Obama-Linked, Soros-Sponsored Think Tank Accused of Conjuring ‘Toxic Anti-Jewish Prejudices’
The Center for American Progress (CAP), a leftist think tank with close ties to billionaire George Soros the Obama administration, is under fire for alleged anti-Semitism. A number of Jewish organizations are in a back-and-forth with the group, as critics claim that CAP staff members have a history of using anti-Israel language.
The Washington Post has more regarding what, exactly, sparked these groups’ concerns:
Among the points of contention are Twitter posts by one CAP writer on his personal account referring to “Israel-firsters.” Some experts say the phrase has roots in the anti-Semitic charge that American Jews are more loyal to a foreign country, Israel, than to the United States. In another case, a staffer described a U.S. senator as showing more fealty to the prime U.S. pro-Israel lobby, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, than to his own constituents. The first writer has since left the staff.
But the critics also point to writings on the CAP Web site, where staffers have suggested that AIPAC was pushing the United States toward war with Iran and likened Israel’s treatment of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip to the policies of the segregated American South.
The author of the “Israel-firster” tweets was Zaid Jilani, who is described as a “Senior Reporter/Blogger for ThinkProgress.org at the Center for American Progress Action Fund.” Jilani has reportedly left the organization in recent days to accept a new job outside of CAP.
According to the Jerusalem Post, the group’s Middle East Progress Director Matt Duss, wrote back in 2010 that “the entire Israeli occupation” of the Gaza Strip is “a moral abomination.” He compared this “abomination” to the Jim Crow South in the United States. He wrote:
Greater international attention and sympathy to the plight of Palestinians suffering under the Israeli-Egyptian- (and U.S.) enforced siege of Hamas-ruled Gaza is precisely what Israeli authorities were hoping to avoid. [...]
Like segregation in the American South, the siege of Gaza (and the entire Israeli occupation, for that matter) is a moral abomination that should be intolerable to anyone claiming progressive values. It’s sad that it should require the deaths of non-Palestinians to finally shake the international community from apathy and inaction, but, as with the tragic murders of Goodman, Chaney, and Schwerner, if it contributes to ending the situation then that’s a positive outcome.
In August, there was also a ThinkProgress post by Eli Clifton entitled, “AIPAC’s Iran Strategy On Sanctions Mirrors Run-Up To Iraq War Tactics” that drew concern. The post concluded, “It would appear that AIPAC is now using the same escalating measures against Iran that were used before the invasion of Iraq.” While critics reacted, CAP responded, via an update on the same post, saying, “we are not reporting on whether AIPAC lobbied for the Iraq war.”
As CAP has worked to temper criticism, some alleged internal discussion and new social media policy at the think tank seem to indicate a recognition that these statements and comments are, indeed, problematic. The Jerusalem Post reports:
The Jerusalem Post exclusively obtained an e-mail in January in which [Faiz Shakir, editor-in-chief of ThinkProgress] 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.
Alana Goodman, the assistant online editor of Commentary, wrote an article in the New York Post on Thursday that claims Shakir met for coffee with Obama just six days after CAP was accused of anti-Semitism. This, at the least, seems to corroborate the close-knit nature that exists between the think tank and the administration.
At a time when President Obama is working diligently to court the Jewish vote and following questions over how strongly the administration truly supports Israel, these developments are troubling.
Last week, Jarrod Bernstein, the White House liaison with the Jewish community, met with Rabbi Abraham Cooper, the associate dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, to discuss worries over CAP’s perceived anti-Israeli sentiment (the Center has said that the CAP writers “are guilty of dangerous political libels resonating with historic and toxic anti-Jewish prejudices.”).
During their discussion, Bernstein apparently called the situation “troubling” and, according to the Post, said “that [the attitude toward Israel at the think tank] is not this administration.” Cooper dubbed the language “corrosive and unacceptable.”
The Anti-Defamation League chimed in as well, with national director Abraham Foxman calling statements from some CAP staffers “anti-Semitic and borderline anti-Semitic.”
In a response to the original Washington Post piece, CAP wrote:
We have a zero-tolerance policy on anti-Semitism. We have written critically about its continuing use in contemporary political debates, and we take any allegation of anti-Semitism extremely 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. That language never appeared in any CAP or ThinkProgress publication, and we have taken steps to ensure that all CAP staff maintain the highest standards in their communications even in their personal social media accounts.
While some CAP supporters agree with this defense and claiming that CAP has always been mainstream and pro-Israel, critics aren’t satisfied. Considering the group’s close relations with the Obama administration, this controversy isn’t likely to simmer in the immediate.
It’s important to note the strong ties that CAP has to Soros as well. According to the philanthropist’s web site, “George Soros was an initial donor to the Center for American Progress and he continues to support the organization through the Open Society Foundations.” He has given millions of dollars to both create and sustain the liberal think tank. We have reported on Soros’ contributions to the liberal Jewish group J Street in the past as well.
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