Last December, a top anti-Semitism watchdog group accused the Center for American Progress, a prominent Washington think tank, of peddling anti-Israel and borderline anti-Semitic material on its Web site and Twitter feeds. Six days later, President Obama met for coffee with the man who oversaw the offending content — Faiz Shakir, the site’s editor-in-chief.
That the president met with Shakir amid the ballooning scandal illustrates just how close the administration is with CAP. Now that association may come back to haunt the White House, as three leading Jewish groups — the Anti-Defamation League, the American Jewish Committee and the Simon Wiesenthal Center — have accused CAP and its staff of publishing “anti-Israel,” “hateful” and “toxic anti-Jewish” material.
The Jewish organizations’ ire is directed even more strongly at Media Matters for America — another influential, activist liberal Washington group. But CAP’s failings are more significant, because it has been a revolving door to the administration.
CAP founder John Podesta piloted Obama’s 2008 presidential transition team and now holds a State Department advisory role; founding board member Carol Browner served as Obama’s energy czar. CAP Action Fund President Jennifer Palmieri just joined the White House as deputy communications director.
And Shakir has had multiple meetings with White House officials, including one last August with the National Security Council’s Quintan Wiktorowicz.
Making these close ties to the administration especially troubling is CAP’s intensely anti-Israel slant.
Speaking with the Jerusalem Post recently about CAP and Media Matters, the American Jewish Committee’s Jason Isaacson said, “Think tanks are entitled to their political viewpoints — but they’re not free to slander with impunity . . . References to Israeli ‘apartheid’ or ‘Israel-firsters’ are so false and hateful they reveal an ugly bias no serious policy center can countenance.”
The Wiesenthal Center found the writers “are guilty of dangerous political libels resonating with historic and toxic anti-Jewish prejudices.” The ADL noted: “Most of their blogs come from a perspective of blaming Israel for the lack of progress in Israeli-Palestinian affairs and minimizing or rationalizing the Iranian threat.”