Yesterday, Politico published an article written by Ben Smith purporting to highlight a divide on the left on Middle East policy. The story quoted sources — including former AIPAC spokesman Josh Block — saying that bloggers here at the Center for American Progress are “borderline anti-Semitic” and “anti-Israel.” In the process, Politico also cherry-picked a few posts out of hundreds ThinkProgress has written on Middle East issues to back up its case. Yet Politico misrepresented the posts in question and CAP’s wider Middle East positions.
Salon’s Justin Elliott reports today that Block sent out an email to a neoconservative journalist list-serv called “The Freedom Community” urging members to read and “amplify” Politico’s story, promoting it because in his view it shows that CAP bloggers are “anti-Israel” and vilify “pro-Israel Americans, Jews, Members of Congress, and pretty much anyone who thinks Iran with nuke is a problem, or supports a strong US-Israe [sic] relationship.” He said of our writing, “These are the words of anti-Semites, not Democratic political players.” Block also said in the email — without offering any evidence — that we engage in “hate speech.” (CAP and its affiliated bloggers are pro-Israel, support a strong U.S.-Israeli relationship, believe Iran with a nuclear weapon is a serious problem and do not vilify Jews). While it’s unclear who is on this list-serv, Jen Rubin at the Washington Post, Commentary and the Weekly Standard amplified the Politico article shortly after it was published.
Block also accompanied his email with an extensive 3,000 word opposition research document against ThinkProgress bloggers — which appears to have been completed on Nov. 8 — that contains a number of ad-hominem attacks against us without any evidence backing up those attacks. Instead, Block simply links to dozens of previous posts this blog has written on the Middle East. Some examples:
The CAP writers are not above smearing Democratic politicians and mainstream journalists for being Israel-firsters, for carrying AIPAC’s water, etc. But the personal attacks speak to personal unprofessionalism and borderline libel, while the substantive stuff exposes how far out of the mainstream CAP’s work has actually gotten.
Across everything, there’s a weird combination of sneering recklessness and smug childishness that underlies a lot of their rhetoric. On the recklessness side, there’s a degree to which they really don’t know how shrill they sound and how far off the reservation they’ve strayed. It’s almost as if, in talking to each other, it’s now just natural to talk about Jewish money in politics, about treasonous politicians, etc.
And on Twitter today, Ben Smith acknowledged that he accepted this research document before his article was published yesterday:
Salon’s Elliott notes that Block is a go-to for reporters looking for a right-wing view on the Middle East and that he now is a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute and also a partner in a lobbying and PR firm, Davis-Block. “It’s not clear,” Elliott adds, “whether Block is shopping the oppo trove on progressive bloggers as a personal project or as part of work for a client.”