The scandal-plagued bloggers at the US think tank Center for American Progress (CAP) were blamed for triggering last week an outbreak of anti-Israel and anti-Jewish sentiment by asserting that Orthodox Jews in Israel are responsible for a film denigrating Muslims.
After the blog post appeared on the think tank’s website, ThinkProgress, an employee scrubbed the anti-Jewish language from the post without citing an explanation for the deletion.
CAP is affiliated with the Democratic party, and seeks to influence the Obama administration’s policies toward Israel.
CAP’s decision to attack religious Jews in Israel comes on the heels of an almost two-month scandal, prompting in January a White House official, who coordinates outreach to the American Jewish community, to reject CAP’s anti- Israel policies.
Last week, CAP bloggers Eli Clifton and Ali Gharib, who have been accused by prominent Jewish American and Israeli NGOs of fomenting anti- Semitism, wrote a CAP ThinkProgress blog accusing the Clarion Fund, the team behind the film The Third Jihad, of supporting a Jewish right-wing agenda.
Gharib and Clifton wrote, “Clarion was started by Israeli- Canadian Raphael Shore, who, along with other early Clarion employees, is tied to the Israeli Orthodox evangelist organization Aish Hatorah, which works within Israel’s right-wing and settler movements.”
Writing on The Weekly Standard’s blog, editor Daniel Halper criticized on Thursday Clifton and Gharib for embracing intemperate language against Jews.
Halper wrote, “a group [the Center for American Progress’s Think Progress] with a suspected Jewish problem is creating an international conspiracy theory — starring Jews, naturally — of shady folks who have disproportionate influence over others.”
The Jerusalem Post exclusively obtained a mass e-mail sent from the account of CAP’s ThinkProgress blogger Ben Armbruster, who repeated Clifton and Gharib’s message. Neera Tanden, CAP president, did not answer a Post e-mail query about the organization bashing Israeli Jews on their website and in the Armbruster e-mail. CAP offered no explanation as to why the center deleted the anti-Israel language.
In early January, the Post published an e-mail from Faiz Shakir, head of the CAP blog, who admitted that “terrible anti- Semitic language” came from a ThinkProgress writer, who has since left the think tank.
After the publication of a Washington Post report on anti-Semitic discourse at CAP, the center issued a January 19 statement on its website.
According to the statement, CAP said it has a “zero-tolerance” policy for anti-Semitism and takes allegations of it seriously.
“A very small number of tweets on the personal accounts of ThinkProgress staff were inappropriate, and the authors have publicly apologized for using objectionable language,” the statement said.
Josh Block, a former spokesman for US president Bill Clinton’s administration and pro-Israel lobby group AIPAC, has raised warning flags about hostility toward Israel and Jews stemming from a number of CAP writers.
Block, who is based in Washington, wrote in an e-mail to the Post, that the deletion this week from a CAP post of “offensive comments about Judaism and Israel,” and publishing a post on the Palestinian mufti’s comments justifying killing Jews, shows CAP could be changing course.
“Then again, as long as CAP chooses to have people writing the organization’s day-to-day views on national security and Middle East issues, like the authors of the scrubbed item, who have long records of trucking in language and theories more at home on White Power and anti-Jewish conspiracy websites than in the mainstream of the Democratic party, these problems will obviously continue, and CAP’s work will be judged accordingly and continue to see its credibility erode,” Block wrote.
CAP officials have remained largely tight lipped about Judeophobia coming from their group of writers on the Middle East and the focus on the State of Israel.
Matt Duss, Director of Middle East Progress at CAP, compared Israel’s security policies to the segregated South in the US. Critics of CAP see Duss as creating an anti- Israel atmosphere at CAP which permits anti-Semitism to flourish.
Duss declined to answer repeated Post e-mails about his writings.
Block said he hopes “we will continue to see more meaningful corrective measures in the future [from CAP].
“This kind of demagoguery, anti-Israel invective, and in some cases actual hate speech, is absolutely wrong whether it comes from the extreme Right or Left, and like cancer, and in line with CAP’s new zero-tolerance policy, has to be cut out before it metastasizes and destroys the whole body.”
According to Halper, the fact that CAP, an organization involved in American policy discussions and with the Democratic party, had to remove content shows that it is “pushing troubling rhetoric.”