Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Hate Watch -- the Politics of Smear: Attacks on "Americans for Peace Now" Follow Familiar Pattern

Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Hate Watch -- the Politics of Smear: Attacks on "Americans for Peace Now" Follow Familiar Pattern

Article excerpt

Hate Watch--The Politics of Smear: Attacks on "Americans for Peace Now" Follow Familiar Pattern

(The smear calls to talk show hosts, letters to the editor or attacks in news columns have one thing in common. Instead of addressing the remarks of their victim about Israel, the Palestinians, or the size of U.S. aid to Israel, they challenge the victim's motives; repeat out of context things the victim is alleged to have said or done; or impute guilt by association, no matter how remote or far-fetched. Such stealth attacks have something else in common. Virtually all originate with the same two national organizations and reach the smearers, literally, in "plain, unmarked envelopes.")

Recent personal attacks in the Jerusalem Post and U.S. Jewish weeklies on Gail Pressberg, co-chair of Americans for Peace Now, a U.S. support group for the dovish Peace Now organization in Israel, followed a familiar pattern. She wasn't attacked for what she personally had said about Israel, or positions Americans for Peace Now had taken, because many American Jews would agree with them. Instead, she was labeled "pro-PLO" on the basis of "guilt by association."

An example is the following five-paragraph excerpt from an article about Pressberg written by Morton Klein, president of the American Zionist Federation (Philadelphia), and Dr. Michael Goldblatt, vice president of the Zionist Organization of America (Philadelphia), and published in the Jerusalem Post of Feb. 23, 1993:

". . . She then moved from one pro-PLO job to another. After leaving the American Friends Service Committee, she became executive director of the Foundation for Middle East Peace, a group that the Anti-Defamation League has described as having `a decided slant toward the anti-Israel pro-Palestinian position.'

"According to the ADL, Pressberg's boss, Foundation Chairman Merle Thorpe, is a senior partner in the Washington, DC firm of Hogan & Hartson, which has been a registered agent for Saudi Arabia. The Foundation has in the past made financial contributions to the anti-Zionist group, `American Jewish Alternatives to Zionism, Inc.' as well as to the passionately anti-Israel journal, Washington Report on Middle East Affairs.

"While working for the Foundation, Pressberg helped organize meetings between `prominent American religious and civil rights leaders and the PLO representatives' (in 1987), according to the Arab American Institute, a pro-PLO lobby, which thanked her for doing so.

"Even after becoming a full-time staff member for the ostensibly `moderate' Americans for Peace Now, Pressberg continues to serve as a member of the Advisory Council of the openly extremist America-Israel Council for Israeli-Palestinian Peace, which has repeatedly lobbied for reductions in U.S. aid to Israel.

The reckless disregard for fairness reflects their hatred.

"This year, she was named president-designate of Americans for Peace Now. It was a bold move for Peace Now, considering that its application for membership in the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations is still pending--and many Conference members may look askance at admitting to their ranks a group led by a veteran pro-PLO activist. . ."

There are many errors in these five paragraphs. The AAI is not a lobby at all. And, although Hogan and Hartson, one of Washington's three largest law firms, does lobby, and its more than 300 lawyers have represented dozens of foreign countries at one time or another, there is no record that any has represented Saudi Arabia for at least the past decade, if ever. Positions of the America-Israel Council for Israeli-Palestinian Peace probably are no further from the center of the Jewish mainstream than are those of either Americans for Peace Now or the ADL.

As for financial aid to the Washington Report, which certainly becomes passionate over many issues of U.S. relations with the 45 countries it covers, the Foundation for Middle East Peace has both sold and donated books it has published to the American Educational Trust, publisher of the Washington Report, for resale to the public. …

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