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White House troubled by ‘anti-Semitic think tank'
By BENJAMIN WEINTHAL, JERUSALEM POST CORRESPONDENT
01/20/2012
Obama's liaison with the Jewish community reportedly tells Wiesenthal Center CAP developments "troubling."
 
BERLIN – The media firestorm unleashed by allegedly anti- Semitic bloggers at a prominent think tank affiliated with the US Democratic Party resulted Thursday in a White House Jewish affairs official terming the situation at the Center for American Progress to be “troubling.”

According to a Washington Post online article on Thursday, Jarrod Bernstein, the new White House liaison with the Jewish community, told Rabbi Abraham Cooper, the associate dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, that what was unfolding at CAP was “troubling,” and, “that [the attitude toward Israel at the think tank] is not this administration.”

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The Washington Post wrote that the Cooper met last week with Bernstein to convey the Wiesenthal Center’s worries about CAP’s hostility toward Israel and American supporters of the Jewish state.

CAP is a Washington-based policy organization that serves as a source of Middle East ideas for President Barack Obama and the party.

Zaid Jilani had blogged for the Center for American Progress’s ThinkProgress website; he used Twitter to call US supporters of the Jewish state “Israel Firsters” and compared Israel to the former apartheid regime in South Africa.

A CAP employee who said her name was Amanda told The Jerusalem Post on Wednesday that Jilani was no longer employed by ThinkProgress.

Jilani’s biography and photo no longer appear on the ThinkProgress website “About” section. His Twitter feed no longer identifies him as a reporter for ThinkProgress. His last CAP blog posting was on January 12.

E-mail queries and telephone calls to senior CAP representatives, including Faiz Shakir, editor-in-chief of ThinkProgress, were not returned.

The Jerusalem Post exclusively obtained an e-mail in January in which Shakir described Jilani’s words charging supporters of Israel with dual-loyalty as “terrible anti-Semitic language.”

As a result of the alleged Judeophobia at CAP, the Jerusalem Post has learned from a Democratic Party source that CAP has introduced a new social media policy to monitor and prevent prejudicial writings. CAP declined to confirm the existence of the new policy.

The Simon Wiesenthal Center, the Anti-Defamation League and the American Jewish Committee have all termed the anti-Israeli rhetoric of Jilani and fellow CAP writers Eli Clifton, Ali Gharib, Matt Duss and Ben Armbruster to be infected with Jew-hatred and discriminatory policy positions toward Israel.

Duss, CAP’s Middle East Progress director, wrote on ThinkProgress that “the entire Israeli occupation” of the Gaza Strip is “a moral abomination” comparable to the former Jim Crow South in the US.

Armbruster, who has attacked Jewish critics for pointing out alleged anti-Israel and anti-Semitic tirades from CAP writers, wrote “no comment” in an e-mail response to a query last week.

The think tank has been engulfed in the affair since December, electrifying the blogosphere and print and online publications in the US and Israel.

Matt Drudge, the founder of The Drudge Report, one of the most popular news aggregation websites in the US with millions of daily readers, placed a Jerusalem Post article on the CAP controversy on his site earlier this month. Drudge titled his post, “Dem Think Tank cops to anti-Semitism.”

The conservative journalist Andrew Breitbart wrote on his large Twitter feed, “Email Proves ‘Anti-Semitism’ at Lib Think Tank: Will Faiz Shakir fire Zaid Jilani over ‘Israel Firster’ slur at CAP?“ It is unclear if CAP plans to take disciplinary action against the rest of the faction of Bloggers who have launched an escalating series of attacks against Israel and supporters of the Jewish state in the US. CAP refused to answer queries about its nondiscrimination polices and whether employees have been reprimanded for anti- Jewish conduct.

Writing in a New York Post opinion article on Wednesday titled “The White House’s Israel Bashing Pals,” Alana Goodman noted that “CAP hasn’t distanced itself from these comments or even acknowledged that they’re anti-Israel. If it deems them acceptable public comment, one wonders what the internal dialogue is like at the think tank — and among the alumni who have gone on to the Obama administration.”

Goodman, who is an online editor of Commentary magazine, added, “At a minimum, the controversy highlights how progressive groups are working to undermine traditional Democratic support for Israel.”

According to her article, shortly after a Jewish NGO slammed CAP for trafficking in hatred of Israel on its website in December, “Six days later, President Obama met for coffee with the man who oversaw the offending content — Faiz Shakir, the site’s editor-inchief.”

Speaking from New York via telephone, Dr. Eric Alterman, a senior fellow at CAP, told the Jerusalem Post last week that the term “Israel Firster is not ipso facto anti-Semitic.”

Alterman, who was not speaking as a representative of CAP, added, however, that the phrase is “infelicitous language” and “I, personally, would not use such language.”

Dr. Jeffrey Herf, a leading authority on anti-Semitism and a historian at the University of Maryland, told the Jerusalem Post last week that the concept of “Israel Firsters” suggests Jews are “more loyal to a foreign country than to their own. The notion that the Jews are rootless cosmopolitans, disloyal to any nation, especially to their own was a feature of classical anti-Semitism in Europe and in the United States in the 1930s. In the US today, the isolationist Right and the ‘anti-imperialist Left’ are finding common ground in the attack on Israel.”
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