The mainstream media is beginning to call out the radical left-wing Center for American Progress (CAP) and its blog ThinkProgress for their anti-Semitic rhetoric, particularly in their over-the-top attacks on defenders of Israel and critics of Islamist ideology.
For example, Ben Smith of Politico highlighted the following example of extreme anti-Israel rhetoric from a ThinkProgress posting by Matt Duss, a CAP policy analyst and the director of Middle East Progress. Duss wrote his piece last year, following an Israeli raid on a flotilla challenging the blockade of Gaza which resulted in the deaths of nine militants:
Like segregation in the American South, the siege of Gaza (and the entire Israeli occupation, for that matter) is a moral abomination that should be intolerable to anyone claiming progressive values.
Comparing Israeli efforts to defend its citizens against repeated jihadist terror attacks to “segregation in the American South” or apartheid in South Africa is a favorite line of anti-Semitic attack by Islamists in their campaign to de-legitimize the Jewish state. Duss is serving as the Islamists’ useful idiot in repeating the outlandish charge.
Ben Smith also pointed to a recent article by Eric Alterman, a writer for CAP, accusing the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) of campaigning for war in Iran. In another example of AIPAC bashing cited by Smith, the ThinkProgress National Security reporter Eli Clifton claimed last August that “It would appear that AIPAC is now using the same escalating measures against Iran that were used before the invasion of Iraq.”
Even some progressives are pushing back against such irresponsible conspiracy theorist rhetoric. “There’s two explanations here – either the inmates are running the asylum or the Center for American Progress has made a decision to be anti-Israel,” said Josh Block, who is a fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. “Either they can allow people to say borderline anti-Semitic stuff and to say things that are antithetical to the fundamental values of the Democratic party, or they can fire them and stop it.”
While CAP’s top officials did not respond directly to Politico regarding these charges, pro-Palestinian activists have approvingly noted CAP’s anti-Israel stand. “What is actually happening is that the discourse that lot of people in the Palestine solidarity community and activists have been engaging in is starting to break down the walls of the Washington bubble,” said Ali Abunimah, a longtime activist and the co-founder of the site Electronic Intifada.
Josh Block elaborated on his charge of CAP’s “borderline” anti-Semitism in an e-mail quoted in the left-leaning Salon:
This kind of anti-Israel sentiment is so fringe it’s support by CAP is outrageous, but at least it is out in the open now — as is their goal – clearly applauded by revolting allies like the pro-HAMAS and anti-Zionist/One State Solution advocate Ali Abunumiah and those who accuse pro-Israel Americans of having “dual loyalties” or being “Israel-Firsters” – to shape the minds of future generations of Democrats. These are the words of anti-Semites, not Democratic political players.
Block is a progressive himself. However, his staunch defense of Israel, including a prior stint at AIPAC and his willingness to call out the extreme rhetoric against defenders of Israel appearing regularly in ThinkProgress, has earned him the enmity of other anti-Israel progressives. Free speech that departs from progressive-left orthodoxy is not tolerated in such circles, especially when Block decided to share his extensive documentation of ThinkProgress writers’ extreme anti-Israel bias with the “dark” side – conservative journalists. That’s an act of apostasy worthy of banishment from the progressive echo chamber. As left-of-center commentator Greg Sargent noted in his blog post appearing on the Washington Post website, progressive organizations such as the Progressive Policy Institute, with which Block is now affiliated, are discussing severing all ties with the apostate.
To charge, as Block did, that CAP’s anti-Semitic rhetoric is “borderline” is really too kind to CAP. Its blogging arm ThinkProgress has gone much deeper into anti-Semitic and anti-Christian territory in its unrelenting campaign to paint all critics of Islamic ideology and sharia law as bigoted, hate-mongering “Islamophobes.”
CAP recently issued a report titled “Fear, Inc.: The Roots of the Islamophobia Network in America,” which is nothing more than a 132-page diatribe whose stated objective is to “expose—and marginalize—the influence of the individuals and groups” that CAP claims are a part of an “Islamophobia network in America.”
ThinkProgress subsequently ran a series of self-righteous postings defending the Fear, Inc. report against all critics. Typical of the hard left, ThinkProgress’ bloggers believe that anyone who does not see the world as they do is either stupid or bigoted.
The Fear, Inc. report drew an imaginary portrait of a multi-tentacle far-right “Islamophobic network” conspiracy of funders (some identified in the CAP report as donors to Jewish causes), “misinformation experts,” including the Hasidic Jew David Yerushalmi, and media outlets identified as pro-Israel or associated with Israel including this publication (which, CAP said, “gives an amplified voice to a cadre of fellow anti-Muslim bigots”) and the Middle East Media and Research Institute (whose “selective translations of Arab media,” CAP charged, “fan the flames of Islamophobia.”)
CAP threw into its fabricated conspiracy web “hate radio” shows, Fox News, and the Christian Broadcasting Network as examples of other Islamophobia enabling media outlets.
CAP’s Fear, Inc. report also went after what it called “validators” of Islamophobia such as former Muslim Nonie Darwish, who has dared to discuss openly her personal experience as a woman living under the yoke of misogynist sharia-based laws in Egypt for years before coming to the United States. Likewise, it condemned Zuhdi Jasser, a practicing Muslim and physician, whom the CAP report smeared as a “Muslim validator for Islamophobia propaganda.” The truth is that this courageous Muslim doctor has spoken out about the need for the Muslim community to look inward and reject the loud voices of the Islamist ideologues who would impose their rigid beliefs against freedom of speech, freedom of conscience, and human dignity.
The report also castigated a Christian woman and founder of ACT! for America, Brigitte Gabriel. CAP’s hard left bomb-throwers accused Ms. Gabriel of engaging in “crude bigotry” and charged that she “validates the Islamophobia network’s manufactured fears and hate campaign directed against Muslims.“ The only fears and hate campaign being manufactured here are CAP’s own lies intended to vilify anyone who does not accept their dogma. The truth is that Ms. Gabriel experienced firsthand the Muslim persecution of the Christian minority in Lebanon where she grew up. She has called for “enlightened, educated and westernized Muslims in the community to begin a dialogue to discuss the possibility of reform in Islam just as Christianity and Judaism have been reformed.” CAP, on the other hand, denies that there is any such need for reform. It is guided by such Islamist organizations as the Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated Council on American Islamic Relations, which the CAP report benignly described as a “civil rights group.”
Of course, the authors of CAP’s Fear, Inc. report did not seriously address the substance of the points raised by any of the critics of Islamism and sharia law, because the facts are not on CAP’s side. Instead, its authors packed the report with adjectives like “sinister,” “hateful,” “purposively deceptive,” “bigoted,” and “racist” to dismiss what the critics, relying on substantial research and evidence and, in some cases, their own personal experiences, have actually said in full context about the Islamist ideology and political-legal system.
After the Fear, Inc. report was issued, ThinkProgress’ blogger pack circled like wolves to fend off legitimate criticisms of the report. They also carried on a vendetta against a broader circle of Jewish groups with which they disagreed, such as the non-partisan Simon Wiesenthal Center whose founder, Simon Wiesenthal, was a survivor of the Nazi death camps.
Jennifer Rubin, a right-of-center commentator who writes regularly for the Washington Post, posted a column December 11th on the Washington Post’s website entitled “Simon Wiesenthal Center: Time to clean up the discourse.” She discussed CAP’s vicious blog assault on the Simon Wiesenthal Center, which one of its ThinkProgress bloggers, Ben Armbruster, called a “far-right” organization that had “basically called Obama a Nazi.” This was an outright lie, of course, and is emblematic of the ThinkProgress bloggers’ anti-Semitic, pro-Islamist mind-set, which its parent CAP sanctions.
Ironically, just two days before Rubin exposed Armbruster’s rant against the mainstream, non-partisan Simon Wiesenthal Center, an internationally recognized human rights organization devoted to advancing religious tolerance and combating anti-Semitism, Armbruster demanded that the _Washington Post_ retract an earlier post by Rubin, which Armbruster charged had “smeared CAP and its bloggers as ‘anti-Semitic’ and ‘anti-Israel.’” Sorry, but the shoe fits.
Rubin quoted from the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s response to her request for comment on the gutter attacks by ThinkProgress bloggers and other like-minded leftists. Here are some excerpts:
CAP blogger Eli Clifton joined Media Matters Senior Foreign Policy Fellow MJ Rosenberg in using Twitter to promote an article accusing the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s Museum of Tolerance of pushing ‘Western groupthink that has for centuries justified wars and countless atrocities against the Arab world . . . [that’s] representative of the way many Americans feel toward Muslims and Arabs — that they are all terrorists.’
Far from slandering Islam or demonizing moderate Muslims, we’ve seized every opportunity available for interfaith outreach by organizing and/or attending conferences and dialogues from Spain to Indonesia.
Recognizing that he and his fellow bloggers had been caught with their hands in the proverbial cookie jar, Armbruster tried to make nice with the Simon Wiesenthal Center and said it was all just a misunderstanding. He wrote in a December 13th blog entitled “Response To The Simon Wiesenthal Center:”
We’re happy to join in a common pledge of raising the level of discourse.
CAP should start “raising the level of discourse” by rescinding its smear-filled Fear, Inc. report. But that is something it will never do. Instead, it is doubling down. A series of ThinkProgress blogs last week, for example, attacked the home improvement company Lowes as intolerant and buckling to “right-wing” pressure for exercising its right to decide where it would place its advertising dollars. Lowes chose to discontinue its ads on TLC’s show All-American Muslim.
Responding to an inquiry from one of ThinkProgress’ bloggers, Jaclyn Pardini, a Lowe’s spokeswomen explained:
We understand the program raised concerns, complaints, or issues from multiple sides of the viewer spectrum, which we found after doing research of news articles and blogs covering the show. We based our decision to pull the advertising on this research and after hearing the concerns we received through emails, calls, through social media and in news reports.
In other words, Lowes made a business decision not to unnecessarily alienate a broad spectrum of potential customers. But a ThinkProgress blogger, Alyssa Rosenberg, would have none of that. Instead she accused Lowes of “cowardice” for “folding to virulent Islamophobes.”
In trying to understand the Center for American Progress’ persistent campaign against so-called “Islamophobes,” and its lumping of Jewish supporters of Israel into that category, I think that conservative columnist Jeff Dunetz was on to something when he pointed out the symbiotic relationship between CAP and the Obama administration. “This progressive think tank sets much of the policy endorsed by the Democratic-progressive politicians who still dominate the federal government and the Obama Administration,” wrote Dunetz.
Dwight Holton, a top Department of Justice official, helped prove Dunetz’ observation when he said on October 19th at a Washington, D.C. event scheduled by the department:
I want to be perfectly clear about this: training materials that portray Islam as a religion of violence or with a tendency towards violence are wrong, they are offensive, and they are contrary to everything that this president, this attorney general and Department of Justice stands for. They will not be tolerated.
When a reporter for TheDC asked Holton to explain his charges, he pushed a door shut in the reporter’s face, according to a report in the Daily Caller. Does Holton also want to rebuke and banish from government reading materials the opinion of President John Quincy Adams, who observed that the “precept of the Koran is, perpetual war against all who deny, that Mahomet is the prophet of God.” Does Holton want to do the same to Thomas Jefferson, who had also come to view the Koran, which he took the time to study, as sanctioning war. Indeed, when Jefferson and the senior John Adams met with the envoy of the sultan of Tripoli to seek an end to Muslim Barbary pirate attacks on American ships, they were told, according to Jefferson, that “it was written in their Koran, that all nations who should not have acknowledged their authority were sinners, that it was their right and duty to make war upon them wherever they could be found.” Some things don’t change.
Holton’s politically correct remarks are right out of the Center for American Progress playbook. Expect much more of the same now that Jennifer Palmieri, who has been serving as the senior vice president for communications at the Center for American Progress, will be joining the Obama White House as deputy communications director.
In fact, we don’t have to wait. In a shameless deal reached by the Obama administration last March with the 57-member Organization of Islamic Cooperation (“OIC”), the UN Human Rights Council passed a “compromise” resolution entitled “Combating Intolerance, Negative Stereotyping and Stigmatization of, and Discrimination, Incitement to Violence and Violence Against, Persons Based on Religion or Belief.” The Obama administration hailed this resolution as a major break-through with the Muslim world because the OIC purportedly gave up its long-standing campaign to pass annual UN resolutions branding “defamation of religions” as a violation of international law that should be criminalized – a position that directly challenged this nation’s free speech protections under the First Amendment. In a meeting with the OIC in Istanbul last July in which she lavishly praised the Islamist organization, Hillary Clinton tried to gingerly dance around the First Amendment issue. She said that the new UN resolution does “not criminalize speech unless there is an incitement to imminent violence” and that it helps “overcome the false divide that pits religious sensitivities against freedom of expression.” But knowing that the OIC expected something concrete in return, Clinton talked about using “some old-fashioned techniques of peer pressure and shaming, so that people don’t feel that they have the support to do what we abhor” (emphasis added).
About a month later, the Center for American Progress – the organization described at one time as “the official Hillary Clinton think tank” and where she still has significant connections – came out with its Fear, Inc. report on Islamophobia. It is a useful tool for Clinton to show her OIC buddies that she was following through on her promise to shame those who “do what we abhor.” Don’t criminalize what they say – at least not yet. But do all you can to encourage libelous assaults on some of this nation’s most knowledgeable experts on Islamism in order to marginalize them. In addition, the Obama administration is moving ahead with plans to bar these experts from participating in any federal law enforcement training programs and putting pressure on states and local communities to do the same.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton hosted a three-day, mostly closed door conference in Washington, D.C. last week to which she invited OIC officials to participate, along with “experts” from more than thirty countries. The purpose of the meeting was to follow up on the Istanbul meeting and discuss ways to implement the UN Human Rights Council resolution. Once again, according to sources who were able to attend the opening and closing sessions, Clinton paid lip service to the uniquely American idea of limiting direct governmental prohibitions on free speech to that which incites immediate violence. However, if so-called “hate speech” causes an immediate violent reaction from those who perceive their religion to be the object of such “hate” – think of the violence spawned in the Muslim world in reaction to the Danish cartoons depicting Prophet Mohammed – what then?
Moreover, according to a source familiar with the proceedings of the D.C. conference, the Obama administration would favor encouraging non-governmental groups to condemn speech that Muslims may find offensive. This is a form of community organizing with which Barack Obama is well versed. The difference is that the Obama administration is using the clout of the federal government to help activate “grass-roots” pressure. Its instruments of choice appear to include aggressive out-reach training for law enforcement officials, vetted by Islamist advocates, with boots on the ground to interface with local community leaders, and encouraging such leaders and friendly opinion makers to “shame” people who dare to speak out against the Islamist agenda.
The Center for American Progress and its far-left bloggers are an essential part of this stealth strategy to silence robust debate about the Islamist threat to the freedoms we take for granted – starting with chilling free speech itself.
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