There’s been a growing divide between the Democratic Party and the top progressive institutions when it comes to Israel. As Ben Smith reported earlier this week, groups like the Center for American Progress and Media Matters are taking an increasingly hostile stance toward the Jewish state, and hiring staffers who share that perception.

Few would deny that this is a real issue, and Smith provides plenty of quotes to back up his story. And yet Center for American Progress is pushing back by claiming that the quotes were taken out of context and fed to the media as part of an “orchestrated” smear campaign by former AIPAC spokesman and lobbyist Josh Block.

Salon’s Justin Elliott reports on a “leaked” email that Block sent out after Smith’s article was published, in which he pitched the story to other reporters:

Block’s email to the Freedom Community list arrived under the subject line “Important piece to echo and the research to do it….” – a reference to the Politico story. He wasted no time throwing around more accusations of anti-Semitism.

“This kind of anti-Israel sentiment is so fringe its support by CAP is outrageous, but at least it is out in the open now — as is their goal – clearly applauded by revolting allies like the pro-HAMAS and anti-Zionist/One State Solution advocate Ali Abunumiah and those who accuse pro-Israel Americans of having ‘dual loyalties’ or being ‘Israel-Firsters’ – to shape the minds of future generations of Democrats,” Block writes. “These are the words of anti-Semites, not Democratic political players.”

From this, CAP ran with the headline: “Revealed: The Secret, Coordinated Effort to Smear ThinkProgress As Anti-Semitic and Anti-Israel.” Really? If it’s a “secret” that Josh Block wages PR battles against anti-Israel groups and anti-Semitism, then it’s the worst kept secret since Israel’s nuclear arsenal. As for the confidentiality of the “leaked” document, I received it three times from three separate mass emails that Block sent out on Wednesday. I assume half the writers who cover Israel in Washington had a similar experience.

But beyond that, the actual content of the email speaks for itself. Block links to quotes and tweets from Media Matters and CAP writers, which range from their support for left-wing policy ideas (which is obviously unsurprising), to some undeniably offensive comments. The idea that pro-Israel Jewish Americans are “Israel Firsters” – a term used by CAP’s Zaid Jilani and Media Matters’ MJ Rosenberg – is a classic hallmark of anti-Semitic conspiracy theories that claim Jews are dual loyalists and not true American citizens.

Not all the writers in the email can be grouped into the same category. CAP’s Ali Gharib, Eli Clifton, Matt Duss have views on Israel that are far to the left of mainstream Democrats, and that’s not a surprise – they work at a left-wing think tank. Block, a Democrat, is obviously disturbed that these ideas are being promoted by institutions that influence his party. But that’s not the same as spreading wild conspiracy theories about the “Jewish Lobby,” as MJ Rosenberg does, or accusing pro-Israel Jews of not being sufficiently American.

It’s alarming that a supposed media watchdog group would give someone like Rosenberg – who believes that AIPAC has to “clear” officials before they’re hired by the Obama administration, and accuses Jewish American journalists of acting as foreign agents – a platform to promote this toxic nonsense.

Media Matters has strongly condemned these sort of anti-Semitic undertones when they come from conservatives. They’ve written extensively against Glenn Beck’s characterization of George Soros as a “puppetmaster” pulling the strings behind Obama, calling it an “anti-Semitic stereotype.” And they’ve gone after Pat Buchanan for his offensive remarks about Jews. Why should they accept similarly offensive remarks from writers at their own organization?

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