For nearly a month, a group of foreign policy researcher-bloggers at the Center for American Progress (CAP), an influential liberal think tank based in Washington DC, have faced an unrelenting smear campaign. The smears, initiated by former AIPAC spokesman Josh Block, focused on a few sardonic tweets by CAP bloggers that raised the ire of the pro-Israel and neoconservative political community. One tweet that included the term “Israel Firster” received special attention.
“This kind of demagoguery, anti-Israel invective, and in some cases actual hate speech, is absolutely wrong whether it comes from the extreme Right or Left, and like cancer, it has to be cut out before it metastasizes and destroys the whole body,” Block complained to Jennifer Rubin, a neoconservative columnist for the Washington Post who has accused CAP of “anti-Semitism” and who was recently scolded by the paper’s ombudsman for endorsing a screed advocating the slaughter of Palestinians.
Block’s campaign was transparently designed to force the Democratic establishment to disown a group of researchers who had generated an effective and factually solid counter narrative to the case for a military strike on Iran. And it was well orchestrated, receiving robust and sustained amplification from the right-wing of the pro-Israel community. By January 19, after a who’s who of neoconservative writers and right-leaning Jewish American groups called for the firing of the researchers, and weeks after the small handful of “controversial” tweets had been deleted and apologized for, the smears graduated onto the pages of the Washington Post.
A report by Washington Post staff writer Peter Wallsten summarized the attacks on CAP in a relatively uncritical fashion. In the original edition of the story (uploaded here to Josh Block’s Scribd account), Wallsten featured remarks by Jeffrey Herf, whom he presented as an academic expert on anti-Semitism:
“Israel Firsters” is a point of disagreement.CAP officials and the think tank’s critics agree that the term is over the line. University of Maryland historian Jeffrey Herf, who has published books on anti-Semitism, said the phrase represented a “classic theme of modern anti-Semitism.” He said the suggestion of Jewish “dual loyalty,” along with the accusation that AIPAC was pushing for war with Iran, hearkened back to the early days of World War II, when certain people accused the U.S. government of entering the war as a response to powerful Jewish interests.
“This kind of nonsense is all over the place on the Internet,” Herf said. “The fact that some of this is showing up on the Center for American Progress Web site makes it important.”
In a lengthy blog post at the Atlantic, former Israeli prison guard Jeffrey Goldberg reproduced the Washington Post’s Herf quote to buttress his attempts to prove that the term “Israel Firster” — an accusation he faces with increasing frequency — is anti-Semitic, and that the bloggers at CAP and a wide array of critics of Israel might therefore be driven by the irrational hatred of Jews.
Unfortunately for the Washington Post and Goldberg, Herf’s statement was utterly false: The term “Israel Firster” never appeared on CAP’s website as he claimed — it appeared in a small handful of Tweets out of a body of thousands published on the personal Twitter account of a blogger, Zaid Jilani, who recently quit the think tank. Further, Herf is not an academically recognized expert on anti-Semitism. He has published two books on Nazi propaganda; his University of Maryland bio states that Herf “specializ[es] in twentieth century Germany.”
In 2006, Herf joined a clique of hawkish neoliberal intellectuals to draft the Euston Manifesto, a full-throated endorsement of George W. Bush’s “war on terror” which claimed the Islamic Republic of Iran sought to carry out “a second Holocaust.” More recently, Herf joined Alan Dershowitz, Caroline Glick, John Bolton, Joe Lieberman and other ideologues as a talking head in the right-wing pro-Israel propaganda documentary, “Unmasked: Judeophobia and the Threat to Civilization.” In leveling false innuendo at CAP and its employees, Herf apparently allowed his ideological zealotry to get the best of him.
Soon after Herf’s quote appeared in Wallsten’s article, it quickly and mysterious disappeared from the article’s online version — and with no acknowledgement by Wallsten or the Post’s editors. The quiet scrubbing of the quote seemed like a tacit admission by the Washington Post that the two aforementioned points were true: Herf’s statement was false, and Herf was not an academically credible or intellectually objective scholar of anti-Semitism. The task of explaining why the paper’s editors did not require Wallsten to publicly acknowledge the erroneous statement’s removal might ultimately fall to Washington Post ombudsman Patrick Pexton. Goldberg, for his part, still features the disappeared, discredited quote on his blog (and the link Goldberg provides to the Washington Post article does not even work).
Curiously, Herf gave voice to attacks on CAP before he was quoted by the Washington Post. On December 28, Herf featured prominently in a hit piece published at the right-wing Jerusalem Post by neoconservative activist Benjamin Weinthal. Weinthal’s article included a segment that read almost like a mimeograph of the passage that had mysteriously disappeared from Wallsten’s article:
In a telephone conversation with the Jerusalem Post on Tuesday, University of Maryland historian Jeffrey Herf, who has authored books on anti-Semitism, said the phrase “Israel firsters” is “dangerous.” The notion of “Israel firsters” “delegitimizes support for Israel” and stokes the “dual-loyalty” charge against American Jews, he said.
The dual-loyalty conspiracy theory existed on “the far Left and far Right of American politics but has not yet seeped into the center of American politics,” Herf said.
Instead of performing a diligent search for a credible, academically renowned scholar of anti-Semitism, Wallsten apparently borrowed his source from Weinthal, a neocon zealot who has spent weeks crusading against CAP’s foreign policy research team. If Wallsten did not share Weinthal’s ulterior ideological motives, he was incredibly lazy.
Though Weinthal poses as a “correspondent” for the Jerusalem Post, he is in fact a research fellow for the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies (FDD), an ultra-hawkish think tank at the center
of the push for American military intervention in Iran.
Underlining the incestuous right-wing nature of the smear campaign against CAP, another FDD fellow, James Kirchick, took to the Israeli daily Haaretz to accuse Jilani and other left-wing writers of parroting the rhetoric of the long-deceased anti-Semitic conspiracist Willis Carto by using the term “Israel firster” (I’m sure Jilani was cutting and pasting Carto’s old newsletters directly into his Twitter postings). Meanwhile, Kirchick oversaw an off-the-record email listserv called the Freedom Community that provided a private forum for neoconservative activists and writers to devise strategy and talking points. Josh Block, a Freedom Community member, initiated the smear campaign against CAP by shopping his trove of “research” to fellow email list members, who then disseminated the information in the form of op-eds and blog posts.
FDD’s leadership bears a longstanding grudge against the CAP bloggers it is now targeting. CAP researcher Eli Clifton, who produced a damaging report on FDD’s funding sources and who reported that the Islamophobic mass killer Anders Breivik cited FDD in his manifesto, is a particular nuisance to the think tank. FDD also has an axe to grind with Ali Gharib, who revealed in December 2010 (before CAP hired him) that FDD held a fundraiser at the Pakistani ambassador to the US’s house without bothering to tell the embassy it was hosting a hawkish conference on Iran where money was raised for FDD. Given the damaging stories Clifton and Gharib produced about FDD, is there any wonder the think tank provided encouragement and promotion for Weinthal and Kirchick’s attacks?
While Weinthal and Kirchick launched their attacks from the shores of the neocon right, Jeffrey Goldberg waded into the campaign against CAP under the cover of mainstream Beltway respectability. In his bid to legitimize the smears, however, Goldberg (who has deceptively accused me of “quote fabrication”) wound up hanging his argument on an erroneous quote that has since been scrubbed by its original source. Unless he is comfortable hosting a false and now non-existent quote on his blog, Goldberg might consider issuing a correction.
- The Growing Myth of Anti-semitism in Israel (desertpeace.wordpress.com)
- The neocons have finally snapped (middleeastatemporal.wordpress.com)
- Some Hints for Abe Foxman … Disagreeing With Israel Is Not Defamation (desertpeace.wordpress.com)
The first major protest against an attack on Iran and Syria is scheduled for next Saturday, January 28, outside the US Embassy in Grosvenor Square, London.
The prospect of a new war in the Middle East is growing. As well as tightening sanctions, covert operations, assassinations and cyber attacks on Iran there is clear evidence of hostile US troop movements in to the region. The right in the US is pushing hard for intervention and these kinds of provocations could spark war at any time. Meanwhile calls for intervention in Syria are getting louder and, as Jonathan Steele reported in the Guardian this week, there is a NATO backed military build up on Syria’s borders too.
We need to start mobilising the anti-war majority now to swing the argument away from war. We are asking our supporters to do everything possible to publicise this protest and organise other protests and meetings locally.
Invite friends on Facebook – http://on.fb.me/yR9Q3i
Tweet to spread the word – http://twitter.com/#!/STWuk
For more information or to help organise in your area please phone the office on 0207 801 2768.
23 January 2012 | US Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel
A collective of students in Gaza has formed the Palestinian Students’ Campaign for the Academic Boycott of Israel (PSCABI). These students are seeking to expand their collaboration and participation in events and activities with solidarity activists at international universities.
PSCABI members participate in many activities here in Gaza and are heavily involved in supporting the international student solidarity movements, especially with the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions campaigns. PSCABI members frequently write letters out of Gaza, some of which we have listed below, encouraging people to participate in the boycott and thanking people who have supported the Palestinian cause.
PSCABI members are available to share ideas, participate via Skype or other technology in remote events, organize and strategize together, hear about your activities and provide information and narratives as Palestinian university students for your distribution, and provide access to voices speaking directly from besieged Gaza.
If you are interested in:
- communicating with PSCABI
- hosting a Skype conference with a PSCABI member
- developing your organization’s relationship with PSCABI
please contact us at email@example.com.
Past Letters from PSCABI:
OCCUPIED JERUSALEM — Israeli special forces stormed the Red Cross premises in occupied Jerusalem on Monday and kidnapped MP Mohammed Totah and former Jerusalem minister Khaled Abu Arafa, the PIC reporter said.
He said that the Israeli forces took both officials to an unknown location, quoting relatives as expressing fears that they would be banished from Jerusalem similar to their colleagues Mohammed Abu Tir and Mohammed Attoun.
The Israeli intelligence warned Totah and Abu Arafa in a telephone call two weeks ago that they should leave the Red Cross premises and occupied Jerusalem within 48 hours.
The kidnap coincides with an escalation in the targeting of Hamas lawmakers in the West Bank the latest being a few days ago when the Israeli occupation soldiers arrested Palestinian parliament speaker Dr. Aziz Dweik and MP Mohammed Tafesh.
A decisive struggle promising to shape the fate of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU), West Coast dockworkers, and all organized labor is swiftly nearing a climax in Longview, Washington.
Within weeks, if not days, the international conglomerate EGT Development will seek to commence operations at its new $200 million export grain terminal at the Port of Longview. In refusing to use ILWU labor, EGT is breaking the precedent in place since the 1930s, which holds that all public port docks up and down the West Coast are to be worked by the ILWU.
As ILWU Local 21 in Longview maintains, the union’s struggle against EGT’s scab facility is indicative of “the fight of working people everywhere.” It is, as the union continues, “a make-or-break struggle for all organized labor.”
Yet, as the ILWU and its allies ready to fight EGT’s union busting, the US military lies in wait to intervene on the behalf of the conglomerate.
As ILWU International President Rob McEllrath disclosed in a January 3 letter:
We have been told that this vessel will be escorted by armed United States Coast Guard, including the use of small vessels and helicopters, from the mouth of the Columbia River to the EGT facility.
The revelation that the Coast Guard (one of the five armed forces of the United States, and the lone military organization within the Department of Homeland Security) will be utilized to guard the EGT ship has drawn outrage and harsh condemnation from many within the labor community. A January 9 resolution from the San Francisco Labor Council, for example, read in part:
This is the first use of the US military to intervene in a labor dispute on the side of management in 40 years—not since the Great 1970 Postal Strike when President Nixon called out the Army and National Guard in an (unsuccessful) attempt to break the strike. The use of the Armed Forces against labor unions is something you expect to see in a police state. This is part of a disturbing trend where the US military, acting as enforcers for the 1%, is poised to be used against our own people, as exemplified by the new law [the National Defense Authorization Act] allowing the military to imprison US citizens without trial…
…We condemn this use of the military as part of a union-busting campaign to lower the cost of labor on the waterfront and destroy the union.
Other labor organizations, meanwhile, have sent letters to President Obama in protest. As a letter sent by the South Central Federation of Labor in Wisconsin states in part:
Use of our tax dollars and our military to assist such union busting is horrifying. Mr. President, as Commander in Chief, we call upon you to order the Coast Guard to stand down, to not interfere on the side of management in this labor dispute.
Mr. Obama’s willingness to deploy military force ought, though, to be of little surprise. Despite his campaign promise to “walk on that picket line with you as President of the United States of America,” Mr. Obama has consistently shown himself to be no champion of organized labor. The president, after all, was all too content with leaving labor’s prized Employee Free Choice Act to unceremoniously rot in a Democratically controlled Congress.
But as President Obama clearly sides with management in Longview, the national AFL-CIO and its president, Richard Trumka, continue to maintain an indifference stance on the whole matter.
For its part, the AFL-CIO has maintained a virtual blackout of the Longview struggle, with no coverage of the dispute appearing on the federation’s website or blog. As a frustrated reader commented on the federation’s blog, “It would be nice if the AFL-CIO Blog gave workers a voice by reporting on the struggle in Longview, Washington by ILWU Local 21.”
Mr. Trumka, on the other hand, has made just one statement on the matter, coming back in July. In it, he deemed the struggle a mere “jurisdictional dispute.” Trumka’s remarks were prompted by an Oregon AFL-CIO Executive Board resolution condemning the actions of International Union of Operating Engineers (IUOE) Local 701—an AFL-CIO affiliate currently crossing ILWU pickets to work the EGT terminal—as “scab labor.”
Given that both unions reside within the national federation, Trumka went on to note that no AFL-CIO body had “the authority to intervene or take sides.” He did clarify, however, that “this should not be construed as a judgment on the merits of the dispute.”
For Trumka, choosing to cloak his muteness in such a technicality may very well stem from the fact that the IUOE provides substantially more in annual membership fees to the AFL-CIO than the ILWU.
But if such a financial incentive is indeed driving Trumka’s public indifference, it is rather shortsighted. For no matter the national AFL-CIO’s apathy, the struggle in Longview is proving to be a rather seminal event, bringing together organized labor, the Occupy movement, and an assortment of other activists in a direct fight against corporate greed.
And with such widespread support, coming from both within and without the house of labor, ample incentive and political cover would seemingly be in place for Trumka to step forth and take a firm stand against the jurisdictional raiding and corporate colluding of an AFL-CIO affiliate union.
Yet, as labor activist Harry Kelber writes, AFL-CIO leaders to this very day continue to “prefer a passive membership, rather than a militant one that might call for reforms.” However, continuing to cling to such conservative pragmatism, while ignoring the broad working class militancy and solidarity presently unfolding around the Longview struggle, is a posture Trumka can ill afford to maintain. For in doing so, Trumka only promises to relegate the AFL-CIO to further irrelevancy.
Thus, as President-“I’ll walk on that picket line with you”-Obama readies to send in the military against longshoremen in Longview, the time has come for all to take sides. The struggle can no longer be credibly held as a jurisdictional matter; rather, it is a fight for all organized labor. So, in the words of Florence Reece, the time has come to ask Mr. Trumka: Which side are you on?
Ben Schreiner is a freelance writer living in Salem, Oregon. He may be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
TEL AVIV – Jewish community leaders in Britain canceled a meeting with President Mahmoud Abbas during his visit to London last week, an Israeli newspaper reported Monday.
The meeting was supposed to be one of several Abbas has held with Jewish leaders around the world in an effort to increase pressure on Israel to move forward with peace talks, Haaretz reported.
However, the meeting in Britain was called off following a request from representatives of the Israeli Prime Minister’s Office and the Israeli Embassy in London, according to the report.
The British government sought to convince the Jewish leaders to hold the meeting, Haaretz said.
The report says the Palestinian envoy in London sought to arrange the meeting several weeks ago. Manuel Hassassian and British Foreign Office officials asked leaders of the Jewish community to attend.