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National Jewish Democratic Council Meltdown

It’s Sunday, so by now David Harris, head of the National Jewish Democratic Council, has stopped digging the hole he excavated for himself on Friday. He finally may have run out of retractions and completed his initial damage control. It’s not clear, however, whether the NJDC will keep him around after his performance on Friday.

Harris showed that there is far more “D” than “J” in his organization when he rushed forth with a partisan swipe at the Emergency Committee for Israel:

The controversial new pro-Israel outfit, Emergency Committee for Israel “is playing with fire,” says David Harris, president and CEO of the National Jewish Democratic Council, which recently released a “fact sheet” aimed at exposing what it says are ECI’s “dangerous” smear tactics. …

“They’re using Israel solely as a partisan wedge issue and they’re employing tactics that have been decried by the organized Jewish community and the government of Israel — and those are the facts.”

But when asked whether J Street didn’t fit that description, he rushed to the Israel-bashers’ defense:

“J Street and other groups are bi-partisan in their approach, first of all,” he explained. “This range of Jewish community organizations traffics in facts, and they represent the mainstream of views within the American Jewish community, although individual Jew are free to disagree with them.”

Oops. That’s just hooey, and his members know it. And to make matters worse, Jeremy Ben-Ami proved Harris’s statement to be foolish:

“J Street’s purpose is clear and non-partisan: to advance a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that brings peace and security to Israel and its neighbors,” he said in a statement to me. “Attempts by Republican political operatives to shift elections toward candidates they support but who have poor records on Israel like Pat Toomey are transparent and bound to backfire.”

By this time, the phones must have been ringing off the hook. So Harris rushed forth with a retraction:

Upon Learning of Ben-Ami’s partisan pot shot, Harris immediately responded: “NJDC would not label a candidate like Pat Toomey as having ‘a poor record on Israel.’ We think it is destructive to the bipartisan nature of the U.S.-Israel relationship to tear down those who are Israel supporters, whether from the left or from the right.”

So Harris managed to offend both mainstream and lefty Democrats.

But his no-good, horrible, cringe-inducing day was not yet done. There was also the “Jewish money” story. Harris issued a statement that promptly disappeared and was replaced by a retraction (what he was retracting wasn’t precisely clear):

At the time of this morning’s statement, we had initial press reports in hand but not all the facts. Now that we have the facts, including Congressman McMahon’s comprehensive apology, we must retract our previous statement and thank Congressman McMahon not just for his quick actions but his clear sentiments. His reassurance that what took place is ‘in no way indicative of my beliefs or of my campaign’ is deeply appreciated, as is his assertion that ‘any comments that could serve to divide our community along religious or ethnic lines have no place in our community or my campaign.’ These statements and his comprehensive apology, combined with his swift action, put this issue to rest as far as we are concerned.

It remains wrong to ‘count Jews’ or to perpetuate stereotypes about the Jewish community, but it is now clear that any such behavior here was that of an individual, and that the candidate had no knowledge of it. Mike McMahon’s swift actions in this matter should be commended, not condemned.

Nothing like firing off statements without the facts.

To sum it up, Harris spent most of Friday in retraction mode, exposing himself as the partisan wedge-maker he routinely rails against. Is a retraction of his ECI jabs next? Well, that would make it a trifecta in the apology derby. It’s hard to believe this is the best the NJDC can do. Granted, it’s not easy flacking for the most anti-Israel president ever, but, surely, they could find someone who doesn’t compound their problems.


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