Politico‘s Ben Smith writes today that Media Matters for America (MMfA) and the Center for American Progress (CAP), both “core institutions” of the Democratic Party, are pushing anti-Israel policies and downplaying the threat of a nuclear Iran.
By promoting views once confined to the extreme left and isolationist right, MMfA and CAP are dividing the Democratic Party and isolating themselves on the margins of American political debate.
Smith notes, for example, that MJ Rosenberg, “Senior Foreign Policy Fellow” at MMFA, “regularly heaps vitriol on those who disagree” with his radical left-wing views on Israel, including liberal pro-negotiation voices such as Jeffrey Goldberg of the Atlantic. In May 2011, Andrew Breitbart noted that Rosenberg had accused supporters of Israel of disloyalty to the U.S. and called Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu a “terrorist.”
Though CAP “tends to walk a more careful line,” Smith notes that CAP policy analyst Matt Duss, who directs the Middle East Progress blog, called Israel’s blockade against terrorist-controlled Gaza a “moral outrage” and likened it to “segregation in the American South.” CAP has also accused pro-Israel organizations, such as the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), of agitating for war with Iraq and Iran.
Smith reports that CAP chairman John Podesta has faced complaints over “borderline anti-Semitic stuff” about Israel published on his organization’s website:
“There’s two explanations here – either the inmates are running the asylum or the Center for American Progress has made a decision to be anti-Israel,” said Josh Block, a former spokesman for AIPAC who is now a fellow at the center-left Progressive Policy Institute.
CAP and MMfA are associated with the radical, “Occupy” wing of the Democratic Party, which has become more prominent with Barack Obama’s rise to power. Smith notes that their anti-Israel views are “reflected increasingly in the party’s central institutions.”
While Obama claims to be the most pro-Israel president in U.S. history, his anti-Israel supporters at CAP and MMfA are often encouraged by his behavior to the contrary. Mainstream party groups like the National Jewish Democratic Council may lament such outrages as the recent remarks by Obama fundraiser Howard Gutman, now serving as ambassador to Belgium, who blamed Israel for Muslim antisemitism. However, as Smith writes, the radicals at CAP and MMfA “have taken heart from recent criticism of Israel by Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.” And the radicals, Smith suggests, believe they are winning the future of the Democratic Party.
Indeed, CAP provides many of the the most important policy proposals for the Obama administration and the Democratic Party in general. Likewise, MMfA generates talking points that Democrats–and their scribes in the mainstream media–often use to defend key party leaders and attack Republican opponents. Both organizations have become essential to the faltering Obama re-election effort and to the American left in general.
It is not clear what motivated Smith to expose the radical, anti-Israel nature of CAP and MMfA. Perhaps it was MMfA’s strident attack on Politico‘s decision to recognize two leading Republicans as “Policymakers of the Year,” along with two Democrats–more bipartisanship, evidently, than the supposedly 501(c)3-compliant MMfA could tolerate.
Regardless, Smith has correctly identified the origins of doubts that pro-Israel Democrats have been feeling about their party for several years.