Rep. Joe Sestak’s “shut up” strategy followed by his “I’m really, honestly a friend of Israel” isn’t working. The local media have figured out that Sestak’s keynote speech to CAIR is far more revealing than his recent avowals of devotion to the Jewish state. Benyamin Korn writes in the Philadelphia Inquirer:
Does it matter if a candidate for U.S. Senate served as a keynote speaker for an extremist group? Does it matter if he hired one of the group’s staff to serve on his staff? These are some of the questions being asked about Rep. Joe Sestak as voters learn about his ties to the Council on American-Islamic Relations.
After reciting CAIR’s affection for Hamas (“CAIR executive director Nihad Awad has said, ‘I am in support of the Hamas movement more than the PLO,’ the Palestine Liberation Organization”) and its well-known ties to terrorists, Korn observes:
Despite all this, Sestak hired CAIR’s director of communications in Philadelphia, Adeeba Al-Zaman, to work in his new Washington office in 2007. Soon thereafter, Al-Zaman had arranged for Sestak to be invited to speak at CAIR’s Philadelphia dinner that year.
Sestak accepted the invitation to headline the dinner. Members of the Jewish community met with him beforehand and pleaded with him to cancel, citing CAIR’s terrorism ties. But Sestak wouldn’t budge. To this day, Sestak refuses to acknowledge that his appearance at the dinner was a mistake. Instead, his campaign has tried to pressure Comcast to stop broadcasting an advertisement challenging his record on Israel. A letter from Sestak’s lawyer demanded that the ad be suppressed because it falsely characterized Sestak as anti-Israel.
Nor does Korn buy Sestak’s resume puffery that he “put his life on the line to defend Israel.” (“Pardon me for doubting that an Arab army would attack Israel during a joint American-Israeli military exercise.”)
Despite all of Sestak’s huffing and puffing, he has dodged the central concerns about his Israel record. Did he not realize that the Gaza 54 letter was a left-wing slam on Israel? Does he regret his slobbery praise for CAIR and now recognize that it is, in fact, a terrorist front group? Why hasn’t he — if he’s so devoted to Israel — demanded that the U.S. leave and refuse to fund the UN Human Rights Council?
Sestak is walking a fine line here. J Street has ponied up cash and run ads for him, so Sestak can’t fully embrace a robust pro-Israel line. But now that he has been exposed as a pol who “plays footsie with CAIR,” he’s had to rush toward a mainstream position on Israel. In the end, the Israel-bashing left and pro-Israel voters may very well both conclude he can’t be trusted. But CAIR still stands by their man (and he by the group). That should help clarify matters.