The Republican Jewish Coalition has released the latest in its series of ads that are making lots of Jewish Democrats mad. This one entitled “Barack Obama’s Advisors: Pro-Palestinian, Anti-Israel, Even Hostile to America,” attacks the Democratic nominee for his longtime relationship with Rev. Jeremiah Wright, as well as others with whom the group says Obama “surrounds” himself. (The RJC uses an expansive definition of “surrounds,” considering, for instance, one of the advisors named in the ad, Robert Malley, says he was never an adviser to the campaign and only offered informal advice.)
At last week’s National Jewish Democratic Council Washington Conference, former congressman and Obama campaign adviser Mel Levine charged that the RJC is “weakening Israel” and damaging the tradition of bipartisan support for the Jewish state with such advertisements.
“They are denigrating strong friends of Israel, starting with Barack Obama,” said Levine. “They are interested in tearing apart someone for purely partisan reasons. It is very harmful to Israel.”
Democrats were planning to fight back, though. Levine noted that the Obama campaign is distributing talking points to rebut some of the issues raised by the RJC, and others on the panel, entitled “Israel: Bipartisan Consensus or Partisan Wedge Issue,” suggested that there was nothing wrong with raising legitimate questions about McCain on the Middle East – his mixup of Sunni and Shiite Muslims earlier in the campaign, for instance – as long as it is done “respectfully.”
Ira Forman, NJDC executive director, drew a distinction between the RJC’s ads and the Democratic argument that the Bush administration had made Israel “less safe” – saying his party is not calling Republican friendship with Israel into question.
But RJC executive director Matt Brooks objected to the NJDC attacks, saying he was reminded of the “old adage” that “when there’s a bad set of facts, change the subject.”
“We’re not in any way trying to harm bipartisan support for Israel,” said Brooks, but arguing there is a “big difference between Sen. Obama and Sen. McCain, a lot of issues and ideas” that require “vigorous debate.”
“That is what a campaign is all about,” he said.