By Dan Fleshler | February 28, 2008
Newsweek now tells us that it is not only right wing, so-called “pro-Israel” agitators and Republicans who are hopping on the “Obama- is-bad-for-the Jews” bandwagon, it is also Swiftboaters in the Clinton campaign:
“Clinton campaign operatives have sent around negative material about Obama’s relations with Israel, according to e-mails obtained by NEWSWEEK. In addition to Brzezinski, the e-mails attack Obama advisers such as Rob Malley, a former Clinton negotiator at the 2000 Camp David talks who has since written articles sympathetic to the Palestinian point of view…
…In one case, Daphna Ziman, a longtime friend of Hillary Clinton’s who has co-chaired several events for her, forwarded an e-mail from the Republican Jewish Coalition, a grass-roots GOP group, criticizing Obama for proposing a Muslim summit. In a Jan. 31 interview with Paris Match, Obama said he wanted “an honest discussion about ways to bridge the gap that grows between Muslims and the West.” Ziman, in her Feb. 2 e-mail, responded, “I am horrified at Mr. Obama’s point of view.” Her e-mail, sent to a group including Mike Medavoy, a Hollywood producer who supports Obama, contained a press release from RJC executive director Matt Brooks. “Nowhere in the Paris Match article does Senator Obama affirm Israel’s right to exist,” Brooks wrote. (Ziman says “the campaign had nothing to do with” her e-mail.)
In an e-mail sent Feb. 4—a day before Super Tuesday—Clinton finance official Annie Totah passed along a critical essay by Ed Lasky, a conservative blogger whose own anti-Obama e-mails have circulated in the U.S. Jewish community. Totah wrote: “Please read the attached important and very disturbing article on Barak Obama. Please vote wisely in the Primaries.” (She didn’t respond to a request for comment.)
Richard Silverstein in Tikun Olam ably expresses the rage I felt upon learning this news. Check out his call for the Clinton campaign “to renounce this ugly feature of their campaign. I note with most severe censure that when the Newsweek journalists gave Howard Wolfson an opportunity to comment for the article he declined.”
But what has gone unnoticed in this fracas is that at least some of Hillary’s Jewish supporters, including reasonably well-connected fundraisers and volunteers, AGREE WITH ROB MALLEY! They share his take on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and don’t want that conflict to be a zero sum game. They want American policy in the Middle East to be evenhanded. They also agree with Obama that the U.S. should not shirk from talking to Syria and Iran. I won’t name names, but trust me on this one. I know a few of them and I am sure there are many more I’ve never met They are supporters of Americans for Peace Now, Israel Policy Forum. They agree with most of the op-eds they read in Haaretz. Some were Friends of Bill and continue to be Friends of Hillary.
It isn’t clear whether they have weighed in and told the people running the campaign that borrowing from the rhetoric of the Republican Jewish Coalition, and using the most dumbed-down, far right definitions of what it means to be “pro-Israel,” are beyond the pale. I confess that I have been afraid to ask the ones I know because I don’t want to put them in the uncomfortable position of saying all is fair in politics, Hillary needs to pull out every conceivable stop to come from behind, and so they have kept quiet, they have let the attack dogs run wild. Perhaps that is not true. Perhaps they have raised objections. Perhaps there has been a furious internal debate in the campaign and these tactics will end. Or perhaps they are not influential enough, when all is said and done, to spark such a debate.
Regardless, the question remains, if Obama wins the nomination, will they come out of the shadows and defend him from the attacks that are sure to come from Republicans? Will they defend Rob Malley and Susan Rice, or at least the positions the two of them espouse? Will they urge Obama to do everything possible to wade into the region and mediate and arbitrate, and, if necessary, employ both sticks and carrots when dealing with Israel as well as its neighbors? Will they defend Rashid Khalidi, the relatively moderate scholar who is the latest object of gibes from Obama bashers because he has dared to be a Palestinian nationalist, as Tikun Olam also reports ? Will they try to wrest control of the rules of the public debate on Middle East policy from the Israel-right-or-wrong crowd?
I am crossing my pro-American, pro-Israeli, pro-Palestinian fingers.