Commentary Magazine


Topic: Emergency Committee for Israel

Flotsam and Jetsam

Isn’t it funny how the press doesn’t go nuts when this happens in a Democratic administration? “Before Marie Antoinette ‘Farmer in the Dell’ Obama’s even had a chance to teach low-income obese children how to sow and harvest and eat like so many little Johnny Appleseeds, her ‘Let’s Move’ initiative may lighten them up perforce, as Dem legislators find they are obliged to slash the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or food stamps, to pay for it.”

Isn’t it interesting how Obama always delivers the message the “Muslim World” wants to hear? The Emergency Committee for Israel calls on the Obami to disassociate themselves from Imam Rauf: “The employment of Mr. Rauf by the State Department lends American credibility to a disturbing trend in the West: the idea that terrorism against Israelis falls into a different and less objectionable category from terrorism against other people. This may be fashionable in Europe, but the United States does not embrace an Israel exception to the unacceptability of suicide bombings. One of the most important messages the United States can deliver to the Middle East is that there is never a justification for jihadist murder, whether in New York, Madrid, London — or Tel Aviv. … There are numerous Muslim leaders in America who are willing to speak the plain truth about Hamas.”

Isn’t it a travesty that it took six years?: “The Justice Department has informed former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas) that the government has ended a six-year investigation of his ties to the disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff, according to DeLay’s lead counsel in the matter. … The investigation lasted through two presidents and four attorneys general. Its demise provides a stark footnote to the lobbying scandals that helped Democrats regain the House majority they held for 40 years.”

Isn’t it getting to be desperation time for the Democrats? “Republican candidates have jumped out to a record-setting 12-point lead over Democrats on the Generic Congressional Ballot for the week ending Sunday, August 15, 2010. This is the biggest lead the GOP has held in over a decade of Rasmussen Reports surveying.”

Isn’t it time someone in the White House told Obama to stop saying “it’s clear” when it’s not? In Wisconsin, Obama was at it again: “What’s clear is that we are heading in the right direction.” But the press now is cutting him no slack: “But despite positive signs in the manufacturing sector, the White House has found itself at odds with continued high unemployment rates and anemic job growth, and the shadow of an uncertain future hung low over the event.”

Isn’t it a bad sign for Obama when he loses even Harry Reid on the Ground Zero mosque?

Isn’t the time when corporate America was trying to get along with Obama only a dim memory? Now it’s a pitched battle: “U.S. Chamber of Commerce economist Martin Regalia on Monday said the tax increases advocated by President Obama would essentially kill any chance for an economic rebound. ‘That’s what you’re suggesting, is a corporate bullet in the head,’ Regalia said. ‘That is going to be a bullet in the head for an awful lot of people that are going to be laid off and an awful lot of people who are hoping to get their jobs back.’”

Isn’t parody dead when TNR praises Ross Douthat’s rant against the rubes in “Second America” as “studiously non-judgemental”?

Isn’t it funny how the press doesn’t go nuts when this happens in a Democratic administration? “Before Marie Antoinette ‘Farmer in the Dell’ Obama’s even had a chance to teach low-income obese children how to sow and harvest and eat like so many little Johnny Appleseeds, her ‘Let’s Move’ initiative may lighten them up perforce, as Dem legislators find they are obliged to slash the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or food stamps, to pay for it.”

Isn’t it interesting how Obama always delivers the message the “Muslim World” wants to hear? The Emergency Committee for Israel calls on the Obami to disassociate themselves from Imam Rauf: “The employment of Mr. Rauf by the State Department lends American credibility to a disturbing trend in the West: the idea that terrorism against Israelis falls into a different and less objectionable category from terrorism against other people. This may be fashionable in Europe, but the United States does not embrace an Israel exception to the unacceptability of suicide bombings. One of the most important messages the United States can deliver to the Middle East is that there is never a justification for jihadist murder, whether in New York, Madrid, London — or Tel Aviv. … There are numerous Muslim leaders in America who are willing to speak the plain truth about Hamas.”

Isn’t it a travesty that it took six years?: “The Justice Department has informed former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas) that the government has ended a six-year investigation of his ties to the disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff, according to DeLay’s lead counsel in the matter. … The investigation lasted through two presidents and four attorneys general. Its demise provides a stark footnote to the lobbying scandals that helped Democrats regain the House majority they held for 40 years.”

Isn’t it getting to be desperation time for the Democrats? “Republican candidates have jumped out to a record-setting 12-point lead over Democrats on the Generic Congressional Ballot for the week ending Sunday, August 15, 2010. This is the biggest lead the GOP has held in over a decade of Rasmussen Reports surveying.”

Isn’t it time someone in the White House told Obama to stop saying “it’s clear” when it’s not? In Wisconsin, Obama was at it again: “What’s clear is that we are heading in the right direction.” But the press now is cutting him no slack: “But despite positive signs in the manufacturing sector, the White House has found itself at odds with continued high unemployment rates and anemic job growth, and the shadow of an uncertain future hung low over the event.”

Isn’t it a bad sign for Obama when he loses even Harry Reid on the Ground Zero mosque?

Isn’t the time when corporate America was trying to get along with Obama only a dim memory? Now it’s a pitched battle: “U.S. Chamber of Commerce economist Martin Regalia on Monday said the tax increases advocated by President Obama would essentially kill any chance for an economic rebound. ‘That’s what you’re suggesting, is a corporate bullet in the head,’ Regalia said. ‘That is going to be a bullet in the head for an awful lot of people that are going to be laid off and an awful lot of people who are hoping to get their jobs back.’”

Isn’t parody dead when TNR praises Ross Douthat’s rant against the rubes in “Second America” as “studiously non-judgemental”?

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Obama’s baddest critic warns him about flip-floppery on the Ground Zero mosque: “Mr. Obama, you are not the mayor of Podunk arguing with the City Council over sewer versus septic; you are the president of the United States of America , the greatest country in the world! It may be that your utterances are sounding like indefensible rubbish to more and more of us, but at the very least you, the presidential enunciator of them, ought to have the courage to defend them —especially when they’re already in writing.”

Greg Sargent warns anti-Israel Democrats that the Emergency Committee for Israel is putting them “on notice that if they criticize Israel, they can expect to be targeted, too.” Or, to put it differently, it will be harder to fake being pro-Israel.

Charlie Cook warns Democrats that the Connecticut Senate race will tighten. And sure enough: “The first Rasmussen Reports post-primary telephone survey of Likely Connecticut Voters finds that Democrat Richard Blumenthal has slipped below the 50% mark of support this month against Republican Linda McMahon in the state’s U.S. Senate race.”

Bill Kristol warns the left to get a grip: “The ‘f*ck tea’ movement [the real name of a new leftist undertaking] — that’s what the left has come to. They can’t defend the results of Obama’s policies or the validity of Krugman’s arguments. They know it’s hard to sustain an antidemocratic ethos in a democracy. They realize they’ve degenerated into pro-am levels of whining and squabbling. So they curse their opponents.”

The Gray Lady warns politicians to avoid Michelle Obama’s vacation gaffe: “Forget the lush beaches of Bora Bora or the Campari-soaked cafes along the Côte d’Azur. And don’t even think about Rome or Paris. Astute Washington politicians have long known that when it comes to politically palatable summer vacations, it is best not to cross any oceans. Or even seas. Michelle Obama violated one of this city’s most sacrosanct unwritten rules when she went to Spain — during a recession, no less — with her daughter and a few friends.”

Senate Republicans warn the administration that its pick for ambassador to Turkey is a no-go: “The nomination of Frank Ricciardone to be the next U.S. ambassador to Turkey is being held up in the Senate and the GOP has no intention of allowing a vote on the nomination any time soon. … The administration might be wary of spending its limited political capital to push through the Ricciardone nomination to a floor debate in the Senate because it could open up a broader public discussion of Turkey policy the White House might not think is useful given the delicate diplomatic environment.”

Douglas Schoen warns fellow Democrats: “The recent discouraging economic news is a watershed for the Obama administration — at least as far as the midterms are concerned. It discredits one of the administration’s few remaining positive arguments: that the administration ushered in an economic recovery that otherwise might not have occurred.”

Bibi warns the world, explains George Will: “If Iran were to ‘wipe the Zionist entity off the map,’ as it vows to do, it would, Netanyahu believes, achieve a regional ‘dominance not seen since Alexander.’ … He says that 1948 meant this: ‘For the first time in 2,000 years, a sovereign Jewish people could defend itself against attack.’ And he says: ‘The tragic history of the powerlessness of our people explains why the Jewish people need a sovereign power of self-defense.’ If Israel strikes Iran, the world will not be able to say it was not warned.” Nor will it be able to say that, by leaving the job to Israel, Obama fufilled his role as leader of the Free World.

Obama’s baddest critic warns him about flip-floppery on the Ground Zero mosque: “Mr. Obama, you are not the mayor of Podunk arguing with the City Council over sewer versus septic; you are the president of the United States of America , the greatest country in the world! It may be that your utterances are sounding like indefensible rubbish to more and more of us, but at the very least you, the presidential enunciator of them, ought to have the courage to defend them —especially when they’re already in writing.”

Greg Sargent warns anti-Israel Democrats that the Emergency Committee for Israel is putting them “on notice that if they criticize Israel, they can expect to be targeted, too.” Or, to put it differently, it will be harder to fake being pro-Israel.

Charlie Cook warns Democrats that the Connecticut Senate race will tighten. And sure enough: “The first Rasmussen Reports post-primary telephone survey of Likely Connecticut Voters finds that Democrat Richard Blumenthal has slipped below the 50% mark of support this month against Republican Linda McMahon in the state’s U.S. Senate race.”

Bill Kristol warns the left to get a grip: “The ‘f*ck tea’ movement [the real name of a new leftist undertaking] — that’s what the left has come to. They can’t defend the results of Obama’s policies or the validity of Krugman’s arguments. They know it’s hard to sustain an antidemocratic ethos in a democracy. They realize they’ve degenerated into pro-am levels of whining and squabbling. So they curse their opponents.”

The Gray Lady warns politicians to avoid Michelle Obama’s vacation gaffe: “Forget the lush beaches of Bora Bora or the Campari-soaked cafes along the Côte d’Azur. And don’t even think about Rome or Paris. Astute Washington politicians have long known that when it comes to politically palatable summer vacations, it is best not to cross any oceans. Or even seas. Michelle Obama violated one of this city’s most sacrosanct unwritten rules when she went to Spain — during a recession, no less — with her daughter and a few friends.”

Senate Republicans warn the administration that its pick for ambassador to Turkey is a no-go: “The nomination of Frank Ricciardone to be the next U.S. ambassador to Turkey is being held up in the Senate and the GOP has no intention of allowing a vote on the nomination any time soon. … The administration might be wary of spending its limited political capital to push through the Ricciardone nomination to a floor debate in the Senate because it could open up a broader public discussion of Turkey policy the White House might not think is useful given the delicate diplomatic environment.”

Douglas Schoen warns fellow Democrats: “The recent discouraging economic news is a watershed for the Obama administration — at least as far as the midterms are concerned. It discredits one of the administration’s few remaining positive arguments: that the administration ushered in an economic recovery that otherwise might not have occurred.”

Bibi warns the world, explains George Will: “If Iran were to ‘wipe the Zionist entity off the map,’ as it vows to do, it would, Netanyahu believes, achieve a regional ‘dominance not seen since Alexander.’ … He says that 1948 meant this: ‘For the first time in 2,000 years, a sovereign Jewish people could defend itself against attack.’ And he says: ‘The tragic history of the powerlessness of our people explains why the Jewish people need a sovereign power of self-defense.’ If Israel strikes Iran, the world will not be able to say it was not warned.” Nor will it be able to say that, by leaving the job to Israel, Obama fufilled his role as leader of the Free World.

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Sniffing Out What “Pro-Israel” Means (Updated)

In the last week or so, the Emergency Committee for Israel has come out with ads on the anti-Israel records of Reps. Mary Jo Kilroy, Glenn Nye, and Jim Himes, specifically calling attention to their signatures on the Gaza 54 letter.

Dave Weigel, now writing for Slate (whose editors, unlike the Washington Post’s management, knew his political leanings before hiring him) observes:

“While it’s true that signing the J Street letter was a cause for concern,” said one official with a pro-Israel group, “and remains so, it’s also a fact that Congressman Himes has a consistently pro-Israel voting record and strong friends in the mainstream pro-Israel community.”

There was no such pushback when the Committee went after Rep. Joe Sestak (D-Penn.), now running for the Senate. But the aftermath of that attack — Sestak trying to get the ad pulled, and failing — ensures much more of this.

As an aside, this speaks volumes about Joe Sestak. To my knowledge, not a single pro-Israel group — no, J Street certainly doesn’t count on this one — rushed to his defense, either on or off the record. But CAIR did. (And with a record like this, don’t expect them to rush to Mary Jo Kilroy’s defense either.)

But I think there is good reason why Himes’s record should be scrutinized and why he is being funded by the Israel-bashers at J Street. He signed the Cohen-Boustany-Carnahan letter. What was that about? This report explains:

The letter urged Obama to become intimately involved in forcing talks between Israel and the PA, and said the creation of a Palestinian state must precede transparency of the PA government, control over security, or a stable economy.

An official with a real pro-Israel organization (that defends Israel’s right of self-defense and everything) explains:

Coming in the run up to the first ever meeting between President Obama and Prime Minister Netanyahu, just weeks before the speech in Cairo, the clear intent of that letter was to call on the President to impose a solution, something Israel and every previous American administration has rejected as a failed strategy.  More over, the letter totally ignores the history of the conflict, implying that the failure of the Arabs and the Palestinians to make peace is Israel’s fault as much as the Arabs, and that is simply as ignorant as it is offensive.

As the viciously anti-Israel M.J. Rosenberg noted at the time, the Cohen-Boustany-Carnahan letter was the left’s alternative to an AIPAC letter (which the overwhemlming number of House members signed onto):

The AIPAC letter sounds like it is calling for a Palestinian state to be worked out by the two sides. But its authors know full-well that no Israeli government (even a peace government) is going to risk enraging the right by agreeing to a Palestinian state unless it is the United States that is insisting upon it. The AIPAC letter does not envision a Palestinian State. Quite the contrary, its intent is to delay that state until there is no possibility of it ever being established.

It argues that America’s job is to serve as “trusted mediator and devoted friend of Israel.” It concedes that “no doubt our two governments [sic] will agree on many issues and disagree on others. The proven best way forward is to work closely and privately together both on areas of agreement and especially on areas of disagreement.”

That is what Himes wouldn’t sign.

So I’d be very curious to know just what “pro-Israel” group thinks Himes has been consistently pro-Israel. This, it should be noted, is precisely why ECI is needed. It is about time we start to parse what “pro-Israel” really means. It’s not signing the Gaza-54 letter or the Cohen-Boustany-Carnahan letter.

CORRECTION: Himes inexplicably signed both the AIPAC and the Cohen-Boustany-Carnahan letters. The latter explicitly declared that the U.S. should intervene because the parties could not reach agreement (i.e., back an imposed peace plan) and cheered the Arab Initiative, which would impose on Israel pre-1967 borders and re-divide Jerusalem. Perhaps Himes’s defense will be that he didn’t read what he signed, but those positions are not embraced by the vast majority of American Jews  – or even by the Obama administration (at least not yet).

In the last week or so, the Emergency Committee for Israel has come out with ads on the anti-Israel records of Reps. Mary Jo Kilroy, Glenn Nye, and Jim Himes, specifically calling attention to their signatures on the Gaza 54 letter.

Dave Weigel, now writing for Slate (whose editors, unlike the Washington Post’s management, knew his political leanings before hiring him) observes:

“While it’s true that signing the J Street letter was a cause for concern,” said one official with a pro-Israel group, “and remains so, it’s also a fact that Congressman Himes has a consistently pro-Israel voting record and strong friends in the mainstream pro-Israel community.”

There was no such pushback when the Committee went after Rep. Joe Sestak (D-Penn.), now running for the Senate. But the aftermath of that attack — Sestak trying to get the ad pulled, and failing — ensures much more of this.

As an aside, this speaks volumes about Joe Sestak. To my knowledge, not a single pro-Israel group — no, J Street certainly doesn’t count on this one — rushed to his defense, either on or off the record. But CAIR did. (And with a record like this, don’t expect them to rush to Mary Jo Kilroy’s defense either.)

But I think there is good reason why Himes’s record should be scrutinized and why he is being funded by the Israel-bashers at J Street. He signed the Cohen-Boustany-Carnahan letter. What was that about? This report explains:

The letter urged Obama to become intimately involved in forcing talks between Israel and the PA, and said the creation of a Palestinian state must precede transparency of the PA government, control over security, or a stable economy.

An official with a real pro-Israel organization (that defends Israel’s right of self-defense and everything) explains:

Coming in the run up to the first ever meeting between President Obama and Prime Minister Netanyahu, just weeks before the speech in Cairo, the clear intent of that letter was to call on the President to impose a solution, something Israel and every previous American administration has rejected as a failed strategy.  More over, the letter totally ignores the history of the conflict, implying that the failure of the Arabs and the Palestinians to make peace is Israel’s fault as much as the Arabs, and that is simply as ignorant as it is offensive.

As the viciously anti-Israel M.J. Rosenberg noted at the time, the Cohen-Boustany-Carnahan letter was the left’s alternative to an AIPAC letter (which the overwhemlming number of House members signed onto):

The AIPAC letter sounds like it is calling for a Palestinian state to be worked out by the two sides. But its authors know full-well that no Israeli government (even a peace government) is going to risk enraging the right by agreeing to a Palestinian state unless it is the United States that is insisting upon it. The AIPAC letter does not envision a Palestinian State. Quite the contrary, its intent is to delay that state until there is no possibility of it ever being established.

It argues that America’s job is to serve as “trusted mediator and devoted friend of Israel.” It concedes that “no doubt our two governments [sic] will agree on many issues and disagree on others. The proven best way forward is to work closely and privately together both on areas of agreement and especially on areas of disagreement.”

That is what Himes wouldn’t sign.

So I’d be very curious to know just what “pro-Israel” group thinks Himes has been consistently pro-Israel. This, it should be noted, is precisely why ECI is needed. It is about time we start to parse what “pro-Israel” really means. It’s not signing the Gaza-54 letter or the Cohen-Boustany-Carnahan letter.

CORRECTION: Himes inexplicably signed both the AIPAC and the Cohen-Boustany-Carnahan letters. The latter explicitly declared that the U.S. should intervene because the parties could not reach agreement (i.e., back an imposed peace plan) and cheered the Arab Initiative, which would impose on Israel pre-1967 borders and re-divide Jerusalem. Perhaps Himes’s defense will be that he didn’t read what he signed, but those positions are not embraced by the vast majority of American Jews  – or even by the Obama administration (at least not yet).

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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.

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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Incovenient Truths Denied by Sestak

On Monday, Joe Sestak ventured to the Pennsylvania press club. He tried to explain away his pledge to give back donations from those who received earmarks. It was only a “personal” pledge (reneging on a personal pledge is OK?). He argued that he really hadn’t voted for TARP money when, in fact, in October 2008 he voted against withholding $350B in TARP money.

He also got cornered on the Emergency Committee for Israel. The video should be watched in full, for it is as squirrelly a performance as you will see from a pol. First, he tries to suggest that the ad is down. (Well, ECI actually doubled its ad buy.) Then, he claimed he really didn’t know. (He thinks ignorance is endearing? We are supposed to imagine his attorney never told him, “Sorry, but Comcast wouldn’t cave.”) Then he claims that the ECI ad was “false” — but provides no specifics. (I suppose if a pledge not to take money from earmark beneficiaries is not a pledge, then a letter indicting Israel for imposing “collective punishment” isn’t a condemnation of Israel for inflicting collective punishment.) And once again, he claims he went to CAIR to lecture them on terrorism. (No explanation was given for the slobbering praise for the group, nor was any repudiation of CAIR forthcoming now that several officials have been identified as engaged in terrorist activities.)

What is unnerving about the performance is the total conviction with which he asserts facts that simply aren’t so. He betrays not a hint of self-awareness nor of remorse for dabbling with jihadism. Voters should take note: this is not a pol who takes facts seriously, and consequently not one to be persuaded by experience or evidence that contradicts his strongly held beliefs. Gosh, does that remind you of another liberal politician?

On Monday, Joe Sestak ventured to the Pennsylvania press club. He tried to explain away his pledge to give back donations from those who received earmarks. It was only a “personal” pledge (reneging on a personal pledge is OK?). He argued that he really hadn’t voted for TARP money when, in fact, in October 2008 he voted against withholding $350B in TARP money.

He also got cornered on the Emergency Committee for Israel. The video should be watched in full, for it is as squirrelly a performance as you will see from a pol. First, he tries to suggest that the ad is down. (Well, ECI actually doubled its ad buy.) Then, he claimed he really didn’t know. (He thinks ignorance is endearing? We are supposed to imagine his attorney never told him, “Sorry, but Comcast wouldn’t cave.”) Then he claims that the ECI ad was “false” — but provides no specifics. (I suppose if a pledge not to take money from earmark beneficiaries is not a pledge, then a letter indicting Israel for imposing “collective punishment” isn’t a condemnation of Israel for inflicting collective punishment.) And once again, he claims he went to CAIR to lecture them on terrorism. (No explanation was given for the slobbering praise for the group, nor was any repudiation of CAIR forthcoming now that several officials have been identified as engaged in terrorist activities.)

What is unnerving about the performance is the total conviction with which he asserts facts that simply aren’t so. He betrays not a hint of self-awareness nor of remorse for dabbling with jihadism. Voters should take note: this is not a pol who takes facts seriously, and consequently not one to be persuaded by experience or evidence that contradicts his strongly held beliefs. Gosh, does that remind you of another liberal politician?

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Sestak Did It for Israel

The Pennsylvania media is on to Joe Sestak’s strategic gaffe:

U.S. Rep. Joe Sestak frequently tells supporters at campaign events that he would rather risk his job than shirk a principle. The Delaware County Democrat says it is for that reason that his campaign has been demanding that television stations across the state, and Comcast here in Philadelphia, pull ads created and funded by private groups attacking his run for the U.S. Senate.

But by attacking his attackers, does Sestak help draw attention to their claims?

That seemed to be the case with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which is running an ad on 21 TV stations in Pittsburgh, Harrisburg, Scranton and Johnstown that says that Sestak voted 100 percent of the time with U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on “job-killing” legislation on health care and energy.

Two stations in Pittsburgh pulled the ad for one day, but the resulting media coverage only helped spread the message.

The report points out that the same is true of his unsuccessful effort to stifle the Emergency Committee for Israel. And what does Sestak say, now that it’s apparent his “shut-up” strategy is a bust?

That ad claims that Sestak “raised money for an anti-Israel organization the FBI called a front group for Hamas,” the Palestinian group that funds terrorist attacks on Israel.

Sestak said his campaign asked Comcast to pull the ad because it is “harming Israel’s security.”

“This was not any kind of political calculation,” Sestak said. “For me, this was purely based on how I look at Israel, which is always about security and not politics.”

Groan. He tried to trample on the First Amendment rights of his opponents for Israel’s sake? Good grief. Shouldn’t he then have tried to take down J Street’s ad? I mean apparently debating Israel policy is somehow a threat to the Jewish state. But no, it’s actually a threat to Sestak, one so severe he’s tried to squash the entire discussion.

But if we want to talk about what is good for Israel, let’s ask Israelis. Only about 10 percent of them approve of Obama’s policy, which J Street tells us (most recently in its ad that features Obama quite prominently) is exactly what Sestak is supporting. Oh, Israelis don’t get to decide what is in their security interests, at least according to J Street.

One thing is certain: Sestak and the Democrats are petrified of making Israel a campaign issue. They simply want critics of their approach to pipe down and voters to accept on faith that their self-descriptions as pro-Israel are unassailable. If we weren’t a democracy where all issues of public policy are open to debate and where elected leaders must be accountable for their actions, it would make perfect sense.

The Pennsylvania media is on to Joe Sestak’s strategic gaffe:

U.S. Rep. Joe Sestak frequently tells supporters at campaign events that he would rather risk his job than shirk a principle. The Delaware County Democrat says it is for that reason that his campaign has been demanding that television stations across the state, and Comcast here in Philadelphia, pull ads created and funded by private groups attacking his run for the U.S. Senate.

But by attacking his attackers, does Sestak help draw attention to their claims?

That seemed to be the case with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which is running an ad on 21 TV stations in Pittsburgh, Harrisburg, Scranton and Johnstown that says that Sestak voted 100 percent of the time with U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on “job-killing” legislation on health care and energy.

Two stations in Pittsburgh pulled the ad for one day, but the resulting media coverage only helped spread the message.

The report points out that the same is true of his unsuccessful effort to stifle the Emergency Committee for Israel. And what does Sestak say, now that it’s apparent his “shut-up” strategy is a bust?

That ad claims that Sestak “raised money for an anti-Israel organization the FBI called a front group for Hamas,” the Palestinian group that funds terrorist attacks on Israel.

Sestak said his campaign asked Comcast to pull the ad because it is “harming Israel’s security.”

“This was not any kind of political calculation,” Sestak said. “For me, this was purely based on how I look at Israel, which is always about security and not politics.”

Groan. He tried to trample on the First Amendment rights of his opponents for Israel’s sake? Good grief. Shouldn’t he then have tried to take down J Street’s ad? I mean apparently debating Israel policy is somehow a threat to the Jewish state. But no, it’s actually a threat to Sestak, one so severe he’s tried to squash the entire discussion.

But if we want to talk about what is good for Israel, let’s ask Israelis. Only about 10 percent of them approve of Obama’s policy, which J Street tells us (most recently in its ad that features Obama quite prominently) is exactly what Sestak is supporting. Oh, Israelis don’t get to decide what is in their security interests, at least according to J Street.

One thing is certain: Sestak and the Democrats are petrified of making Israel a campaign issue. They simply want critics of their approach to pipe down and voters to accept on faith that their self-descriptions as pro-Israel are unassailable. If we weren’t a democracy where all issues of public policy are open to debate and where elected leaders must be accountable for their actions, it would make perfect sense.

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Democrats Panic over Israel

Former Journolist participant, now Politico reporter Laura Rozen was deployed to send around talking points for House Democrats defending themselves against — shocker! — the accusation that they and Obama have been less-than-stalwart-friends of Israel. (Have you noticed that she gets documents, blind quotes, etc. only from the left? Nothing to do with her Journolist background, mind you. Nothing to see. Move along.)

It is clear that this clumsy attempt at damage control is a matter of domestic politics, not foreign policy. (Ben Smith might well have had a jaundiced take on it, so he’s not the ideal reporter to give the lead if you need an uncritical release of your talking points.) Rozen’s comrades on the left are in a knot over the appearance of the Emergency Committee for Israel (my comments in brackets):

“I think you will find it useful to make the case that House Democrats and the president are as good if not better than any Congress or Administration that has come before,” [Howard] Berman wrote. [Not a good case, but a case. Really, didn't the administration have to launch a charm offensive to abate the anger in the ranks of American Jewry?]

Among the points the memo highlights, Obama has “repeatedly talked about the importance of the Palestinians recognizing the quote ‘Jewish’ state of Israel,” as well as the U.S. leading the international effort to pressure Iran about its nuclear weapons program. [If all he can proffer as evidence for Obama's Israel bona fides is that the president talked about the need for Palestinians to recognize Israel, you get the idea how weak the case really is.] …

The memo comes after a new conservative pro-Israel group has formed and criticized Pennsylvania Senate Democratic candidate Joe Sestak and associated him with Obama’s Middle East policy. [The ECI folks are no doubt high-fiving each other. She doesn't mention that J Street's ad also did a bang-up job of tying Sestak to Obama.]

Well, panic is the highest form of political flattery. And getting arguably the top House Democrat on the issue to take on the ECI suggests hysteria. At any rate, it’s plain that Democrats feel vulnerable after shilling for Obama’s Israel policy. They should have thought about that before they put partisan loyalty above principle. That’s water under the bridge, but now they really do need better talking points.

Former Journolist participant, now Politico reporter Laura Rozen was deployed to send around talking points for House Democrats defending themselves against — shocker! — the accusation that they and Obama have been less-than-stalwart-friends of Israel. (Have you noticed that she gets documents, blind quotes, etc. only from the left? Nothing to do with her Journolist background, mind you. Nothing to see. Move along.)

It is clear that this clumsy attempt at damage control is a matter of domestic politics, not foreign policy. (Ben Smith might well have had a jaundiced take on it, so he’s not the ideal reporter to give the lead if you need an uncritical release of your talking points.) Rozen’s comrades on the left are in a knot over the appearance of the Emergency Committee for Israel (my comments in brackets):

“I think you will find it useful to make the case that House Democrats and the president are as good if not better than any Congress or Administration that has come before,” [Howard] Berman wrote. [Not a good case, but a case. Really, didn't the administration have to launch a charm offensive to abate the anger in the ranks of American Jewry?]

Among the points the memo highlights, Obama has “repeatedly talked about the importance of the Palestinians recognizing the quote ‘Jewish’ state of Israel,” as well as the U.S. leading the international effort to pressure Iran about its nuclear weapons program. [If all he can proffer as evidence for Obama's Israel bona fides is that the president talked about the need for Palestinians to recognize Israel, you get the idea how weak the case really is.] …

The memo comes after a new conservative pro-Israel group has formed and criticized Pennsylvania Senate Democratic candidate Joe Sestak and associated him with Obama’s Middle East policy. [The ECI folks are no doubt high-fiving each other. She doesn't mention that J Street's ad also did a bang-up job of tying Sestak to Obama.]

Well, panic is the highest form of political flattery. And getting arguably the top House Democrat on the issue to take on the ECI suggests hysteria. At any rate, it’s plain that Democrats feel vulnerable after shilling for Obama’s Israel policy. They should have thought about that before they put partisan loyalty above principle. That’s water under the bridge, but now they really do need better talking points.

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I Bet Iran Doesn’t Think the J Streeters Are “Unhappy Jews”

From the BBC (subscription required), we get this snippet from its international news-monitoring service describing what’s being reported in Iran:

Editorial headlined “Neo-conservative lobbyists along with Israel”: The editorial refers to the formation of a new Israeli lobby in the US — the Emergency Committee for Israel (ECI) — and says that it includes unhappy Jews, who intend to gain an important role in the US practical policy and decision-making system so that they can influence the process of appointing senators, congressmen, governors and other state authorities directly.

This leaves even me almost speechless. Almost.

First, if you’re going to start a pro-Israel group, nothing beats a shout-out from the mullahs. It does cement one’s bona fides as a genuinely pro-Israel group committed to its defense against an existential threat from Iran, no? (Every press guy and gal in town is now groaning as they envision the phone ringing with demands from their boss. “No I can’t get you a condemnation by Ahmadinejad! I have no idea how they managed that!”) Second, I think the ECI folks are pretty happy to be engaged in a battle of ideas, especially after that missive. But there are a lot of American Jews not happy with Obama’s Israel policy. The idea that such people might become engaged in a debate about what it means to be “pro-Israel” and begin to focus on the voting records of candidates (not just their self-descriptions) seems to be making the mullahs very unhappy.

I think the really unhappy Jews these days are the J Streeters, who are being beaten about the ears by a group that’s been around less than two weeks.

From the BBC (subscription required), we get this snippet from its international news-monitoring service describing what’s being reported in Iran:

Editorial headlined “Neo-conservative lobbyists along with Israel”: The editorial refers to the formation of a new Israeli lobby in the US — the Emergency Committee for Israel (ECI) — and says that it includes unhappy Jews, who intend to gain an important role in the US practical policy and decision-making system so that they can influence the process of appointing senators, congressmen, governors and other state authorities directly.

This leaves even me almost speechless. Almost.

First, if you’re going to start a pro-Israel group, nothing beats a shout-out from the mullahs. It does cement one’s bona fides as a genuinely pro-Israel group committed to its defense against an existential threat from Iran, no? (Every press guy and gal in town is now groaning as they envision the phone ringing with demands from their boss. “No I can’t get you a condemnation by Ahmadinejad! I have no idea how they managed that!”) Second, I think the ECI folks are pretty happy to be engaged in a battle of ideas, especially after that missive. But there are a lot of American Jews not happy with Obama’s Israel policy. The idea that such people might become engaged in a debate about what it means to be “pro-Israel” and begin to focus on the voting records of candidates (not just their self-descriptions) seems to be making the mullahs very unhappy.

I think the really unhappy Jews these days are the J Streeters, who are being beaten about the ears by a group that’s been around less than two weeks.

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Will J Street Weigh Down Its Endorsed Candidates?

Last week, I questioned whether J Street had become more trouble than its worth to liberal Democratic candidates. In its highest-profile race — the Sestak-Toomey Pennsylvania Senate contest — the answer is clearly no.

In response to the Emergency Committee for Israel’s (ECI) ad buy and the ensuing flurry of news stories, J Street, with great fanfare, announced an ad buy of its own. However, a knowledgeable source provides me with numbers that demonstrate that the buy is puny — a grand total of $6,000. The J Street movers and shakers plunked down all of $2,600 for Philly cable. In Pittsburgh, J Street has spread its largess to the tune of $3,250. In Harrisburg — hold on to your hats — $150 was thrown about for their endorsed candidate.

This, folks, is a pittance. J Street’s biggest “contribution” is to bog Joe Sestak down in controversy. The group’s Gaza 54 letter, which Sestak signed, is one of the pillars of a now widely distributed ad going after Sestak’s Israel bona fides. His endorsement by J Street and the series of positions he has taken that have met with J Street’s favor (not to mention the letter to the UN Human Rights Council, which smacks of J Street accommodation with Israel-bashers) have made prominent an issue Sestak plainly doesn’t want to be front and center. And yet it is — not only by virtue of ECI’s ad but also because of the free media attention it has garnered — with J Street’s help. Is this the sort of help a liberal candidate really needs in a very tough election year?

Moreover, J Street’s own agenda – defending Obama “unconditionally” — seems to take precedence over the needs of individual congressmen. Does Sestak really benefit from an ad with a picture of Obama speaking at the UN and praising the president’s Middle East approach? It is very hard to see how. It’s certainly not going to make Jewish voters less nervous about him.

J Street seems to want to do two contradictory things — be controversial and antagonistic toward robust supporters of Israel (e.g., AIPAC, ECI) and also be influential in House and Senate races. Unfortunately for the Democrats in those races, J Street’s behavior infects their campaigns.

Here is a small but telling example. Joel Pollak (no relation to Noah), a fresh Republican face and strong friend of Israel, has gained the support of Alan Dershowitz against the Israel-bashing and J Street–endorsed Jan Schakowsky in the Illinois 9th. Pollak relates the following on his Facebook page:

Today is Tisha B’Av, when Jews traditionally commemorate the destruction of Jerusalem and mourn other tragedies in our history. Last night, as the holiday began, the new left-wing lobby known as J Street threw a cocktail party in downtown Chicago. The featured guest was J Street president Jeremy Ben-Ami. Since J Street has refused any previous request to debate the issues with me, I went down to speak to Ben-Ami & Co. myself.

One of my opponent’s senior staffers was there, as were about a dozen J Street staff and supporters. Ben-Ami was cordial, but seemed indifferent to the significance of the day. I asked him why J Street’s new ad attacks Joe Lieberman, who is well respected in the Jewish community. He described Lieberman–who supports direct talks between Israelis and Palestinians towards a two-state solution–as an “obstacle” to peace.

“If you showed the same enthusiasm in opposing Iran and Hamas as you do in fighting Alan Dershowitz, Elie Wiesel, and Joe Lieberman,” I said, “perhaps J Street would be more popular.” I also asked Ben-Ami about his organization’s attempt to use the federal government to target Jewish charities that may provide services to Israelis living across the 1949 armistice line. Why not investigate Islamic charities that fund anti-Israel views?

“I don’t give a shit about Islamic charities,” was Ben-Ami’s exact quote.

Now, does this help Pollak’s opponent or Pollak?

J Street brings its own baggage to midterm races but not much cash. Once candidates figure this out, will they really want a J Street stamp of approval?  It’s hard to see why they would.

Last week, I questioned whether J Street had become more trouble than its worth to liberal Democratic candidates. In its highest-profile race — the Sestak-Toomey Pennsylvania Senate contest — the answer is clearly no.

In response to the Emergency Committee for Israel’s (ECI) ad buy and the ensuing flurry of news stories, J Street, with great fanfare, announced an ad buy of its own. However, a knowledgeable source provides me with numbers that demonstrate that the buy is puny — a grand total of $6,000. The J Street movers and shakers plunked down all of $2,600 for Philly cable. In Pittsburgh, J Street has spread its largess to the tune of $3,250. In Harrisburg — hold on to your hats — $150 was thrown about for their endorsed candidate.

This, folks, is a pittance. J Street’s biggest “contribution” is to bog Joe Sestak down in controversy. The group’s Gaza 54 letter, which Sestak signed, is one of the pillars of a now widely distributed ad going after Sestak’s Israel bona fides. His endorsement by J Street and the series of positions he has taken that have met with J Street’s favor (not to mention the letter to the UN Human Rights Council, which smacks of J Street accommodation with Israel-bashers) have made prominent an issue Sestak plainly doesn’t want to be front and center. And yet it is — not only by virtue of ECI’s ad but also because of the free media attention it has garnered — with J Street’s help. Is this the sort of help a liberal candidate really needs in a very tough election year?

Moreover, J Street’s own agenda – defending Obama “unconditionally” — seems to take precedence over the needs of individual congressmen. Does Sestak really benefit from an ad with a picture of Obama speaking at the UN and praising the president’s Middle East approach? It is very hard to see how. It’s certainly not going to make Jewish voters less nervous about him.

J Street seems to want to do two contradictory things — be controversial and antagonistic toward robust supporters of Israel (e.g., AIPAC, ECI) and also be influential in House and Senate races. Unfortunately for the Democrats in those races, J Street’s behavior infects their campaigns.

Here is a small but telling example. Joel Pollak (no relation to Noah), a fresh Republican face and strong friend of Israel, has gained the support of Alan Dershowitz against the Israel-bashing and J Street–endorsed Jan Schakowsky in the Illinois 9th. Pollak relates the following on his Facebook page:

Today is Tisha B’Av, when Jews traditionally commemorate the destruction of Jerusalem and mourn other tragedies in our history. Last night, as the holiday began, the new left-wing lobby known as J Street threw a cocktail party in downtown Chicago. The featured guest was J Street president Jeremy Ben-Ami. Since J Street has refused any previous request to debate the issues with me, I went down to speak to Ben-Ami & Co. myself.

One of my opponent’s senior staffers was there, as were about a dozen J Street staff and supporters. Ben-Ami was cordial, but seemed indifferent to the significance of the day. I asked him why J Street’s new ad attacks Joe Lieberman, who is well respected in the Jewish community. He described Lieberman–who supports direct talks between Israelis and Palestinians towards a two-state solution–as an “obstacle” to peace.

“If you showed the same enthusiasm in opposing Iran and Hamas as you do in fighting Alan Dershowitz, Elie Wiesel, and Joe Lieberman,” I said, “perhaps J Street would be more popular.” I also asked Ben-Ami about his organization’s attempt to use the federal government to target Jewish charities that may provide services to Israelis living across the 1949 armistice line. Why not investigate Islamic charities that fund anti-Israel views?

“I don’t give a shit about Islamic charities,” was Ben-Ami’s exact quote.

Now, does this help Pollak’s opponent or Pollak?

J Street brings its own baggage to midterm races but not much cash. Once candidates figure this out, will they really want a J Street stamp of approval?  It’s hard to see why they would.

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J Street Rides to the Rescue — Sort Of (UPDATED)

The Emergency Committee for Israel and the ensuing coverage have set Joe Sestak back on his heels. His campaign, no doubt, is nervous — where is the J Street rescue squad? Hey, he signed their Gaza 54 letter and what does he have to show for it — an attack ad that’s playing all over the state (and on MSNBC as well) and a slew of negative press on Israel, which he keeps insisting isn’t the main issue of his campaign. It’s not! So J Street emphasizes the not-main issue with an ad of its own. But the ad is peculiar.

It features such mind-numbingly silly quotes, like this from the Washington Post: “President Obama’s new Middle East course has promise.” Umm. It didn’t quite work out, did it? Moreover, the ad ties Sestak to Obama — complete with a shot of Obama speaking at the UN. What? Did the ECI footage get mixed in? Guys, Obama’s Israel problem is the problem with Jewish voters. Now, J Street is busy transferring that antipathy, if not down right hostility, to Sestak.

Oh, in Politics 101 they teach not to be on the defensive (“The far right is attacking Joe Sestak over Israel”). Anyway, it’s good to know this really is a major issue in the race. Look at all Sestak has done today — an MSNBC appearance, a letter to the UN Human Rights Council, and a J Street ad. You don’t think the Toomey camp is behind all this, do you?

UPDATE: ECI has released a statement that reads:

The Emergency Committee for Israel was created in order to help American voters focus on important issues surrounding Middle East policy and the vital need for a strong US-Israel relationship, based on shared values and common challenges, in order to advance US interests in the region. Israel is a democratic ally that faces profound security threats ranging from terrorist groups like Hamas and Hezbollah to rogue regimes like Iran and Syria that support them.

ECI recently began airing an ad in Pennsylvania highlighting Rep. Joe Sestak’s failure to stand with Israel as well as his ties to CAIR, an anti-Israel organization that the FBI labeled a front group for Hamas. This ad remains on the air in Pennsylvania despite the Sestak campaign’s efforts to silence debate and intimidate broadcasters into pulling the ad through threats of legal action.

Today, another group began airing an ad highlighting Rep. Sestak’s support for President Obama’s stance towards Israel. We welcome this debate, and intend to participate in it, in Pennsylvania and elsewhere.  We will do our best to ensure that Americans have all the information they need in order to send a clear message to Congress and this administration that the American people expect their leaders to support Israel in our shared fight against Islamic terrorism.

I think this means: game on!

The Emergency Committee for Israel and the ensuing coverage have set Joe Sestak back on his heels. His campaign, no doubt, is nervous — where is the J Street rescue squad? Hey, he signed their Gaza 54 letter and what does he have to show for it — an attack ad that’s playing all over the state (and on MSNBC as well) and a slew of negative press on Israel, which he keeps insisting isn’t the main issue of his campaign. It’s not! So J Street emphasizes the not-main issue with an ad of its own. But the ad is peculiar.

It features such mind-numbingly silly quotes, like this from the Washington Post: “President Obama’s new Middle East course has promise.” Umm. It didn’t quite work out, did it? Moreover, the ad ties Sestak to Obama — complete with a shot of Obama speaking at the UN. What? Did the ECI footage get mixed in? Guys, Obama’s Israel problem is the problem with Jewish voters. Now, J Street is busy transferring that antipathy, if not down right hostility, to Sestak.

Oh, in Politics 101 they teach not to be on the defensive (“The far right is attacking Joe Sestak over Israel”). Anyway, it’s good to know this really is a major issue in the race. Look at all Sestak has done today — an MSNBC appearance, a letter to the UN Human Rights Council, and a J Street ad. You don’t think the Toomey camp is behind all this, do you?

UPDATE: ECI has released a statement that reads:

The Emergency Committee for Israel was created in order to help American voters focus on important issues surrounding Middle East policy and the vital need for a strong US-Israel relationship, based on shared values and common challenges, in order to advance US interests in the region. Israel is a democratic ally that faces profound security threats ranging from terrorist groups like Hamas and Hezbollah to rogue regimes like Iran and Syria that support them.

ECI recently began airing an ad in Pennsylvania highlighting Rep. Joe Sestak’s failure to stand with Israel as well as his ties to CAIR, an anti-Israel organization that the FBI labeled a front group for Hamas. This ad remains on the air in Pennsylvania despite the Sestak campaign’s efforts to silence debate and intimidate broadcasters into pulling the ad through threats of legal action.

Today, another group began airing an ad highlighting Rep. Sestak’s support for President Obama’s stance towards Israel. We welcome this debate, and intend to participate in it, in Pennsylvania and elsewhere.  We will do our best to ensure that Americans have all the information they need in order to send a clear message to Congress and this administration that the American people expect their leaders to support Israel in our shared fight against Islamic terrorism.

I think this means: game on!

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Bipartisan on Israel Means Accountability, Not Silence

The uproar over the efforts of the new Emergency Committee for Israel to highlight the record of Rep. Joe Sestak, the Democratic candidate for the Senate in Pennsylvania, is getting nasty. Sestak and his supporters are hoping to manufacture a backlash against the congressman’s critics that will not only change the subject from his record but will also cause Pennsylvania Jews to rally around the Democrats as the victims of what they are calling a sleazy smear campaign that is wrongly politicizing the issue of support for Israel.

The notion that the Republicans are trying to politicize Israel played a part in the previous two election cycles, during which large-scale efforts by the Republican Jewish Coalition to raise the issue of left-wing disaffection from Israel were treated with similar scorn. In 2006 and 2008, Republican ads highlighted the anti-Israel records of various prominent Democrats, such as Jimmy Carter, and left-wing activist groups, such as Moveon.org. As with the reaction to the ECI campaign, those comments seemed to center less on complaints about the content of the ads than on the premise that judging a Democratic candidate on his stand on Israel was itself illegitimate. They argued then, as they do now, that any effort that uses Israel as a wedge issue turns it into a political football and that this process undermines the broad coalition that has made the U.S.-Israel alliance a fact of American political life.

But this is a false argument that has more to do with the needs of partisanship than it does with maintaining a pro-Israel consensus. What the Democrats want is not more civility but rather to remove Israel from political debate. Given their existing advantage among Jewish voters, who are already overwhelmingly Democratic, this would certainly be to their advantage — especially because the greatest current threat to the pro-Israel consensus is the rising tide of hostility to Jewish self-defense and Zionism on the political left. But in doing so, Democrats are effectively relieving our politicians of any accountability on Middle East issues.

If we can’t judge politicians like Sestak on their positions concerning Israel and related issues, then it is the Democratic argument that Israel is off-limits for discussion — and not the anti-Sestak or Republican Jewish Coalition ads — that signals the end of the pro-Israel consensus. If a member of Congress can, with impunity, speak at a CAIR fundraiser without confronting that group over its origins and positions, or if he can sign letters aimed at heightening pressure on Israel and undermining its right of self-defense, then advocacy groups might as well close up shop; no one will have any reason to believe that the pro-Israel community means what it says when it seeks — as any group in a democracy will do — to support its friends and oppose its foes.

So long as the parties and candidates are actively competing for pro-Israel votes — and one suspects that there are more Christian pro-Israel votes in play here than Jewish ones because for many of the latter, partisan loyalty trumps their affection for Zionism — then we have reason to believe that the bipartisan pro-Israel consensus is safe. That means that both Democrats and Republicans must confront members of their party who are unsupportive or lukewarm toward Israel instead of giving them blanket immunity on the issue.

It is certainly legitimate for Sestak to spin his record or to argue that we must judge him by other things he has done in an attempt to prove his pro-Israel bona fides. But it is not legitimate for Sestak or any Democrat — or any Republican, for that matter — to say that their record on Israel is off-limits for discussion.

The uproar over the efforts of the new Emergency Committee for Israel to highlight the record of Rep. Joe Sestak, the Democratic candidate for the Senate in Pennsylvania, is getting nasty. Sestak and his supporters are hoping to manufacture a backlash against the congressman’s critics that will not only change the subject from his record but will also cause Pennsylvania Jews to rally around the Democrats as the victims of what they are calling a sleazy smear campaign that is wrongly politicizing the issue of support for Israel.

The notion that the Republicans are trying to politicize Israel played a part in the previous two election cycles, during which large-scale efforts by the Republican Jewish Coalition to raise the issue of left-wing disaffection from Israel were treated with similar scorn. In 2006 and 2008, Republican ads highlighted the anti-Israel records of various prominent Democrats, such as Jimmy Carter, and left-wing activist groups, such as Moveon.org. As with the reaction to the ECI campaign, those comments seemed to center less on complaints about the content of the ads than on the premise that judging a Democratic candidate on his stand on Israel was itself illegitimate. They argued then, as they do now, that any effort that uses Israel as a wedge issue turns it into a political football and that this process undermines the broad coalition that has made the U.S.-Israel alliance a fact of American political life.

But this is a false argument that has more to do with the needs of partisanship than it does with maintaining a pro-Israel consensus. What the Democrats want is not more civility but rather to remove Israel from political debate. Given their existing advantage among Jewish voters, who are already overwhelmingly Democratic, this would certainly be to their advantage — especially because the greatest current threat to the pro-Israel consensus is the rising tide of hostility to Jewish self-defense and Zionism on the political left. But in doing so, Democrats are effectively relieving our politicians of any accountability on Middle East issues.

If we can’t judge politicians like Sestak on their positions concerning Israel and related issues, then it is the Democratic argument that Israel is off-limits for discussion — and not the anti-Sestak or Republican Jewish Coalition ads — that signals the end of the pro-Israel consensus. If a member of Congress can, with impunity, speak at a CAIR fundraiser without confronting that group over its origins and positions, or if he can sign letters aimed at heightening pressure on Israel and undermining its right of self-defense, then advocacy groups might as well close up shop; no one will have any reason to believe that the pro-Israel community means what it says when it seeks — as any group in a democracy will do — to support its friends and oppose its foes.

So long as the parties and candidates are actively competing for pro-Israel votes — and one suspects that there are more Christian pro-Israel votes in play here than Jewish ones because for many of the latter, partisan loyalty trumps their affection for Zionism — then we have reason to believe that the bipartisan pro-Israel consensus is safe. That means that both Democrats and Republicans must confront members of their party who are unsupportive or lukewarm toward Israel instead of giving them blanket immunity on the issue.

It is certainly legitimate for Sestak to spin his record or to argue that we must judge him by other things he has done in an attempt to prove his pro-Israel bona fides. But it is not legitimate for Sestak or any Democrat — or any Republican, for that matter — to say that their record on Israel is off-limits for discussion.

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Sestak Doubles Down as ECI Doubles the Ad Buy

The ad by the Emergency Committee for Israel (ECI) and the barrage of negative coverage of Joe Sestak’s record on Israel and his frothy praise for CAIR seem to have struck a nerve. In a hastily arranged presser in Philadelphia, the Sestak camp dragged out four left-leaning Jewish supporters to vouch for him. One, Howard Langer, has already vouched for Sestak with his wallet, by giving him $9,200 since 2008. A second doesn’t even live in Pennsylvania. Another is from the Jewish Social Policy Action Network, which a local Philadelphia activist reminds me “was founded because they felt the American Jewish Congress was too conservative.” Not a very impressive dog-and-pony show. And strangely, Sestak himself did not show. Could he be hiding from the press? (My inquiries to his campaign on his positions on a variety of Israel-related issues have not been answered.) I would think he’d be happy to clear up the “misconceptions” about his views on Israel.

Who wasn’t there? AIPAC’s council chair, an informed source in Philadelphia’s Jewish community tells me, was invited but declined to attend. Hmm. Did Sestak imagine such a person would come and say that a keynote speech to CAIR is no big deal? If so, he’s more out to lunch than we imagined.

A Toomey supporter told me, “I am amazed they are sticking with this. ECI’s response [to Sestak's attempt to take down the ad] was rock-solid.” And indeed, once again, Sestak seems only to be re-enforcing a problematic issue for his faltering campaign.

Not surprisingly, ECI isn’t backing down. Greg Sargent reports that ECI’s ad buy has doubled. The Sestak ad will now be on broadcast TV and air during the Phillies game on Friday.

How badly is this hurting Sestak? Well, if the appearance of another lawyer letter is any indication, quite a bit. In his latest missive, Sestak’s lawyer pitches a fit over Comcast’s refusal to take down the ECI ad. One has to marvel at his propensity to restate horrid arguments. Again, he whines that CAIR was only declared a front group for Hamas after Sestak spoke. And he restates Sestak’s own words in the Gaza 54 letter, in which he demanded that an alternative to the Gaza blockade be found so Israel can stop inflicting “collective punishment” on Palestinians. Is the lawyer working for Sestak or for Toomey?

Sestak’s “shut up” campaign has been spectacularly unsuccessful. Soon every voter in the state will know two facts: he voted with Nancy Pelosi 97.8 percent of the time and he keynoted for CAIR, a group that has ties to terrorists. I doubt Sestak’s opponent could have been so effective.

The ad by the Emergency Committee for Israel (ECI) and the barrage of negative coverage of Joe Sestak’s record on Israel and his frothy praise for CAIR seem to have struck a nerve. In a hastily arranged presser in Philadelphia, the Sestak camp dragged out four left-leaning Jewish supporters to vouch for him. One, Howard Langer, has already vouched for Sestak with his wallet, by giving him $9,200 since 2008. A second doesn’t even live in Pennsylvania. Another is from the Jewish Social Policy Action Network, which a local Philadelphia activist reminds me “was founded because they felt the American Jewish Congress was too conservative.” Not a very impressive dog-and-pony show. And strangely, Sestak himself did not show. Could he be hiding from the press? (My inquiries to his campaign on his positions on a variety of Israel-related issues have not been answered.) I would think he’d be happy to clear up the “misconceptions” about his views on Israel.

Who wasn’t there? AIPAC’s council chair, an informed source in Philadelphia’s Jewish community tells me, was invited but declined to attend. Hmm. Did Sestak imagine such a person would come and say that a keynote speech to CAIR is no big deal? If so, he’s more out to lunch than we imagined.

A Toomey supporter told me, “I am amazed they are sticking with this. ECI’s response [to Sestak's attempt to take down the ad] was rock-solid.” And indeed, once again, Sestak seems only to be re-enforcing a problematic issue for his faltering campaign.

Not surprisingly, ECI isn’t backing down. Greg Sargent reports that ECI’s ad buy has doubled. The Sestak ad will now be on broadcast TV and air during the Phillies game on Friday.

How badly is this hurting Sestak? Well, if the appearance of another lawyer letter is any indication, quite a bit. In his latest missive, Sestak’s lawyer pitches a fit over Comcast’s refusal to take down the ECI ad. One has to marvel at his propensity to restate horrid arguments. Again, he whines that CAIR was only declared a front group for Hamas after Sestak spoke. And he restates Sestak’s own words in the Gaza 54 letter, in which he demanded that an alternative to the Gaza blockade be found so Israel can stop inflicting “collective punishment” on Palestinians. Is the lawyer working for Sestak or for Toomey?

Sestak’s “shut up” campaign has been spectacularly unsuccessful. Soon every voter in the state will know two facts: he voted with Nancy Pelosi 97.8 percent of the time and he keynoted for CAIR, a group that has ties to terrorists. I doubt Sestak’s opponent could have been so effective.

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Sestak Can’t Shut Up Critics, Can’t Hide

The Jewish Exponent is not exactly a conservative publication, so its coverage of ECI’s ad and of Joe Sestak’s Israel problem must be of particular concern to the Sestak camp. The report explains:

A new effort to attack U.S. Rep. Joe Sestak’s record on Israel has gone viral. A debate that has long been playing out in the pages of the Jewish Exponent has now made its way to MSNBCs “Morning Joe,” and Web sites such as Politico, The Atlantic, Commentary, the Huffington Post and YouTube. … At the centerpiece of the new campaign against Sestak is a television ad sponsored by a prominent group of Jews and Evangelical Christians calling itself the Emergency Committee for Israel.

The ad, airing in Pennsylvania this week — including during a Phillies game — highlights an appearance he made before a controversial Muslim group in 2007 and criticizes him for signing one congressional letter urging Israel to ease its blockade of Gaza and for not signing another one affirming Israel-U.S. ties. The spot is likely the first strike in what organizers have vowed will be a sustained effort to challenge Democrats and President Barack Obama on policy toward Israel.

The Exponent is not buying Sestak’s defense of his speech to CAIR in 2007: “According to the Anti-Defamation League, CAIR has ‘refused for many years to unequivocally condemn by name Hezbollah and Palestinian terror organizations.’” Nor does it appear that Sestak will be able to duck the controversy:

“Michael Bronstein, a Philadelphia political consultant and pro-Israel activist who is supporting Sestak, said that the new commercial “is completely different from anything that we have seen before. I suspect it will be effective without an adequate response.” …

For his part, Toomey, through his spokeswoman, told the Exponent: “It’s really unfortunate that Joe Sestak has repeatedly chosen to align himself with the most anti-Israel faction in Congress.”

It is not simply that Sestak gave the speech to a group that often spouts anti-Israel venom. It is that, as the Exponent points out, “Despite repeated calls for Sestak to have canceled before the CAIR speech, and calls for him to admit the appearance was a mistake, he has never backed down.” Even now that CAIR continues to carry water (and censor books) on behalf of radical Islamists and even now that CAIR’s track record is well known (see here and here and here), Sestak has never issued an apology or denounced the group.

You can understand why his lawyer tried to take down the ad. In doing so, however, he’s only called more attention to Sestak’s shabby record.

The Jewish Exponent is not exactly a conservative publication, so its coverage of ECI’s ad and of Joe Sestak’s Israel problem must be of particular concern to the Sestak camp. The report explains:

A new effort to attack U.S. Rep. Joe Sestak’s record on Israel has gone viral. A debate that has long been playing out in the pages of the Jewish Exponent has now made its way to MSNBCs “Morning Joe,” and Web sites such as Politico, The Atlantic, Commentary, the Huffington Post and YouTube. … At the centerpiece of the new campaign against Sestak is a television ad sponsored by a prominent group of Jews and Evangelical Christians calling itself the Emergency Committee for Israel.

The ad, airing in Pennsylvania this week — including during a Phillies game — highlights an appearance he made before a controversial Muslim group in 2007 and criticizes him for signing one congressional letter urging Israel to ease its blockade of Gaza and for not signing another one affirming Israel-U.S. ties. The spot is likely the first strike in what organizers have vowed will be a sustained effort to challenge Democrats and President Barack Obama on policy toward Israel.

The Exponent is not buying Sestak’s defense of his speech to CAIR in 2007: “According to the Anti-Defamation League, CAIR has ‘refused for many years to unequivocally condemn by name Hezbollah and Palestinian terror organizations.’” Nor does it appear that Sestak will be able to duck the controversy:

“Michael Bronstein, a Philadelphia political consultant and pro-Israel activist who is supporting Sestak, said that the new commercial “is completely different from anything that we have seen before. I suspect it will be effective without an adequate response.” …

For his part, Toomey, through his spokeswoman, told the Exponent: “It’s really unfortunate that Joe Sestak has repeatedly chosen to align himself with the most anti-Israel faction in Congress.”

It is not simply that Sestak gave the speech to a group that often spouts anti-Israel venom. It is that, as the Exponent points out, “Despite repeated calls for Sestak to have canceled before the CAIR speech, and calls for him to admit the appearance was a mistake, he has never backed down.” Even now that CAIR continues to carry water (and censor books) on behalf of radical Islamists and even now that CAIR’s track record is well known (see here and here and here), Sestak has never issued an apology or denounced the group.

You can understand why his lawyer tried to take down the ad. In doing so, however, he’s only called more attention to Sestak’s shabby record.

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Shut Up, Joe Sestak Responded

Yes, it’s a trend, apparently. Run an add that hits home and the target wants to make sure viewers can’t see it so they can make up their own minds. The ECI launched its opening salvo against Joe Sestak and Sestak’s lawyer rushes in to respond, as Ben Smith reports:

A lawyer for Rep. Joe Sestak, attesting to the Senate candidate’s pro-Israel bona fides, wrote that Sestak had “put his life on the line to defend Israel” during his years in the Navy. The letter, an unsuccessful attempt to persuade Comcast not to air an attack ad from the Emergency Committee for Israel, aggressively makes Sestak’s case on several fronts, but the suggestion that his naval service* in was performed “to defend Israel” is rarely heard outside conspiracy circles.

“Congressman Joe Sestak is the only candidate in the U.S. Senate race who (as an officer of the Navy) was willing to put his life on the line to defend Israel,” Sestak lawyer Jared Solomon wrote Comcast. “It is offensive and outrageous to suggest that he does not stand with Israel.”

Solomon’s letter, obtained by POLITICO,  challenges several other portions of the attack ad, including a claim that he’d helped fundraise for the Council on American Islamic Relations (his appearance was at “a portion of the event explicitly free of fundraising”) and that the group had been called a Hamas “front group” (“the characterization came a year after the CAIR event”).

This is a bizarre and telling move by Sestak on a number of grounds. First, is Sestak saying that he was in mortal peril as commander of a  naval battle group? Sensing that this is a gross exaggeration, his spokesman piped up with a “clarification”:

Sestak spokesman Jonathan Dworkin says the reference was not to any specific conflict, but to a series of operations with the Israeli Military, including a deployment in 2003 to help protect Israel from Iraqi missiles. “There is no suggestion that he served in the Navy for the purpose of defending Israel, only that he was involved in situations with the Israeli military and while serving the United States, he was willing to lay his life on the line in defense of our ally, Israel,” he writes.

Any military service, in my book, should be commended, but we’ve had enough of puffery lately about military credentials and it sure wasn’t the case that he was crawling on his belly through Gaza to protect the Jewish state. But, frankly, it’s hard to tell precisely what he did, because Sestak has refused to release his military records. If they show that he in fact risked life and limb for Israel and put to rest the controversy as to whether he was relieved of command — or told to resign (for creating a “poor command climate”) — why isn’t he putting out his Navy records?

Nor is the lawyer’s argument compelling, let along intelligible, that Sestak wasn’t really accusing Israel of “resorting to collective punishment” when he signed a letter promoted by J Street along with 53 other Israel-bashers. That letter called on Israel to figure out an approach to Gaza “without resulting in the de facto collective punishment of the Palestinian residents of the Gaza strip.” Huh? I don’t see how Sestak can escape from the text he signed off on.

But that’s not the weirdest part of the letter. He’s essentially saying: “I didn’t actually raise money for CAIR (although there was an admission fee), I just spoke at an event.” And he’s arguing it wasn’t the whole FBI who called CAIR a Hamas front group — just one agent did. Sheesh. I don’t see how that is going to fly. After all, CAIR officials have been the subject of many a legal investigation and have some rather radical views.

In the campaign Sestak’s going to have some explaining to do. Really, is he going to say it was only after the fundraising event that CAIR got the moniker of “Hamas front group”? They had been under investigation, after all, for years. More to the point, does he now understand that CAIR is in fact a front group?

Also, take a look at the letter and exhibits that the ECI submitted in response to the “shut them up” plea from Sestak’s lawyer. I’m not sure how fair-minded people can look at all that and conclude that Sestak has a pro-Israel track record, unless we are willing to concede that “pro-Israel” has no meaning.

Arlen Specter tried to raise many of these same points during the primary, so this isn’t anything new. What is surprising is that Sestak thinks he can muscle his way through the campaign without revealing his Navy records, without expressing any remorse for speaking at a CAIR event (with a Muslim activist who compared Zionists to Nazis) and without explaining what exactly makes him so attractive to J Street. We’ll see if he can pull it off.

Yes, it’s a trend, apparently. Run an add that hits home and the target wants to make sure viewers can’t see it so they can make up their own minds. The ECI launched its opening salvo against Joe Sestak and Sestak’s lawyer rushes in to respond, as Ben Smith reports:

A lawyer for Rep. Joe Sestak, attesting to the Senate candidate’s pro-Israel bona fides, wrote that Sestak had “put his life on the line to defend Israel” during his years in the Navy. The letter, an unsuccessful attempt to persuade Comcast not to air an attack ad from the Emergency Committee for Israel, aggressively makes Sestak’s case on several fronts, but the suggestion that his naval service* in was performed “to defend Israel” is rarely heard outside conspiracy circles.

“Congressman Joe Sestak is the only candidate in the U.S. Senate race who (as an officer of the Navy) was willing to put his life on the line to defend Israel,” Sestak lawyer Jared Solomon wrote Comcast. “It is offensive and outrageous to suggest that he does not stand with Israel.”

Solomon’s letter, obtained by POLITICO,  challenges several other portions of the attack ad, including a claim that he’d helped fundraise for the Council on American Islamic Relations (his appearance was at “a portion of the event explicitly free of fundraising”) and that the group had been called a Hamas “front group” (“the characterization came a year after the CAIR event”).

This is a bizarre and telling move by Sestak on a number of grounds. First, is Sestak saying that he was in mortal peril as commander of a  naval battle group? Sensing that this is a gross exaggeration, his spokesman piped up with a “clarification”:

Sestak spokesman Jonathan Dworkin says the reference was not to any specific conflict, but to a series of operations with the Israeli Military, including a deployment in 2003 to help protect Israel from Iraqi missiles. “There is no suggestion that he served in the Navy for the purpose of defending Israel, only that he was involved in situations with the Israeli military and while serving the United States, he was willing to lay his life on the line in defense of our ally, Israel,” he writes.

Any military service, in my book, should be commended, but we’ve had enough of puffery lately about military credentials and it sure wasn’t the case that he was crawling on his belly through Gaza to protect the Jewish state. But, frankly, it’s hard to tell precisely what he did, because Sestak has refused to release his military records. If they show that he in fact risked life and limb for Israel and put to rest the controversy as to whether he was relieved of command — or told to resign (for creating a “poor command climate”) — why isn’t he putting out his Navy records?

Nor is the lawyer’s argument compelling, let along intelligible, that Sestak wasn’t really accusing Israel of “resorting to collective punishment” when he signed a letter promoted by J Street along with 53 other Israel-bashers. That letter called on Israel to figure out an approach to Gaza “without resulting in the de facto collective punishment of the Palestinian residents of the Gaza strip.” Huh? I don’t see how Sestak can escape from the text he signed off on.

But that’s not the weirdest part of the letter. He’s essentially saying: “I didn’t actually raise money for CAIR (although there was an admission fee), I just spoke at an event.” And he’s arguing it wasn’t the whole FBI who called CAIR a Hamas front group — just one agent did. Sheesh. I don’t see how that is going to fly. After all, CAIR officials have been the subject of many a legal investigation and have some rather radical views.

In the campaign Sestak’s going to have some explaining to do. Really, is he going to say it was only after the fundraising event that CAIR got the moniker of “Hamas front group”? They had been under investigation, after all, for years. More to the point, does he now understand that CAIR is in fact a front group?

Also, take a look at the letter and exhibits that the ECI submitted in response to the “shut them up” plea from Sestak’s lawyer. I’m not sure how fair-minded people can look at all that and conclude that Sestak has a pro-Israel track record, unless we are willing to concede that “pro-Israel” has no meaning.

Arlen Specter tried to raise many of these same points during the primary, so this isn’t anything new. What is surprising is that Sestak thinks he can muscle his way through the campaign without revealing his Navy records, without expressing any remorse for speaking at a CAIR event (with a Muslim activist who compared Zionists to Nazis) and without explaining what exactly makes him so attractive to J Street. We’ll see if he can pull it off.

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What’s the Problem?

Ambassador John Bolton comments via e-mail on the Emergency Committee for Israel:

I don’t understand why so many people accept the Obama Administration’s ritualistic recital of the pro-Israel catechism, rather than looking at its specific policies and actions. You can say “unbreakable relationship” as many times as you want, but it has no real-world impact. I don’t see how anybody can object to a new group that simply points out the obvious disjunction between what Obama and his acolytes are saying and what they are actually doing.

Indeed. The reaction on the left will speak volumes about its sensitivity on just this point. Are the leftists pro-Obama’s-Israel-policy, or are they truly pro-Israel? There is a difference, one they’d rather not have highlighted, especially in an election year.

Ambassador John Bolton comments via e-mail on the Emergency Committee for Israel:

I don’t understand why so many people accept the Obama Administration’s ritualistic recital of the pro-Israel catechism, rather than looking at its specific policies and actions. You can say “unbreakable relationship” as many times as you want, but it has no real-world impact. I don’t see how anybody can object to a new group that simply points out the obvious disjunction between what Obama and his acolytes are saying and what they are actually doing.

Indeed. The reaction on the left will speak volumes about its sensitivity on just this point. Are the leftists pro-Obama’s-Israel-policy, or are they truly pro-Israel? There is a difference, one they’d rather not have highlighted, especially in an election year.

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Democrats Upset Their Lagging Support for Israel Is an Issue

David A. Harris, the President and CEO of the National Democratic Jewish Council, had this response to the launch of the Emergency Committee for Israel and, specifically, to ECI board member Gary Bauer (who observed that this is “the most anti-Israel administration in the history of the United States”):

Israel’s Ambassador to the United States and others have it right when they stress the importance of bipartisanship in supporting a strong U.S.-Israel relationship. In contrast, Gary Bauer shows this new group’s true colors when he wildly and wrongly bashes the Obama Administration as “the most anti-Israel administration in the history of the United States.” President Obama has gathered a global coalition against Iran, and strengthened strategic ties with Israel to unparalleled heights. Playing partisan games with support for Israel is wrong, period.

Well, that, in a nutshell, explains why the ECI is needed. This is an extreme example of flackery; of course, this group is an adjunct of the Democratic Party and has never publicly crossed Obama — not even when he awarded the Medal of Freedom to Mary Robinson. But the tendency among liberal Jews to offer a knee-jerk defense for the Obama administration (and the preposterous assertion that the relationship with Israel is better than ever) leaves those who want a strong voice for Israel, not for the administration’s Israel policy, wanting more forceful leadership. The ECI certainly has room to run in this political landscape.

While it would be delightful to have stalwart bipartisan support for Israel, Harris and his fellow Democrats aren’t carrying their own weight. Gallup and other polls have noted the growing disparity between Democrats and Republicans in their support for Israel. While Americans as a whole remain very supportive of a strong U.S. – Israel relationship (63 percent in a February Gallup poll) the gap between Republicans (85 percent) and Democrats (48 percent) is huge and historically unprecedented.

You can see that ECI and other genuinely pro-Israel groups have their work cut out for them.

David A. Harris, the President and CEO of the National Democratic Jewish Council, had this response to the launch of the Emergency Committee for Israel and, specifically, to ECI board member Gary Bauer (who observed that this is “the most anti-Israel administration in the history of the United States”):

Israel’s Ambassador to the United States and others have it right when they stress the importance of bipartisanship in supporting a strong U.S.-Israel relationship. In contrast, Gary Bauer shows this new group’s true colors when he wildly and wrongly bashes the Obama Administration as “the most anti-Israel administration in the history of the United States.” President Obama has gathered a global coalition against Iran, and strengthened strategic ties with Israel to unparalleled heights. Playing partisan games with support for Israel is wrong, period.

Well, that, in a nutshell, explains why the ECI is needed. This is an extreme example of flackery; of course, this group is an adjunct of the Democratic Party and has never publicly crossed Obama — not even when he awarded the Medal of Freedom to Mary Robinson. But the tendency among liberal Jews to offer a knee-jerk defense for the Obama administration (and the preposterous assertion that the relationship with Israel is better than ever) leaves those who want a strong voice for Israel, not for the administration’s Israel policy, wanting more forceful leadership. The ECI certainly has room to run in this political landscape.

While it would be delightful to have stalwart bipartisan support for Israel, Harris and his fellow Democrats aren’t carrying their own weight. Gallup and other polls have noted the growing disparity between Democrats and Republicans in their support for Israel. While Americans as a whole remain very supportive of a strong U.S. – Israel relationship (63 percent in a February Gallup poll) the gap between Republicans (85 percent) and Democrats (48 percent) is huge and historically unprecedented.

You can see that ECI and other genuinely pro-Israel groups have their work cut out for them.

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Does the Left Have the Nerve to Run Against Israel?

It’s no surprise that the likes of M.J. Rosenberg, whose hatred of Israel and venom for its defenders is practically unmatched, is screeching that the Emergency Committee for Israel has accused Joe Sestak of being “un-American.” He’s not paying attention — Sestak is being accused of being anti-Israel. A specialist in dual-loyalty charges like Rosenberg should know the difference. And I can’t begin to figure out his bizarre assertion that those who care about Iran going nuclear shouldn’t bother with “local Pennsylvania politics.” It is the U.S. Senate we’re talking about, right? Mr. Rosenberg, not only your animus but also your panic is showing.

But it’s worth trudging through that hooey to get to this comment from a Rosenberg reader:

As a Democrat I hope Sestak wins, but I find it interesting that far from defending his position on the letter about the Gaza blockade, he will now bend over backward to make sure people in Pennsylvania know how much he disagrees with you, Mr. Rosenberg, on what needs to be done with Israel. For the next six years Joe Sestak will say everything and do everything that AIPAC wants and to that I say: AMEN!

Well, this is the rub, isn’t it? Sestak signed the Gaza 54 letter, but now that he’s in a Senate race, he has signed on with a majority of his House colleagues in a letter supporting Israel on the flotilla and implicitly criticizing the administration. Did he have a change of heart, or does he merely lack the nerve to be as forthright about his views with the Pennsylvania electorate as he was with his J Street backers?

And what of the anti-Israel left? Aren’t they just a bit peeved that first Obama and now Sestak has dropped the Israel-bashing? You would think that they, too, would have the power of their convictions. Why do they prefer to fuzz up the differences between Sestak and his opponent on Israel? Wonder if it has anything to do with the political toxicity of their anti-Israel stance. But Rosenberg’s reader has one thing wrong: Sestak isn’t likely to get elected by conning the voters that he is AIPAC’s best friend. J Street — and ECI — will make that very hard.

It’s no surprise that the likes of M.J. Rosenberg, whose hatred of Israel and venom for its defenders is practically unmatched, is screeching that the Emergency Committee for Israel has accused Joe Sestak of being “un-American.” He’s not paying attention — Sestak is being accused of being anti-Israel. A specialist in dual-loyalty charges like Rosenberg should know the difference. And I can’t begin to figure out his bizarre assertion that those who care about Iran going nuclear shouldn’t bother with “local Pennsylvania politics.” It is the U.S. Senate we’re talking about, right? Mr. Rosenberg, not only your animus but also your panic is showing.

But it’s worth trudging through that hooey to get to this comment from a Rosenberg reader:

As a Democrat I hope Sestak wins, but I find it interesting that far from defending his position on the letter about the Gaza blockade, he will now bend over backward to make sure people in Pennsylvania know how much he disagrees with you, Mr. Rosenberg, on what needs to be done with Israel. For the next six years Joe Sestak will say everything and do everything that AIPAC wants and to that I say: AMEN!

Well, this is the rub, isn’t it? Sestak signed the Gaza 54 letter, but now that he’s in a Senate race, he has signed on with a majority of his House colleagues in a letter supporting Israel on the flotilla and implicitly criticizing the administration. Did he have a change of heart, or does he merely lack the nerve to be as forthright about his views with the Pennsylvania electorate as he was with his J Street backers?

And what of the anti-Israel left? Aren’t they just a bit peeved that first Obama and now Sestak has dropped the Israel-bashing? You would think that they, too, would have the power of their convictions. Why do they prefer to fuzz up the differences between Sestak and his opponent on Israel? Wonder if it has anything to do with the political toxicity of their anti-Israel stance. But Rosenberg’s reader has one thing wrong: Sestak isn’t likely to get elected by conning the voters that he is AIPAC’s best friend. J Street — and ECI — will make that very hard.

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It Is Certainly an Emergency

Politico has the scoop:

Leading conservatives will launch a new pro-Israel group this week with a scathing attack on Rep. Joe Sestak, the Democratic Senate candidate in Pennsylvania, the first shot in what they say will be a confrontational campaign against the Obama administration’s Mideast policy and the Democrats who support it.

The Emergency Committee for Israel’s leadership unites two major strands of support for the Jewish state: The hawkish, neoconservative wing of the Republican Party, many of whom are Jewish; and conservative Evangelical Christians who have become increasingly outspoken in their support for Israel. The new group’s board includes Weekly Standard Editor William Kristol and Gary Bauer, the former Republican presidential candidate who leads the group American Values, as well as Rachel Abrams, a conservative writer and activist. Former McCain aide Michael Goldfarb is an adviser to the group.

“We’re the pro-Israel wing of the pro-Israel community,” said Kristol.

This group is not affiliated with COMMENTARY but in the interests of full disclosure, we note that Noah Pollak, who has contributed to this blog as well as to COMMENTARY, will be the ECI’s executive director. Pollak explained that the ECI will be entering the fray in this year’s races:

“We want to be hard-hitting — we want to get into the debate and shake things up and make some points in a firm way,” he said. The group will target races for the House and the Senate, but there’s little doubt the larger target is the Obama administration, which Bauer told Politico is “the most anti-Israel administration in the history of the United States.”

To say that the ECI fills a niche would be a gross understatement. There is a gaping hole in the Jewish community’s response to the Obama administration and in its defense of Israel. In the past, these groups’ close relationship with incumbent administrations has served them well. But as I have written for nearly a year, that tactic is not suited to the current challenges and has proven counterproductive in the Obama era. The need is great to expose, confront, and challenge the administration when it, for example, eggs on an international flotilla investigation or excepts Russia and China from sanctions on Iran or mindlessly pursues engagement with Syria.

The establishment groups’ reaction was predictable, if restrained:

One official at an American Jewish organization welcomed the group to the degree that it would make “mainstream” criticism of Democrats, but also expressed concern that a group with such Republican origins would contribute to a deepening partisan cast to the debate over Israel, with Republicans lining up behind the Israeli government while some Democrats align themselves with Netanyahu’s American critics.

But the partisanship is a function not of the GOP’s rabble-rousing but rather of the stark decline in support for Israel on the left. The decades-old bipartisan coalition in support of Israel has become lopsided because one political party’s support has eroded. This was evident in polling on the Lebanon war, long before Obama got to the White House. But this administration, of course has exacerbated the problem. Many Democrats have placed party loyalty above support for the Jewish state, biting their tongues in the face of enormous provocation by the most anti-Israel administration in history. That may change as Obama’s political fortunes decline, but it has been at the root of mainly Jewish organizations’ dilemma in responding to the Obama administration.

Actually, the ECI has the potential to repair that bipartisan coalition by calling it straight on Israel and not letting ostensibly pro-Israel lawmakers avoid the dilemma: partisan loyalty or full-throated support for Israel:

I encourage our Democratic friends to have a competition with us on who can be more pro-Israel, because I think it’s in the interests of the United States and not a political party,” [Gary Bauer] said. “I’m really hoping that people like Senator [Chuck] Schumer and others will aggressively speak out for Israel at a time like this.”

And there is also the task of keeping neo-isolationists from gaining a foothold at the very time that Obama seems eager to withdrawal from our historic role as guarantor of the West’s security.

There is much to be done — take on the Obama administration’s lackadaisical approach to Iran, expose those who style themselves as pro-Israel but plainly aren’t, confront the administration’s refusal to stand up to Israel’s delegitimizors in international bodies, and keep the mainstream Jewish groups honest. That’s a tall order. In fact, it’s an emergency.

Politico has the scoop:

Leading conservatives will launch a new pro-Israel group this week with a scathing attack on Rep. Joe Sestak, the Democratic Senate candidate in Pennsylvania, the first shot in what they say will be a confrontational campaign against the Obama administration’s Mideast policy and the Democrats who support it.

The Emergency Committee for Israel’s leadership unites two major strands of support for the Jewish state: The hawkish, neoconservative wing of the Republican Party, many of whom are Jewish; and conservative Evangelical Christians who have become increasingly outspoken in their support for Israel. The new group’s board includes Weekly Standard Editor William Kristol and Gary Bauer, the former Republican presidential candidate who leads the group American Values, as well as Rachel Abrams, a conservative writer and activist. Former McCain aide Michael Goldfarb is an adviser to the group.

“We’re the pro-Israel wing of the pro-Israel community,” said Kristol.

This group is not affiliated with COMMENTARY but in the interests of full disclosure, we note that Noah Pollak, who has contributed to this blog as well as to COMMENTARY, will be the ECI’s executive director. Pollak explained that the ECI will be entering the fray in this year’s races:

“We want to be hard-hitting — we want to get into the debate and shake things up and make some points in a firm way,” he said. The group will target races for the House and the Senate, but there’s little doubt the larger target is the Obama administration, which Bauer told Politico is “the most anti-Israel administration in the history of the United States.”

To say that the ECI fills a niche would be a gross understatement. There is a gaping hole in the Jewish community’s response to the Obama administration and in its defense of Israel. In the past, these groups’ close relationship with incumbent administrations has served them well. But as I have written for nearly a year, that tactic is not suited to the current challenges and has proven counterproductive in the Obama era. The need is great to expose, confront, and challenge the administration when it, for example, eggs on an international flotilla investigation or excepts Russia and China from sanctions on Iran or mindlessly pursues engagement with Syria.

The establishment groups’ reaction was predictable, if restrained:

One official at an American Jewish organization welcomed the group to the degree that it would make “mainstream” criticism of Democrats, but also expressed concern that a group with such Republican origins would contribute to a deepening partisan cast to the debate over Israel, with Republicans lining up behind the Israeli government while some Democrats align themselves with Netanyahu’s American critics.

But the partisanship is a function not of the GOP’s rabble-rousing but rather of the stark decline in support for Israel on the left. The decades-old bipartisan coalition in support of Israel has become lopsided because one political party’s support has eroded. This was evident in polling on the Lebanon war, long before Obama got to the White House. But this administration, of course has exacerbated the problem. Many Democrats have placed party loyalty above support for the Jewish state, biting their tongues in the face of enormous provocation by the most anti-Israel administration in history. That may change as Obama’s political fortunes decline, but it has been at the root of mainly Jewish organizations’ dilemma in responding to the Obama administration.

Actually, the ECI has the potential to repair that bipartisan coalition by calling it straight on Israel and not letting ostensibly pro-Israel lawmakers avoid the dilemma: partisan loyalty or full-throated support for Israel:

I encourage our Democratic friends to have a competition with us on who can be more pro-Israel, because I think it’s in the interests of the United States and not a political party,” [Gary Bauer] said. “I’m really hoping that people like Senator [Chuck] Schumer and others will aggressively speak out for Israel at a time like this.”

And there is also the task of keeping neo-isolationists from gaining a foothold at the very time that Obama seems eager to withdrawal from our historic role as guarantor of the West’s security.

There is much to be done — take on the Obama administration’s lackadaisical approach to Iran, expose those who style themselves as pro-Israel but plainly aren’t, confront the administration’s refusal to stand up to Israel’s delegitimizors in international bodies, and keep the mainstream Jewish groups honest. That’s a tall order. In fact, it’s an emergency.

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