Being a Republican Jew means never having to say you’re sorry

— by Steve Sheffey

They were wrong about the Republicans they told us to support who are leading the fight against gun control, wrong about President Obama and Israel, and wrong about Chuck Hagel. But don’t hold your breaths waiting for apologies from the Emergency Committee for Israel, the Republican Jewish Coalition, Protect Our Heritage PAC, and like-minded right-wing organizations.

More after the jump.
During Chuck Hagel’s confirmation hearings, we were deluged with nonsense from the Emergency Committee for Israel, the Republican Jewish Coalition, Protect Our Heritage PAC and like-minded right-wing groups telling us how terrible Chuck Hagel would be for Israel.

And what happened? After his confirmation, Hagel issued a statement firmly reiterating our support for Israel and our commitment to stopping Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. Then Hagel went to Israel and finalized “a huge arms deal with Israel… under which Israel will for the first time be permitted to purchase US aerial refueling planes and other ultra-sophisticated military equipment that could prove vital to any Israeli strike against Iran’s nuclear facilities.”

The Times of Israel reported that

Hagel stressed repeatedly that Israel has a sovereign right to decide for itself whether it must attack Iran. He made no mention of the possibility that an Israeli attack would draw the U.S. into the conflict and lead to a wider regional war.

“Israel will make the decision that Israel must make to protect itself, to defend itself,” Hagel said as he began a weeklong tour of the Middle East.

And what do we now hear from our right-wing friends about Hagel? Crickets. In a brilliant must-read article, Chemi Shalev concludes that

Hagel’s critics were wrong…they intentionally inflated some possibly objectionable remarks made by Hagel during a long career…they subjected him to a callous and vicious campaign of defamation and character assassination for cynical political reasons [and] they were ready, willing and able to destroy Hagel’s reputation in order to advance their political agenda and to vindicate the exact same kind of malicious vendetta that they had waged against Obama during the presidential election campaign.

But that can’t possibly be true, because by now Hagel’s critics would have owned up to their mistake and profusely apologized, no? That would be the honorable thing to do, and as Antony famously said of Brutus and his friends, “So are they all, all honorable men.”

Let’s remember how wrong our Republican friends were about President Obama and Chuck Hagel when the next round of Republican attempts to divide us by using Israel as a partisan wedge issue comes in 2014.

Chuck Hagel was right about George W. Bush.

Hagel said that George W. Bush was the worst president since Herbert Hoover. The opening of the Bush Library (insert your own joke here) has prompted some people to re-evaluate Bush, but Hagel was right. Bush was terrible. It would take a separate newsletter to go over all of Bush’s misdeeds, but consider at least this from Steve Benen:

there were terrorist attacks during Bush/Cheney’s tenure — after 9/11 — that shouldn’t be ignored. Indeed, it’s a little tiresome to hear Republicans argue in effect, “Other than the deadly anthrax attacks, the attack against El Al ticket counter at LAX, the terrorist attacks against U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, Bush’s inability to capture those responsible for 9/11, waging an unnecessary war that inspired more terrorists, and the success terrorists had in exploiting Bush’s international unpopularity, the former president’s record on counter-terrorism was awesome.”

And finally, I’m not sure Republican pundits have fully thought through the wisdom of the “other than 9/11” argument.

Bush received an intelligence briefing on Aug. 6, 2001, at which he was handed a memo with an important headline: “Bin Laden Determined to Strike in U.S.”

Bush, however, was on a month-long vacation at the time. He heard the briefer out and replied, “All right. You’ve covered your ass, now.” A month later, al Qaeda killed 3,000 people.

And Bush’s record on Israel?

George W. Bush rebuked then-prime minister Ariel Sharon in 2003 by rescinding $289.5 million in loan guarantees for Israel as punishment for what Bush considered illegal settlement activity. In 2004, the Bush administration abstained rather than veto a UN resolution condemning Israel for its actions in Gaza during a military operation aimed at stopping terrorism and weapons smuggling.

Bush pressured Israel to allow Hamas to participate in Gaza elections, thus conferring on Hamas a legitimacy it could never have otherwise achieved. Perhaps worst of all, Bush made little progress in stopping Iran’s march toward nuclear weapons and he allowed North Korea to obtain nuclear weapons.

Rescinding loan guarantees, failing to veto anti-Israel UN resolutions, allowing enemy countries to obtain nuclear weapons–sounds just like what our Republican friends said Barack Obama would do if he were elected president. He didn’t. Bush did.

But if you don’t count what he did in office, George W. Bush was the greatest president in American history @LOLGOP.

Desperate Lies From So-Called “Emergency Committee for Israel”

— Sari Weintraub

Earlier this week, the so-called Emergency Committee for Israel (ECI) released a robocall featuring a “debate” that never occurred between President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. In reality, it was a mash-up of speeches and phrases from different times during the last three years.

ECI’s robocall was quickly debunked by JTA’s Ron Kampeas, and then it received “Four Pinocchios” from The Washington Post — in addition to a scathing review from Tablet.

We at NJDC thought that it would be fun to follow ECI’s absurd lead and create our own recording featuring ECI Board member Bill Kristol, but using an extended excerpt from a recent speech noting how he really feels about the President’s policies. Click here or on the audio player below to listen. Note: unlike ECI, we’re not subjecting unsuspecting Jewish households to this recording while they’re trying to eat dinner. And unlike ECI’s recording, Kristol said these things during the same speech. Go figure.    

Details after the jump
This week, The Washington Post fact-checked a robocall message sponsored by the so-called Emergency Committee for Israel and rated it “Four Pinocchios” for its blatantly misleading messaging. The content of the call is portrayed as a “debate” between President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, using snippets of dialogue from several different speeches over the last three years. The result was a call which the Washington Post Fact Checker Glenn Kessler called “one of the most ridiculous attacks” of this campaign:

In sum, the Emergency Committee has twisted the meaning of Obama’s and Netanyahu’s words. An Obama statement condemning Iran’s government is rendered into weak-kneed ‘respect’ for Iran, while a Netanyahu expression of U.S.-Israel solidarity on Iran is turned into a point of disagreement…

There is no excuse for such an Orwellian descent into falsehoods and misrepresentation.

Ron Kampeas at JTA first noted the deceiving robocall, saying that “the deceptions in this one are a little stunning,” and Tablet’s Adam Chandler agreed, calling ECI’s latest attempt to smear the President on Israel “sad” (emphasis added):

The first deception came when with the robocall’s ID, which led callers to think they were being personally phoned by ECI Founder Bill Kristol — the veritable dream scenario for maybe 14% of American Jews. But when callers actually answered there were treated to recordings of a fake ‘debate’ that never actually took place between President Obama and Prime Minister Netanyahu, using spliced quotes and half-uttered sentences…

The desired effect is to create hysteria among voters who may not exactly know what’s going on and mislead them into thinking that President Obama’s positions are not what nearly four years of his policy have reflected. The result is kind of sad.

It’s this season for cheap and dirty politics, yes, but this is actually a metaphor for what’s wrong with the conversation happening about Israel in American politics right now. It is a triumph that the issues surrounding Israel’s strength and security enjoy such widespread support among American leaders. But with efforts like these robocalls in mind, the farther away that Americans are from understanding what’s really driving the discourse on crucial issues like Jerusalem and Iran’s nuclear program, the greater the difficulty there will be in forging the necessary bipartisan support required to honestly confront these issues in the future, no matter who wins on Tuesday…

But rather than make substantive points, the ECI seems to prefer to act as if Americans are stupid. It doesn’t seem like an exaggeration to say that provoking this hysteria hurts Israel in the long run.

Attacks by Romney and ECI “Hollow” and “Galling”

— by Max Samis

Following another series of deliberately misleading ads from presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney and the Emergency Committee for Israel attacking President Barack Obama on his record with Israel, a number of prominent journalists have condemned the attacks as “misleading,” “hollow,” and “galling.”

Beth Reinhard of the National Journal took the Romney campaign to task for refusing to acknowledge “a more nuanced and honest” look at the Obama administration’s achievements and efforts in Israel. Reinhard wrote:

But Romney’s most recent ad is particularly galling because it seeks to suggest the president is anti-Israel or anti-Jewish. ‘Who shares your values?’ the spot demands, chiding Obama for failing to visit Israel during his first term and for ‘refusing’ to recognize Jerusalem as the capital. Romney should have touted his own recent trip to Israel-though it was light on policy details-and stopped there. But instead, he put money behind advertising that implies something sinister behind Obama’s policies, even though plenty of news outlets cried foul when he first started raising these issues.

Former Republican Presidents George H.W. Bush and Ronald Reagan never visited Israel during their presidencies, and George W. Bush didn’t go until the last year of his second term. And like his Democratic and Republican predecessors, Obama has described Jerusalem as the capital but signed waivers putting off moving the U.S. embassy because it would inflame the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Romney’s campaign clearly knows these facts but can’t be bothered with a more nuanced and honest criticism of the administration’s failure to broker peace in the Middle East. That’s a shame.

Douglas Bloomfield of The Jewish Week also found himself puzzled by Romney’s attack, noting that by the ad’s standards, the only presidents who had an acceptable record on Israel were Presidents Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton – both Democrats. Bloomfield wrote:

According to an ad just put out by the Romney campaign, only Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter qualify among the last six presidents over the past 35 years as leaders who ‘recognize the cherished relationship the U.S. has with Israel and stands with our allies.’

How can that be? Why do only these two Democrats make the grade?  Because Romney’s standard is a first term presidential visit to Israel, and that’s something Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, George W. Bush and Barack Obama (so far) never did.  Reagan didn’t go in his second term, either, and Bush 43 only went late in his second term.

Only Carter and Clinton visited Israel during their ‘first four years as president,’ something Romney has said he would do and castigates Obama for following the example of Reagan and the Bushes.

The 30-second ad also criticizes Obama for ‘refusing to recognize’ that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel.

All three Republican presidents – like all other Republican and Democratic presidents – also did not officially recognize Jerusalem as the capital of the Jewish state, which means moving the U.S. Embassy there from Tel Aviv. Any number of presidents have said they’d like to be able to do that, but the fact is none ever did it, and none will, as noted in this space earlier, until the Israelis and Palestinians make peace and agree on the location and borders of their capitals.

In checking both Romney and the ECI’s ads for honesty, The Washington Post’s Glenn Kessler assigned them two Pinocchios. Kessler went on to note that “the basic frame of the [ECI’s] ad is misleading,” and that Romney’s attack echoed a “hollow talking point.” Kessler wrote:

Only four of the last 11 presidents visited Israel during their presidency, and two — Nixon and George W. Bush — waited until their second term to make their first trip. In both cases, they visited in the last year of their presidencies (Nixon resigned because of the Watergate affair shortly after his trip.)

Only Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton, then, visited Israel in their first term. And of the last four presidents, two never visited Israel, one visited in his second term and one visited in his first term.

Thus Obama’s failure to travel to Israel thus far is not unusual at all.

The Emergency Committee ad also suggests that Obama has visited Arab countries rather than Israel. But the State Department records also demonstrate that every president who traveled to Israel had previously visited Egypt and Saudi Arabia.

The ad also incorrectly says Obama has ‘traveled all over the Middle East.’ Obama visited just Turkey and Iraq in April 2009, and Egypt and Saudi Arabia in June 2009. The stops in Iraq and Saudi Arabia were barely a few hours long – and Obama has not traveled at all to Middle East in the past three years. (Many of the images in the ad of Obama with Arab leaders are from international confabs held outside the Middle East…)

Meanwhile, the Romney ad also knocks Obama for not recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital ‘as president.’ As we noted last week, Obama, just like Romney, said Jerusalem was Israel’s capital during a 2008 trip there as a presidential candidate. But Obama, following the path set by previous presidents, has held off official recognition by the U.S. government pending the outcome of peace talks. Romney has never pledged that he would direct the State Department to immediately recognize Jerusalem as the Israeli capital, so thus far this is a hollow talking point.

Pollak is correct that the Emergency Committee ad does not directly say that Obama’s travel record was unusual for a president, but it certainly suggests that. While there may have been good political reasons for Obama to make a trip to Jerusalem, the basic frame of the ad is misleading, especially the claim that he’s traveled all through the Middle East at the expense of a visit to Israel.

The Romney ad also misleadingly suggests Obama’s failure to visit Israel is unusual since it asks, ‘Who shares your values?’

Obama may have failed the Woody Allen test, but his travel record to Israel is par for the course for American presidents.

Martin Indyk Calls ECI’s Misquote “Low and Odious”

— by Max Samis

Time and time again, the Emergency Committee For Israel has launched partisan attacks that range anywhere from disingenuous to blatantly false. Now, their latest advertisement has been attacked by one of the individuals it quoted. Martin Indyk, the former Ambassador to Israel during the Clinton administration, told Alexander Burns of Politico that ECI took his words “completely out of context” in what he deemed a “low and odious” political ploy.

Burns wrote:

The Emergency Committee for Israel placed ads in Jewish newspapers this week accusing Obama of being a poor friend to Israel. The ad features several critical quotes, including this one from Indyk: ‘From his first day in the White House, he put the Middle East at the top of his political agenda. Unfortunately for him, his personal involvement only made things worse.’

Indyk, now at the Brookings Institution, says the newspaper ad is not an accurate representation of his view of the Obama administration’s Israel policy.

‘First of all, my words are taken completely out of context. I’m voting for Obama, and I hope he gets reelected. It’s outrageous to me that my words would be used in an ad to try and change Jewish voters,’ he said in an interview. ‘I don’t think there’s any chance it’ll work, but it’s a low and odious attempt to twist some words for the purpose of politicizing an analysis I was doing.’

‘The reality,’ he continued, ‘is that George W. Bush and Bill Clinton also got involved and made matters worse. And I too got involved and made matters worse.”

The former diplomat pointed to a number of Obama administration measures supporting Israel – including military aid and cooperation on covert actions against Iran – and concluded: ‘Anybody looking at the facts would judge him to have fulfilled his commitment to support Israel’s security.’

Indyk’s office also released a statement to Teisha Bader of Shalom TV:

I am deeply disappointed that my analysis of President Obama’s Middle East policy, as outlined in my recent book, Bending History: Barack Obama’s Foreign Policy, has been distorted for partisan political purposes. President Obama has made mistakes, just like others who have tried and failed to make peace in the Middle East. (I include myself in that category.) But the President has been true to his promise of doing everything possible to ensure Israel’s security and he deserves high praise for that.

ECI Supports Romney Not Israel

— by David A. Harris

The motivation behind the so-called Emergency Committee for Israel’s newest ad can be summed up by its last line’s inclusion of ‘President Mitt Romney.’ If their previous behavior — including one of their founders appearing at a Romney fundraising retreat — wasn’t enough to show that their focus is only about electing a Republican president, then their cover is certainly blown today. ECI is not concerned with supporting Israel or adhering to the long-standing norms of the pro-Israel community. The Emergency Committee for Israel is a fraud — plain and simple.

What’s more, ECI’s top leader William Kristol publicly said recently, ‘I’m happy to sit here and agree with President Obama to a considerable degree’ about Israel — further evidence of the cynicism of their campaign to elect a Republican. And when it comes to Jerusalem, the position they’re criticizing is one carried out of course by the Bush Administration, and administrations before it as well. Given their long history of lying, ECI’s ads should be rejected by networks and ignored by voters.

Emergency Committee for Israel: The Emperor Has No Clothes

— by David A. Harris

Republicans are spending a great deal of cash this election cycle attacking President Barack Obama in the Jewish community by fibbing about his powerful support for the U.S.-Israel relationship, and smearing his unprecedented efforts to stop Iran’s drive towards a nuclear weapon.

Why? Because they know that venturing into domestic issues is a non-starter for the vast majority of Jews, even if what they’re saying regarding the Middle East isn’t true. Republican Jewish groups and the so-called “Emergency Committee for Israel” (ECI) have been at the vanguard of this effort, with ECI even forming a Super PAC related to their non-profit organization.

All along, observers might have assumed that the leaders of these efforts at least believed what they were selling, facts be damned. But now we know better. Now we know that they’re just trying to get their guy elected, and they don’t even believe their own arguments; we know this based on their own public statements.

A co-leader of ECI, the well-known conservative William Kristol, recently spoke in New   York at a debate in front of a Jewish crowd. Given ECI’s history up to the present day of unfairly lambasting the president’s strong Israel policy, Kristol surely came out swinging at the president, right? Hardly. The Israeli paper Haaretz reported that Kristol said Obama’s “policies today resemble those of his predecessors Bill Clinton and George W. Bush.” What? “I am happy to agree with Obama to a considerable degree,” Kristol added. And his take on the Israel policy differences between Obama and Romney? “Not that great.”

Did Kristol try to walk-back his hour-long moment of truth? Of course. But I don’t know how you unring that bell. My question is, given his confession, will ECI stop viciously and falsely attacking the president as being somehow virulently anti-Israel — attacks which have been condemned by the nonpartisan mainstream of the American Jewish community?

At long last, we can see that this emperor — Bill Kristol, and ECI — have no clothes.

Originally published in Politico.

“Emergency Committee for Israel” Treats Truth Like a Punching Bag


A response to ads placed by the so-called “Emergency Committee for Israel” in major American newspapers today.

— by Marc R. Stanley and David A. Harris

Why does the “Emergency Committee for Israel” treat the truth like a punching bag? Why do they spread fictions and smears about President Barack Obama and his powerfully pro-Israel record? The answer is simple; because they are far-right Republican partisans. When members of their own party repeatedly suggest that foreign aid should ‘start at zero’ and then make no mention of the 10-year Memorandum of Understanding between Israel and the U.S., they’re silent as can be. When 100 percent of House Republicans repeatedly side with business over strengthening Iran sanctions, they’re nowhere to be found. But they have plenty of cash on hand to spread myths about this President, and to shamefully turn support for Israel into a partisan football.

They have been called out by mass media for their lies and innuendo, and by non-partisan Jewish organizations trying to shame them towards a better path. But the sad truth is that they’re more committed to hurting this President than they are to helping the U.S.-Israel relationship, and that’s reprehensible.

More information on ECI’s false attacks follows the jump.

Watch live streaming video from sabanforum2011 at livestream.com

ECI: Wrong on Panetta.

Fact: Defense Secretary Leon Panetta delivered a staunchly pro-Israel address recently at the Saban Center. He:

  • Reaffirmed this Administration’s iron-clad commitment to Israel’s security, and detailed the many steps-such as Iron Dome-this Administration has taken;
  • Emphasized that all options remain on the table for preventing a nuclear-armed Iran;
  • Discussed how “President Obama has stood steadfastly in the way” of efforts to delegitimize Israel at the United Nations; and
  • Expressed strong opposition to cutting foreign aid.

ECI: Wrong on the UN.

Fact: President Obama and his Administration have a perfect voting record at the United Nations, proactively defending Israel’s legitimacy at the UN. No other President since 1967 has a perfect voting record.

ECI: Wrong on Sarkozy and UNESCO.

Fact: The President used his time with Sarkozy to make the case to the world to place “unprecedented” pressure on Iran, and-behind the scenes-to argue to Sarkozy himself that he was wrong not to support the President and the Administration in firmly rejecting Palestinian efforts to gain membership in UNESCO. The President instructed the Administration to condemn UNESCO’s acceptance of Palestinian membership immediately, resulting in the withdrawal of one-fifth of UNESCO’s funding from the U.S.

ECI: Wrong on Clinton.

Fact: Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, in an off-the-record and closed-door discussion with friends at the Saban Center, is reported to have voiced concern over Israeli legislation limiting foreign funding of Israel’s non-governmental organizations, and regarding women’s rights in Israel. In fact, leadership throughout the American Jewish community share precisely the same concern regarding pending legislation in Israel, and both Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Peres have spoken this week about the importance of complete women’s equality in Israel.

ECI: Wrong on making Israel a partisan political football.

Fact: In truth, as NJDC Chair Marc Stanley argued in The Hill</a> last week, ECI is sadly nothing more than a GOP advocacy organization. The American Jewish Committee and the Anti-Defamation League, two major American Jewish non-partisan organizations, recently offered a “unity pledge” to help prevent this issue from becoming partisan; ECI notably, angrily refused to sign. The Forward reported in September about the criticisms leveled at ECI from many non-partisan pro-Israel advocates after ECI’s last dangerous ad. The American Jewish Committee in particular called their previous ad “highly objectionable.” The Forward has independently editorialized that each ECI “claim is either an outright falsehood or one that irresponsibly distorts the truth.” ECI puts partisanship above the U.S.-Israel relationship, and today’s ad proves it yet again.

ECI: Wrong on President Obama.

Fact: This President has a stellar pro-Israel record; just ask Prime Minister Netanyahu. This President doesn’t start foreign aid at zero; he has lifted aid to Israel to unprecedented levels. He’s gotten the funding for the Iron Dome missile defense system that’s saving Israeli lives today. He has a perfect voting record at the UN, defending Israel’s legitimacy there and around the world. He personally intervened to save the lives of Israeli diplomats in Cairo. He has restored Israel’s Qualitative Military Edge which eroded during the previous Administration. He secretly got Israel the bunker-busting bombs it needed. He has ordered the largest-ever U.S.-Israel joint military operation (to occur in 2012). He has built a global coalition supporting withering sanctions against Iran.

The list goes on and on.