GOP Jews unveil ads against ‘progressive anti-Israel Democrats’

Clinton urged to disavow Sanders’s platform representatives; Jewish Democrats say campaign is attempt to draw attention away from Trump’s flaws

Rebecca Shimoni Stoil is the Times of Israel's Washington correspondent.

James Zogby (BankingBum / Wikipedia)
James Zogby (BankingBum / Wikipedia)

WASHINGTON — The Republican Jewish Coalition announced on Tuesday that it was launching a new series of web-based advertisements pummeling the Democratic Party for the influence of what it characterized as “progressive anti-Israel Democrats.”

Three short video spots that premiered Tuesday each feature a prominent member of the Democratic Platform Committee, all of whom have been critical of Israel.

The spots highlight statements by Professor Cornel West and Arab- American Institute President James Zogby, as well as Congressman Keith Ellison.

The West video features a speech in which the outspoken professor proclaimed that “Benjamin Netanyahu is a war criminal because he has chosen to promote occupation and annihilation.”

“Radical Democrat, stridently anti-Israel, hand-selected member of the Democratic Platform Committee,” a voice intones. “Sadly this isn’t the old Democratic Party. It’s today’s Democratic Party,” the 30-second advertisements conclude, transitioning from a black-and-white picture of John F. Kennedy to a color picture of a smiling Hillary Clinton.

Ellison, Zogby and West were all appointed to the platform committee by Democratic contender Senator Bernie Sanders. Sanders received five nominations to the committee, while front-runner Clinton received six and Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz appointed four.

The group will be tasked with drafting the party’s platform for approval at the annual convention in Philadelphia in late July.

Republican Jewish Coalition executive director Matt Brooks said Tuesday that “as the presumptive Democratic nominee, it is up to secretary Clinton to maintain the bipartisan consensus on Israel and to do so she must denounce anti-Israel voices in her party like James Zogby, Cornel West, and Congressman Ellison.”

Brooks complained that “progressive anti-Israel Democrats are doing everything they can to destroy the pro-Israel consensus that has existed for the past sixty years. Sadly, today’s Democratic Party is not the Democratic Party of our parents and grandparents when it comes to being there for Israel.”

“These Democrats are attempting to hijack their own platform process and insert language that is unabashedly anti-Israel, effectively undermining official Democratic support for Israel, our closest Middle East ally,” Brooks warned. “This most recent push – championed by ardent anti-Israel, pro-Palestinian figures like James Zogby, Cornel West, and Congressman Keith Ellison – is just the latest manifestation of a dangerous trend away from support of Israel within Democratic politics.”

Brooks cited a recent Pew poll, which indicated that for the first time since the Second Intifada liberal Democrats side with the Palestinians over Israel.

The National Jewish Democratic Council dismissed the RJC’s assertions as misleading and designed to take attention away from the shortcomings of their party’s own candidate, real estate mogul Donald Trump.

“We understand why they don’t want to be defending their racist, sexist and bigoted candidate who peddles in anti-Semitic tropes, but notice how they don’t even mention Hillary Clinton’s actual record,” the NJDC responded. “As they oppose the only consistently pro-Israel nominee in this race, this is going to be a tough year for RJC – all while more and more of their people stand with Israel and strengthen the US-Israel relationship by abandoning Trump.”

The Democratic National Committee also dismissed the claims, charging that the controversial views of some would not drive American Jews to vote for a Republican candidate who has failed to denounce some of his followers’ anti-Semitic attacks, among other things.

“The RJC is grasping at straws. Attacking a few individuals serving on a platform subcommittee won’t cut it when the Republican nominee wants to make Israel pay us back for defense aid, fails to disavow David Duke and the KKK, approves a white nationalist as a delegate and then dismisses it as a ‘database error’ and has ‘no message’ for his anti-Semitic followers who harass Jewish reporters. In November, American Jews will come out in droves to vote against Trump’s campaign to Make America Hate Again,” the DNC said in a statement.

Clinton supporters, including former congressman Robert Wexler, who testified before the platform committee as an expert witness on the frontrunner’s views, pushed back against initiatives by the Sanders delegates.

Speaking to JTA after the committee met, Wexler said that the platform should reject the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement – of which West is a vocal proponent – and pushed back against attempts to add the word occupation to the platform.

“To insert language with respect to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that is inflammatory and that prejudges items that are to be negotiated at the negotiating table, the Democratic platform is not the place to do that,” Wexler, the president of the Center for Middle East Peace, argued.

Wexler emphasized that the Sanders appointees’ views would not prevail.

“What everybody tends to forget, with all due respect, is that there was a winner of the Democratic primaries and her name is Hillary Clinton and Hillary Clinton has a long established, decades-long policy regarding Israel,” Wexler said. “It is Hillary Clinton’s view that won out.”

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