This September 2001 ad, sponsored by the right-wing Emergency Committee for Israel, appeared in many New York City newspapers. / Photo courtesy of Maggie Haberman

The Emergency Committee For Israel (ECI) seems to more closely mirror a right wing Super PAC than an organization sincerely interested in helping Israel respond to emergencies. Or maybe my definition of “emergency” just differs from theirs. You be the judge.

Back in October, the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) and the American Jewish Committee (AJC), two of the leading Jewish-American organizations in the United States, fearing the possibility that bipartisan support for Israel could become a political wedge issue, asked that Jewish and pro-Israel groups refrain from criticizing President Obama’s overall record on Israel. Specific points of policy disagreements are fine, they said, but to engage in an attack on Obama’s Israel record could risk Israel becoming a Democratic and Republican political football. And Israel would more likely lose in that game.

ECI Chairman William Kristol refused to go along. He has a deep history of picking sides and his side leans right. “You must be kidding,” he wrote, adding, “This attempt to silence those of us who have ‘questioned the current administration’s foreign policy approach vis-a-vis Israel’ will re-energize us.”

And that energy takes us to ECI’s March anti-Israel emergency. According to ECI, it is an emergency perpetuated by the allegedly anti-Israel and anti-Semitic comments made by individuals at Media Matters and Center For American Progress, who are, in turn, allegedly funded by Jewish Federations in San Diego, Boston, San Francisco and Cleveland, and by various foundations and philanthropic funds controlled by Bill and Melinda Gates, General Motors, Goldman Sachs, Pritzker and Schwab.

Quite a varied conspiratorial anti-Israel and anti-Jewish bunch.

Plus, ECI supposedly has partners in their disgust. Their March advertisement in The New York Times lists AJC, ADL, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, and Spencer Ackerman and Alan Dershowitz, as supporters of ECI’s efforts. These are efforts that have so far contributed up to $150,000 in financial support to the New York Times’ advertising department (at prevailing rates) and just the right dash of pre-AIPAC conference buzz.

But have ADL, AJC and ECI really made up? Are Ackerman and Dershowitz, both seen as strong pro-Israel supporters and liberal Democrats, truly on board ECI’s emergency train? Ah, we get to this definition thing again: What does “support” really mean?

To AJC, “support” means clarifying that “ECI is an ideologically-driven organization,” and that their efforts are a “blatant attempt to use a specific quote in a particular context to advance a broader political agenda.” AJC further noted, “AJC’s quoted comment came in response to a Jerusalem Post reporter’s question, last December, about perceived bias against Israel in several specific CAP media products. Since then, senior CAP representatives have acknowledged the inappropriateness of such bias, and assert they have instituted procedures — including personnel changes — to safeguard against its recurrence in CAP media.”

As of this article, the ADL had not yet publicly responded, but after I contacted Dershowitz, he emailed me this comment: “I never authorized the use of my name in the ad and I don’t approve of it.” Ackerman tweeted, ” I didn’t approve that and ECI are clowns.”

The Jewish Federation also confirmed that no Jewish Federation directly funds Media Matters or Center For American Progress, two liberal organizations caught in Kristol’s crossfire.

So is there any real substance to ECI’s attack? In a word: No.

Kristol is a prominent neoconservative who enjoys waging partisan political battles, whether it’s on health care, Iraq, or supporting Sarah Palin for President. (Center For American Progress is particularly closely tied to Obama, so they are a natural Kristol target.)

Kristol is clearly not someone Israel should relish having on its side as it strives for bipartisan support. ECI is engaging in an organizational masquerade, using the defense of Israel as its stated purpose, but instead waging a Republican versus Democrat political campaign.

ECI is dangerous. While it is not an Iran-with-a-nuke-dangerous, it is a jeopardizing support of Israel dangerous. Both issues represent their own existential threats to Israel’s survival.


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