On Tuesday the influential think tank, which functions as an arm of the Democratic Party, is scheduled to host a conversation between Netanyahu and CAP president Neera Tanden, who also happens to be a staunch supporter of Hillary Clinton’s campaign for president.
In recent days, Tanden added her voice to an online chorus of Clinton supporters expending enormous amounts of energy to paint the Democratic frontrunner’s leftist male detractors as sexists whose critiques are rooted not in principled opposition to Clinton’s neoliberal hawkishness but in misogyny.
With seemingly zero self-awareness, Tanden asked whether racism on the left would be tolerated the way sexism supposedly has been against her preferred presidential contender.
Ironically, the answer to Tanden’s question can be found in the backlash to her speaking engagement with the openly racist Israeli premier.
Given the enormous amount of push-back to CAP from both inside and outside the organization, it appears that the left indeed has little tolerance for those who collude with Israel’s rightwing regime.
Jewish Voice for Peace issued an open letter slamming CAP for giving Netanyahu a platform.
“Netanyahu knows that he has created a deep partisan divide in the US over Israeli policies and is attempting to repackage his increasingly far-right agenda as bi-partisan consensus,” states the letter, which has been signed by more than 100 progressive leaders and organizations, adding, “CAP should not be providing him with this opportunity.”
A petition started by the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation condemning CAP has garnered thousands of signatures. A picket is scheduled to take place outside the event. And current and former CAP staffers are speaking out against the organization’s cooperation with a race-baiting rightwing leader who has actively campaigned with Republicans to get his way.
This week’s visit is Netanyahu’s first since accepting an invitation from Republicans in March to give a speech before congress against Obama’s nuclear deal with Iran.
In an unprecedented break from the pro-Israel consensus that dominates congress, that speech was boycotted by dozens of Democrats.
The purpose of Netanyahu’s trip is to rectify that supposed rift between Israel and the Democratic Party, which is why, as The Huffington Post reported, “the Israeli government pushed hard for an invite to [CAP]” with help from the hardline Israel lobbying group AIPAC, “which also applied pressure to CAP to allow Netanyahu to speak.”
However, the rift is entirely superficial.
While it’s true that support for Israel among the Democratic base is trending down, this attitude has yet to be reflected among the party’s leadership.
Throughout his presidency, Obama has time and again rewarded Netanyahu for his racism and obstructionism.
In the midst of Israel’s merciless bombing campaign in Gaza in the summer of 2014, which killed 551 children, many of them deliberately, Obama replenished Israel’s weapons stockpile to ensure that the slaughter could continue without pause.
After Netanyahu race-baited his way to reelection, assembling the most racist governing coalition in Israel’s history, the Obama administration congratulated him with a $1.9 billion weapons package. And now the Obama administration is poised to increase US military aid to Israel from $3 billion to $4.1 billion annually, guaranteeing Israel’s capacity to reenact its 2014 butchery against the people of Gaza.
Like Obama, CAP appears to be unfazed by Israel’s rising belligerence towards Palestinians. In the months leading up to Netanyahu’s visit, CAP pushed for more aid for Netanyahu’s murderous regime.
Meanwhile, Tanden has defended her organization’s decision to host Netanyahu, telling the Forward, “I don’t think Israel is a lost cause for progressives … I’m a progressive and I believe in change, and that things change for the better.”
Hosting Netanyahu, she insisted, is part of her organization’s commitment to the “free exchange of ideas,” an absurd declaration that completely contradicts the censorial bullying CAP’s leadership has exerted over its writers and staffers in service to Israel.
Last week The Intercept’s Glenn Greenwald published a batch of leaked internal emails that reveal the scandalous measures taken by CAP to pander to AIPAC, including censoring its own writers, many of whom were ultimately pushed out of the organization for reporting critically on Israel.
Tanden, at the behest of pro-Israel operative Ann Lewis, even instituted a special review policy for all Israel-related posts at the think tank’s blog, Think Progress.
A former advisor to Hillary Clinton, Lewis once said, “The role of the president of the United States is to support the decisions that are made by the people of Israel. It is not up to us to pick and choose from among the political parties.”
In recent years, Lewis has worked with AIPAC tirelessly to brand Israel as a worthy cause for progressive Democrats, particularly women.
Through AIPAC’s sister group, the American Israel Education Fund, Lewis has junketed several prominent liberal women on propaganda trips to Israel, including Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards.
With Tanden in the driver’s seat, CAP has proven itself a staunch ally to the interests of pro-Israel hardliners, often demonstrating greater loyalty to Israel than to the Democratic Party it purports to serve.
As Greenwald explained: “At first glance, CAP’s devotion to AIPAC and Netanyahu may seem strange given that it is so plainly at odds with the Obama White House’s interests. But CAP — like so many leading DC think tanks with pretenses to objective ‘scholarship’ — has repeatedly proven that it prioritizes servitude to its donors’ interests even over its partisan loyalties.”
“In the case of Israel and Netanyahu, there is an even more significant factor at play: Tanden is far more of a Clinton loyalist than an Obama loyalist, and a core strategy of the Clinton campaign is to depict Hillary as supremely devoted to Israel,” he added.
“[Clinton] has clearly adopted a strategy of siding with Netanyahu and Israel over the Obama White House, and CAP, with its characteristic subservience, is fully on board,” Greenwald wrote.
Indeed, just last week, Clinton penned an op-ed pledging unconditional loyalty to Netanyahu should she win the presidency.
Soft spot for tyrants
Like Clinton’s, Tanden’s hawkish outlook on foreign policy extends beyond Israel.
In one of the leaked email exchanges, Tanden argued that Libya should be forced to hand over its oil revenue as reimbursement for the US bombing campaign that has transformed Libya into a lawless haven for extremist groups. “We have a giant deficit. They have a lot of oil,” reasoned Tanden, an argument that puts her in the same camp as Republican frontrunner Donald Trump.
Tanden also has a soft spot for tyrants beyond Netanyahu.
In 2002, Modi oversaw a three-day long anti-Muslim pogrom in Gujarat, in which over 1,000 people were killed and women were systematically raped.
But Tanden didn’t let such horrors spoil her meeting with Modi last year, which she was “honored” to take part in.
CAP has also been an energetic proponent of Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, who in 2013 orchestrated a violent coup that ousted the first democratically elected president in Egypt’s history and initiated a new era of ruthless state repression.
With these trends in mind, CAP’s alliance with Netanyahu and AIPAC is not at all surprising. At the same time, the days of the American left tolerating Israel’s atrocities against Palestinians are over. It’s only a matter time before the Democratic Party and its myriad organs are forced to reckon with the fact that “progressive except for Palestine” is no longer an acceptable position.
Editor’s note: this article previously stated that Ann Lewis is an AIPAC operative. It has been edited to clarify that, while she works closely with AIPAC, she is not their employee.