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Newsweek: Clinton surrogates have been taking aim at Obama on Israel

The latest issue of Newsweek has an article by Michael Hirsh and Dan Ephron asserting that Clinton surrogates have been using Republican/conservative anti-Obama material to paint the Illinois senator as soft on Israel.

The comment seemed like a casual aside. Ann Lewis, a senior adviser to Hillary Clinton, was touting the New York senator’s strong support for Israel during a conference call in January with leaders of major American Jewish organizations. During the call, Lewis energetically contrasted Clinton’s pro-Israel credentials with those of Barack Obama. To make her point, she said that Obama’s “chief foreign-policy adviser” is Zbigniew Brzezinski, says one participant who would talk about the call only if he were not identified.

Brzezinski – the former national-security adviser to Jimmy Carter – is not Obama’s “chief foreign-policy adviser.” That is the job of a triumvirate who once worked for Bill Clinton: Anthony Lake, Susan Rice and Greg Craig. But Brzezinski, who tells NEWSWEEK he has advised Obama “only on occasion,” has a reputation that is close to toxic in the American Jewish community. “When Brzezinski’s name appears on an advisory list, that’s a red flag right away,” says an influential American Jewish leader who did not want to sour relations with the Obama campaign. Many American Jews mistrust Brzezinski because he endorsed a 2006 article, later a book, called “The Israel Lobby,” which blames many U.S. foreign-policy problems on Washington’s ties to Israel.

Lewis’s aside is not an isolated incident. (She did not respond to a request for comment.) As the race between Clinton and Obama has sharpened in recent months, other Clinton campaign operatives have sent around negative material about Obama’s relations with Israel, according to e-mails obtained by NEWSWEEK. In addition to Brzezinski, the e-mails attack Obama advisers such as Rob Malley, a former Clinton negotiator at the 2000 Camp David talks who has since written articles sympathetic to the Palestinian point of view, and they raise questions about Obama’s relationship with the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, the former pastor at Obama’s Trinity Church in Chicago. Wright has criticized Israel, and Trumpet, a publication run by his daughter, gave an award for “greatness” to Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan, who once called Judaism a “bloodsucking religion.” (Obama disagreed with bestowing the award.)

Aides to Obama say they have little evidence of an organized Clinton plan to turn Jewish voters away from him. (Clinton spokesman Howard Wolfson says he has no comment.)

Hirsh and Ephron report on the case of Daphna Ziman, a longtime friend of Hillary Clinton’s who circulated an anti-Obama press release issued by the Republican Jewish Coalition (according to Newsweek, Ziman says “the campaign had nothing to do with” her e-mail). They also tell of Annie Totah, a “Clinton finance official,” who the day before the Super Tuesday primaries passed along “a critical essay by Ed Lasky, a conservative blogger whose own anti-Obama e-mails have circulated in the U.S. Jewish community.”

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