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.
The controversy reflects growing divisions among important allies of President Obama over Middle East policy that could complicate the president’s reelection outreach to some Jewish voters, just as he is seeking to assure them of his commitment to Israel’s security amid fears of an Iran nuclear threat.
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.
Critics are also pointing to writings on the CAP Web site, where staffers have suggested the pro-Israel lobby is pushing the U.S. toward war with Iran and likened Israel’s treatment of Palestinians in Gaza to the policies of the segregated American South.
Those statements, among others, have gained notice largely because of CAP’s influential role in Obama’s Washington. Founded and chaired by John Podesta, a onetime chief of staff in the Clinton White House, the center is an idea generator for the administration and a source for many of its top officials.