Let’s give some credit to the Center for American Progress – after being accused of having an anti-Semitic and anti-Israel slant last week, the think tank bluntly rejected the use of Jewish dual loyalty terms like “Israel Firster,” and the demonization of the Jewish state.
This is welcome news, not only because CAP acknowledged the noxious implications of the dual loyalty charge, but also because it drew a clear line in the sand that said this anti-Semitic canard isn’t acceptable in serious discourse, even on the political left.
But if CAP’s going to condemn terms like “Israel Firster,” it can’t just ignore the fact that its own writers have smeared Israel supporters with that line in the past. These tweets from CAP writer Zaid Jilani’s Twitter feed were scrubbed from Twitter without explanation, after Ben Smith’s article was published last week:
@ZaidJilani: Israel Firsters fighting each other over whose position on the middle east conflict is more unreasonable
6 Dec via web
@ZaidJilani: Can hack Dem bloggers write less about how Obama isn’t hated by Israel Firsters and how he needs to be more hated by them?
14 Jul via web
13 Jul via web
Here’s why this is an issue: CAP has shifted from defending itself against charges of anti-Semitism, to attacking journalists like WaPo’s Jennifer Rubin for calling the content of some of its blogs anti-Semitic. Since it had writers making comments like the ones above, you can see why Rubin might have drawn this conclusion.
I reached out to Jilani, who backed away from the comments and said he wasn’t aware of the long, ugly history of anti-Semitism behind the dual loyalty charge:
“When I tweeted that phrase, I was unaware of all the connotations it carried. Having since been made aware, I deleted the tweets to avoid offending any more people. I apologize deeply to those who saw the phrase in the timeline of my personal twitter account and was offended. Bigotry and anti-Semitism are against my values.”
Jilani made it clear that he was speaking for himself. But CAP might also be better off acknowledging the error, instead of attacking journalists like Rubin who called the think tank out for the comments.
Meanwhile, Media Matters Senior Fellow M.J. Rosenberg continues to regularly and gleefully accuse Israel supporters of being “Israel Firsters.” Rosenberg has the right to say what he wants, and Media Matters has the right to support him for it. But by doing so, Media Matters is also tacitly endorsing an ugly canard that other left-wing organizations, like CAP, rightly consider unfit for respectable discourse. Why should anyone take Media Matters seriously as a media watchdog group when its Senior Fellow spends much of his time spreading malicious and demonstrably false information about Jewish American journalists and Israel supporters?