Category Archives: AIPAC

Holy Moley Batman—Palestinian textbooks don’t demonize Jews!

If you are quiet and can hear a loud cracking noise in the distance, that’s the sound of the Hasbaraniks losing one of their favorite stock charges against the “big, scary, bad” Palestinians. To quote Hillary Clinton when she was held captive to local interests and regularly said stuff she didn’t believe a U.S senator in NY, Palestinian textbooks don’t, “give Palestinian children an education, they give them an indoctrination.” This oft-heard charge about Palestinian textbooks filled with horrific portrayals of Jews has been a lynchpin component of the Israel-as-innocent-victim narrative which AIPAC and company promote everywhere from churches to Congress. All to keep the dollars and protection flowing. Continue reading

Chuck Hagel And Israel: The Wrong Question

by Mitchell Plitnick

Chuck Hagel is not exactly my kind of guy. Hagel is an old-school Conservative Republican and his voting record in the Senate lines up pretty well with that image. He was poor on civil rights, favored the rich in economic matters, generally opposed abortion, voted against campaign finance reform, and, despite later opposition, he voted for the Iraq War. Yet the dominant question around his still-only-rumored nomination for Secretary of Defense is how pro-Israel he is. Continue reading

Muzzling Roundup: Attacking Iran, Dershowitz v. MJ Rosenberg, Harvard One-State Conference

It’s been a few weeks of major Muzzling attempts on Israel/Palestine. Last week in Washington, DC, AIPAC held their annual conference, or shall we say chorus, where over half the US Congress and thousands of Likud supporters cheered on Prime Minister Netanyahu’s assertion that Iran’s potentially-maybe-would-be nuclear capacity is the same thing as Auschwitz, a move some keen observers see as making it that much harder for Netanyahu not to attack Iran. As Jon Stewart makes only too clear, American politicians do not – cannot? – oppose Netanyahu. (In this excellent essay, Peter Beinart lays out the history of Obama’s failure to stand up to Netanyahu, warning that the cost of this failure may be war with Iran.)

JVP activists were among the hundreds of activists who occupied AIPAC from within and without, reminding attendees and the media that AIPAC does not speak for Jews, and that many, many Jews, allies and others oppose the Israeli government’s planned war on Iran and policies of occupation and oppression of Palestinians. Though JVP’s truck ad was silenced, JVP’s voice came through loud & clear, both displayed on the outside wall of the Convention Center on the night of the AIPAC Gala and as JVP Board Member and general badass Liza Behrendt directly challenged AIPAC, StandWithUs, the David Project and Hillel for silencing young Jews on the issue of Israel/Palestine.

And beyond AIPAC, the campaign to silence the indomitable, indispensible MJ Rosenberg (whose analysis of Netanyahu, Obama and AIPAC is the only glimmer of light we’ve seen) continues. The Emergency Committee for Israel (a truer McCarthyite organization there never was) published an attack in the NYTimes against MJ’s employer, Media Matters, as well as the Center for American Progress, two organizations with close ties to the Democratic Party. The ad quotes Alan Dershowitz’s critique of Media Matters and CAP, and Dershowitz didn’t like that – and in his articles and interviews opposing the ECI’s use of his words, Dersh has been very clear that he won’t stop until Media Matters fires MJ or the White House fires Media Matters. MJ is the latest target of this chief muzzler, or “heresy hunter from Harvard,” as Jeremiah Haber calls Dershowitz, whose targets have included Richard Goldstone, Norm Finkelstein, Shlomo Sand, Anat Matar, Rachel Giora – at least MJ is in good company. JJ Goldberg of the Forward defends MJ here and MJ’s latest column is as smart, impassioned, insightful and indispensible as ever, proving, once again, how much we need his thinking, his intuition, his guts, and his voice. May he only get stronger and louder.

And last, the March 3 & 4 One State Conference at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government was a success even before it took place, before an array of fascinating, bold thinkers,  including JVP Advisory Board member Sarah Schulman and Rabbinical Council co-founder Brant Rosen, aired nuanced, thoughtful and difficult ideas to a sold out crowd.

This conference was a success simply because it happened. No less a powerful figure than Massachusetts Senator Scott Brown tried to get it shut down, while the ADL led the charge among dominant Jewish organizations in demanding that Harvard denounce the conference and the legitimacy of discussing a one-state solution. More than 4,000 “students, alumni and friends” of Harvard signed a petition calling for the university to effectively prevent the conference by denying it funding and facilities. The AJC called it a “non-starter”.

The condemnation of the conference took the same forms, calling the discussion of a one state solution anti-Semitic, and worse: organizers are “soft eliminationists” (Jeffrey Goldberg) who seek Israel’s “elimination (ADL) through a “Final Solution” that will lead to the “extermination” and “annihilation” of Israel (FrontPage Magazine). As the ADL put it in a letter to Harvard president Drew Gilpin Faust, “there can never be any legitimate discussion” about a one-state solution. Yet do they lob the same critique at Knesset members calling for one state – one Jewish supremacist state, that is – or the state legislatures of Florida and South Carolina, which recently passed resolutions supporting one state, meaning the state of Israel in the greater land of Israel?

No, on the topic of a viable solution for Israel/Palestine, these muzzlers reserve their muzzling for perceived leftists. What they’re doing is trying to make it impossible for anyone but speakers they’ve vetted and chosen to speak about Israel’s future. Palestinians need not apply – and nor should anyone who thinks there’s more to the story than “why the Palestinians have inflicted so much unnecessary suffering on themselves, as the ADL’s New England Regional Director put it.

Harvard hosted the conference in spite of the attacks, yet it did something else, too. Dean David Ellwood of the Kennedy School issued a statement regarding the conference, saying “We would never take a position on specific policy solutions to achieving peace in this region, and certainly would not endorse any policy that some argue could lead to the elimination of the Jewish State of Israel.” Does “the Jewish State of Israel” ring any bells? That’s the new language / negotiation precondition imposed by Netanyahu in 2007. Never before did Israel demand official recognition as “the Jewish state;” this demand flummoxed diplomats and threw a wrench in potential negotiations with Palestinians. Israel as the “Jewish state”: what impact would this declaration have on discrimination against Palestinian citizens? Or civil rights for Jewish Israelis, who also suffer from ultra-orthodox domination? On negotiations over the Palestinian right of return? In short, Dean Ellwood’s use of that language is a victory for Netanyahu and a loss for democracy, equality, civil rights and justice. Congratulations, ADL. Congratulations, Harvard.

AIPAC: The writing is on the wall

Since we announced on Monday our outrage at the sudden cancellation of our mobile ad, carrying our message to the AIPAC Policy Conference, we have received many expressions of support as well as some suggestions as to what to do next. Some recommended that we rent alternative vehicles, others that we sue the rental company. There were other intriguing creative suggestions as well.

Time was short before the end of the conference, so we settled for an alternative that would give us more splash on the spot. With the help of our friends on the ground in CodePink-organizers of OccupyAIPAC- we were able to have our messages projected on the wall of the convention center as attendees entered for the big Gala. This was prime ad space, I’d say!

The AIPAC Conference may be over, but we still got a few tricks up our sleeves in order to counter AIPAC’s pro-war, pro-settlement message. We will keep you posted–only next time we will keep the element of surprise!

– Sydney Levy

Cecilie Surasky’s monday letter, in case you had not seen it… (and watch the dramatic video of Liza Behrendt, a leader in Young, Jewish and Proud, the youth wing of Jewish Voice for Peace, occupying an AIPAC workshop as well!)

March 5, 2012

Supporter—I’m furious.

After signing contracts and paying in full for a mobile ad to carry your message to the AIPAC Policy Conference today; after letting 100,000 of you know about the truck; after nearly 5,000 of you signed the ad and let all of your friends know; after hundreds more chipped in for the ad; after sending a press release out to the media….After all that, the owner of the truck changed his mind at the last minute and decided not to let our ad run.

Why? What was so terrible about the ad that no one could be allowed to see it?

Its main message was: “AIPAC speaks for AIPAC, not for the Jews. AIPAC supports war with Iran and settlements, Jews do not.”

But the company let slip that they have other business with AIPAC, and didn’t want to upset them. I’m angry, but I can’t say I’m surprised. While I can’t say for sure if the truck owner got a call that scared him or if he simply got cold feet, I do know this is pretty much business as usual when dealing with matters related to AIPAC.

In fact, I started a blog called Muzzlewatch years ago when an AIPAC staffer threatened to get the funding for a Jewish youth leadership program completely pulled if I was allowed to speak to the students alongside the AIPAC representative.

Back then, the threat of losing that much money meant the people who ran the youth program folded, even though they knew it was wrong. And just last night, the truck owner folded too.

And now there’s the spreading story about AIPAC’s new and unprecedented policy of yanking press credentials from “unfriendly” reporters including Inter Press Service journalist and former Jewish Voice for Peace staffer Mitchell Plitnick, Mondoweiss’ Phil Weiss and Alternet’s Adele Stan.

So much for the free exchange of ideas in an open democracy.

After some very difficult conversations with the Jewish Voice for Peace board and lawyers, I spoke to the owner who said he’d try to fix things this morning. But it’s pretty clear his decision is made, so now I’m letting you know:

There will be no truck ad.

I’m really angry. But you can be sure of this—we will not be silenced. In fact, now we are committed to doing something even bigger to make sure our critical message gets out—so that our elected officials know that AIPAC doesn’t speak for us, and they don’t speak for millions of American Jews.

It’s going to take some time. But we’ll make sure our voices—your voices—are heard loud and clear by Congress. And once we’re up and running, we’ll let you know how you can help. To those of you who chipped in for the ad—every penny will go to this new effort.

In the meantime, we’re not sitting on our hands. We’re making sure the voices of the millions of Jews who are not represented by AIPAC are being heard loud and clear. In the image at left is Liza Behrendt, a leader in Young, Jewish and Proud, the youth wing of Jewish Voice for Peace. She’s shouting from the stage at the AIPAC youth conference yesterday: “I will not be silenced!” You can watch the dramatic video here.

Liza, a participant in OccupyAIPAC, walked onto the dais, stood right next to the CEO of Hillel, Wayne Firestone, and told the story of how his McCarthyite guidelines kept her Brandeis Jewish Voice for Peace chapter from being accepted in Hillel.

And this morning, Jewish Voice for Peace’s Rabbinical Council also released this historic letter opposing war with Iran. Read the letter and share it with all the rabbis and rabbinical students in your circle—we need them to sign on to this powerful message.

These actions—representing your values— are already being magnified in the national and international press including the Jerusalem Post, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, +972magazine, RT Television and many more.

Stay tuned. You will not be silenced.

Sincerely,


Cecilie Surasky, Deputy Director
Jewish Voice for Peace

AIPAC Bars Me From Media Access to Their Conference

This is a guest post by Souciant Magazine and Inter Press Service writer Mitchell Plitnick, formerly with Jewish Voice for Peace and B’Tselem:

It’s a little hard to imagine. The self-proclaimed “most influential foreign policy lobbying organization on Capitol Hill,” an admittedly deserved sobriquet, is apparently afraid of what little old me might say about their conference.

It’s hard to interpret what has happened in any other way, after my approved media credentials for AIPAC’s annual policy conference were rescinded without explanation just a few days before the event.

I applied for media access to the conference back in January. Soon after, I received an email from AIPAC’s then-media relations officer, Ari Goldberg, confirming acceptance of my application to attend as a reporter.

I am hardly unknown in this arena, and a quick search on Google would certainly have revealed that I was a progressive blogger, but also that I had written numerous pieces of straight journalism for Inter Press Service, the agency for which I will still be reporting on the conference.

So, it was no surprise that AIPAC credentialed me. Just as a major event at, say, the Center for American Progress (a think tank with unabashed ties to the Democratic Party) would not think twice about credentialing someone from FOX News, it is standard practice that such large organizations credential a wide range of media.

More surprising was the revocation of those credentials with just a few days to go before the conference.

With the conference slated to start on Sunday, I got a curt note on Wednesday, simply stating: “Thank you for your interest in attending this year’s AIPAC Policy Conference as a member of the press.   However, press credentials for the conference will not be issued to you.  We regret any inconvenience this may have caused.”

It came from someone named Sarah Coopersmith at Scott Circle Communications, a firm AIPAC contracted with to handle the press logistics. The email wasn’t even signed.

Inquiries to both Coopersmith and AIPAC’s new press officer, Adam Harris brought no response. Ari Goldberg, despite having left AIPAC, did respond to me, expressing surprise and the hope that this was just a mistake.

To say this is highly unusual behavior would be an understatement. And I wasn’t the only one this happened to.

Philip Weiss of Mondoweiss, who had been credentialed the past three years without incident, and Adele Stan, the Washington Bureau Chief at AlterNet were also rejected without explanation. As I understand it, Phil and Adele were rejected outright. In my case, I was given media access and then had it revoked.

The combination was enough to get the attention of Ron Kampeas of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency. Ron has been in the DC scene writing about the politics here around Israel for years. He knows just how unusual this is. As he wrote, “Barring coverage in Washington is rare; Government institutions in Washington are known for accommodating a broad range of journalists, including those adamantly hostile to the government of the day.”

Apparently, as well, Chris McGreal of the Guardian (UK) was also summarily excluded, but after Ron’s piece came out in the JTA, AIPAC reinstated him, saying it was an oversight. Maybe it had nothing to do with trying to prevent the story from getting much bigger by excluding such a large international news source. Maybe it had everything to do with it, and Ron’s story made AIPAC nervous. I’ll let you make that call.

Kampeas, who has known me personally for several years, described me in JTA this way: “… a liberal blogger who has sparred with right-wing pro-Israel groups as well as anti-Zionists, and who was going to provide coverage for Inter Press Service, which emphasizes developing nations coverage as well as what it calls marginalized groups.”

Sounds like someone critical of AIPAC, but hardly like someone who would frighten them so much they would revoke credentials already given.

Now, I certainly have been very critical of AIPAC and the so-called “Israel Lobby.” But I have also engaged in public debates, including one appearance just after his book came out with Stephen Walt (who, in spirit of full disclosure, knows I disagree with parts of his thesis and nevertheless has developed a personal and professional relationship with me that has, at least from my end, been amazingly rewarding), when I believe the influence of that very powerful lobby is exaggerated.

Put simply, I’ve always called it like I saw it, both when that has gotten me some positive exposure and when it brought me into conflict, sometimes even with people in organizations I was working for.

No doubt, my professional experience as Co-Director of Jewish Voice for Peace and Director of the US Office of B’Tselemdoes not strike the folks at AIPAC well. Yet, I have, on more than one occasion, had very civil conversations with AIPAC staff members and officials.

It sure looks to me like AIPAC changed the way it deals with the press when Ari Goldberg left and Adam Harris replaced him. Perhaps reflecting a sense that, while the polls show no change in US citizens’ view of the Israel-Palestine conflict, the public discourse has been slowly shifting these past few years. It seems that the new regime at AIPAC is trying to manage the news with a much heavier hand as a result.

I’ll still be reporting on the conference, and I’ll still be doing it for Inter Press. What I won’t be able to do is give as full a picture as I could have of the feeling in the room, the people in attendance, the pulse of the crowd, the nuance and diversity there.

If I’m so threatening to AIPAC as a reporter, it’s hard to see how setting those limits on what I will have access to write about serves their purpose.

This conference is likely to be focused very strongly on the push for increased aggression  towards Iran. Maybe they feel their case is so weak that they have to resort to such heavy-handed tactics.

Again, I’ll leave that for you to decide.

And end to public criticism of Israel- Thanks AIPAC!

The March 30, 2010 UK Guardian on a letter going around Congress:

Aipac has persuaded more than three-quarters of the members of the US House of Representatives to sign a letter calling for an end to public criticism of Israel and urging the US to “reinforce” its relationship with the Jewish state.

The open letter, which has been circulating among members of Congress for the last week, says that while it is recognised that there will be differences between the two countries, they should be kept behind closed doors. “Our view is that such differences are best resolved quietly, in trust and confidence,” it says.

…Signatories to Aipac’s letter include Steny Hoyer, the Democrat majority leader, and Eric Cantor, the Republican whip.

Here’s the letter.

H/T to JW

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Jewish institutional chickens coming home to roost

Decades of determined silence, or aiding and abetting both illegal settlement expansion and vicious attacks on dissenting critics of Israeli state policy have created a kind of “blowback” in the institutional Jewish world.

The new targets of the settlers’ linguistic paramilitary forces, aka the rightwing pro-Israel punditocracy and their followers, aren’t just the usual suspects like Jimmy Carter or Archbishop Tutu. They’re now mainstream, moderate, demonstrably Israel-loving institutional Jews. This is a moment of truth for many of these targets. Faced with new pressure from their right-wing flank, some will fold and adapt to a more McCarthyite environment, especially if loss of funding is threatened. Others will stand strong and even be radicalized.

So, who are the new targets of occupation-supporters like Caroline Glick (Whither American Jewry?) and Isi Liebler (Candidly Speaking: Marginalize the renegades) of the Jerusalem Post and Walter Bingham (Expose the Renegades) in Arutz Sheva? For starters, there’s former Jewish Council for Public Affairs director Hannah Rosenthal, whose principled concern for the Jewish community and  for Israel is undeniable. She is the newly appointed head of the US Office to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism:

Shortly after the announcement of Rosenthal’s nomination, conservative Jewish web sites began to attack her, some of them declaring that Obama appointed an anti-Israeli to fight anti-Semitism. Rumors brewed that she had accused Israel of systemically strengthening anti-Semitism. Bloggers argued that her appointment would cause Jews and Israelis to cast doubt on Obama and his relationship with Israel.

Then there’s the the popular San Francisco Jewish Film Festival, known for its diverse approach to programming, and the Jewish Federation in San Francisco, which (lightly) funds the Festival. Not used to getting hate mail from Jews, and being called anti-Semitic and anti-Israeli, the Federation has been under tremendous pressure to cave in to calls for excessively McCarthyite control over funding recipients; the Film Festival has already lost tens of thousands of dollars and half its board, with no sign of the campaign dying any time soon.

The Federation board wisely said no to an absurd proposal to bar partnerships with any individuals or groups who “defame Israel” (good luck defining that), but they did support a resolution passed by the General Assembly of the Jewish Federations of North America barring partnerships with groups that support Boycotts, Divestment and Sanctions.

(Presumably, Time’s Joe Klein, who recently came out in support of a suspension of aid as a way to get the Israelis to actually freeze settlements, could still speak at a Federation-supported venue. Jewish Voice for Peace, however, which promotes selective divestment and sanctions as a way to end Israel’s occupation, would continue to get no funds or support from the Federation. In fact, the Federation would be duty-bound to oppose JVP, according to the resolution. As more mainstream Jewish groups openly advocate against support for 501c3s that support extremist settlers, it’s not clear how this resolution will play out.) Of course, there is the unprecedented smear campaign against Richard Goldstone, including coordinated condemnation of his report in Conservative synagogues across America, and yet he has continued to hold strong and defend his work with tremendous integrity. And then, there are the ongoing attacks on the new moderate AIPAC alternative, J Street, which puts forth an agenda not entirely different from what Netanyahu himself at least says he wants – two states that preserve as they call it, “a Jewish democracy”. Finally, there is the very surprising Glenn Beck (pictured above) attack on the Anti-Defamation League for their new report “Rage Grows in America: Anti-Government Conspiracies,” which calls out Beck in particular in a wide-ranging condemnation of hate-mongers. Surprising because the ADL can typically be counted on to overlook hate-mongering and Holocaust-abuse in the service of a rightwing “pro-Israel” agenda, but in this case has done the right thing in identifying this truly scary trend for which Beck has become the figurehead. As MJ Rosenberg writes in his new column at Media Matters

:

Glenn Beck is, not surprisingly, in a state of rage about the ADL report. He defends himself by asking the ADL to “name the person who has been more friendly to Israel” (the predictable defense). This, of course, is utterly irrelevant.  The issue here is not Israel but the United States.  It is here where Beck spreads his hate, not Israel. And then Beck turns on the ADL itself.  Beck said that the Anti-Defamation League itself has “much to do with the plight of the Jewish people.”  I don’t know what plight Beck is referring to, perhaps the Holocaust which so often pops into his head and out of his mouth.  But, obviously, the ADL fought for the victims of the Holocaust, not its perpetrators.  The Holocaust was the product of professional hate mongers, the mob who listened to them, and politicians who came to power on their backs. That is precisely the combination the ADL is worried about now.

It’s tempting to sit back and say, “I told you so.” As Israel is learning all too well regarding increasing numbers of intransigent settlers  and religious fanatics who profess open contempt for their own country, you can’t help create a monster and then expect it not to try to devour you. But one hopes that all of the targets of these nasty charges will a) put into perspective the war of words versus the war of lives and homes being waged, for example, in Sheikh Jarakh in East Jerusalem right now and that b) they’ll resist efforts at intimidation precisely because Jews who love Israel should care about the rights of  Palestinian Israelis getting evicted from Sheikh Jarakh, as well as the rights of their peace-loving Jewish neighbors. There is only one logical conclusion after reading Rabbi Arik Ascherman’s moving and terrifying account of what’s happening in East Jerusalem:  justice for Palestinians is justice, and peace, for Jews. Supporting the ongoing evictions and terrorization of Palestinians is the last way in the world to show love of Israel.

-Cecilie Surasky

Kucinich Withdraws as Palm Beach County Democratic Keynoter Amid Uproar over His Israel Stance

Published on Monday, November 9, 2009 by The Palm Beach Post (Florida)

Kucinich Withdraws as Palm Beach County Democratic Keynoter Amid Uproar over His Israel Stance

by George Bennett

U.S. Rep. Dennis Kucinich lasted less than 24 hours as headliner for the Palm Beach County Democratic Party’s annual fundraising dinner after some of the party’s elected officials blasted the Ohio Democrat’s stance on Israel and threatened to skip the event.

Kucinich, who has a history of criticizing the actions of the Israeli government and opposing congressional resolutions in support of Israel, withdrew Friday as the keynote speaker for next week’s dinner after being announced Thursday.

The liberal former presidential candidate had been called in as a last-minute replacement for moderate Louisiana Sen. Mary Landrieu. Landrieu was dropped as keynoter this week because party activists were upset by her refusal to commit to blocking a Republican filibuster of health care overhaul legislation.

While Landrieu was the target of behind-the-scenes grumbling, Kucinich sparked public revolt.

State Rep. Kevin Rader, D-Delray Beach, said Friday he was withdrawing his pledge to buy a $1,500 table for the dinner and would encourage other Democrats to boycott the event because of Kucinich’s record on Israel.

State Sen. Ted Deutch, D-Boca Raton, who’s running for the seat that U.S. Rep. Robert Wexler is vacating, called Kucinich “someone whose position on Israel stands in total opposition to the conscience of this community.”

County Commissioner Burt Aaronson called the selection of Kucinich “an absolute horror” and said he would refuse to share the podium with him.
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J Street Two-Step: Fights smear campaign, censors poets

CORRECTION: Theater J tells us that the poetry session at J Street is not theirs as we incorrectly reported in the first version of this post. Theater J’s Ari Roth was asked to introduce the poets and moderate the session, but the poets were invited (and later uninvited) to participate by J Street. Roth also tells us that Theater J, a model for artistic expression based in the communal Jewish world, was long ago discovered by “right-wing gatekeepers”, as I described them, and that they continue to flourish and receive broad community support. Amen.

____________________________________________

In its important efforts to challenge AIPAC and reclaim the center of Jewish liberal opinion, J Street walks an increasingly difficult line, demanding a more open discourse about Israeli policy for liberal Zionists, while simultaneously drawing a line in the sand between that which is kosher and that which is treyf (unclean): Jewish-staters and Congressional lobbying in, agnostics and one-staters and BDS out. Is this a viable, ethical or helpful strategy? It’s entirely possible to argue both sides. But only time will tell.

But for the moment, what is clear is that this approach leads to increasingly untenable situations like this: just a few days after J Street asked supporters to help them fight back on an undeniably terrible smear campaign about their upcoming conference, they announced they were canceling the entire poetry session at the same conference because of remarks invoking the Holocaust to describe the treatment of Palestinians, made some time in the past by one planned presenter, a young Jewish poet.

First, Jerry Haber of Magnes Zionist on the right-wing campaign:

A smear campaign against J-Street has been launched by – who else? The Weekly Standard, Commentary and the Standwithus crowd. They are telling their supporters to hound the members of Congress who are part of the J-Street Gala’s Honorary Host Committee and get them to withdraw. So why not? Hey, it’s a free country, isn’t it?

Sure, and if they played by the rules, that would be fine. But their rules include smearing and guilt-by-association. Remember how they went after Obama? Now they are saying that because one of the many speakers at the J-Street Conference, Salam al-Marayati, made a remark on radio suggesting that Israel should be on the lists of suspects for the 9/11 attack. He did this on September 11, and then immediately apologized for it the next day and on the same radio show.

So why is Salam al-Marayati speaking at J-Street? Because of something which he does not apologize for – his support of the two-state solution. In an op-ed he wrote for JTA

“The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is a key issue of U.S.-Muslim world relations. My position on the conflict — and that of MPAC — centers on the two-state solution whereby Israel and Palestine exist side by side with security and opportunity. I believe also that the injustices that the Palestinian people have endured for more than 60 years, as well as the ongoing occupation that started in 1967, must be addressed and rectified through negotiation, not violence. Middle East wars have not resolved anything in the 20th century or in the first decade of this century”

In other words, the man is as extreme as…Barack Obama and Bibi Netanyahu!

Oh, did I tell you that al-Marayati’s support for the two-state solution is not mentioned in the smear campaign.

And now, this morning, J Street is putting the kibosh on the poets. JTA reports:

J Street nixes poetry session over speaker’s remarks

WASHINGTON (JTA) — J Street canceled a poetry session at its upcoming conference after the revelation of controversial remarks by one of the scheduled participants.

Monday’s decision comes a few days after some conservative Web sites critical of J Street posted examples of the work of Josh Healey, a scheduled speaker at the poetry session.

In one poem, Healey wonders whether “the chosen people” have been “chosen to recreate our own history, merely reversing the roles with the script now reading that we’re the ones writing numbers on the wrists of babies born in the ghetto called Gaza?”

Also, Healey talks in a video about showing solidarity with those protesting other causes, saying that for his friends, “Anne Frank is Matthew Shepard” and “Guantanamo is Auschwitz.”

“As J Street is critical of the use and abuse of Holocaust imagery and metaphors by politicians and pundits on the right, it would be inappropriate for us to feature poets at our conference whose poetry has used such imagery in the past and might also be offensive to some conference participants,” said J Street executive director Jeremy Ben-Ami.

It’s not clear that J Street actually has a policy regarding speakers and their right to use – in creative pieces- the Holocaust to describe the treatment of Palestinians, or if J Street actually has made much of a point of criticizing the frequent use of Nazi imagery by the right-wing to describe liberals and Israel critics (so well documented by Glenn Greenwald. ) Nonetheless, the seemingly quick decision to yield to pressure regarding something-a-poet-once-said-in-a-poem-at-another-event-about-his-experience-of-the-Holocaust lands J Street squarely in the realm of retro thought-police like the Anti-Defamation League. We’re pretty confident that’s a place that many of J Street’s supporters would not like them to be.

J Street should be lauded for figuring out a way to broaden the field for Israeli-Palestinian bloggers at their conference next week by giving Richard Silverstein and Jerry Haber physical space to hold a completely independent session with some of the best-known bloggers on the topic: Monday, October 26, from 12:30-2:00pm at the McPhearson Square room in the Grand Hyatt. Muzzlewatch’s Sydney Levy will be among those presenting and touching on this and other important topics.

_ Cecilie Surasky

Goodbye Chas Freeman- how dumb do they think we are?

In the immediate aftermath of Chas Freeman’s decision to step down from consideration as top intelligence analyst, there is a lot of finger-pointing about who is to blame.

There is no doubt that there was a campaign led by former AIPAC operative Steve Rosen to discredit Freeman because of reasonable statements he has made about Israel and US foreign policy.  Rosen is a man, mind you, soon going to trial for spying. In fact, Max Blumenthal’s excellent piece on Rosen’s bullying tactics uncovered this juicy tidbit:

The one-time power broker suddenly became persona non grata on Capitol Hill. In 2007, Rosen announced a new mission to The Forward’s Nathan Guttman: avenging “the strong anti-Israel sentiment among individuals in America’s intelligence community, which he believes is what led to the investigation against him in the first place.”

Blumenthal also looked under the rock to find this other AIPAC tie to the campaign:

Spencer Ackerman, a national-security reporter for the Washington Independent, first reported the rumors. “Reporter friends of mine have told me that AIPAC has been shopping oppo research on Freeman around,” Ackerman wrote on March 5.

Writers like The Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg, The New Republic’s Marty Peretz, Rich Lowery at The National Review and The Weekly Standard’s Michael Goldfarb, happily joined in and within minutes, the anti-Freeman chorus was singing in tune.

But it is also true that the campaign against him started gaining ground in Congress when additional concerns surfaced regarding his financial relationships with Saudi Arabia and China. Despite Freeman’s statement to the contrary, many will insist to the bitter end that he was taken down, not by his Israel politics, but by these other concerns:

“This was not about Israel, it was about a revolving door through which Freeman rotated and was paid handsomely,” said Rep. Steve Israel (D-N.Y.), after Freeman withdrew his name from consideration on Tuesday. The New York congressman was referring to the idea of the former ambassador to Saudi Arabia going from serving the U.S. government, to being paid by foreign governments and then returning to government service.

“There was a steady revelation of financial conflicts of interest involving foreign powers that were troubling,” said Rep. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.), who along with Israel, led the opposition in Congress. “If it had simply been a dispute about Middle East policy, he would have survived.”

But the reasoning is false. And its untrue.  Somebody started the pile-on and as conservative journalist Andrew Sullivan, Max Blumenthal and others have identified, it’s clear who it was. Not people concerned about financial ties of public servants, or as MJ Rosenberg points out, people who give 2 cents about human rights, but rather those concerned with protecting the terrible status quo of unconditional US support for Israel–even when Israel shoots itself and everyone else in the foot time and time again. Others may, thankfully, have authentic concerns about human rights in China and Saudi Arabia, but they did not create this campaign.

Further, Freeman himself blamed the Israel Lobby in no uncertain terms, which means that he stepped down, clearly devastated by the personal attacks and smears about his relationship to Israel, exactly as he was meant to. This is the goal of intimidation through these full throttle attacks- just ask Jimmy Carter, or Archbishop Tutu or Bill Moyers for heaven’s sake. Even if a former Nobel-prize winning president can survive the onslaught, as painful as it has personally been for Carter, the lesson to the rest of us is clear. Don’t even try.

From Freeman’s statement:

The tactics of the Israel Lobby plumb the depths of dishonor and indecency and include character assassination, selective misquotation, the willful distortion of the record, the fabrication of falsehoods, and an utter disregard for the truth. The aim of this Lobby is control of the policy process through the exercise of a veto over the appointment of people who dispute the wisdom of its views, the substitution of political correctness for analysis, and the exclusion of any and all options for decision by Americans and our government other than those that it favors.”

This has been a litmus test to see if a new order of reality-based policymakers has once and for all moved back to DC after the last very long exile. The answer, for the time being, isn’t very pretty. It’s not just the Palestinians who are the most obvious losers. It’s certainly the US, but also Israel.