The Washington Post reports that two Beltway think tanks with which Josh Block is associated may cut ties with him after he singlehandedly initiated a witch hunt against a group of progressive foreign policy bloggers associated with Media Matters and Center for American Progress. Block and his most recent previous employer, Aipac, are known for their attack-dog style of pro-Israel lobbying. In this case, he was pursuing an ideological vendetta against Eric Alterman, Matt Duss, Eli Clifton and M.J. Rosenberg, known for their critical perspective on U.S. policy in the Israeli-Arab conflict. Among other charges, Block accused M.J. Rosenberg of raising the dual loyalty canard through use of the term “Israel Firster.” He also claimed some of the arguments were anti-Israel and “borderline anti-Semitic.”
Block, who is now a fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute, a hawkish think tank with Democratic leanings, has caused some discomfort among the leadership there. Probably, if Block hadn’t been “outed” by someone at the neocon journalist listserv at which he promoted this project, he might’ve gotten away with it. He did get Ben Smith to pen a attack on the progressive bloggers, though Smith had enough sense to cloak it in semi-balanced journalistic terms. But once Block’s actual posts to the group were published by Justin Elliot at Salon, the true venom and calculating nature of his plan was exposed. Neither he nor his employer could walk anything back.
If he’d gone about this differently then he probably would’ve gotten away with, scored a few points in smearing the reputation of those I mentioned above, and notched another one is his belt of those he’s taken down a notch or two for the temerity of their criticism of Israeli policy. I try not to engage in schadenfraude too much by feasting on the suffering of opponents. But Josh has gotten everything he deserved. He’s a pro-Israel hatchet man and what he tried to do to others is pretty much what’s being done to him now. What goes around comes around.
It’s unfortunate that Block’s real master, Aipac, doesn’t get any shit on its shoes for all this. I’m willing to bet that he’s still flacking for them and did this campaign on their dime. Aipac’s current PR flack hasn’t answered a tweet I posted to him asking whether Block was a paid Aipac consultant. Aipac usually is allergic to being publicly associated with such shenanigans. They don’t like leaving fingerprints when they stick a shiv in someone.
Greg Sargent gets one major point in this report wrong and I fear he did so because he relied on a false claim in Commentary Magazine. Ben Armbruster did not apologize for use of the term “Israel Firster” by himself or any CAP staff. In fact, that’s a term used by M.J. Rosenberg of Media Matters. Armbruster said only that he didn’t “endorse” the term. That is not an apology since neither Armbruster nor anyone else at his think tank used it as far as I know.