Emergency Committee for Israel

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The Emergency Committee for Israel (ECI) defines its mission as "mounting an active defense of the US-Israel relationship by educating the public about the positions of political candidates on this important issue, and by keeping the public informed of the latest developments in both countries." [1] Formed in July 2010 as a 501(c)(4) nonprofit political organization, [2] it unites "The hawkish, neoconservative wing of the Republican Party, many of whom are Jewish, and conservative Evangelical Christians who have become increasingly outspoken in their support for Israel."

The group obtained media attention even before its website was live. CNN's Campbell Brown, who is the spouse of Daniel Senor, had ECI's executive director as a guest Noah Pollak of Commentary, to appear on her show before its website was online. [3]

Linkages

Its founding Board of Directors consists of William Kristol, Gary Bauer, and Rachel Abrams. Kristol is often considered the dean of neoconservatives. Bauer is a Christian Zionist. Abrams is the writer-blogger spouse of Elliott Abrams and daughter of Midge Decter and Norman Podhoretz.[4]

Matthew Duss, a research associate at the Center for American Progress, reported that the group's offices have been used by other neoconservative organizations, and are also the address of Randy Scheunemann's public relations firm. Scheunemann, a Republican consultant, is the foreign policy trainer to Sarah Palin, ran the Committee for the Liberation of Iraq, was the staff director for the Project for the New American Century, and an ally of Ahmed Chalabi. Michael Goldfarb, who works for Scheunemann, is an adviser to the Emergency Committee, and also to another group co-founded by Kristol and Liz Cheney, Keep America Safe.[5]

Duss quoted Goldfarb as saying that the Committee had no position on the two-state solution, which has been opposed by board member Gary Bauer:
“the group doesn’t have a position on the creation of a Palestinian state...ECI is for a strong US-Israel relationship and a strong, secure Israel at peace with the Palestinians and all its neighbors — but Israel is a democratic ally that must determine for itself the best way to achieve this goal,”[6]
David Frum speaks of its executive director, Noah Pollak, as an immensely talented communicator for Israel, who proposed that the Israeli Defense Forces introduce a YouTube channel, during the 2009 Gaza conflict, to correct propaganda of the other side.[7] Answering questions from the Jerusalem Post, Pollak contrasted ECI with J Street.
Well, for starters, ECI is pro-Israel. Our purpose is to address three major threats to the U.S.-Israel alliance in the context of the American political debate: the Iranian nuclear program and Iran's sponsorship of terrorist groups; the campaign to delegitimize and isolate Israel; and the hostility of the Obama administration to the traditional closeness of the two nations. At bottom, we believe that the turn against Israel is a rejection of America's special role in the world as a defender of liberal democracies. We will do great damage to our own national soul if we allow ourselves to become cynical participants in the international lynching of the Jewish state. [8]

2010 campaign

Their first target is the Democratic candidate for Senate in Pennsylvania, Joe Sestak, as part of broader criticism of Obama Administration Mideast policy. They have accused Sestak of "appearing at a fundraiser for the Council on American Islamic Relations, which it describes as an “anti-Israel organization the FBI called a ‘front group for Hamas.’” " and endorsing a letter against the Israeli blockade of Gaza. [9]

Denying the allegations, the Sestak campaign has sent a cease-and-desist latter to Comcast, which carries the ad. [10]

David Frum described this action as indicative of an overall "...coming shift in the American Jewish community. While most American Jews vote Democrat, those Jews most passionately involved with Israel have felt ever-increasing mistrust of Barack Obama, his administration and his party." [11]

Identified with the left wing of American-Israeli relations, M.J. Rosenberg, Senior Foreign Policy Fellow at Media Matters, who formerly worked for the Israel Policy Forum, wrote that the "ad could very easily stir up anti-Semitism because it suggests, rather powerfully, that American Jews care not about America but only about Israel. " He interpreted Kristol's statement that Emergency Committee is "the pro-Israel wing of the pro-Israel community." "By that, he means that unlike AIPAC, which at least invokes US security, the Emergency Committee is only about Israel."[12]

The Jewish Telegraph Agency reports that the race is taking on national significance, as it explores whether candidates can successfully ally themselves with less hard-line groups such as J Street. Believing that it is too dangerous to alienate groups such as the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, "dovish" congressman have refused J Street support, such as Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), "a Jewish lawmaker who took J Street's money in 2008 but is not on their roster of 61 endorsees this year." Jeremy Ben Ami, J Street's executive director, said "There's no question that this race is a very important test of what kind of support J Street and its supporters can deliver/ We will show a substantial amount of money can be raised from our political action committee, and that a substantial amount of money can be raised for a candidate that opposes the right wing on these issues." [13]

Kristol has suggested that ECI is challenging, as well as J Street on the left, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), usually thought to be on the right, but not far-right, of U.S.-Israel positions. "There are some who say they’re pro-Israel but aren’t really ... then there’s AIPAC, which is a wonderful organization, but one that’s very committed to working with the administration, so they pull some punches publicly. Jewish Week also quoted Bauer on J Street: "You have to take a group and look at what it does. In my view, you have to come up with a pretty bizarre definition of ‘pro-Israel’ to fit J Street into that category.”[14] Kristol's criticism of working with the Administration reflects other comments that wonder to what extent ECI is concerned with Republican interests.

Legal issues of foreign representation

W. Patrick Lang asked, on his blog, "Why is this new outfit not a candidate for registration under FARA (Foreign Agents Registration Act)? It advocates partuiular American foreign policy positions on behalf of foreign country and seeks to directly pressure legislators to adopt positions favorable to that foreign power.[15] In a followup the next day, he asked "Have you registered as foreign agents, under the Foreign Agents Registration Act? This seems to be one of the most cut and dried cases of mandatory registration. They are openly advertising that they are serving as a lobby for Israel. And, by the way, as a string of law suits against AIPAC, and an FEC ruling against ADL make clear, foreign agents, whether individuals or organizations, cannot interfere, in any way, in U.S. electoral affairs."[16]

References

  1. About, Emergency Committee for Israel
  2. Ben Smith (12 July 2010), "Group to oppose President Obama's Mideast policy", Politico
  3. Campbell Brown, ed. (6 July 2010), "Immigration Showdown; President Obama Meets With Israeli Prime Minister", CNN
  4. Ron Kampeas (15 July 2010), Rachel Abrams’ gay thang, Jewish Telegraph Agency
  5. Neocon 'Emergency Committee for Israel' Based Out Of 'Committee for the Liberation of Iraq' Offices, Huffington Post, 16 July 2010
  6. Matt Duss (13 July 2010), "‘Emergency Committee for Israel’ Refuses To Take Position On Two State Solution", Wonk Room, Center for American Progress
  7. David Frum (13 July 2010), The Daily Dish, Atlantic Monthly
  8. "Rosner's Domain: Noah Pollak on "cynical participants in the international lynching of the Jewish state"", Jerusalem Post, 15 July 2010
  9. Document package, Emergency Campaign for Israel
  10. Letter to Charlie Thurston, President, Comcast Spotlight from Jared G. Solomon, General Counsel, Sestak for Senate, 16 July 2010
  11. David Frum (17 July 2010), "The New In-Your-Face Israel Lobby", Frum Forum
  12. M.J. Rosenberg (14 July 2010), Neocons: Dual Loyalties Or Just One, TPMcafe
  13. Ron Kampeas (20 July 2010), Pa. Senate race turning into Israel proxy fight, Jewish Telegraph Agency
  14. James D. Besser (14 July 2010), "GOP Heavies Launch New Pro-Israel Group: Kristol, Bauer target J Street’s candidate in Pa. Senate race.", Jewish Week
  15. W. Patrick Lang (13 July 2010), "AIPAC/Likudniks versus Sestak Rd. 1", Sic Semper Tyrannis
  16. W. Patrick Lang (14 July 2010), "FARA and the Emergency Committee for Israel", Sic Semper Tyrannis