Democrats' 'Brain Trust' Hit by Antisemitism Accusations

Accusations of antisemitism are building against the Center for American Progress (CAP), the left-wing umbrella organization that serves as a “brain trust” for Democrats on Capitol Hill and in the Obama administration.

The latest to weigh in are the American Jewish Committee and the Anti-Defamation League, two leading American Jewish organizations, which have joined the Simon Wiesenthal Center in criticizing CAP and its offshoot, Media Matters for America, for attacks on Israel that go beyond legitimate criticism and may cross the line into antisemitism.

Last month, Politico reported that CAP and MMfA have both taken anti-Israel positions that “are challenging a bipartisan consensus on Israel and Palestine that has dominated American foreign policy for more than a decade.” These stances include downplaying the threat of a nuclear Iran, and suggesting that pro-Israel groups have pushed the U.S. into confrontations in the Middle East.

In addition, Politico cited extreme and inflammatory comments about Israel made by CAP employees at the Middle East Progress and ThinkProgress blogs, as well as by senior MMfA staff on Twitter and elsewhere. MMfA Senior Fellow M.J. Rosenberg, for example, has railed against pro-Israel Americans whom he calls “Israel firsters,” echoing old antisemitic tropes of “dual loyalty.”

In 2010, Rosenberg spoke at the Palestine Center in Washington, DC on a panel discussion with Stephen Walt, who co-wrote The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy with John Mearsheimer–a book widely panned for its inaccuracy and its use of conspiracy theory to attribute malevolent influence to pro-Israel groups and individuals. Rosenberg was even less careful with his language than Walt and Mearsheimer, referring repeatedly to “the Jewish lobby”:

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The controversy over CAP and MMfA’s anti-Israel policies and allegedly antisemitic commentary has even reached Israel, where it has been covered by the Jerusalem Post. Supporters of CAP and MMfA accuse critics of trying to shut down debate on Israel–ironically, while celebrating the removal of one of their critics, Josh Block, from the listserv of the Truman National Security Project.

Block, a Democrat, had been quoted in the Politico article describing some of CAP’s views as “borderline anti-Semitic stuff.” His removal was described by the Truman Project as punishment for a “personal attack”–when, in fact, his comments were not personal at all in nature, and have been substantiated and supported by mainstream American Jewish organizations.

John Podesta, who founded CAP and helped start MMfA, is on the advisory board of the Truman project–perhaps a clue as to the real reason for Block’s removal.

Regardless, both CAP and MMfA are, as Politico points out, “[t]wo of the Democratic Party’s core institutions,” providing policy ideas, media talking points, and support staff to push the left’s agenda in Washington.

Until recently, the anti-Israel views espoused by CAP and MMfA were on the far-radical fringe of American political debate. As CAP and MMfA have grown in importance, however, their anti-Israel agendas have become more prominent within the Obama administration and the Democratic Party as a whole, leading to a rift that has already had electoral consequences.

Unless Democrats act to contain the damage, the controversy over charges of antisemitism at CAP and MMfA could affect debates–and votes–in the crucial campaign of 2012.