David Harris explains ‘wedge issue’


In the great pledge debate — over the joint plea from the American Jewish Committee and the Anti-Defamation League not to make Israel a wedge issue — what’s missing has been a little clarity.

The original pledge failed to fully define the difference between legitimate criticism of a candidate, and making Israel a divisive issue. That, in turn, led critics of the pledge to further fudge matters when they accused ADL and AJC of trying to silence them.

In his Jerusalem Post blog, the AJC’s David Harris today offers two clear examples of what defines a wedge.

In essence, they boil down to this: provide context. Harris writes:


Shortly after the Obama Administration took office, it was confronted with the issue of what to do about U.S. participation in the Durban Review Conference, scheduled for Geneva in May 2009.

The Bush Administration, which had laudably walked out of the original Durban gathering in 2001 because of its singling out of Israel, decided the call should be made by the Obama team, not have it imposed on them.

Shortly after taking office, the new administration invited five people to go to Geneva to study the issue, talk with key stakeholders, and present a recommendation. An AJC staff member was invited to participate. We readily agreed.

That unleashed a firestorm from some who detested the Obama Administration from the get-go. It didn’t matter what ensued. Indeed, even after the fact-finding group returned from Geneva, recommended the U.S. not participate, and Washington announced it would not go, the straightjacketed critics were unsatisfied. They could not offer even a grudging admission that the right decision had been made.

After all, to do so would have given the political “enemy” a measure of credit, and in the zero-sum game of politics, that’s rarely done.

Or fast forward to September 2011.

The Palestinians were expected to put in their bid for full UN membership on September 23. Washington indicated it would use its veto, if needed, to stop the effort dead in its tracks. That, however, didn’t dissuade the partisan foes from taking out a full-page ad in The New York Times that very week castigating President Obama for his allegedly anti-Israel policies.

 In other words, the partisan approach becomes slash and burn, take no prisoners, and concede absolutely nothing.

Now, I can anticipate the partisan response to a degree: This is about debate, not reporting. Newspapers provide context, political volleys need not.

But there are times when ripping context from a political ad borders on a falsehood.

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