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The Return of the Smear Bund

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Phony charges of "anti-Semitism" are nothing new

The tale of the DC Five -- the five Beltway bloggers at two prominent Democratic Washington thinktanks who have been smacked down (and one fired) for being insufficiently pro-Israel -- is hardly a shock to those who know their history. But before we get into that, a few details on what is only the latest chapter in the story of how the War Party operates in this country.

The DC Five are Matt Duss, Ali Gharib, Eli Clifton and Zaid Jilani, bloggers at the Center for American Progress group blog, ThinkProgress, and former AIPAC employee MJ Rosenberg who currently writes for Media Matters. The Washington Post details the charges against them:

"The Center for American Progress, a liberal think tank closely aligned with the White House, is embroiled in a dispute with several major Jewish organizations over statements on Israel and charges that some center staffers have used anti-Semitic language to attack pro-Israel Americans.

"Among the points of contention are several Twitter posts by one CAP writer on his personal account referring to "Israel-firsters." Some experts say the phrase has its roots in the anti-Semitic charge that American Jews are more loyal to a foreign country. In another case, a second staffer described a U.S. senator as showing more fealty to the prime U.S. pro-Israel lobby, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, than to his own constituents, replacing a standard identifier of party affiliation and state with "R-AIPAC" on his personal Twitter account. The first writer has since left the staff."

The campaign to purge CAP was apparently launched by one Josh Block, an analyst at the Progressive Policy Institute (PPI), a Beltway thinktank whose progressivism is largely measured by their enthusiasm as we "progress" to a state of permanent war. This self-appointed arbiter of political correctness has certain standards we all had better abide by, as he told Politico:

"As a progressive Democrat, I am convinced that on issues as important as the US-Israel alliance and the threat posed by Iran's nuclear program, there is no room for uncivil discourse or name calling, like 'Israel Firster' or 'Likudnik,' and policy or political rhetoric that is hostile to Israel, or suggests that Iran has no nuclear weapons program, has no place in the mainstream Democratic party discourse. I also believe that when it occurs, progressive institutions, have a responsibility not to tolerate such speech or arguments."

So let's get this straight: there is "no room" among those engaging in "civil discourse" to in any way cast doubt on the proposition that Iran has an active nuclear weapons program: to even suggest such a thing is prima facie proof of "anti-Semitism."

Glenn Greenwald tears this nonsense to pieces here: it's an admirable piece, rich with detail and electric with indignation, but I have to say I can't quite get as exercised by all this as Glenn does. After all, smearing opponents of whatever war we're currently engaged in as "anti-Semites" is hardly a new phenomenon.

Indeed, practically every major war we've fought since World War II has witnessed identical accusations hurled at anti-interventionists. Before, during, and even after World War II, opponents of US intervention in the European war were routinely smeared as proponents of Nazism. The antiwar writer and former New Republic columnist John T. Flynn detected a pattern in the activities of the pro-war groups, which were well-funded and relentless: he called them the "Smear Bund" because they specialized in tarring war opponents with the Nazi brush. Right up to today, the biggest antiwar movement in American history -- the America First Committee, which had a membership of 800,000 -- and which opposed US entry into World War II is widely considered to have been a pro-Nazi anti-Semitic organization, a lie that has long outlived its pro-Communist and pro-British perpetrators.

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While opponents of the Korean "police action" and the Vietnam disaster were regularly denounced as pro-Communists and "fellow travelers," the "anti-Semite" canard gained new currency in the run-up to the first Gulf War. When Patrick J. Buchanan attributed the beating of war drums to "Israel's amen corner," he was attacked by both the right and the left as a hate criminal for daring to point out what was patently true: that the pro-Israel lobby in the US was pushing hard for "regime change" in Iraq. The same "Israel first" crowd was leading the charge in the months prior to George W. Bush's invasion of Iraq, only this time the "anti-Semitic" charge was pushed even harder. Andrew Sullivan claimed The Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion was being peddled at antiwar demonstrations. As fanatically pro-Israel neoconservatives pushed their war agenda, in part, to "ensure Israel's position," as Gen. Anthony Zinni put it, the War Party used the "anti-Semitism" charge as a toxic meme to discredit war opponents.

The Post piece singles out the phrase "Israel-firsters" and a blog post by Eli Clifton entitled "AIPAC's Iran Strategy on Sanctions Mirrors Mimics Run-Up to Iraq War Tactics" as indicative of the crimes of the DC Five. Attacking a statement from more than 90 US Senators calling for draconian sanctions to be placed on Iraq's central bank, and the subsequent hailing of this by AIPAC, Clifton noted that such a move would be in itself an act of war:

"But that doesn't seem to bother AIPAC. Indeed, they've been down this sanctions road once before before the invasion of Iraq. In June, Robert Dreyfuss interviewed former AIPAC senior Iran analyst Keith Weissman who offered details of how its allies in the Bush administration pushed the allegation that Saddam Hussein was in league with al Qaeda."

Let's stop here, for station identification: Weissman, formerly AIPAC's top Iran analyst, was indicted along with AIPAC's top lobbyist, Steve Rosen, for committing espionage against the United States for the benefit of Israel. The duo was busted after not one but two FBI raids on AIPAC's posh Washington headquarters. However, the case ground to a halt when the defense, in effect, greymailed the government into dropping legal proceedings by insisting on the release of highly classified information as part and parcel of their clients getting a "fair trial." As it was, there was no trial, and neither Rosen nor Weissman was ever cleared of the charges. The Rosen-Weissman tag team had been milking Pentagon analyst Larry Franklin for all the classified information they could lay their hands on, and funneling it to Israeli government officials: when the FBI came to Franklin's door, they found a treasure trove of top secret documents in his home going back many years. Sneaking around Washington, the traitorous trio met on dark street corners and held meetings in out of the way restaurants, changing venues regularly for fear of being followed. They were caught anyway, and the FBI -- having snagged and "turned" Franklin first -- lured the conspirators into a well-laid trap, which was sprung just as the two AIPAC officials thought they were reeling in a really big fish -- top secret information promised them by Franklin, who was wearing a wire.

Having established the context, let us proceed with Clifton's blog post:

"More importantly, Weissman discusses AIPAC's plans for ultimately bringing regime change in Iran. Dreyfuss writes:

"'Weissman says that Iran was alarmed at the possibility that the United States might engage in overt and covert efforts to instigate opposition inside Iran. He says that many in AIPAC, especially among its lay leadership and biggest donors, strongly backed regime change in Iran. 'That was what Larry [Franklin] and his friends wanted,' he says. 'It included lots of different parts, like broadcasts, giving money to groups that would conduct sabotage, it included bringing the Mojahedin[-e Khalgh], bringing them out of Iraq and letting them go back to Iran to carry out missions for the United States. Harold Rhode backed this....There were all these guys, Michael Ledeen, 'Next stop Tehran, next stop Damascus.'"

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Clifton then goes on to note: "Indeed, as shown in the AIPAC press release, Iran is now the target of similar sanctions and bellicose rhetoric similar to those that targeted Iraq in the late 1990s and early 2000s." He also notes AIPAC's cozy relationship with the Saudis, saying they welcomed sanctions on Iranian oil because it would drive up the price of the Kingdom's petroleum exports. Weissman recalls:

"Prince Bandar used to send us messages. I used to meet with Adel al-Jubeir a couple times a year. Adel used to joke that if we could force an American embargo on Iranian oil, he'd buy us all Mercedes! Because Saudi [Arabia] would have had the excess capacity to make up for Iran at that time."

Here we have someone who spied on the US on behalf of Israel giving us the inside scoop on the Israel Lobby's machinations around the issue of war with Iran. What could be clearer than the testimony of this veteran fifth columnist, who -- for whatever reason -- has come clean about Israel's campaign to drag us into war with Iran? This is the real reason for the Israel Lobby's phony outrage at CAP and its heavy-handed tactics of suppression. They don't want the American people to know that the Lobby is doing everything in its power to provoke war with Iran -- a natural function of its role as the Israeli government's Washington mouthpiece. Clifton's citing of Weissman hit a particularly sensitive spot, and that's no doubt what had the Lobby howling: even mentioning Israel's extensive covert activities in the US, including aggressive technology theft as well as traditional spying, is considered prima facie evidence of "anti-Semitism" by the Lobby.

Oh, but don'tcha know it's a hate crime to even use the term "Israel-firster"? It is because Eli Lake says so: You see, Eli -- prodigy that he is-- has traced the terminological origins of this phrase, and discovered that Willis Carto, nut-job extraordinaire, was supposedly the first to use it. So even if you've never heard of Carto, and are as Jewish as M.J. Rosenberg, you're still an "anti-Semite" if you use it. (Naturally Jamie Kirchick, self-proclaimed "homosexual warrior" and lately an "analyst" at the ultra-Likudnik Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, re-tweeted Lake's "discovery.")

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Justin Raimondo is the editorial director of He is the author of An Enemy of the State: The Life of Murray N. Rothbard (Prometheus Books, 2000), Reclaiming the American Right: The Lost Legacy of the Conservative Movement (ISI, 2008), (more...)

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