A new pro-Israel group has launched one of the hardest-hitting commercials of America’s 2010 campaign season. It will run in Pennsylvania, where Democrat Joe Sestak faces Republican Pat Toomey in a battle for the Senate seat formerly held by Republican-turned-Democrat Arlen Specter.
Over images of masked gunmen and grainy footage of anti-Israel protests, a narrator’s voice demands: “Does Congressman Joe Sestak realize Israel is America’s ally?
“Sestak raised money for an anti-Israel organization the FBI called ‘a front-group for Hamas.’ Sestak signed a letter accusing Israel of ‘collective punishment’ for blockading Hamas in Gaza. Sestak refused to sign a bipartisan letter affirming U.S. support for Israel.
“Call Joe Sestak: Ask him to stand with Israel.”
That’s tough medicine, and a departure from the traditional behind-the-scenes advocacy of groups such as the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC).
The departure signals a coming shift in the American Jewish community. While most American Jews vote Democrat, those Jews most passionately involved with Israel have felt ever-increasing mistrust of Barack Obama, his administration and his party.
The anti-Sestak ad, for example, was produced by the newly launched Emergency Committee for Israel (EIC). The EIC is governed by a three-person board: Bill Kristol of Fox News and the Weekly Standard; Gary Bauer, a stalwart of the Christian Right; and Rachel Abrams, a writer married to former senior Bush administration official Elliott Abrams. It is raising funds from donors increasingly alienated from the Obama administration, not usually by any one single big thing, but by an accumulation of ominous signals and warnings of trouble to come.
Yes- Bill Kristol smearing people is a real coming shift in the American Jewish community, David. And refusing to sign an AIPAC letter and noting that the Gaza blockade is collective punishment now makes you an Israel hater and a target for lunatic neo-cons. Apparently, David Frum and the Emergency Committee for Israel PAC are the only people on the planet who refuse to recognize the Gaza blockade is collective punishment. Israelis have no problem agreeing that it is:
As Israel ordered a slight easing of its blockade of the Gaza Strip Wednesday, McClatchy obtained an Israeli government document that describes the blockade not as a security measure but as “economic warfare” against the Islamist group Hamas, which rules the Palestinian territory.***
However, in response to a lawsuit by Gisha, an Israeli human rights group, the Israeli government explained the blockade as an exercise of the right of economic warfare.
“A country has the right to decide that it chooses not to engage in economic relations or to give economic assistance to the other party to the conflict, or that it wishes to operate using ‘economic warfare,'” the government said.
McClatchy obtained the government’s written statement from Gisha, the Legal Center for Freedom of Movement, which sued the government for information about the blockade. The Israeli high court upheld the suit, and the government delivered its statement earlier this year.
Sari Bashi, the director of Gisha, said the documents prove that Israel isn’t imposing its blockade for its stated reasons, but rather as collective punishment for the Palestinian population of Gaza. Gisha focuses on Palestinian rights.
Please spare me the bullshit that David Frum of January 2010 is any different than the David Frum of “axis of evil” notoriety. Anyone gleefully touting the smear efforts of Bill Kristol, Elliot and Rachel Abrams, and unhinged Christianist lunatic Gary Bauer is just as crazy as they come.
Nothing has changed except that Frum has recognized the Republicans have a marketing problem. That is all.
And does anyone want to just think for a second how batshit insane it is for proponents of a foreign country to be running ads in an election against someone running to be the Senator for Pennsylvania. Can you imagine this being acceptable if advocates for South Korea were running a high profile smear campaign against a candidate in a Florida gubernatorial campaign? Or if Saudi Arabia advocates spent millions on a PAC attempting to influence the Colorado Senate race? That alone is just crazy. And beyond even that, Admiral Joe Sestak is a man who dedicated his entire adult life to the service of the United States military- and now these crazy, extremist, pro-Israel radicals have the nerve to smear him?
*** Update ***
And, as Matt Duss notes, now that Israel is easing the blockade (in part because the entire world recognized collective punishment when the Israeli’s drew their attention to it with the bungled overreaction that was the flotilla raid), they essentially share the same position as Joe Sestak.
As always, Israel’s worst enemy is her “best friends” who blindly and uncritically cheerlead.