E-mail reveals anti-Semitism at US think tank

Group considered close to Obama administration concedes bias against Israel in e-mail.

keyboard computer Internet cyber warfare 311 (photo credit: Thinkstock/Imagebank)
keyboard computer Internet cyber warfare 311
(photo credit: Thinkstock/Imagebank)
A senior employee of the US think tank Center for American Progress (CAP) appears to have admitted in an e-mail sent from his CAP account that a blogger for the policy organization used anti-Semitic language to attack supporters of the Jewish state.
CAP advises the Democratic Party on Middle East policy and is an important source of ideas for the Obama administration.RELATED:NGOs slam ‘anti-Semitic’ US think tank commentsBloggers drag US think tank into scandalThe Jerusalem Post last week obtained the first CAP acknowledgment of Jew-hatred stemming from a group of Mideast bloggers affiliated with CAP’s ThinkProgress website.
In the e-mail that the Post obtained exclusively from the CAP account of Faiz Shakir, who serves as editor-in-chief of the ThinkProgress.org website and is a vice president at CAP, he wrote, “Yes, I agree ‘Israel Firster’ is terrible, anti-Semitic language. And that’s why that language no longer exists on Zaid’s personal twitter feed, because he also knows and understands the implications.”
Zaid Jilani wrote on his Twitter account, where he identifies himself as a “Reporter-Blogger for ThinkProgress,” that “...Obama is still beloved by Israel-firsters and getting lots of their $$.”
The e-mail recognizing the anti-Semitism of a CAP blogger was sent from FShakir@americanprogress.org in December.
US-Jewish and Israeli NGOs accused a faction of ThinkProgress bloggers that month of stoking modern anti-Semitism. The anti-Israel scandal saw two CAP writers, Jilani and Ali Gharib, issue apologies for asserting that American Jews and a non-Jewish Republican senator serve the interests of the Israeli government over the security of the United States.
Speaking with the Post from Washington on Thursday, Shakir declined to comment on the e-mail from his account.
He did not respond to a followup Post e-mail sent on Friday.
In a lengthy article on Friday on the Daily Beast news website, Ken Gude, the managing director of CAP’s National Security and International Policy Program, denied any anti-Semitism or anti-Israelism at CAP. He told the Daily Beast that the allegations were “wildly unfair” and “flatly untrue.”
The Post sent an e-mail to Gude on Friday citing the quote in question from the email that had been sent from Shakir’s account. He did not respond to the Post e-mail or to a follow-up telephone query.
Critics accuse CAP of failing to combat rising anti-Israel sentiment among a group of bloggers who write about the Middle East and have created an anti-Jewish state environment at the mainstream policy organization. The e-mail conceding anti-Semitism at ThinkProgress underscores an internal rift at the think tank.
CAP bloggers have attacked their critics. The ThinkProgress blogger Ben Armbruster wrote an article last month titled “The Secret, Coordinated Effort To Smear ThinkProgress As Anti-Semitic And Anti-Israel.”
He authored a second blog entry, “TAKE ACTION: Tell The Washington Post To Retract Jen Rubin’s Charge That ThinkProgress Is ‘Anti-Semitic.’” Prof. Gerald Steinberg, president of the Jerusalem-based NGO Monitor, told the Post last week, “Instead of playing the victim, CAP has an obligation to implement concrete guidelines demonstrating that this language is unacceptable and that it will not be used by CAP employees in the future.”
When asked about NGO Monitor’s criticism of CAP and the Shakir e-mail account statement, Andrea Purse, a CAP spokeswoman, declined to comment. She wrote the Post last week that the articles in the Post were not helping “to defeat anti-Semitism.
The attacks and their repetition here do a disservice to all of us who fight for a strong US-Israel relationship.”
In an e-mail to the Post last week, Matt Brooks, executive director of the Republican Jewish Coalition, wrote, “The prominence of CAP in the Obama administration has been recognized by news outlets like Time and Bloomberg News, both of which describe the think tank as the president’s ‘Ideas Factory.’ The fact that CAP has staffers who disseminate this kind of virulent, poisonous anti-Israel material points to a serious problem – that there is a strain of hostility toward Israel running through elements of the mainstream Democratic Party.”
Matt Duss, director for the Middle East at CAP, compared Israel’s security policies to the racist “segregated South” in the United States. Duss declined to respond to queries about this statement on the ThinkProgress website. The disclosure of the e-mail from Shakir’s account comes after a series of dire developments for CAP’s reputation, culminating in sharp criticism from the Anti-Defamation League, American Jewish Committee and the Simon Wiesenthal Center – all of which slammed CAP for promoting hatred of Jews and Israel.
Brooks said that “Liberals and Democrats who value their party’s reputation regarding national security and the US-Israel alliance have a lot of work to do. Unfortunately, it appears that elements who would irreparably damage that reputation have a foothold within an important mainstream Democratic institution.”
David A. Harris, president of the National Jewish Democratic Council, wrote to the Post that “The words of these individuals [the bloggers] are deeply disturbing, and they were right to apologize for their remarks. However those who have not apologized for their remarks include Rep. Allen West (R-FL), who invoked Joseph Goebbels to attack Democrats in December, and far too many others on the right who have dragged abusive Holocaust rhetoric into our political discourse in recent years.”
Harris said, “In truth, neither the Left nor the Right has a monopoly on rhetoric that American Jews rightly find disturbing – although through talk radio, presidential candidates and members of Congress, the Right seems to be trying to corner the market.”
Steinberg said “it is highly unfortunate when individuals and organizations play politics with anti-Semitic rhetoric.
“Pointing fingers and saying that others are more anti- Semitic is a sad attempt to distract from one’s own errors. This rhetoric adds to the destructive impact, and does nothing to remove this language from the public discourse.”