Response To The Simon Wiesenthal Center

For the third time in two weeks, the Washington Post’s Jennifer Rubin today authored a blog post calling CAP and ThinkProgress “anti-Semitic” and “anti-Israel.” Prompted by an inquiry from Rubin, the Simon Wiesenthal Center has regrettably joined in the attacks on us. In a press release, the Wiesenthal Center said we “are guilty of dangerous political libels resonating with historic and toxic anti-Jewish prejudices.” While calling for raising the level of discourse on the one hand, the Wiesenthal Center makes a number of unfounded allegations. Let’s review them.

The SWC writes, “recent attacks on the Simon Wiesenthal Center by the Center for American Progress (CAP)-associated bloggers on ‘the far-right Simon Wiesenthal Center, which purports to promote tolerance, [but] basically called Obama a Nazi’ for saying that Israel should return to the pre-1967 borders.”

But the SWC omits what we were responding to — the fact that SWC attacked President Obama, claiming he wants Israel to “return to 1967 ‘Auschwitz’ borders.” Here is the headline of their May press release:

SWC: Israel Should Reject a Return to 1967 ‘Auschwitz’ Borders

We found the reference to Auschwitz to be gratuitous and inflammatory in the context of President Obama’s address. Leaving aside whether one considers the 1967 lines to be defensible, the fact is that President Obama did not call for Israel to return to those lines, only that they should be the basis for negotiations. Back in May, we highlighted a number of baseless right-wing attacks on Obama for his proposition that “a lasting peace” between the Israelis and the Palestinians “will involve two states” and that “the borders of Israel and Palestine should be based on the 1967 lines.” Obama’s pronouncement wasn’t new; President Bush in 2005 endorsed a two-state solution with negotiations based on the post-1949 Armistice, pre-1967 borders.

Also in its press release today, the Wiesenthal Center suggested that ThinkProgress was out of bounds when we “articulated the view that it is ‘factually inaccurate’ to assume that ‘Iran has a nuclear weapons program’ — and, in any case, that the danger posed by that program is exaggerated for political purposes.” This is a misrepresentation of what we wrote.

The SWC is referring to a recent ThinkProgress post titled “Quinnipiac Poll Poses Factually Inaccurate Questions Assuming Iran Has A Nuke Weapons Program.” In this post, we took issue with the pollsters’ reference to the existence of “Iran’s nuclear weapons program” in polling questions and noted that that assertion — a determination that neither the International Atomic Energy Agency nor the White House has made — may have impacted the poll’s outcome. In fact, the Washington Post’s ombudsman recently addressed this issue and agreed, warning reporters and policy makers of “[g]etting ahead of the facts on” Iran’s nuclear program.

It is incorrect to assert that we do not take the threat of Iran’s nuclear program seriously. As we noted last week, the Iranian issue is a strong point of concern for us. While we support the Obama administration’s position of “no options off the table,” we do not believe that a military strike would achieve those goals, and we will continue to push back against overheated rhetoric calling for war with Iran.

The Wiesenthal Center does some great work on tolerance that we support. But an effort to build partnerships can and must begin with an understanding that we have shared goals. We’re happy to join in a common pledge of raising the level of discourse. Rejecting the outrageous charges of anti-Semitism made against us lodged by Jennifer Rubin would be a good start.