The Emergency Committee on Israel published a full-page ad in today’s New York Times denouncing the Center for American Progress and Media Matters for using allegedly anti-Semitic stereotypes in debates about the Israel-Palestine conflict and Iran. The ad is displayed here for you to judge for yourself.
The main charge is that they’re “anti-Israel.” Why? Because they’ve called Aipac and other partisan pro-Israel journalists “Israel Firsters.” The false narrative spun by them is that the term is a noxious one devised by neo-Nazis and Holocaust deniers who seek to highlight Jewish disloyalty to the United States.
Only problem is that this is historically false. As I reported yesterday thanks to Phil Weiss, Abe Sachar, first president of Brandeis University and dean of American Jewish historians in his day, first used the term in 1960 in the midst of a debate that raged between David Ben Gurion and Diaspora Zionists. Ben Gurion claimed that primary Jewish allegiance was owed to Israel and that every Jew must make aliyah to Israel. Any Jew who refused could not be a true Zionist.
Sachar and other leaders like Nahum Goldman rejected such classical Zionist arguments and pointed out that Jewish life in the Diaspora had as much value as Jewish life in Israel. That’s where the term “Israel Firster” derived. It was meant to rebut the argument that all Jews owed their allegiance to Israel above and beyond any other national allegiance they might have. Originally, the term had nothing to do with neo-Nazis or even non-Jews. It was part of a raging internal Zionist debate.
So let’s not be fooled by false historical analogies. And let’s call out falsifiers of history like Dershowitz, Kristol, Abrams and others.
This debate they’re stoking also revolves around Iran. They argue that any Jew who criticizes Israeli war plans against that country is betraying both American and Israeli interests. That makes CAP and Media Matters “soft on Iran” in the same way that Republicans have argued for decades that Democrats were “soft on Communism.” It also harkens back to the 1950s and the “who lost China” phrase used to smear Democrats then.
The notion is that Iran is a nation so exceedingly evil, whose goals are the destruction of Israel, world Jewry and indeed the entire world (at least in Bibi’s view)–that those who voice any view that is less than absolute regarding Iran must be anti-Israel. Well, I’ve got news for them. Their world may be black and white, but ours isn’t.
CAP has also published its response to the ad in which it noted that pro-Israel ideologues like Rachel Abrams, Bill Kristol and Gary Bauer lead ECI, while Commentary’s Noah Pollak is its director. In the past, ECI has insinuted Pres. Obama was less than fully loyal to Israel for the policies and statements he’s made regarding settlements and the Palestinians.
ECI also falsely accused the Occupy Wall Street movement of being anti-Semitic based on a few signs displayed by protesters supporting Palestinian rights. Given the 1% Jewish Wall Street donors bankrolling ECI it isn’t surprising they’d use such tactics to smear the 99%.
ECI’s leaders have themselves voiced hateful, racist views about Arabs in general and Palestinians in particular. And their views are arguably pro-Israel, since they will lead to continuing bloodshed and wars in which Israel’s interests can only be damaged, perhaps beyond repair.
Finally, this is a legitimate debate among American Jews about the policies pursued by both Israel and the U.S. in the region. Calling Palestinians “savages” as Rachel Abrams has done in her genocidal rant in the august pages of the Washington Post is certainly far more offensive than the term “Israel Firster.” Yet no one at ECI or in the partisan pro-Israel camp has taken her to task for that. It’s hypocrisy pure and simple.
I’m seeking the donor list for ECI so that I can publish their donors’ names and allow readers to contact them in the same way they’re hectoring readers of the NY Times ad to bother CAP and MM’s donors.
UPDATE: It’s important to note some of ECI’s major donors and their potential interest in funding it. They seem to be getting a large percentage of funding from Jewish hedge fund managers, some of whom, like ThirdPoint’s Daniel Loeb, were big fans of Obama in 2008 and turned on him when his financial regulatory reform proposals threatened too much intrusion into their business model. Another donor is Highfield Capital’s Jonathon Jacobson. Both are now major Republican donors. Loeb is now a major funder of the Romney campaign. If their motivation in supporting ECI has any ideological component (such as supporting Israel) it seems attenuated by their pecuniary interest in attacking Obama for biting into their opportunity to amass even more rapacious profits for their hedge funds. It’s yet another example of the Jewish 1% attempting to sucker the 99% into turning on its own interests.
ECI began life out of Randy Scheunemann’s Orion Strategies lobbying firm. He was John McCain’s foreign policy advisor during the 2008 campaign. Thus ECI is nothing but a hack Republican political outfit attempting to peel off Jewish votes from Obama for the next presidential election. It hasn’t worked when the Republican Jewish Coalition tried it in past election cycles. It won’t work this time. It’s also clear that CAP and MM are mere foils for an indirect attack on Democracts and Obama. They’re hoping that this spaghetti will stick to the wall when they throw it there in a similar way to the Swift Boat attacks on John Kerry. If you figure that Sheldon Adelson, Loeb and other billionaires will be willing to shell out as much as $100-200 million in surreptitious attack ad funding, they could figure prominently in cutting into Obama’s decided edge among Jewish voters.
One interesting fact about the CAP-MM donor lists is that a number of the organizations listed are donor advised funds in which the individual directs his Jewish federation endowment fund to donate his or her money to those donees. So in essence, ECI is arguing that the federations in question should prohibit their donors from giving funds to CAP and MM. That would create a division between approved pro-Israel donees and prohibited “anti-Israel” donees. Not to mention it might send a few of these donors out the doors of the federation and into the arms of community foundations which have no such ideological litmus tests for distributing funds. I hope that Jewish donors who’ve given through their federations to CAP or MM will make clear that their continued participation in the federation system is contingent on a free and open approach to donations, rather than a restrictive, ideology-based approach.
I suppose there is one thing about which we should be grateful. ECI only pictured CAP and MM as a dapper wolf in sheep’s clothing, smacking his lips at the viewer, implying that he’d love to eat a Zionist for breakfast. Im Tirzu, when it went on the attack against the New Israel Fund, pictured Naomi Chazan as a raging rhinoceros in a manner that invoked the caricatures of Julius Streicher. ECI exercised a bit more restraint in their graphic choices.