This morning, the Emergency Committee for Israel, the group created two years ago to push the Republican take on U.S.-Israel relations, published a full-page ad in the New York Times (viewable here) attacking the Center for American Progress and Media Matters, two liberal groups, for “bigotry and anti-Israel extremism.” It listed the names and numbers of prominent funders and encouraged concerned citizens to call. Regarding Media Matters, it cited and quoted Alan Dershowitz and Spencer Ackerman. In fact, it quoted Ackerman’s January article in Tablet Magazine, in which he argued, as a liberal Jew, that the term “Israel Firster” is the wrong way for the left to win the war of ideas regarding Israel.
The Forward‘s Jane Eisner argues that the scalps ECI wants aren’t CAP or Media Matters: it’s President Obama, in advance of the AIPAC Conference. And she reports that Dershowitz did not approve the ad, and indeed, according to an email, does not approve of it; Ackerman tweeted, “I didnt approve that & ECI are clowns.” (Eisner also calls Dershowitz and Ackerman “Jewish leaders.” Made it, ma, top o’ the world!)
On ECI’s Website, Dershowitz’ article, from which his quote is taken, is linked to, but Ackerman’s article isn’t. There, Ackerman wrote, “‘Israel Firster’ has a nasty anti-Semitic pedigree.” He also wrote:
If what [Media Matters’ M.J.] Rosenberg and the others on the left want is a debate—by which I understand them to mean a debate about the wisdom of a war with Iran, and about the proper role of the U.S.-Israel relationship—great. The left, I think, will win that debate on the merits, because it recognizes that if Israel is to survive as a Jewish democracy living in peace beside a free Palestine, an assertive United States has to pressure a recalcitrant Israel to come to its senses, especially about the insanity of attacking Iran.
But that debate will be shut down and sidetracked by using a term that Charles Lindbergh or Pat Buchanan would be comfortable using. I can’t co-sign that. The attempt to kosherize “Israel Firster” is an ugly rationalization. It shouldn’t matter that the American Jewish right proliferates the term “anti-Israel.” The easiest way to lose a winnable argument is to get baited into using their tactics.
Marc Tracy is a staff writer at The New Republic, and was previously a staff writer at Tablet. He tweets @marcatracy.