Anti-Semitism charge backfires on ex-AIPAC flack

Two think tanks consider cutting ties with Josh Block after Salon reveals he targeted progressive journalists

By Justin Elliott

Published December 12, 2011 6:58PM (EST)

Josh Block
Josh Block

Greg Sargent at the Washington Post reports that my recent story on Josh Block, which outlined accusations of anti-Semitism against progressive bloggers that Block promoted on a private neoconservative listserv, has landed the former AIPAC spokesman in some hot water.

Two think tanks he's associated with -- the Progressive Policy Institute and the Truman National Security Project -- were apparently rattled by the incident:

PPI head Will Marshall privately told Block that the think tank would sever ties with Block if he didn’t retract the charges detailed in Salon, according to a source familiar with the discussions. Block subsequently offered Politico a statement on the charges, claiming he had never accused people at CAP in particular of anti-Semitism, but not walking back or apologizing for the gist of what was reported in the Salon piece. It’s still unclear how PPI — which declined to comment — will proceed at this point.

Meanwhile, at Truman, top officials privately debated via email whether to cut ties with Block after the Salon story broke, a source says. They had already been unhappy with Block’s attacks on critics of Israel, and the Salon piece exacerbated tensions, I’m told.

I've asked Block for comment and will update this post if I hear back. Sargent reports that PPI and Truman officials are mulling whether to sever ties with Block over the incident.

Arguably even more surprising than the reaction by the think tanks is that Block's business partner, lobbyist Lanny Davis, publicly -- and quite strongly -- broke with Block over the accusations of anti-Semitism against progressive bloggers.

Davis, keep in mind, is hardly a lefty on Mideast issues. He has been a senior advisor and spokesperson at the Israel Project, one of the biggest organizations that promotes the current Israeli government line in Washington.

"I respect Josh Block but I 100 percent disagree with much of his language. People can disagree about Israel’s policies without being anti-Semites," Davis told Think Progress." "In fact I think it’s a terrible mistake to blur the two. We should be able to debate Israel’s policies. I am very pro-Israel. I believe the onus for negotiations is on the Palestinians but both Israelis and Palestinians share responsibility. However, that’s all fair debate. Israelis debate the subject. We debate the subject. Impugning motives of people at the Center [for American Progress] and impugning [that] those motives are driven by anti-Semitism is, in my opinion, wrong."

Justin Elliott

Justin Elliott is a reporter for ProPublica. You can follow him on Twitter @ElliottJustin

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Anti-semitism Israel Israel-palestine