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October 23, 2008 - Image 29

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2008-10-23

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Playing Politics

J Street targets RJC advertising in Jewish newspapers.

Ron Kampeas
Jewish Telegraphic Agency



campaign by a new dovish pro-
Israel group to get Jewish news-
papers not to run Republican
Jewish Coalition attack ads has raised
questions about what's kosher and what
isn't in this fraught political season.
The new group, J Street, helped flood
many Jewish newspapers with letters in
recent days urging them not to run the
RJC ads attacking the Democratic presi-
dential candidate, Sen. Barack Obama,
D-Ill. Letters were even sent to newspapers
in which the ads did not appear.
"I was saddened to see that the
Republican Jewish Coalition's vile, fear-
mongering advertisements have been
printed in your publication," read one
letter. "Since when do Jews go along with
smear campaigns? By all means tolerate
genuine dissent but please, draw the lines
at hateful, dishonest caricatures!'
In addition to initiating the letter-writ-
ing campaign, J Street organized a petition
calling on papers not to publish the ads.
The petition garnered 23,000 signatures,
according to the group's executive director,
Jeremy Ben-Ami.
"There is a deep well of anger in the
broader Jewish community over the ques-
tionable tactics used by the RJC and the
lies and distortions they and others have
circulated during this campaign:' Ben-Ami
said. "We do hope that our campaign will
spark a discussion among Jewish media
executives about the extent to which they
wish to provide a platform for further
dissemination of baseless allegations and
unfounded personal attacks."
Matt Brooks, the RJC executive director,
derided what he described as J Street's
amateurish" attempt at intimidation and
"It's wildly offensive that they would
engage in intimidation on newspapers not
to run ads:' he said. "It's misguided and
offends people's sensitivities!' Brooks said
he was ready to meet Ben-Ami to debate
the ads' content.
The overall thrust of the RJC's ad cam-
paign is that Obama remains an alarming
mystery to American Jews; the slogan is:
"Concerned about Barack Obama? You


should be!"
It's not an unprecedented
tack in political campaigning,
although it hardly jibes with
two years of intense media
scrutiny of Obama — and
doesn't comport with a GOP
campaign that is going out
of its way to keep reporters
from examining the record of
Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, the
running mate of Sen. John
McCain, R-Ariz.
A review of the RJC ads
reveals some substantive
attacks on Obama, and others
that severely distort his record
and his relationships.

Perhaps the RJC's most sub-
stantive claim is that Obama
has expressed a willingness
to meet with Iran's president
without preconditions.
L. ,
Obama's surrogates, includ- Presidential candidates Barack Obama and John McCain
ing his running mate and the
National Jewish Democratic
Coalition, have suggested that when
Similarly, two months later, with the
Even as Obama maintains his support
the Democratic presidential nominee
opening of the United Nations General
for stepped up diplomacy with Iran, he
spoke of meeting with Iranian leaders,
Assembly, Obama answered questions
has also stressed that the goal of any talks
he meant the religious hierarchy that
about how he could reconcile his willing-
would be for the Islamic Republic to aban-
controls the country's security appara-
ness to meet Ahmadinejad and his view
don its nuclear program and end its sup-
tus — not Iranian President Mahmoud
that Columbia University had made a
port of terrorism. Obama has portrayed
Ahmadinejad, who has denied the
mistake in offering to host the Iranian
U.S.-Iranian talks as an important step for
Holocaust and predicted that Israel would
president during his New York visit.
building international support for tougher
be wiped off the map. But the record sug-
The RJC also gets it right when it notes
measures if Iran pushed ahead with its
gests this is an attempt to backpedal from
that Obama has said that Iran and other
nuclear program — and he has refused to
Obama's stated position, rather than a
current pariah states targeting the United
take military options off the table in deal-
mere clarification.
States are "tiny" compared to the Soviet
ing with the issue.
The issue first emerged during a July
Union and don't pose the same threat. A
2007 debate sponsored by YouTube and
Policy Advisers
McCain campaign TV ad simply quoted
CNN, in which voters submitted their
Obama as calling Iran "tiny," denying
In addition to the issue of Iran, the RJC
questions via video. With an image of
viewers the ability to draw their own con-
ads have attacked Obama's supposed
Ahmadinejad flashing on the screen
clusions about what Obama had actually
choice of religious and foreign-policy
as he spoke, one questioner asked the
Democratic candidates if they would be
One Iran-related distortion lingers, how-
One ad refers to Obama's relationship
willing in their first year of office to meet
ever: "Sen. Obama is opposed to critical
with his former pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah
separately — without preconditions —
legislation labeling Iran's Revolutionary
Wright, who has in the past embraced rad-
with the leaders of Iran, Syria, Venezuela,
Guard a terrorist organization:' one ad
ical views about Israel as a colonial state
Cuba and North Korea.
says. The legislation in question — a non-
and suggested that the United States bears
Obama said yes, and never challenged
binding amendment — was hardly criti-
responsibility for fomenting the unrest
the initial media coverage or criticism
cal, and Obama has supported such a label that leads to terrorism. Obama has cut off
from the other candidates based on
in separate legislation. Additionally, he has Wright and insisted he was unaware of
the assumption that he had been talk-
sponsored legislation that would protect
his pastor's more radical views, although
ing about a potential meeting with
from lawsuits pensions that divest from
companies that deal with Iran.
Playing on page A30

October 23 2008


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