post summing up CAP’s views as “not merely anti-Israel” but “anti-Semitic,” accusing ThinkProgress of publishing “fiction for Israel haters”—citing nary a single example of either “fiction” or anti-Semitism from the group’s ample body of work.

Alana Goodman, blogging at the neoconservative Commentary, attempted to provide the appearance of a nuanced view, drawing a distinction between the merely “far left” views expressed at ThinkProgress and the “anti-Semitic conspiracy theories” of MJ Rosenberg at Media Matters (who, although Goodman doesn’t mention it, is not only Jewish but a former AIPAC staffer). 

The anti-Semitism charge has become boilerplate in efforts to marginalize critics of Israeli policies, whatever their background. While there are indeed anti-Semitic actors in U.S. politics, the “Israel Lobby” has increasingly wielded the epithet to sideline legitimate criticism of U.S. and Israeli policies. “The ability to play the anti-Semitic card is perhaps the single strongest weapon in the lobby’s arsenal of arguments,” writes Jim Lobe of the Inter Press Service (IPS).

But the hardliners are finding it increasingly difficult to maintain legitimacy when they loosely wield the anti-Semitic charge. In this case, only a few of the players have revealed overt sensitivity to it, including CAP’s Ken Gude, who attempted to distance CAP from the ThinkProgress blog. “There’s a distinction here that we have between the policy work that we do and the blogging work that we do,” he said, evidently wary of jeopardizing CAP’s policy work with “pro-Israel” figures in Washington.

A far more predominate reaction to the episode has been the effort by high-profile figures to back away from Block and his tactics. Thus, for example, Clinton Democrat and lobbyist Lanny Davis, a business partner of Block, lambasted  Block’s comments. “Impugning motives of people at the Center [for American Progress],” he said, “and impugning [that] those motives are driven by anti-Semitism is, in my opinion, wrong.”

For close observers of beltway politics like IPS’s Lobe, Davis’s comments are critical: “The fact that Lanny Davis, a not insignificant member of the lobby establishment, is now calling for everyone to use that deadly epithet with much greater care and discrimination seems quite remarkable, particularly in these circumstances.”

A few days after the Politico story broke, Philip Weiss of the blog Mondoweiss presciently speculated on how long it would take for the various organizations Block is associated with to distance themselves from him. It didn’t take long. By Monday, both the Progressive Policy Institute and the Truman National Security Project had begun to consider whether to sever their ties with Block, according to the Washington Post’s Greg Sargent.

With Lanny Davis appealing for a broader space for Israel’s critics, the indelibly beltway Politico acknowledging such critics in a full-length feature, and Democratic establishment organizations showing an increasing sensitivity to inappropriate uses of the anti-Semite charge, it would seem that at long last Washington—and indeed the United States—is willing to undertake a real debate on what are the best U.S. interests in the Middle East.

Share RightWeb

Featured Profiles

Jon Lerner is a conservative political strategist and top adviser to US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley. He was a key figure in the “Never Trump” Campaign, which appears to have led to his being ousted as Vice President Mike Pence’s national security adviser.


Pamela Geller is a controversial anti-Islam activist who has founded several “hate groups” and likes to repeat debunked myths, including about the alleged existence of “no-go” Muslim zones in Europe.


Max Boot, neoconservative military historian at the Council on Foreign Relations, on Trump and Russia: “At every turn Trump is undercutting the ‘get tough on Russia’ message because he just can’t help himself, he just loves Putin too much.”


Although overlooked by President Trump for cabinet post, Gingrich has tried to shape affairs in the administration, including by conspiring with government officials to “purge the State Department of staffers they viewed as insufficiently loyal” to the president.


Former Sen Mark Kirk (R-IL) is an advisor for United Against Nuclear Iran. He is an outspoken advocate for aggressive action against Iran and a fierce defender of right-wing Israeli policies.


A military historian, Kimberly Kagan heads the Institute for the Study of War, where she has promoted the continuation of U.S. war in Afghanistan.


A “non-partisan” policy institute that purports to defend democracies from “militant Islamism,” the neoconservative Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD) is an influential base of hawkish advocacy on Middle East policy.


For media inquiries,
email rightwebproject@gmail.com

From the Wires

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Other than the cynical political interests in Moscow and Tehran, there is no conceivable rationale for wanting Bashar al-Assad to stay in power. But the simple fact is, he has won the war. And while Donald Trump has reveled in positive press coverage of the recent attacks on the country, it is clear that they were little more than a symbolic act.


Print Friendly, PDF & Email

The reality is that the Assad regime is winning the Syrian civil war, and this matters far less to U.S. interests than it does to that regime or its allies in Russia and Iran, who see Syria as their strongest and most consistent entrée into the Arab world. Those incontrovertible facts undermine any notion of using U.S. military force as leverage to gain a better deal for the Syrian people.


Print Friendly, PDF & Email

An effective rhetorical tool to normalize military build-ups is to characterize spending increases “modernization.”


Print Friendly, PDF & Email

The Pentagon has officially announced that that “long war” against terrorism is drawing to a close — even as many counterinsurgency conflicts  rage across the Greater Middle East — and a new long war has begun, a permanent campaign to contain China and Russia in Eurasia.


Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Revelations that data-consulting firm Cambridge Analytica used ill-gotten personal information from Facebook for the Trump campaign masks the more scandalous reality that the company is firmly ensconced in the U.S. military-industrial complex. It should come as no surprise then that the scandal has been linked to Erik Prince, co-founder of Blackwater.


Print Friendly, PDF & Email

As the United States enters the second spring of the Trump era, it’s creeping ever closer to more war. McMaster and Mattis may have written the National Defense Strategy that over-hyped the threats on this planet, but Bolton and Pompeo will have the opportunity to address these inflated threats in the worst way possible: by force of arms.


Print Friendly, PDF & Email

We meet Donald Trump in the media every hour of every day, which blots out much of the rest of the world and much of what’s meaningful in it.  Such largely unexamined, never-ending coverage of his doings represents a triumph of the first order both for him and for an American cult of personality.


RightWeb
share