Commentary Magazine


Contentions

ADL, AJC Rebuke CAP for “Hateful” Anti-Israel Comments

The controversy over Center for American Progress’s anti-Israel bloggers has dragged on for what seems like an eternity in blog-time. When the story first broke, Newt Gingrich was still a GOP frontrunner, the battle over the payroll tax cut was still suspenseful, and Ben Smith was still at Politico. I only say all this to emphasize how absurdly long it took the AJC and ADL to weigh in on the issue:

The American Jewish Committee and the Anti-Defamation League weighed in last week on the mushrooming anti-Israel scandal surrounding a group of bloggers working for the U.S. think tank Center for American Progress (CAP).

Jason Isaacson, the AJC’s director of government and international affairs, told the Jerusalem Post by e-mail on Friday that “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.”

The ADL, for its part, told the Jerusalem Post’s Benjamin Weinthal it considered two specific comments from CAP bloggers to be anti-Semitic, including the “Israel Firster” remarks and claims the Israel lobby had pushed the U.S. into the Iraq war.

So now that the ADL – considered by many media outlets to be the final word in all things anti-Semitism – has criticized the think tank, where does this leave the CAP-linked Truman National Security Project?

If you remember way back in late December, the Truman Project broke its association with former AIPAC spokesman Josh Block, claiming he crossed the line by calling statements made by CAP bloggers anti-Semitic. Implying that Block’s accusations were false, the Truman Project wrote that his statements were akin to a “character attack” against the CAP writers. Bill Kristol weighed in on the controversy in a scathing post last month:

Block is a pro-Israel Clinton-type liberal (who in fact served in the Clinton administration). The Truman Project says that it seeks to advance a ”strong progressive national security policy,” and claims to represent mainstream liberal and Democratic foreign policy thinking. Doesn’t the expulsion of Block suggest that it is now impossible to be unapologetically pro-Israel—and publicly hostile to those who are anti-Israel—and remain a member in good standing of the liberal and Democratic foreign policy establishment?

I asked the Truman Project today whether it believed the ADL and AJC were also wrong for calling the comments from CAP bloggers anti-Semitic. The center’s spokesperson, Dave Solimini, declined to answer the question directly:

I think our position has been very clear on this. Josh was removed from our community because he was unable to differentiate between an honest debate and damaging personal attacks. There is real anti-Semitism in the world and we cannot debase the term by using it for everyone who disagrees with us on Israel policy. We are a community of trust, and his actions have caused too many to fear discussion within our community.

Okay – so in other words, the Truman Project doesn’t believe that the comments from CAP bloggers about dual-loyalty and “Israel-Firsters” rise to the level of “real” anti-Semitism? I posed this question to Solimini and received another non-response:

Thanks for getting back to me; I’m sure this is a trying story to cover with so much flying around.  Frankly, we consider the matter of Josh’s behavior closed. If you need a quote from us, the language to use is what I sent at first. Anything more would be your words, not ours, and I would suggest against it. As I said, we consider the issue of Josh’s behavior closed.

Ah. So we can confirm that the Truman Project believes there is real anti-Semitism in the world, but that this is very different from legitimate disagreements on Israel policy. Unfortunately, the first part of that means depressingly little if the organization can’t explain the difference between the two. When I pressed Solimini to simply explain which comments from CAP bloggers the Truman Project believed were falsely labeled “anti-Semitic” by Josh Block, he declined.

“The decision to remove Josh from our community was made without any input from CAP, and it was made because of Josh’s behavior, not his views on policy,” wrote Solimini.

So there you have it. The Truman Project cut ties with Block for behavior it will not explain. It refuses to say whether it believes dual-loyalty charges constitute “real” anti-Semitism. And it’s standing by its position that the remarks from CAP bloggers were merely “disagree[ments] on Israel policy,” even after the offensive comments have been condemned by the three leading American Jewish organizations. It makes you wonder, what would President Truman think?