Former AIPAC Spokesperson Rallies Conservatives to Attack CAP, Media Matters as Anti-Semitic

This post has been updated.

Justin Elliott has the goods on Josh Block, the former AIPAC spokesperson who now works at the centrist Progressive Policy Institute and the lobbying firm Davis-Block. Following a story yesterday by Politico’s Ben Smith on bloggers at Media Matters and the Center for American Progress who report on and analyze matters pertaining to Israel and U.S. foreign policy in a way not officially sanctioned as “pro-Israel” by the neoconservative foreign policy establishment, Block urged a conservative listserv to “amplify” the story as portraying the bloggers as anti-Semites.

Smith’s story painted Media Matters blogger M.J. Rosenberg, himself a former AIPAC staffer, and bloggers at the Center for American Progress, including Matt Duss, Eli Clifton, and Ali Gharib, as articulating views outside Democratic Party orthodoxy on Israel.

Notably, Rosenberg was depicted as having free reign to express his views at Media Matters, but the CAP writers were portrayed as articulating a view not representing the policy positions of their employer. CAP subsequently published a blog post pointing out inaccuracies in Smith’s piece, noting that CAP’s (and its bloggers’) position in favor of a two-state solution is the “consensus view” and not outside the Democratic mainstream. The post accused Smith of cherry-picking posts as examples of what conservatives charged were “anti-Israel”—read, anti-Semitic— views. Smith then made a number of corrections to the article.

Conservatives, though, wasted no time in hailing Smith’s story as exposing “the anti-Israel left” (a headline in the Weekly Standard), and the “anti-Israel claptrap” (Jennifer Rubin) promoted by liberals.

Meanwhile, Newt Gingrich, if elected president, would like to engage in a joint military operation with Israel to attack Iran, a scenario his pal John Hagee sees as an essential, biblically prophesied step toward the Second Coming of Christ, and in the real world would otherwise not be “good for Israel.” (Hagee, too, is hailed as “pro-Israel,” despite his apocalyptic scenario in which Jews die or convert to Christianity. Block, when he worked at AIPAC, dismissed concerns about Hagee’s theology as fantasy that would never come to pass, thereby justifying embracing his support.) 

Elliott’s explosive story lays bare the McCarthy-esque tactics the supposedly “pro-Israel” camp in Washington is willing to deploy. Block writes in his email to the listserv (which, with a brilliant lack of self-awareness, is called the Freedom Community):

This kind of anti-Israel sentiment is so fringe it’s 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.  These are the words of anti-Semites, not Democratic political players.

This kind of hate speech has no place in the political discourse, let alone one FUNDED, SPONSORED AND DEFENDED by a group claiming the mantle of the Democratic party.

One can only hope that the opponents of free speech in a rational discussion of Israel and U.S. foreign policy will be the ones who emerge as morally compromised, rather than the bloggers and columnists they are smearing as anti-Semitic. As Rosenberg tweeted moments ago, “At the proverbial end of the day, Ben Smith’s story on CAP and Media Matters (and our influence) will be viewed as very significant.”

UPDATE, Friday, Deember 9: At Think Progress, CAP’s blog, Duss responds to Block’s accusations, and CAP calls on the Washington Post to retract blogger Jennifer Rubin’s accusations that the organization and its bloggers are anti-Semitic.