Forman takes on Hasner and Walt (CORRECTED)


Ira Forman is attacking both a top Jewish Republican officeholder in Florida and a critic of pro-Israel activists in a post today at TPMCafe. In an article entitled "The Dumbing Down of American Politics," the National Jewish Democratic Council executive director first takes on Republican Adam Hasner, the Florida House Majority Leader, for a piece at the American Thinker site stating that the pro-Israel community does not have "an ally in the White House." Forman correctly notes that the piece is rife has a number of falsehoods and distortions, and lays out a few of them:

Hasner begins by telling us that the administration shares the anti-Israel perspective of the two academics Stephen Walt and John Mersheimer. This statement is particularly comical because on the very day Hasner’s article was published, Stephen Walt publicly chastised the Obama administration for kowtowing to the "Israel Lobby."

Hasner also informs us that Obama has made an "allocation of $20 million dollars of taxpayer money to resettling [sic] Palestinians with ties to Hamas in the United States." This is a falsehood. He is repeating the reckless charges of a right-wing email smear that was definitively debunked a month ago.

Next Hasner tells us, "Hamas…is also benefiting from President Obama’s appeasement" and to prove it he strongly implies that the President’s Special Middle East Envoy, George Mitchell, wants to legitimize and talk to this terrorist organization. Yet in a recent conference call with Jewish organizations, Mitchell declared that unless Hamas accepts Israel’s right to exist, renounces violence and accepts all previous agreements made between Israel and the Palestinian Authority (the same conditions demanded by President Bush), the United States will not speak or negotiate with Hamas.

Finally, Hasner denounces the President for his handling of the Durban II conference. He argues that the Democratic administration has boosted "[a]nti-Israelism and other forms of latent anti-Semitism." Contrast Hasner’s hyper-partisan analysis with the comments of the national Jewish organization most closely involved with monitoring this situation, the American Jewish Committee (AJC). A February 27th AJC press release stated, "AJC has commended President Obama for today’s decision to disengage from the Durban Review Conference. President Obama has courageously – and appropriately – concluded that the conference does not merit U.S. involvement."

Forman also leaves out that Hasner cites as two of Obama’s advsiors with "anti-Israel biases" Zbigniew Brzezinski — who has no position in the administration and isn’t getting one — and Chas Freeman, who withdrew his appointment as chairman of the National Intelligence Council the day before the March 11 publication date listed on Hasner’s article. (CORRECTION: The publication date for Hasner’s article in the American Thinker was March 10, and Freeman did not resign until later that day. The RJC post date for the article on their site was March 11.)

The Republican Jewish Coalition has posted the article on its Website, and the NJDC has started a petition urging the group to take it down and "stop promoting these types of outrageous falsehoods." RJC executive director Matt Brooks responded by asking why the NJDC didn’t organize a petition urging Obama to withdraw the Chas Freeman appointment. He then said that the RJC didn’t check every fact in each article it posted or linked to on its site, but that it agreed with the general thrust of the piece that "there is a lot of concern" with certain positions the administration has taken — for example, he cited the intial decision to go to Durban as something that had upset some in the community — and would be glad to debate the NJDC about them.

Forman also took on Stephen Walt in his piece:

Walt wrote of an Israel lobby that was both a monolith and relentless in its obsession to quiet even the most mild criticism of Israel. To construct this cartoonish view of how the pro-Israel community operates Walt had to ignore facts. He implied that all of Freeman’s critics were "hard-line elements." Yet the "pro-Israel" opponents of Freeman ranged from the most right-wing elements in the Jewish community to those who criticize Israeli settlement activity and support an active role for the United States in the peace process. Moreover, opponents of Freeman included Human Rights Watch — hardly a group that could be put in the "pro-Israel" camp.

More disturbing is Walt’s questioning of his opponents’ patriotism. In his piece, "Have they not a shred of decency?" in Foreign Policy Walt had the hypocrisy to complain about the McCarthyite intimidation tactics of his opponents and then turn around and use Joe McCarthy’s favorite tactic — impugning someone’s patriotism. Walt indicated that one of his critics could not oppose a patriot like Chas Freeman because the critic had once served in the Israeli army. The essayist Samuel Johnson had it right when he declared, "[p]atriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel."

Forman concludes by lamenting the tone of today’s politics:

These tactics of smear, distortion and spreading falsehoods can only be used when polemicists have a low regard for their readership. It seems they are not the least bit embarrassed by spreading blatant falsehoods and believe that the citizens of a democracy can be misled with impunity. Let us hope, for the sake of our republic, that these demagogues have misread both our gullibility and our tolerance for the politics of deception.

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