BLACKLIST: 4 Israel Critics in US Media Purged from Democratic Party-linked Organizations

Last week’s announcement that Ali Gharib was going to work at the Daily Beast means that four writers have now left Democratic-Party-linked thinktanks in the months since neoconservatives launched a smear campaign against these writers for being critical of Israel.

Gharib had made the terrible mistake while at the Center for American Progress (which has close links to the Democratic Party) of calling Illinois Republican Senator Mark Kirk the senator from AIPAC and mocking him for the idea that he should care about “*anyone* other than Israel.”

The others purged:

–Zaid Jilani left CAP last winter for Republicreport. Jilani had used the term “Israel firster.”

–MJ Rosenberg also used the term “Israel firster.” He left Media Matters last spring, not long after Alan Dershowitz said he was going to Obama to make sure  Rosenberg’s head was displayed on the White House fence. Rosenberg now has his own blog.

–Eli Clifton left CAP earlier this summer. He now works at the American Independent News Network. Clifton is notable for this genius post of last summersaying that AIPAC’s push for war on Iran mirrored its conduct leading up to the Iraq war. CAP issued a lengthy correction of that post after the neocon campaign was launched, four months after it was published.

–Now Gharib. Gharib duly apologized for his remarks (calling them flippant and crude), but he seemed to be operating with a muzzle after the neocon campaign began. (Just look at his output at Open Zion in the last week, including this important piece saying the Jerusalem platform fight is a fight between Romney and Obama for Jewish money.)

So: the blacklist worked.

Only Matt Duss among those named in the original smear campaign of last November is still in his job at the Center for American Progress.

I find it shocking that no one has written about this important story. No; Israel lobby beheadings are common. Move along now.

I can only hope that Peter Beinart and Gharib tell their readers what’s going on. And though all these writers are my friends, indeed I regard them as the bright future of foreign-policy journalism, the only one of them I could get a comment from was MJ Rosenberg:

There is no issue like the Israel issue on which deviation from the line will likely get you fired unless you are big enough, like Tom Friedman, that you are untouchable.

Look at Congressional Democrats like Al Franken and Barbara Boxer pretending to be Likud zealots out of fear. (The Republicans don’t have to fake it! ) Look at MSNBC which never even mentions the lobby that is  controlling US Mideast policy– with the great exception of Chris Hayes the other night at DNC.

Look at the big name bloggers with the exceptions of Glenn Greenwald and Andrew Sullivan.

Not even the NRA exerts this kind of control and, in any case, it represents a domestic not a foreign issue. The good news is this. The lobby is terrified by us. That is why the Israel Firster meme caused them to go into purge overdrive.

But it’s too late. We have succeeded in making them self conscious and nervous. And it has affected the drive to war with Iran because they know that this time there will be no argument about who coerced us into war. Everyone knows it is them.

As Rosenberg says, the heart of the matter here is that he, Gharib, Jilani and Clifton all had the temerity to question the Israel lobby’s role in pushing a war.

Joe Klein also used the verboten term “Israel Firster” because it expresses an important idea– this war is not in the American people’s interest.

And let’s be clear about the partisan political element of this blacklist: neoconservatives set up a guillotine inside the Democratic Party, and the Dems brought the suspects up to the platform.

Just as the Democrats are now trying to run to the right of Romney on Israel/Palestine. It’s tragic.

Last spring neocon Bill Kristol, who participated in this smearfest, bragged that he had purged the Republican Party of “Arabists” and “realists” back in the 1990s.

The same thing seems to be happening to the Democratic Party — even as the rank and file of the party rebel at the orders, to judge from the floor’s angry reaction to the Jerusalem plank last week at the Democratic convention.

Now here’s the backstory, in case you’ve forgotten it.

Last December Justin Elliott at Salon reported that former AIPAC spokesman Josh Block was leading a smear campaign against five writers, circulating a dossier of quotes that he said exhibited borderline antisemitism.

Block told Politico:

As a progressive Democrat, I am convinced that on issues as important as the US-Israel alliance and the threat posed by Iran’s nuclear program, there is no room for uncivil discourse or name calling, like ‘Israel Firster or ‘Likudnik’, and policy or political rhetoric that is hostile to Israel, or suggests that Iran has no nuclear weapons program, has no place in the mainstream Democratic party discourse. I also believe that when it occurs, progressive institutions, have a responsibility not to tolerate such speech or arguments

Block paid for the campaign by losing a job of his own– he had to resign from a thinktank because of his tactics. (Though he keeps landing on his feet; he is now head of the rightwing Israel Project.)

His smear campaign was soon joined by Commentary magazine and Kristol’s Emergency Committee for Israel, which published a full-page ad in the New York Times attacking the Center for American Progress as a wolf in sheep’s clothing.

After that Block’s antisemitism charge was echoed by another “liberal” Democrat, Spencer Ackerman in Tablet.

In February Alan Dershowitz said that Media Matters should fire MJ Rosenberg, and he was going to the president about it.

“I don’t know whether President Obama has any idea that Media Matters has turned the corner against Israel in this way,” he said. “I can tell you this, he will know very shortly because I am beginning a serious campaign on this issue and I will not let it drop until and unless Rosenberg is fired from Media Matters, or Media Matters changes its policy or the White House disassociates itself from Media Matters.”

Andrew Sullivan denounced the effort to blacklist Israel’s critics. So did The New Yorker and writer Connie Bruck, who took the bloggers’ side in March:

First, in a full-page ad in the New York Times—featuring an image of a particularly malevolent-looking wolf, attired in a suit and tie, and holding a sheep mask—E.C.I. attacked two liberal advocacy organizations, the Center for American Progress (closely aligned with the White House) and Media Matters. It quoted the American Jewish Committee; the Anti-Defamation League; Alan Dershowitz, of Harvard Law School; and others, denouncing the groups’ work as anti-Israel and even anti-Semitic. Listing some of CAP’s and Media Matters’ donors, and their phone numbers, E.C.I. demanded, “Call these foundations and ask them: Why are you funding bigotry and anti-Israel extremism?”

Ms Bruck, time to follow that up!

Philip Weiss is Founder and Co-Editor of

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