SHAFAQNA – Pro-Israel activism in the United States has historically served as a tool to silence dissent and criticism of the ongoing Israeli occupation of historical Palestine.
A series of leaked emails obtained by The Intercept provide some context to the decision of powerful Democratic think tank Center for American Progress (CAP) to host Israeli prime minster Benjamin Netanyahu on 9 November. Throughout Obama’s presidency, Netanyahu has been posturing in opposition and outright disinterest to the White House’s foreign policy stance as it relates to Israel–despite the U.S. acting as a major military funder and U.N. ally.
The emails reveal that Neera Tanden, president of Center for American Progress, has caved to pressure by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) alleging “anti-Israel” bias in CAP’s writings, which include, among other things the influential left-wing blog Thinkprogress.
Spurned staffers in the past have spoken out against CAP’s allegiance to special interest groups and corporate backers. Former foreign policy analyst at CAP Matt Duss told the Huffington Post “the idea that CAP would agree to give him bipartisan cover is really disappointing,” adding “this is someone who is an enemy of the progressive agenda, who has targeted Israeli human rights organizations throughout his term, and was re-elected on the back of blatant anti-Arab race-baiting.”
But the emails reveal further the extent to which CAP president Tanden has censored the work of her organization as it relates to Israel. In a January 2012 email conversation with Judd Legum, the editor of Thinkprogress, Tanden states, “[Ann Lewis] basically said we’re going to have a problem until our blog seems like it’s not anti-Israel. I tried to discuss Israel, v. the Israeli govt.’s policies. But she for one was not really buying it.” Lewis was a representative of Hillary Clinton’s 2008 Jewish Matters campaign. She also sits on the board of The Israel Project, a group which critics allege serves the interest of West Bank settlers by stoking fears of American Jews and politicians.
For a so-called progressive blog and think tank to be taking criticism from a group that J-Street calls a “right wing media advocacy group” is unfathomable. A 2010 op-ed by Matt Duss in the Jewish Daily Forward claims The Israel Project is a group aimed at highlighting the worst parts of Muslim society.
The connections between CAP, Tanden and 2016 presidential candidate Hillary Clinton are deeply political as well as financial, all existing in an environment that takes values from donors. When pushed by pro-Israel groups, these bastions of the American left inevitably cave.
And while it is clear that Netanyahu is making a political calculation by lobbying for speaking time at CAP–a move intended to restore some credibility among the left–Hillary Clinton has brazenly stated her uncritical allegiance to the Israeli government, most recently in an op-ed in the Jewish Daily Forward entitled “How I would reaffirm the unbreakable bond with Israel–and Benjamin Netanyahu.”
Clinton elaborates on the recent escalations in Israel and the West Bank, saying “This violence must not be allowed to continue. It needs to stop immediately, and Israelis and Palestinians must move back toward the path of peaceful reconciliation. All parties and the international community should condemn any political and religious leader who stokes tensions with irresponsible rhetoric. Many of us have seen the video of a cleric encouraging worshippers to stab Jews as he waves a knife in the air. This incitement needs to end, period.”
Yet she fails to mention anywhere in the op-ed the ongoing Israeli occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem, as well as the harsh blockade on Gaza.
The situation is clear. Clinton is seeking the Democratic nomination and the at least $2 billion Super PAC donations from wealthy pro-Israel backers up for grabs.
Whether or not she tacitly supports the occupation–and that remains to be seen–she is being pushed by powerful moneyed interests. Just as The Intercept leak of CAP emails shows, the so-called progressive base has been forced to take a firmer stance on Israel-Palestine, or not talk about it at all.