Commentary Magazine


Topic: Gary Ackerman

Birthright Confusion Caps Off Worst Week Ever for J Street

If 2010 was a bad year for J Street, 2011 looks like it’s shaping up to be even worse. In the past week, the organization has been denounced by its most prominent supporter in Congress — Rep. Gary Ackerman — and by Israeli ambassador Michael Oren.

And now J Street is facing another problem. A few days ago, the group announced it would be sponsoring a Birthright trip to Israel and posted a sign-up page for the program on its website. But now Birthright is denying it was ever involved with the trip:

A Birthright official told Haaretz that about three months ago they were approached by “The Israel Experience,” one of the trip providers, with this idea, but said that they are not interested in trips dedicated to a specific political experience. “Since then we didn’t have any requests from them,” he said. “And then we saw to our astonishment the press release of J Street that they are “leading the trip” — there is no such thing in our practice. We had no direct contact with J Street, no formal request was submitted.”

However, J Street disputes Birthright’s account of the situation. According to Moriel Rothman, president of J Street’s student arm, which reportedly organized the trip, Birthright had initially approved the program.

“[W]e are deeply troubled by Birthright’s abrupt decision to cancel our trip,” said Rothman. “Revoking this previously-approved opportunity, planned in concert with accredited Birthright trip organizer Israel Experience, sends exactly the wrong message to our community and to our students. And it is a painful message to receive.”

A series of e-mails obtained by Haaretz appears to partially back up J Street’s version of the story. The correspondence reportedly shows that J Street had submitted a proposal to an accredited Birthright trip organizer, who responded that the draft was “perfect.” However, it’s unclear from the article whether the trip was ever officially approved:

The pro-Israel lobby submitted to Haaretz email correspondences between an official from The Israel Experience and a J Street Campus representative, which show that JStreet sent the draft regarding the announcement of the trip for approval – and they received it. The Israel Experience official defined the draft as “perfect.” So it seems that the miscommunication occurred somewhere between “Birthright” and one of the trip organizers.‬

So what happened? Was there a missed communication somewhere between the trip organizer and Birthright leadership? Or did Birthright initially approve the program and then back out under outside pressure? At this point, it isn’t clear, and multiple requests for comment from Birthright over the past few days have not been returned.

If 2010 was a bad year for J Street, 2011 looks like it’s shaping up to be even worse. In the past week, the organization has been denounced by its most prominent supporter in Congress — Rep. Gary Ackerman — and by Israeli ambassador Michael Oren.

And now J Street is facing another problem. A few days ago, the group announced it would be sponsoring a Birthright trip to Israel and posted a sign-up page for the program on its website. But now Birthright is denying it was ever involved with the trip:

A Birthright official told Haaretz that about three months ago they were approached by “The Israel Experience,” one of the trip providers, with this idea, but said that they are not interested in trips dedicated to a specific political experience. “Since then we didn’t have any requests from them,” he said. “And then we saw to our astonishment the press release of J Street that they are “leading the trip” — there is no such thing in our practice. We had no direct contact with J Street, no formal request was submitted.”

However, J Street disputes Birthright’s account of the situation. According to Moriel Rothman, president of J Street’s student arm, which reportedly organized the trip, Birthright had initially approved the program.

“[W]e are deeply troubled by Birthright’s abrupt decision to cancel our trip,” said Rothman. “Revoking this previously-approved opportunity, planned in concert with accredited Birthright trip organizer Israel Experience, sends exactly the wrong message to our community and to our students. And it is a painful message to receive.”

A series of e-mails obtained by Haaretz appears to partially back up J Street’s version of the story. The correspondence reportedly shows that J Street had submitted a proposal to an accredited Birthright trip organizer, who responded that the draft was “perfect.” However, it’s unclear from the article whether the trip was ever officially approved:

The pro-Israel lobby submitted to Haaretz email correspondences between an official from The Israel Experience and a J Street Campus representative, which show that JStreet sent the draft regarding the announcement of the trip for approval – and they received it. The Israel Experience official defined the draft as “perfect.” So it seems that the miscommunication occurred somewhere between “Birthright” and one of the trip organizers.‬

So what happened? Was there a missed communication somewhere between the trip organizer and Birthright leadership? Or did Birthright initially approve the program and then back out under outside pressure? At this point, it isn’t clear, and multiple requests for comment from Birthright over the past few days have not been returned.

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Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren Blasts J Street

It looks like the feud between Michael Oren and J Street has been re-opened after the Israeli ambassador to the U.S. took a shot at the organization during an interview with the Daily Caller. Oren seemed specifically annoyed over J Street’s e-mail-blast attack on Rep. Gary Ackerman last week:

“They claim they’re pro-Israel,” he said, providing a less than ringing endorsement of the George Soros-funded organization. “They are calling for Israel to be condemned in the Security Council for the settlements and they are condemning some of our best friends on the Hill. So they can call themselves what they like.”

The relationship between Oren and J Street has been rocky from the beginning. The ambassador turned down an invitation to speak at the group’s first conference in 2009, and he also referred to J Street’s views as dangerous to Israel’s security. But they appeared to mend relations last winter, based on a series of mutually fawning media interviews and private discussions. In February, Oren claimed that J Street had moved “much more into the mainstream” and said that “[t]he J Street controversy has come a long way toward resolving.” The ambassador even held a private meeting with J Street president Jeremy Ben-Ami in April.

But Oren’s statement to the Daily Caller is a sure sign that J Street is on the outs with the embassy again.

Probably sensing this, J Street took a desperate measure this afternoon. You know things have hit rock bottom if Ben-Ami starts apologizing:

Too often, we descend to the level of those with whom we disagree and our campaigns and actions become too personal.

This happened last week with Congressman Gary Ackerman, when we reacted sharply to statements regarding J Street to which we objected. We may disagree with him over policy matters at times — but he and we share important larger goals for the United States, Israel and the Jewish people. Our discussions with him and with all those with whom we may disagree at times should be conducted with respect.

So allow me to apologize for the tone of our email on Friday.

Oren began mending his relationship with J Street after the group appeared to be gaining influence with members of Congress and Obama administration officials. But in less than a year, J Street has lost any political clout it once had, and the embassy doesn’t have much of a reason to work with it anymore.

It looks like the feud between Michael Oren and J Street has been re-opened after the Israeli ambassador to the U.S. took a shot at the organization during an interview with the Daily Caller. Oren seemed specifically annoyed over J Street’s e-mail-blast attack on Rep. Gary Ackerman last week:

“They claim they’re pro-Israel,” he said, providing a less than ringing endorsement of the George Soros-funded organization. “They are calling for Israel to be condemned in the Security Council for the settlements and they are condemning some of our best friends on the Hill. So they can call themselves what they like.”

The relationship between Oren and J Street has been rocky from the beginning. The ambassador turned down an invitation to speak at the group’s first conference in 2009, and he also referred to J Street’s views as dangerous to Israel’s security. But they appeared to mend relations last winter, based on a series of mutually fawning media interviews and private discussions. In February, Oren claimed that J Street had moved “much more into the mainstream” and said that “[t]he J Street controversy has come a long way toward resolving.” The ambassador even held a private meeting with J Street president Jeremy Ben-Ami in April.

But Oren’s statement to the Daily Caller is a sure sign that J Street is on the outs with the embassy again.

Probably sensing this, J Street took a desperate measure this afternoon. You know things have hit rock bottom if Ben-Ami starts apologizing:

Too often, we descend to the level of those with whom we disagree and our campaigns and actions become too personal.

This happened last week with Congressman Gary Ackerman, when we reacted sharply to statements regarding J Street to which we objected. We may disagree with him over policy matters at times — but he and we share important larger goals for the United States, Israel and the Jewish people. Our discussions with him and with all those with whom we may disagree at times should be conducted with respect.

So allow me to apologize for the tone of our email on Friday.

Oren began mending his relationship with J Street after the group appeared to be gaining influence with members of Congress and Obama administration officials. But in less than a year, J Street has lost any political clout it once had, and the embassy doesn’t have much of a reason to work with it anymore.

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The PR Geniuses at J Street Are at It Again

Apparently J Street is still feeling burned after its last legitimate congressional supporter, Rep. Gary Ackerman, publicly cut ties with the group on Wednesday. The organization sent out an e-mail blast today, calling on its supporters to bombard the congressman with messages deriding him for ending his connection with J Street.

What makes this bad move worse is Ackerman’s prominent position on the Foreign Affairs subcommittee on the Middle East. He’s probably not the type of person J Street can afford to make an enemy out of. And yet:

We are sad and disappointed that the Congressman lacks the courage of his convictions on this issue. …

It is a failure of leadership when a senior official like Congressman Ackerman chooses to fall back on yesterday’s politics — blaming only the Palestinians for the present impasse, calling those who see it differently names, and questioning our support for Israel.

Click here to tell Congressman Ackerman that Israel needs friends who will speak hard truths and push for a two-state solution now before it’s too late.

The e-mail allows supporters to submit a signature and a personal message that will be added to a petition that denounces Ackerman. It also says that the notes will be forwarded directly to the congressman. However, after reading this blast, I think it’s safe to assume that the only messages Ackerman is going to get are a string of emotionally charged voicemails from Jeremy Ben Ami.

Apparently J Street is still feeling burned after its last legitimate congressional supporter, Rep. Gary Ackerman, publicly cut ties with the group on Wednesday. The organization sent out an e-mail blast today, calling on its supporters to bombard the congressman with messages deriding him for ending his connection with J Street.

What makes this bad move worse is Ackerman’s prominent position on the Foreign Affairs subcommittee on the Middle East. He’s probably not the type of person J Street can afford to make an enemy out of. And yet:

We are sad and disappointed that the Congressman lacks the courage of his convictions on this issue. …

It is a failure of leadership when a senior official like Congressman Ackerman chooses to fall back on yesterday’s politics — blaming only the Palestinians for the present impasse, calling those who see it differently names, and questioning our support for Israel.

Click here to tell Congressman Ackerman that Israel needs friends who will speak hard truths and push for a two-state solution now before it’s too late.

The e-mail allows supporters to submit a signature and a personal message that will be added to a petition that denounces Ackerman. It also says that the notes will be forwarded directly to the congressman. However, after reading this blast, I think it’s safe to assume that the only messages Ackerman is going to get are a string of emotionally charged voicemails from Jeremy Ben Ami.

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Rep. Ackerman Throws J Street Under the Bus

Despite J Street’s eagerness to blame its “political enemies” for its public-relations troubles, all its image problems have been brought on by itself. Nobody forced the group the take money from George Soros, surreptitiously aide Richard Goldstone, and engage in unethical self-dealing. These actions are a sign of a deep-seated moral corruption within the organization, and they’re likely to keep occurring unless the group dismantles its leadership entirely.

This seems to be the realization that one of J Street’s strongest political allies, Rep. Gary Ackerman, came to today. Appalled that the organization is supporting the pending UN resolution condemning Israeli settlements, the congressman has told J Street in no uncertain terms that he wants nothing to do with them anymore:

“After learning of J-Street’s current public call for the Obama Administration to not veto a prospective UN Security Council resolution that, under the rubric of concern about settlement activity, would effectively and unjustly place the whole responsibility for the current impasse in the peace process on Israel, and—critically—would give fresh and powerful impetus to the effort to internationally isolate and delegitimize Israel, I’ve come to the conclusion that J-Street is not an organization with which I wish to be associated.”

And Ackerman is by no means opposed to progressive pro-Israel groups — he just notes that J Street isn’t one of them.

“America really does need a smart, credible, politically active organization that is as aggressively pro-peace as it is pro-Israel,” said the congressman. “Unfortunately, J-Street ain’t it.”

This is the strongest sign so far that J Street’s political support on Capitol Hill has completely dried up. Ackerman isn’t denouncing the group in a last-minute attempt to win an election, as other politicians have done. He’s doing it because being linked to J Street has become a political liability even when it’s not a campaign season.

He’s also doing it because J Street’s actions over the past year — culminating in its support for this UN resolution — have made it impossible to logically claim that the group is still pro-Israel.

Ackerman rightly notes that J Street’s support for the resolution “is not the choice of a concerned friend trying to help. It is rather the befuddled choice of an organization so open-minded about what constitutes support for Israel that its brains have fallen out.”

In a press release for a fundraiser that J Street held for Ackerman and a few other members of Congress just three months ago, the group called the politicians “excellent advocates for pro-Israel, pro-peace positions in Congress and courageous leaders on other progressive issues as well.”

And now Ackerman — lauded as “progressive” and “pro-Israel, pro-peace” by J Street — has concluded that J Street can no longer be considered pro-Israel. That should certainly give other J Street supporters in Congress pause (that is, if there are any of them still left).

Despite J Street’s eagerness to blame its “political enemies” for its public-relations troubles, all its image problems have been brought on by itself. Nobody forced the group the take money from George Soros, surreptitiously aide Richard Goldstone, and engage in unethical self-dealing. These actions are a sign of a deep-seated moral corruption within the organization, and they’re likely to keep occurring unless the group dismantles its leadership entirely.

This seems to be the realization that one of J Street’s strongest political allies, Rep. Gary Ackerman, came to today. Appalled that the organization is supporting the pending UN resolution condemning Israeli settlements, the congressman has told J Street in no uncertain terms that he wants nothing to do with them anymore:

“After learning of J-Street’s current public call for the Obama Administration to not veto a prospective UN Security Council resolution that, under the rubric of concern about settlement activity, would effectively and unjustly place the whole responsibility for the current impasse in the peace process on Israel, and—critically—would give fresh and powerful impetus to the effort to internationally isolate and delegitimize Israel, I’ve come to the conclusion that J-Street is not an organization with which I wish to be associated.”

And Ackerman is by no means opposed to progressive pro-Israel groups — he just notes that J Street isn’t one of them.

“America really does need a smart, credible, politically active organization that is as aggressively pro-peace as it is pro-Israel,” said the congressman. “Unfortunately, J-Street ain’t it.”

This is the strongest sign so far that J Street’s political support on Capitol Hill has completely dried up. Ackerman isn’t denouncing the group in a last-minute attempt to win an election, as other politicians have done. He’s doing it because being linked to J Street has become a political liability even when it’s not a campaign season.

He’s also doing it because J Street’s actions over the past year — culminating in its support for this UN resolution — have made it impossible to logically claim that the group is still pro-Israel.

Ackerman rightly notes that J Street’s support for the resolution “is not the choice of a concerned friend trying to help. It is rather the befuddled choice of an organization so open-minded about what constitutes support for Israel that its brains have fallen out.”

In a press release for a fundraiser that J Street held for Ackerman and a few other members of Congress just three months ago, the group called the politicians “excellent advocates for pro-Israel, pro-peace positions in Congress and courageous leaders on other progressive issues as well.”

And now Ackerman — lauded as “progressive” and “pro-Israel, pro-peace” by J Street — has concluded that J Street can no longer be considered pro-Israel. That should certainly give other J Street supporters in Congress pause (that is, if there are any of them still left).

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A Letter to Gary Ackerman

A reader sends in an open letter to Rep. Gary Ackerman that will run in the Jewish Week, the Long Island Jewish World, the Queens Tribune, the Great Neck Record, Manhasset Press, Roslyn News, and Port Washington News. The letter reads:

We are deeply troubled by your support for and endorsement by J Street, which claims to be a “Pro-Israel lobby,” but advocates radical policies that include having the U.S. government pressure Israel in ways that would undermine the security of the Jewish State.

How far outside the mainstream is J Street? It actively challenges AIPAC and other pro-Israel supporters in Washington and on college campuses. During the war in Gaza, J Street equated the IDF to Hamas and later on even tried to facilitate the promotion of the biased U.N. ‘Goldstone’ report that falsely and outrageously accuses Israel of war crimes.

Who appointed the radicals at J Street to be arbiters of Israel’s national security? Why are you, Congressman Ackerman, lending your name to this effort and taking money raised by J Street for you?

Despite years of denial, we now know that J Street has been secretly funded by billionaire George Soros, a notorious antagonist of the Jewish state. Your involvement with this duplicitous group is incompatible with your expressions of support for the security of the State of Israel.

Your continued affiliation with J Street is unacceptable to your constituents who care about Israel’s well being. We call upon you to disassociate yourself from this group.

The letter is signed by 40 pro-Israel constituents of the NY-5. Are you getting the sense that J Streeters will have a hard time — if they are still around in 2012 — getting candidates to accept endorsements and money? The group certainly is more trouble than it is worth.

A reader sends in an open letter to Rep. Gary Ackerman that will run in the Jewish Week, the Long Island Jewish World, the Queens Tribune, the Great Neck Record, Manhasset Press, Roslyn News, and Port Washington News. The letter reads:

We are deeply troubled by your support for and endorsement by J Street, which claims to be a “Pro-Israel lobby,” but advocates radical policies that include having the U.S. government pressure Israel in ways that would undermine the security of the Jewish State.

How far outside the mainstream is J Street? It actively challenges AIPAC and other pro-Israel supporters in Washington and on college campuses. During the war in Gaza, J Street equated the IDF to Hamas and later on even tried to facilitate the promotion of the biased U.N. ‘Goldstone’ report that falsely and outrageously accuses Israel of war crimes.

Who appointed the radicals at J Street to be arbiters of Israel’s national security? Why are you, Congressman Ackerman, lending your name to this effort and taking money raised by J Street for you?

Despite years of denial, we now know that J Street has been secretly funded by billionaire George Soros, a notorious antagonist of the Jewish state. Your involvement with this duplicitous group is incompatible with your expressions of support for the security of the State of Israel.

Your continued affiliation with J Street is unacceptable to your constituents who care about Israel’s well being. We call upon you to disassociate yourself from this group.

The letter is signed by 40 pro-Israel constituents of the NY-5. Are you getting the sense that J Streeters will have a hard time — if they are still around in 2012 — getting candidates to accept endorsements and money? The group certainly is more trouble than it is worth.

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Not Charming, Are They?

For those who imagine that the Obama team is finally “getting it” with regard to the Middle East or that it has taken to heart the complaints of Jewish supporters, it will be a surprise when the president and his crack diplomatic crew repeat precisely the same error and employ the identical tactics that have been their modus operandi for nearly two years.

Israel resumes building in its capital, in a “Jewish neighborhood.” (The term is objectionable, of course, because it implies Jews can’t live where they please.) This is not some remote “settlement.” This is the sort of building in Jerusalem that has gone on under multiple prime ministers. But the Obami are frustrated and embarrassed, so they double down, reiterating their insistence that Israel cough up more concessions (a building freeze) while the Palestinians freely announce they won’t be recognizing a “Jewish state.” This report explains:

“We were disappointed by the announcement of new tenders in east Jerusalem yesterday. It is contrary to our efforts to resume direct negotiations between the parties,” said State Department spokesman Philip Crowley to assembled reporters at a weekly briefing.

However, Israel has already announced it won’t be reimposing a settlement freeze, certainly not in Jerusalem. The Obami are mute on whether the walk-out by Abbas is “contrary to [their] efforts” as well.

Now no nation can be less peeved than the U.S., so Jordan chirps up:

Jordan’s State Minister for Media Affairs and Communications Ali Ayed issued a statement condemning building plans, and calling on the international community to “stop Israeli provocations” and do whatever possible to resume and see through successful negotiations.

But things have changed here in the U.S. since the Obama team “condemned” such building last March. Obama now is politically toxic, the American Jewish community has had it with the bully-boy-ism, and liberal elected officials have discovered that there really is no there there on J Street (i.e., no alternative pro-Israel faction — other than Soros and the Hong Kong mystery gal — that approves of Obama’s approach).

Don’t take my word for it. A J Street endorsee and liberal Democrat Gary Ackerman blasts away in a statement:

“Jerusalem is the capital of Israel. It is not a settlement. As such, the resumption of construction in Jerusalem is not a justification for a crisis, a showdown, a meltdown or even a hissy fit. Ramot and Pisgat Zeev are going to be part of Israel in any conceivable final status deal and to pretend otherwise is pointless.

As I have said, those who earlier complained about the inadequacy of Israel’s unilateral and uncompensated settlement freeze, who chose to waste those ten months instead of diving aggressively into direct talks on peace, cannot reasonably now turn around and complain that the end of the freeze and the resumption of Israeli construction in Jerusalem—Israel’s capital, and the singular geographic center of the hopes and aspirations of the Jewish people for three millennia—is either a shock or an insurmountable obstacle to  peace.

Israeli construction in Jerusalem, in two already well-established neighborhoods is neither a show of bad faith, nor a justification for avoiding negotiations aimed at achieving a final status agreement. The legitimate aspirations of the Palestinians are not going to be achieved by violence and they’re not going to be achieved by the equivalent of holding their breath until their lips turn blue. Direct negotiations are sole pathway to their goal and the sooner they recognize this fact, the better.”

I don’t think Soros is getting his money’s worth from Ackerman. He sounds like he’s echoing the position of the Emergency Committee for Israel.

As belated as Ackerman’s outspokenness may be, it is still welcomed. And it is, I would suggest, the silver lining in the Obama era. There is now the opportunity for Democrats to correct course and demonstrate that their pro-Israel bona fides are just as sound as their Republican colleagues. In the new Congress, perhaps Ackerman and other prominent Democrats (Chuck Schumer, Howard Berman, etc.) will cease carrying water for the Obama administration’s flawed Israel policy. The Congress has the power of the purse, the duty of oversight, and the ability to use resolutions and public statements to push back on the administration. All of that is long overdue. Let’s hope Ackerman’s reaction is the beginning of a trend and not simply pre-election political expediency.

For those who imagine that the Obama team is finally “getting it” with regard to the Middle East or that it has taken to heart the complaints of Jewish supporters, it will be a surprise when the president and his crack diplomatic crew repeat precisely the same error and employ the identical tactics that have been their modus operandi for nearly two years.

Israel resumes building in its capital, in a “Jewish neighborhood.” (The term is objectionable, of course, because it implies Jews can’t live where they please.) This is not some remote “settlement.” This is the sort of building in Jerusalem that has gone on under multiple prime ministers. But the Obami are frustrated and embarrassed, so they double down, reiterating their insistence that Israel cough up more concessions (a building freeze) while the Palestinians freely announce they won’t be recognizing a “Jewish state.” This report explains:

“We were disappointed by the announcement of new tenders in east Jerusalem yesterday. It is contrary to our efforts to resume direct negotiations between the parties,” said State Department spokesman Philip Crowley to assembled reporters at a weekly briefing.

However, Israel has already announced it won’t be reimposing a settlement freeze, certainly not in Jerusalem. The Obami are mute on whether the walk-out by Abbas is “contrary to [their] efforts” as well.

Now no nation can be less peeved than the U.S., so Jordan chirps up:

Jordan’s State Minister for Media Affairs and Communications Ali Ayed issued a statement condemning building plans, and calling on the international community to “stop Israeli provocations” and do whatever possible to resume and see through successful negotiations.

But things have changed here in the U.S. since the Obama team “condemned” such building last March. Obama now is politically toxic, the American Jewish community has had it with the bully-boy-ism, and liberal elected officials have discovered that there really is no there there on J Street (i.e., no alternative pro-Israel faction — other than Soros and the Hong Kong mystery gal — that approves of Obama’s approach).

Don’t take my word for it. A J Street endorsee and liberal Democrat Gary Ackerman blasts away in a statement:

“Jerusalem is the capital of Israel. It is not a settlement. As such, the resumption of construction in Jerusalem is not a justification for a crisis, a showdown, a meltdown or even a hissy fit. Ramot and Pisgat Zeev are going to be part of Israel in any conceivable final status deal and to pretend otherwise is pointless.

As I have said, those who earlier complained about the inadequacy of Israel’s unilateral and uncompensated settlement freeze, who chose to waste those ten months instead of diving aggressively into direct talks on peace, cannot reasonably now turn around and complain that the end of the freeze and the resumption of Israeli construction in Jerusalem—Israel’s capital, and the singular geographic center of the hopes and aspirations of the Jewish people for three millennia—is either a shock or an insurmountable obstacle to  peace.

Israeli construction in Jerusalem, in two already well-established neighborhoods is neither a show of bad faith, nor a justification for avoiding negotiations aimed at achieving a final status agreement. The legitimate aspirations of the Palestinians are not going to be achieved by violence and they’re not going to be achieved by the equivalent of holding their breath until their lips turn blue. Direct negotiations are sole pathway to their goal and the sooner they recognize this fact, the better.”

I don’t think Soros is getting his money’s worth from Ackerman. He sounds like he’s echoing the position of the Emergency Committee for Israel.

As belated as Ackerman’s outspokenness may be, it is still welcomed. And it is, I would suggest, the silver lining in the Obama era. There is now the opportunity for Democrats to correct course and demonstrate that their pro-Israel bona fides are just as sound as their Republican colleagues. In the new Congress, perhaps Ackerman and other prominent Democrats (Chuck Schumer, Howard Berman, etc.) will cease carrying water for the Obama administration’s flawed Israel policy. The Congress has the power of the purse, the duty of oversight, and the ability to use resolutions and public statements to push back on the administration. All of that is long overdue. Let’s hope Ackerman’s reaction is the beginning of a trend and not simply pre-election political expediency.

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How About Defunding Them?

In the “has everyone gone mad?” department, we’ve been following the story of the decision by the Woodrow Wilson International Center — a taxpayer-supported institution (Why exactly? Heritage and many other think tanks aren’t on the federal dole.) — to give an award to Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu. Well, when you need to give a ridiculous explanation for an anti-Israel, anti-West, anti common-sense move and to avoid any sharp questioning, you go to Laura Rozen (who also transcribes J Street’s missives and is happy to funnel unsourced, anti-Semitic jibes against Dennis Ross), who dutifully reports the excuse:

Earlier this week, House Middle East Subcommittee Chairman Rep. Gary Ackerman (D-N.Y.) released a letter to Woodrow Wilson’s President former Rep. Lee Hamilton (D-Ind.) — his former chairman and colleague on the House Foreign Affairs Committee- – expressing displeasure that the think tank would honor the Turkish diplomat after Ankara has escalated tensions with Israel in the wake of the Gaza flotilla raid and voted against UN Iran sanctions.

But a Woodrow Wilson Center spokeswoman told POLITICO Thursday that as far as she knew, neither the Center nor Hamilton had received Ackerman’s letter.

“Awardees are not chosen for their political views,” Sharon McCarter, the Woodrow Wilson Center’s vice president for outreach and communications, told POLITICO in an e-mail.

“Mr. Davutoglu has had a diverse career as a scholar, a professor, a political scientist, an author, a civil servant, an international diplomat, and currently as Turkey’s Minister of Foreign Affairs — a position he assumed in May 2009,” McCarter continued. “He also fits the Wilsonian mold of being both a scholar and a policymaker. He was invited to accept the Woodrow Wilson Award for Public Service in August 2009 in recognition of his lifelong service to the Turkish public in these many professional fields, many of which are similar to Woodrow Wilson’s life.

Apparently, she didn’t think to ask whether McCarter was serious. Would an award have been given to the foreign minister of South Africa during the apartheid? To a Soviet defense minister during the Cold War? Nor does she ask McCarter how it is remotely possible that a well-publicized letter excoriating the Center could have eluded Hamilton.

Here’s an idea: the Center sounds like it isn’t interested in furthering Western values or American interests. Fine. They can knock themselves out shoveling the same internationalist tripe that a dozen Washington think tanks do every day. The taxpayers just shouldn’t have to pay for it.( In fact why is government in the think tank business at all?) Any money spent on those with no moral compass is too much. Let ‘em fend for themselves.

In the “has everyone gone mad?” department, we’ve been following the story of the decision by the Woodrow Wilson International Center — a taxpayer-supported institution (Why exactly? Heritage and many other think tanks aren’t on the federal dole.) — to give an award to Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu. Well, when you need to give a ridiculous explanation for an anti-Israel, anti-West, anti common-sense move and to avoid any sharp questioning, you go to Laura Rozen (who also transcribes J Street’s missives and is happy to funnel unsourced, anti-Semitic jibes against Dennis Ross), who dutifully reports the excuse:

Earlier this week, House Middle East Subcommittee Chairman Rep. Gary Ackerman (D-N.Y.) released a letter to Woodrow Wilson’s President former Rep. Lee Hamilton (D-Ind.) — his former chairman and colleague on the House Foreign Affairs Committee- – expressing displeasure that the think tank would honor the Turkish diplomat after Ankara has escalated tensions with Israel in the wake of the Gaza flotilla raid and voted against UN Iran sanctions.

But a Woodrow Wilson Center spokeswoman told POLITICO Thursday that as far as she knew, neither the Center nor Hamilton had received Ackerman’s letter.

“Awardees are not chosen for their political views,” Sharon McCarter, the Woodrow Wilson Center’s vice president for outreach and communications, told POLITICO in an e-mail.

“Mr. Davutoglu has had a diverse career as a scholar, a professor, a political scientist, an author, a civil servant, an international diplomat, and currently as Turkey’s Minister of Foreign Affairs — a position he assumed in May 2009,” McCarter continued. “He also fits the Wilsonian mold of being both a scholar and a policymaker. He was invited to accept the Woodrow Wilson Award for Public Service in August 2009 in recognition of his lifelong service to the Turkish public in these many professional fields, many of which are similar to Woodrow Wilson’s life.

Apparently, she didn’t think to ask whether McCarter was serious. Would an award have been given to the foreign minister of South Africa during the apartheid? To a Soviet defense minister during the Cold War? Nor does she ask McCarter how it is remotely possible that a well-publicized letter excoriating the Center could have eluded Hamilton.

Here’s an idea: the Center sounds like it isn’t interested in furthering Western values or American interests. Fine. They can knock themselves out shoveling the same internationalist tripe that a dozen Washington think tanks do every day. The taxpayers just shouldn’t have to pay for it.( In fact why is government in the think tank business at all?) Any money spent on those with no moral compass is too much. Let ‘em fend for themselves.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

When Israel is under assault, at least the White House isn’t condemning the Jewish state.

When Israel is under assault, Turkey demands that the U.S. condemn Israel. There is an appropriate response. Gen. Anthony McAuliffe had it right.

When Israel is under assault, the UN Human Rights Council is leading the charge. When will Obama recognize that our participation is another counterproductive engagement gambit?

When Israel is under assault, Rep. Tom Price declares, “Israel has every right to defend itself.” (Others, including Reps. Gary Ackerman, Ron Klein, and Gary Peters, did as well.)

When Israel is under assault, Minority Whip Eric Cantor goes to bat for Israel and urges Obama to do the same: “House Minority Whip Eric Cantor (R-Va.) pushed for Obama to exercise the veto power the United States enjoys as a permanent member of the U.N. Security Council to nix a resolution that chastises Israel’s military incident Monday involving a flotilla, or group of small boats, trying to access Gaza in spite of a blockade.”

When Israel is under assault, Steve Emerson has the goods on the not-at-all-for-peace activists’ terrorist ties.

When Israel is under assault, Peter Beinart cheerily piles on, calling the blockade “indefensible.” He apparently has decided that being the new hero of the left as well as an object of derision by pro-Israel commentators is the way to go.

When Israel is under assault, Abe Foxman questions U.S. policy on the NPT: “I worry about the US decision to support a resolution at the UN Nonproliferation conference which specifically calls on Israel to open up its nuclear facilities and join the NPT treaty. What does this decision say about the Obama administration’s assumptions and directions regarding Israel?”

When Israel is under assault, at least the White House isn’t condemning the Jewish state.

When Israel is under assault, Turkey demands that the U.S. condemn Israel. There is an appropriate response. Gen. Anthony McAuliffe had it right.

When Israel is under assault, the UN Human Rights Council is leading the charge. When will Obama recognize that our participation is another counterproductive engagement gambit?

When Israel is under assault, Rep. Tom Price declares, “Israel has every right to defend itself.” (Others, including Reps. Gary Ackerman, Ron Klein, and Gary Peters, did as well.)

When Israel is under assault, Minority Whip Eric Cantor goes to bat for Israel and urges Obama to do the same: “House Minority Whip Eric Cantor (R-Va.) pushed for Obama to exercise the veto power the United States enjoys as a permanent member of the U.N. Security Council to nix a resolution that chastises Israel’s military incident Monday involving a flotilla, or group of small boats, trying to access Gaza in spite of a blockade.”

When Israel is under assault, Steve Emerson has the goods on the not-at-all-for-peace activists’ terrorist ties.

When Israel is under assault, Peter Beinart cheerily piles on, calling the blockade “indefensible.” He apparently has decided that being the new hero of the left as well as an object of derision by pro-Israel commentators is the way to go.

When Israel is under assault, Abe Foxman questions U.S. policy on the NPT: “I worry about the US decision to support a resolution at the UN Nonproliferation conference which specifically calls on Israel to open up its nuclear facilities and join the NPT treaty. What does this decision say about the Obama administration’s assumptions and directions regarding Israel?”

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Flotsam and Jetsam

In case you had any doubt about her political views: “Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan has given at least $12,050 over the past decade to Democratic candidates and causes — including to the president who nominated her and a sitting senator who will get to vote on her nomination — according to federal campaign finance records.”

In case you had any doubt how indebted Obama is to Big Labor: “The National Mediation Board issued its final rule Monday that changed how workers could unionize at companies covered by the Railway Labor Act. Originally, a majority of workers at a company covered by the law had to vote for a union while those not voting were counted as ‘no’ votes. Under the new rule made final on Monday, if a majority of workers who cast votes said they wanted to form a union, the company would be unionized. Workers who fail to vote will not count for either side.”

In case you had any doubt that Michael Steele is nothing but a problem for the RNC (from Abigail Thernstrom): “Mr. Steele (and RNC staff), just as a little experiment, you might try thinking before you speak. In a tribute to Justice Thurgood Marshall shortly before his death, Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan quoted our first black Justice as having said the Constitution as originally conceived and drafted was ‘defective.’ ‘Does Kagan Still View Constitution “As Originally Drafted And Conceived” As “Defective”?’ the RNC now asks. A litmus test for Kagan, it implies. But of course the answer should be, yes. Might the Three-Fifths Clause have been a wee bit of a defect?”

In case you had any doubt about the nature of the Cuban thugocracy, check out this interview with Cuban bloggers.

In case you had any doubt how vapid the left’s foreign-policy vision is, Rep. Gary Ackerman argues that it’s all Bush’s fault that the Middle East is a mess and that sending an ambassador to Syria doesn’t signify much of anything. Sigh.

In case you had any doubt, there are good reasons to oppose Moses for the Supreme Court. For example, there’s the lack of transparency: “Moses went up Mount Sinai only to return with two tablets which he referred to as the Ten Commandments. These commandments were developed behind closed doors without any input from the people.”

In case you had any doubt that nothing much has changed with the “proximity talks”: “Construction of new housing for Jews in east Jerusalem will press forward, Cabinet Secretary Zvi Hauser illustrated in a statement on Monday. This drew Palestinian accusations that the plans could undermine newly relaunched peace talks.” Are we making progress yet?

In case you had any doubt that Charles Krauthammer is the greatest pundit of his time, he sums up our economic peril and the Supreme Court nomination in one brief sentence: “Long after America goes bankrupt, she’ll still be on the court.”

In case you had any doubt about her political views: “Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan has given at least $12,050 over the past decade to Democratic candidates and causes — including to the president who nominated her and a sitting senator who will get to vote on her nomination — according to federal campaign finance records.”

In case you had any doubt how indebted Obama is to Big Labor: “The National Mediation Board issued its final rule Monday that changed how workers could unionize at companies covered by the Railway Labor Act. Originally, a majority of workers at a company covered by the law had to vote for a union while those not voting were counted as ‘no’ votes. Under the new rule made final on Monday, if a majority of workers who cast votes said they wanted to form a union, the company would be unionized. Workers who fail to vote will not count for either side.”

In case you had any doubt that Michael Steele is nothing but a problem for the RNC (from Abigail Thernstrom): “Mr. Steele (and RNC staff), just as a little experiment, you might try thinking before you speak. In a tribute to Justice Thurgood Marshall shortly before his death, Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan quoted our first black Justice as having said the Constitution as originally conceived and drafted was ‘defective.’ ‘Does Kagan Still View Constitution “As Originally Drafted And Conceived” As “Defective”?’ the RNC now asks. A litmus test for Kagan, it implies. But of course the answer should be, yes. Might the Three-Fifths Clause have been a wee bit of a defect?”

In case you had any doubt about the nature of the Cuban thugocracy, check out this interview with Cuban bloggers.

In case you had any doubt how vapid the left’s foreign-policy vision is, Rep. Gary Ackerman argues that it’s all Bush’s fault that the Middle East is a mess and that sending an ambassador to Syria doesn’t signify much of anything. Sigh.

In case you had any doubt, there are good reasons to oppose Moses for the Supreme Court. For example, there’s the lack of transparency: “Moses went up Mount Sinai only to return with two tablets which he referred to as the Ten Commandments. These commandments were developed behind closed doors without any input from the people.”

In case you had any doubt that nothing much has changed with the “proximity talks”: “Construction of new housing for Jews in east Jerusalem will press forward, Cabinet Secretary Zvi Hauser illustrated in a statement on Monday. This drew Palestinian accusations that the plans could undermine newly relaunched peace talks.” Are we making progress yet?

In case you had any doubt that Charles Krauthammer is the greatest pundit of his time, he sums up our economic peril and the Supreme Court nomination in one brief sentence: “Long after America goes bankrupt, she’ll still be on the court.”

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No Hard Feelings

Hamas holds no grudges apparently against Barack Obama for his aversion to meeting with them. Carl Cameron reports:

During an interview on WABC radio Sunday, top Hamas political adviser Ahmed Yousef said the terrorist group supports Obama’s foreign policy vision. “We don’t mind – actually we like Mr. Obama. We hope he will [win] the election and I do believe he is like John Kennedy, great man with great principle, and he has a vision to change America to make it in a position to lead the world community but not with domination and arrogance,” Yousef said in response to a question about the group’s willingness to meet with either of the Democratic presidential candidates.

That is the problem with telling people only what they want to hear — some of them believe you.

Meanwhile, the Republican Jewish Coalition had offered rare praise for two Democratic congressmen:

“We commend the decision of House Committee on Foreign Affairs Chairman Rep. Howard Berman and Committee Member Rep. Gary Ackerman to take a principled stance and ask former President Carter to cancel his planned meeting with Hamas leader Khaled Meshal,” said RJC Executive Director Matt Brooks. “Now more than ever, Senator Barack Obama must explain why he will not join the growing chorus of U.S. lawmakers demanding that President Carter stop undermining the Middle East peace process. Senator Obama’s silence speaks volumes about his weak support of Israel.”

And therein lies the problem: the Middle East does not lead itself to telling everyone what he wants to hear. Sometimes you have to say “no” to be the most “stalwart ally of Israel.”

Hamas holds no grudges apparently against Barack Obama for his aversion to meeting with them. Carl Cameron reports:

During an interview on WABC radio Sunday, top Hamas political adviser Ahmed Yousef said the terrorist group supports Obama’s foreign policy vision. “We don’t mind – actually we like Mr. Obama. We hope he will [win] the election and I do believe he is like John Kennedy, great man with great principle, and he has a vision to change America to make it in a position to lead the world community but not with domination and arrogance,” Yousef said in response to a question about the group’s willingness to meet with either of the Democratic presidential candidates.

That is the problem with telling people only what they want to hear — some of them believe you.

Meanwhile, the Republican Jewish Coalition had offered rare praise for two Democratic congressmen:

“We commend the decision of House Committee on Foreign Affairs Chairman Rep. Howard Berman and Committee Member Rep. Gary Ackerman to take a principled stance and ask former President Carter to cancel his planned meeting with Hamas leader Khaled Meshal,” said RJC Executive Director Matt Brooks. “Now more than ever, Senator Barack Obama must explain why he will not join the growing chorus of U.S. lawmakers demanding that President Carter stop undermining the Middle East peace process. Senator Obama’s silence speaks volumes about his weak support of Israel.”

And therein lies the problem: the Middle East does not lead itself to telling everyone what he wants to hear. Sometimes you have to say “no” to be the most “stalwart ally of Israel.”

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