Saturday, January 21, 2012

How President Obama and the Democrats are Losing My Support

The Center for American Progress (CAP), a prominent Washington think tank, are the folks behind the Think Progress website. Their views are both influential in and often representative of the Progressive (liberal) wing of the Democratic Party. They have always had anti-Israel writers. That's nothing new. However, their writing has recently descended into anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism of the ugliest kind. Normally this is the sort of thing I would write off as far left and move on. What makes CAP different is that the group routinely advises the Obama administration on Middle East policy.

The statements in question are blog posts and Twitter tweets referring to American supporters of Israel as "Israel firsters", a term which originated and until recently resided exclusively in the neo-Nazi fringe. It's the old charge of dual loyalty or disloyalty to America leveled at American Jews since the 1920s. The term was used by Think Progress blogger Zaid Jilani according to pieces in The Washington Post, The New York Post and The Jerusalem Post.

Another example was penned by CAP’s director of Middle East Progress, Matt Duss:
“Like segregation in the American South, the siege of Gaza (and the entire Israeli occupation, for that matter) is a moral abomination that should be intolerable to anyone claiming progressive values,”

Other Think Progress writers have made statements that are equally offensive.

Is that really anti-Semitism per se? Faiz Shakir, who is editor-in-chief of the ThinkProgress.org website and a Vice President at CAP agrees that it is:
“Yes, I agree ‘Israel Firster’ is terrible, anti-Semitic language. And that’s why that language no longer exists on Zaid’s personal twitter feed, because he also knows and understands the implications.”

Despite this clear statement Progressives are still claiming that the whole issue is an attempt to smear CAP. One example, written by Glenn Greenwald at Salon.com blames everything on "the predictable roster of neoconservative, hatemongering extremists..." while expounding on his own anti-Israel positions that are every bit as biased, misinformed and even repeat the popular and libelous "apartheid" charge against the Jewish state.

Who are the hatemongers Greenwald is talking about? Who made these charges? We're talking about the Simon Wiesenthal Center, the Anti-Defamation League and the American Jewish Committee. From The Washington Post article:
“The language is corrosive and unacceptable,” said Rabbi Abraham Cooper, associate director of the Simon Wiesenthal Center. He added that the blog posts and tweets from CAP staffers “are the responsibility of the adults who run the place, not only the kids who play.”

From The Jerusalem Post and The New York Post pieces:
Speaking with the Jerusalem Post recently about CAP and Media Matters, the American Jewish Committee’s Jason Isaacson said, “Think tanks are entitled to their political viewpoints — but they’re not free to slander with impunity . . . References to Israeli ‘apartheid’ or ‘Israel-firsters’ are so false and hateful they reveal an ugly bias no serious policy center can countenance.”

These aren't right wing groups, nor are they neocons. These are some of the most respected and influential Jewish groups in the country.

Perhaps the folks associated with CAP and their defenders, instead of lashing out at their critics, should remember the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, whose work we commemorated just a week ago, "When people criticize Zionists, they mean Jews. You are talking anti-Semitism." Indeed, and many if not most American supporters of Israel, both Jewish and Christian, identify themselves as Zionists.

What makes this issue so very critical is the fact that this is the organization that advises President Obama on the Middle East. I am now genuinely worried the Obama administration's schizophrenic policy towards Israel would turn to open hostility in a second term. I remember how President Bush was supposed to be the "best friend" Israel had in the White House and how that friendship evaporated in his second term. Those who read this blog between 2004 and 2008 will remember just how critical I was of the Bush administration.

During the 2008 campaign I blogged about my concerns about President Obama's then foreign policy advisers. While I had endorsed John Kerry in this blog back in 2004 I could not, in good conscience, do the same for then Senator Obama. In the end Mr. Obama distanced himself from the ones that were most troubling to Jewish and Christian supporters of Israel. The President captured 78% of the Jewish vote as a result. I freely admit I voted for President Obama, mainly due to economic issues, but I had been sufficiently reassured that the new administration would not be hostile to Israel.

In order to repeat the 2008 results the President will have to repeat his actions from that campaign: distance himself from the fiercely anti-Israel and sometimes even anti-Semitic crowd at CAP. If he can't do that then I can and will vote Republican for President for the first time since 1988. There's an old proverb that dates back to at least the 16th century that is apropos here: "He that lies with the dogs, riseth with fleas." If the President chooses to keep the folks from CAP as foreign policy advisers and if CAP, in turn, keeps these writers on board I have a real problem. How can I trust that the President doesn't share some of their views or won't come to adopt some of their anti-Israel policies? I am deeply worried about what the President is thinking about Iran, about Israel, about the Palestinians and about foreign policy in general and how things might change in 2013 if he is reelected.

I wish I could have President Obama's social and economic policies and Speaker Newt Gingrich's foreign policy. I can't have both so I have to choose. So... I am definitely undecided at this point.

The Republicans and the right have been trying and failing to make Israel a right/left wedge issue for years. Now the Progressives in the Democratic party have done it for them. Is this really the path you want to go down?

When the Democratic Party is on the verge of losing someone who has voted straight Democratic Party line in every election since 1992 you know something is wrong. Mainstream Democrats had better think twice about the trend towards virulently anti-Israel positions in their Progressive wing. If the Democrats lose people like me at the time Republicans have shifted way to the right you know they are going to have problems winning elections.

[NOTE: Posted after the end of Shabbat.]

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