Romney Affinity Group Led by Iran Sanctions Foes, Israel Critics

— by David Streeter

BuzzFeed reported that Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney is touting the support of Iran sanctions opponents as well as individuals with questionable Israel records. BuzzFeed reported:

[O]n the roster is George Salem, an advisor to global lobbying firm DLA Piper who has recently been involved in bitter infighting in Washington’s pro-Palestinian community, pushing for a more confrontational stance toward Israel….

Salem was at the heart of a dispute last year inside the organization, in which, according to an ally’s account, he pressed for the group to support the Palestinian pursuit of statehood before the United Nations, a move Israel feared and that the United States openly opposed….

Pro-Israel Democrats, however, complained to BuzzFeed Thursday that Romney was paying no political price for associating him with Israel critics at a time when Obama has been pounded constantly on alleged breaches of faith with the Jewish State.

‘I’m not saying all these individuals are anti-Israel, but if this were the other way around, that’s exactly how they’d be portrayed,’ said Democratic strategist Aaron Keyak, a veteran of the partisan Israel wars, of the list. ‘There would be a breaking [Republican Jewish Committee] release and a big bold headline on Drudge, Free Beacon, Weekly Standard, and Fox News: “Obama’s Anti-Israel Kitchen Cabinet.” Instead — silence.’…

‘There’s nothing wrong fundamentally with having an Arab-American group,’ said David Harris, president of the National Jewish Democratic Council. ‘But I’m sure the Obama folks would be pilloried if they put out any affinity group led by individuals who were deeply opposed in principle to Iran sanctions, for example,’ he said, referring to Rep. Justin Amash, a libertarian and ally of Rep. Ron Paul who voted against the sanctions.

‘To say that there’s a double standard here is putting it mildly,’ Harris said.

Other pro-Israel activists were agitated but declined to be quoted criticizing Romney.

‘The fact that the Romney folks have an anti-Israel activist like George Salem and a guy like Grover Norquist, who has been widely criticized, including by Republican members of congress, for long standing ties to terrorists and supporters of terrorists groups, affiliated with their campaign is pretty troubling,’ said one official with a Jewish organization. ‘If this were the Obama campaign, you can only imagine the howls of outrage that we would be hearing from Conservatives — and rightly so.’

Salem’s role produced particular complaints, in part because of his role in connecting President George W. Bush with Arab American leaders who were later pushed well out of the political mainstream. Salem has served as a lawyer for the Holy Land Foundation, a group with ties to Hamas, which President Bush shut down in 2001, and has been the target of at-times intense intra-party criticism since then.

This BuzzFeed report is in addition to the well known relationship between Romney and Israel-challenged former New Hampshire Governor and White House Chief of Staff John Sununu. Sununu — who has a questionable record on Israel — is a top Romney campaign surrogate and was one of the individuals Romney chose to formally nominate him during the Republican National Convention.

JTA’s Ron Kampeas also reported on this story and noted:

Fun related fact: Amash’s opponent, Steve Pestka, is a conservative Jewish Democrat who says he is within striking distance of unseating Amash.