Republican U.S. Senate candidate in Wisconsin Tommy Thompson on Sunday said his opponent, Democratic congresswoman Tammy Baldwin is “anti-Jewish” and “anti-Israel.”
“Tammy Baldwin, her whole record is anti-Israel,” Thompson said at a press conference in Wauwatosa. “She voted for the first time for the sanctions three months ago because she knew she was running for the U.S. Senate. That is the lamest excuse I’ve ever heard.
“She’s anti-Israel, she’s anti-Jewish and she’s trying to now somehow obfuscate her views and her intentions,” the former governor added.
Thompson’s comments come on the heels of an attack ad released last week by the right-wing Emergency Committee for Israel, claiming Baldwin accused Israel of “war crimes” and said “terrorists who attacked Israel” are “innocent victims.”
Thompson didn’t provide any evidence to Baldwin’s purported anti-Semitism (her campaign pointed out that she recently spoke before a the Jewish Community Center in Whitefish Bay, WI). However, Thompson himself has a history with anti-Jewish rhetoric. In 2007 he was forced to apologize after saying that making money “is part of the Jewish tradition.”
“I just want to clarify something because I didn’t [by] any means want to infer or imply anything about Jews and finances and things,” he said, making his apology. “What I was referring to, ladies and gentlemen, is the accomplishments of the Jewish religion. You’ve been outstanding business people and I compliment you for that.”
But in a press release accompanying the ad, ECI headBill Kristol said Romney’s position on Jerusalem was even father to the right than anything the candidate has said:
Mitt Romney understands the meaning of Jerusalem, whole and free, the capital of Israel.
The division of Jerusalem is a key sticking point in the stalled peace process between the Israelis and Palestinians. While Israel annexed the whole city — a move the U.S. and international community don’t recognize — Palestinians claim East Jerusalem as the capital of a future Palestinian state. Campaigning in 2008, then-candidate Barack Obama dove into this territory by telling an audience that Jerusalem “must remain undivided,” but walked the statement back shortly thereafter.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, generally regarded as a hard-liner, has gone back and forth on the issue. He told PBS last year that, while he wanted Jerusalem to remain “united,” the city’s final status would only be decided “after a negotiation.” But earlier this year, Netanyahu said, “Jerusalem will remain forever the united capital of the State of Israel.”
If we want to maintain our role as a future broker in the (however presently dormant) “peace process,” we’re not going to make a move that will be read as a fait accompli on the final status of Jerusalem.
Rubin is (was) right, and some intrepid campaign reporter should ask Mitt Romney if he agrees with Kristol’s characterization of his position and whether Jerusalem’s division is, as Netanyahu has claimed before, on the table for negotiations.
At Romney’s luncheon with House Majority Leader Eric Cantor at the Creeks, supporters were asked to contribute or raise $25,000 per person for a VIP photo reception. Among the co-hosts were lobbyist Wayne Berman, a former bundler for George W. Bush, as well as financiers Lew Eisenberg and Daniel Loeb.
Loeb supported Obama’s first run for president, raising $200,000 for him in 2008. But, comparing Obama to an abusive spouse to the hedge-fund industry — “[Obama] really loves us and when he beats us, he doesn’t mean it,” he told friends in an e-mail — he turned away from Obama and began supporting partisan, right-wing causes.
The Emergency Committee for Israel (ECI) released a new ad today suggesting that the U.S. should immediately bomb Iran. Among those behind the ECI and its ad are the same people who pushed the U.S. into the Iraq war.
The ad from ECI, a group which aims to push pro-Israel voters away from President Obama and is headed up by Weekly Standard editor Bill Kristol, tells viewers in its new commercial that Obama is insufficiently committed to preventing Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon and concludes, “Now it’s time to act,” followed by an explosion. Watch it:
In Israel, meanwhile, a growing consensus has emerged among former top security officials that a military strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities would be counterproductive to Israeli interests. And a report last month suggests that the consensus opposing an Israeli attack on Iran extends all the way to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s defense chiefs. Read more
In a debate last night with Jeremy Ben Ami of the liberal pro-Israel group J Street, neoconservative don Bill Kristol told the audience in the New York synagogue that he had no problems with President Obama’s Israel policies. But just two months ago, a right-wing pro-Israel group Kristol heads rolled out the latest of its serial attacks on Obama’s policies toward Israel.
The Weekly Standard editor praised Obama and said the difference between Obama’s Israel policies and presumptive GOP nominee Mitt Romney’s “is not that great.” Kristol stated that he was “happy to agree with Obama to a considerable degree.” He went on:
I’ve been mostly supportive of the Obama administration in the last couple of years…
I think President Obama has moved sufficiently on these issues from the Cairo speech in 2009 to the AIPAC speech of two months ago, that the difference between the parties is less than it was.
Just two months ago — far from the “last couple years” Kristol has been “supportive” of Obama’s policies — the hedge fund-bankrolled ECI released a 30-minute anti-Obama online film, complete with ominous music. In the film, Kristol associateLiz Cheney says Obama attempted to “put distance” between the U.S. and Israel. Neocon pundit Charles Krauthammer says Obama “delegitimized” Israel, and the Foundation for Defense of Democracies’ Lee Smith said Obama’s “narrative fit [a] rejectionist and resentful narrative.”
This isn’t the first time ECI’s attacks on the Obama administration’s Israel policies have been revealed as disingenuous political maneuvers. Last May, ECI executive director Noah Pollak, commenting via Twitter, publicly praised Obama’s speech on the Middle East, but ECI later condemned the speech in an attack ad. When ThinkProgress revealed the hypocrisy, Kristol disowned the tweets in comments to the Washington Post’s Jennifer Rubin. Rubin added: “Kristol graciously avoided pointing out that while Pollak has the executive director title, the group is firmly under the control of Kristol and his two co-founders.”
With ECI “firmly under the control of Kristol,” and with Kristol now “happy to agree with Obama to a considerable degree” on Israel, will the organization lay off its right-wing attacks on the president? “We’re trying to decide,” Kristol told WNYC.
Here’s the video of Kristol’s comments from the debate:
Tensions are high today in Israel-Palestine as thousands of protesters are expected to participate in what organizers have billed a “Global March to Jerusalem.” Activists from neighboring countries will march to the Israeli border, according to organizers, to “demonstrate solidarity with Palestinians and to protect Jerusalem.”
The march coincides with Palestinian “Land Day,” which commemorates the 1976 protests against Israeli expropriation of Palestinian land, in which six Palestinian Israelis were killed and hundreds wounded by Israeli forces. Clashes have already occurred between Palestinian protesters and Israeli security forces inside the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem earlier today.
While the march was planned as “non-violent civil resistance,” the event has received legitimate criticism because of organizers’ condemnation of Israel as a “racist, Zionist state,” and because of the support it has received from groups like Hamas, Hezbollah, and the government of Iran. Critics note that the goal of some extremists is to create a crisis by provoking a violent Israeli response.
Unfortunately, some conservatives are also quite happy to encourage that violence. Noah Pollak, the executive director of the neoconservative Emergency Committee for Israel (ECI), tweeted his own preferences this morning:
Pollak also raised eyebrows last year when, after he praised President Obama’s May 19 speech calling for Israeli-Palestinian negotiations based on the 1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps, ECI turned around and attacked the president for the speech.
But while the far-right attacks Obama’s pro-Israel credentials, their sentiments aren’t shared by Israeli President Shimon Peres. Last night, Peres told Charlie Rose that Obama “is a great president and a great friend of Israel,” during an event at the 92nd Street Y in Manhattan. Security cooperation between the U.S. and Israel is “the best we’ve ever had,” said Peres.
And in an interview on Wednesday with The View’s Barbara Walters, Peres emphasized that “relations with Obama are in good shape. We have the highest respect for the president.” He went on to emphasize Obama’s security guarantees for the Jewish state:
PERES: The most important issue for Israel is our security. I think under President Obama we have the best relationship on the issue of security. Never were the security [...] needs better met than today under president Obama. This is a fact.
Watch the clip:
Indeed, as Peres indicates, Obama has been a firm ally of Israel and upheld security guarantees, but tensions in how to confront Iran’s alleged nuclear weapons program is a source of tension. While the Obama administration has committed to pursuing a diplomatic track to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netnanyahu characterized diplomatic outreach to Iran as a “trap,” in comments to the media in Ottawa. In an interview published today, Obama said that “all options are on the table” but emphasized that Iran can be deterred from pursuing nuclear weapons through diplomacy and sanctions.
Today, the Emergency Committee for Israel (headed by Gary Bauer, Bill Kristol, and Rachel Abrams) ran a full-page ad in the New York Times smearing the Center for American Progress as being “anti-Israel” and for purportedly espousing “bigotry and anti-Israel extremism.” As our readers are well aware, these are fabricated smears which completely misrepresent CAP’s established record of incisive analysis and fair, accurate and honest reporting on U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East and the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.
But it is the ECI that has consistently embracedpositions on Israel and the Middle East which are outside the mainstream. Don’t just take our word for it.
While the ECI is quick to casually throw around divisive language, it is much slower to condemn its own ties to ethnic and religious intolerance. In October, ECI board member Rachel Abramsraised eyebrows for calling Palestinian militants “savages,” “unmanned animals,” and “food for sharks,” in a blog post.
It should come as no great surprise that ECI would choose to join in on the coordinated smear campaign against ThinkProgress. Previously, ECI has taken out ads ripping Obama for treating “Israel like a punching bag.” The attempts to paint progressives as anti-Semitic or anti-Israel has found little traction outside of fringe groups like ECI. Indeed, the misinformation campaign against ThinkProgress was widely denounced by mainstream political voices and journalists:
David Harris, National Jewish Democratic Council: CAP’s views on Israel and Iran reflect “mainstream positions and concerns of the American Jewish community — and indeed of most Americans.” Washington Post, January 20, 2012
Truman National Security Project: “CAP’s official policy positions stand up well against this smear campaign and are aimed at ensuring a mainstream foreign policy that is strong and principled.” January 20, 2012
Joe Klein, Time Magazine: I’m not carrying water for CAP or Media Matters. I’ve disagreed with both in the past and both have criticized things I’ve written (although neither accused me of being a bigot). Calling them anti-Semitic is absurd, though. Calling David Petraeus anti-Semitic because he implied that Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territories made life more dangerous for U.S. troops in the region-well beyond absurd, since he was implying an obvious truth. TIME Magazine, January 19, 2012
Sarah Wildman, the Forward: “When anti-Semitism is falsely applied, we must also stand up and decry it as defamation, as character assault, as unjust.” The Forward, January 5, 2012
The most overblown response, though, came from right-wing don Bill Kristol. Speaking through a press release from the far-right-wing pressure group he heads, the Emergency Committee for Israel, Kristol attacked President Obama’s comments last weekend to Jewish donors that his administration’s security cooperation with Israel had reached new heights in the partnership. Kristol said:
Nobody believes President Obama when he claims, as he did last week, that he “has done more for the security of the state of Israel than any previous administration.” That’s because he hasn’t — and because President Obama and his administration keeps acting to weaken the security of the state of Israel.
The problem with Kristol’s statement, and one he seems to willfully ignore, is that there are at least a few people who don’t hold his stated opinion about the Obama administration’s work on Israel’s security, among them Israel’s leaders.
In a speech delivered to the American Israeli Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) national convention in May, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called American security cooperation with Israel during the Obama administration “unprecedented”:
Yesterday President Obama spoke about his ironclad commitment to Israel’s security. He rightly said that our security cooperation is unprecedented. He spoke of that commitment not just in front of AIPAC. He spoke about it in two speeches heard throughout the Arab world. And he has backed those words with deeds.
The furor eventually extended all the way to the Washington Post after the neoconservative Post blogger Jennifer Rubinretweeted Abrams’ post. The Post’s ombudsman Patrick Pexton, deluged with complaints, wrote that he was “disappointed” with Rubin’s retweet, adding that it “did damage to The Post and the credibility that keeps it afloat.” The Post’s opinion page editor Fred Hiatt said that Pexton “is entitled to his views,” and refused to comment further on the ombudsman’s post.
Pexton is indeed “entitled to his views.” And, it seems, one of them might be that there exists at the Washington Post a double standard on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. In a purported e-mail exchange with a reader, who posted the correspondence on an internet message board, Pexton wrote that he thought that if Rubin had retweeted a call to kill Israelis — instead of Palestinians — she would likely be fired from her job. The reader, who went by the name Joe Emersberger, wrote: “Simple question: if the rant had been directed against Israelis, do you think Rubin would have been fired by the Post?” Pexton, in the apparent exchange, wrote back:
Off the record, I think it’s quite possible. But the ombudsman does not hire or fire people here. I only comment.
Asked to confirm the authenticity of the e-mail correspondence, the Washington Post’s public relations department referred ThinkProgress to Pexton, who “operates independently.” Pexton didn’t deny the authenticity of the email and replied only by saying: “My blog post published Monday represents my full comments on this matter.” He hasn’t responded to a follow-up e-mail. Emersberger did not reply to an inquiry by press time. Pexton declared his comments “off the record,” but that confidence was broken by the apparent reader and the e-mails were made public.