Washington Post: 'Center for American Progress, Group Tied to Obama, Accused of Anti-Semitic Language'

John Podesta, Center for American Progress

The Washington Post has just published an article reporting that the Center for American Progress, the left-wing think tank whose policies and personnel have close ties to the Obama White House, has been “accused of anti-Semitic language.”

The Center for American Progress, a liberal think tank closely aligned with the White House, is embroiled in a dispute with several major Jewish organizations over statements on Israel and charges that some center staffers have used anti-Semitic language to attack pro-Israel Americans.

The controversy reflects growing divisions among important allies of President Obama over Middle East policy that could complicate the president’s reelection outreach to some Jewish voters, just as he is seeking to assure them of his commitment to Israel’s security amid fears of an Iran nuclear threat.

Among the points of contention are several Twitter posts by one CAP writer referring to “Israel-firsters.” Some experts say the phrase has its roots in the anti-Semitic charge that American Jews are more loyal to a foreign country. In another case, a second staffer described a U.S. senator [Mark Kirk of Illinois] as showing more fealty to Israel and the prime U.S. pro-Israel lobby, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, than to his own constituents, replacing a standard identifier of party affiliation and state with “R-AIPAC” on Twitter….

Abraham Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League, said some of the statements from CAP staffers “are anti-Semitic and borderline anti-Semitic.”

“We’re concerned about it because this is a serious think tank, and it does influence the administration,” Foxman added. CAP is run by “serious people who need to take control of their entities.”

Jason Isaacson, an official with the American Jewish Committee, which often collaborates on policy issues with CAP, pointed to “very troubling things that have been written on a pretty regular basis by certain people associated with the organization.”

“For any serious policy center there are certain lines of fairness and objectivity and good sense that should not be crossed, and yet, disturbingly, those lines have regularly been crossed,” Isaacson added.

Reached for comment this morning, Josh Block, a Democrat who has criticized the language used by CAP and its ally, Media Matters for America, called for the organization to make immediate changes:

If CAP wants to continue having people writing the organization’s day-to-day views on national security and Middle East policy who truck in language and theories more at home on White Power and anti-Jewish conspiracy websites than in the mainstream of the Democratic party, that is their choice, but the organization and their work will be judged accordingly, and CAP will continue eroding their credibility to zero.

It’s not too late. I don’t think this is who CAP, its new leadership, or it’s allies want the organization to be, in the short or long term. 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.

One CAP staffer who used the offensive language to describe Israel and pro-Israel Americans is no longer at CAP; others who have used the same language are still at CAP and Media Matters.

The radical group J Street, which enjoys the favor of the Obama administration and lobbies Congress to oppose Israeli policies, has defended some of the antisemitic language that is the source of the controversy.