NGO Monitor creates fake controversy over EI articles in attack on Democrat think-tank

NGO Monitor, the Israeli far-right group that wages campaigns of defamation against organizations that don’t toe their anti-Palestinian line, has launched a new campaign against the Center for American Progress, a Washington think-tank tied to the Democratic Party.

The campaign has also been joined by Commentary, the far-right publication notorious for its anti-Palestinian sentiment.

In the course of this campaign, the two organizations have generated a fake controversy over several articles by Ali Gharib and Eli Clifton published on The Electronic Intifada.

The only reason it is even worth mentioning this fake controversy here is that this is another demonstration of how pro-Israel agitators like NGO Monitor fabricate and distort.

Smear by association with The Electronic Intifada

In a 28 December article in The Jerusalem Post, Benjamin Weinthal (who has previously fabricated information about The Electronic Intifada as part of an NGO Monitor smear campaign) wrote:

A group of bloggers affiliated with the Center for American Progress [CAP] think tank has sparked sharp criticism because of an anti- Israel agenda that spilled over into modern anti-Semitism, according to NGOs in Israel and the US.

What has driven NGO Monitor to distraction is criticism by some people at CAP of US politicians. Apparently someone at CAP referred to US Senator Mark Kirk (R-IL) as an “Israel Firster.” Yet for NGO Monitor, any such criticism of course amounts to “anti-Semitism.”

Weinthal quotes Gerald Steinberg, who heads NGO Monitor:

Steinberg said, “It follows from classical anti-Semitism, with inferences of dual loyalty and foreign policy control, and should have no place in American political discourse. This is part of a continuing pattern at ThinkProgress. Two of its reporters, Eli Clifton and Ali Gharib, have blogged for the Electronic Intifada, a highly influential anti-peace and anti-Israel organization. Clifton’s doubts about an Iranian nuclear program are further evidence of his fringe ideological views.”

The The Jerusalem Post article adds:

CAP spokeswoman Andrea Purse wrote the Jerusalem Post by e-mail on Tuesday, “The allegations against CAP of ‘vitriolic and highly offensive rhetoric’ are based on blatant misinformation. Eli Clifton and Ali Gharib have never written for the website ‘The Electronic Intifada.’ They wrote for a global newswire called IPS and some of their writings were republished by The Electronic Intifada website without permission. The term ‘Israel First’ has never been used on CAP’s blogs, other than to criticize it. Nor have CAP bloggers ever asserted that ‘Jews are war-mongers’ or anything similar.”

To clarify: Andrea Purse is correct that Clifton and Gharib haven’t written for The Electronic Intifada (though they are certainly welcome to send us pitches), but wrong to state that The Electronic Intifada publishes Clifton and Gharib “without permission.” The Electronic Intifada, like many other publications, subscribes to the IPS – Inter Press Service – news agency, and we publish articles from IPS under that agreement.

However, The Electronic Intifada’s editors alone choose which IPS articles to publish. We do not coordinate this with the writers, nor do we ask their personal permission. We don’t have to. Neither Clifton nor Gharib “have blogs” on The Electronic Intifada. Everyone who works in journalism understands the concept of syndication. It’s not very complicated.

The effort to smear these writers by association with The Electronic Intifada demonstrates once again the hatred and bigotry that NGO Monitor and Commentary harbor toward Palestinians.

Feeding fake claims on Twitter

Despite these simple and apparent facts, NGO Monitor and others continue to fuel the fake controversy through tweets designed to generate the false impression that Clifton and Gharib have a direct relationship with The Electronic Intifada

NGO Monitor tweeted for example:

And Josh Block, former Director of Strategic Communications for the Israel lobby, AIPAC tweeted:

Block was recently fired from another think-tank, the Truman Institute, after being caught red-handed organizing a surreptitious campaign to smear Jews and other critics of Israel as “anti-Semites” through association with The Electronic Intifada. It would appear Block hasn’t given up that effort.

Commentary piles on with more fake concern

In a blog post today, Commentary’s Alana Goodman wrote:

Questions have also been raised about why stories by CAP bloggers have appeared in the vehemently anti-Israel fringe publication The Electronic Intifada. According to CAP’s spokesperson, EI republished the articles without permission. But critics have pointed out that stories by Gharib and fellow CAP blogger Eli Clifton still remain on EI’s site, despite the alleged lack of authorization.

Goodman didn’t bother to check her facts or ask EI for a comment. She never does. A few months ago, she accused The Electronic Intifada of publishing “holocaust denying screeds.” When she and her editor John Podhoretz were challenged to provide a single example they just ignored us.

Using Palestinians as weapons

What’s notable about this silly and fake “controversy” is that The Electronic Intifada – as a proxy for Palestinians – is once again an object of discussion not a participant. No one bothered to ask us under what circumstances we publish Clifton and Gharib – because the answer would not have suited them. The purpose of NGO Monitor was to misrepresent the facts and claim that a relationship exists between The Electronic Intifada and the Center for American Progress when there is no such relationship.

Moreover, no one has asked us to remove the IPS articles we published, and if they did, we would not do so. I hope in future CAP will check its facts before claiming that we acted “without permission.”

Judging by the statements of its spokesperson, CAP – if Weinthal even quoted them accurately – seems more interested in running and hiding than standing up to NGO Monitor’s defamation campaign.

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Comments

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They can't agree if EI is a "highly influential"anti-Semitic genocide propaganda organ or if it is a "fringe publication." Shhhhhhhh, haters.

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We all agree that being against pro-Israel hasbara is not the same thing as being against all Jews, correct?

Similarly, we should be able to agree that being against a pro-Palestine website is not the SAME THING as being against all Palestinians.

This article does indeed describe a smear campaign, one that is intended to curtail pro-Palestine advocacy. It does not, however, "demonstrates once again the hatred and bigotry that NGO Monitor and Commentary harbor toward Palestinians." There's a difference between waging a (dirty) political campaign, and ascribing all-out-hatred to an entire population.

I point this out because this is a distinction we should be mindful of. Otherwise, it's quite easy to see how Israel-firsters might easily deploy the same logic in suggesting that EI or other publications harbor anti-Semitic rage or something equally stupid...

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"This article does indeed describe a smear campaign, one that is intended to curtail pro-Palestine advocacy. It does not, however, "demonstrates once again the hatred and bigotry that NGO Monitor and Commentary harbor toward Palestinians." There's a difference between waging a (dirty) political campaign, and ascribing all-out-hatred to an entire population."

Unfortunately in this case, Commentary and the NGO Monitor are not just waging a dirty political war. They are sites of expression of racism against Palestinians. Now, whether racism involves "hatred," may be open for debate, but racism does rest on and perpetrate bigotry. And racism is hostile in nature.