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Media Analyses





Valerie Plame Was Just Echoing the Echo Chamberís Antisemitism


Valerie Plame, the former CIA operative turned pundit, spent the first day of the Jewish new year recommending an article entitled “America's Jews are Driving America's Wars,” from an avowedly antisemitic website. Although many major news outlets covered Plame's naked antisemitism, they failed to note that it was nothing new, either for her or some of her associates and fellow advocates.

On Sept. 21, 2017, Plame tweeted out the article from The Unz Review by Philip Giradli. As Bre Payton noted in The Federalist, the piece “suggested that American Jews should be singled out and labeled as such whenever they wish to voice an opinion or appear on TV.” The Unz Review and Giradli are purveyors of antisemitism as the law professor Alan Derschowitz detailed in a Fox News column (“Valerie Plame knew exactly what she was tweeting,” September 22).

The protocols of Plame

Plame first came to public attention when she was accidentally outed by then-U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage as a CIA employee after her husband, Amb. Joe Wilson, opposed the second Iraq War. Both Wilson and Plame charged that U.S. President George W. Bush and a coterie of advisers had “lied us into war.”

Indeed, that conflict was ripe with not so thinly veiled antisemitic accusations that American Jews and Israel controlled U.S. foreign policy. High-ranking Bush administration officials were accused of leading the country to war against Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein on Israel's behalf. Books, such as The Israel Lobby by professors Stephen Walt and John Mearsheimer, gave such claims the veneer of credibility and thoughtfulness.

Many of the officials whose patriotism and motives were unfairly questioned were Jewish, such as U.S. Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz, U.S. Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Doug Feith and Richard Perle, the head of the Defense Policy Board. Instead of debating policy choices on their merits, these public servants were singled out as part of a supposed cabal of “neocons” who were “warmongering” on behalf of Israel and the U.S. defense industry and multinational corporations.

Plame initially defended her tweet in similar fashion, writing that Giradli's story was “very provocative, but thoughtful.” Moreover, she demanded of her critics: “Put aside your biases” as “many neocon hawks ARE Jewish,” she added. As criticism of Plame intensified, she changed her story, apologizing and claiming that she hadn't read the article and, as a result, missed the “gross undercurrents” of a piece whose very title makes its antisemitism clear.

As Dershowitz and others noted, Plame has previously tweeted out antisemitic materials, adding “Well put, Mr. Giraldi,” to an Unz Review article titled “Why I Still Dislike Israel.” In a Dec. 8, 2015 tweet, Plame wrote “I have never heard this story about 9/11,” while sharing an Unz Review article that claims Israelis danced during the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.

A CIA officer who can't read headlines

In a Sept. 25, 2017 Facebook post, Plame claimed to apologize for sharing a “deeply offensive article,” adding that “the anti-semitic tropes in the piece are vile and I do not, nor have ever, endorsed them.” She acknowledged “in the past, I have also carelessly retweeted articles from this same site, the Unz Review, without closely examining contents and authors.” Yet, Plame has made her own opinions clear—and not just by defending and repeatedly sharing articles with antisemitic headlines. For example, in an April 11, 2017 tweet, Plame said that then-White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer was apologizing to “other rich Jews,” after Spicer apologized for comparing Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad to Adolf Hitler.

Some major U.S. news outlets and pundits took Plame at her word—or echoed them. As the writer Rob Eno highlighted, CNN's Sophie Tatum uncritically retweeted Plame's belated and disingenuous apology (“Media running cover for Valerie Plame after anti-Semitic tweets,” Conservative Review, September 22).

The Washington Post, while calling Plame's apology insufficient, then proceeded to defend the ideology undergirding her comments (“The other problem with Valerie Plame's horrible antisemitic tweet,” September 22). Post writer Molly Roberts asserted that “antiwar advocates” claim that U.S. “devotion to Israel is dragging us into wars in the Middle East. It started with Iraq, and today we risk making the same mistake with Iran.”

An argument commonly made—by antisemites

This, Roberts claimed, “is an argument worth having.” Why? While carefully distancing her argument from a belief in an “imaginary Jewish cabal,” she argued that:

“There's a powerful lobby for Israeli interests in the United States. It backed the Iraq War in 2003, and it backs an unforgiving stance toward Iran today. Sure, there are other reasons that the United States mires itself in Middle Eastern conflicts, and there are other countries pulling strings with Congress and the White House. There are also plenty of Americans who are uncompromisingly pro-Israel and have never had a conversation with a card-carrying AIPAC member. But when it comes down to it, the vast majority of U.S. politicians will take Israel's side in a fight — and that has ripple effects throughout the Middle East.”

This line of thinking—that the nation of Israel exercises undue, and even sinister, control over U.S. foreign policy; subverting it from what should be its “real” interests—is precisely what Plame and her acolytes argue. The truth, however, is less conspiratorial; many American politicians support Israel because a majority of Americans sympathize with Israel—a democracy that shares cultural, religious and political beliefs. And polls of American opinion show that a majority of Americans are concerned with Iran's nuclear program and support for terrorism.

Additionally, as CAMERA has highlighted, Israel and the U.S. have strong—and mutually beneficial—defense ties, including, shared intelligence, and Israeli developed technology being used by U.S. forces, including unmanned aerial vehicles, tank armor—which has saved American lives from Iranian-built improvised explosive devices (IED) in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Joint programs with Israel have led to advanced weapons systems that the U.S. benefits from, including increasingly important missile defense technologies. The Iron Dome defense system, which helped repel short-range rocket and mortar attacks, was created by Israel. In exchange for U.S. assistance with funding, the U.S. has access to this technology. (“Israel has proven a good ally,” Richmond Times Dispatch, Sept. 17, 2016).

Israel's military action against fledging nuclear programs in Iraq (1981) and Syria (2007)—both of which were condemned at the time by some U.S. officials—were later applauded for removing potentially dangerous threats that could have fallen into the hands of terrorist groups like ISIS. Then-U.S. Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney noted that he was, with the benefit of hindsight, grateful for Israel removing a nuclear threat from troops taking action against Saddam Hussein during the first Gulf War.

Roberts' implication that the U.S. couldn't have good concrete security concerns about either Saddam's Iraq or Iran—apart from Israel's—shows a limited understanding of either Baghdad or Tehran.

Facts worth stating

Unmentioned by Roberts, nearly all-Western intelligence agencies believed Saddam was pursuing, or already had, nuclear weapons. In his interrogation after his capture, Saddam acknowledged that he intended to restart his illegal nuclear program. As the historian Timothy Weiner recounted in his history of the CIA, Legacy of Ashes, during the first Gulf War, U.S. forces had discovered that Saddam was much closer to developing nuclear weapons than previously thought. During the second war, it was found that Saddam had developed a cache of illegal weapons of mass destruction, including chemical munitions.

Stephen Hayes detailed in his 2004 book, The Connection, that Saddam hosted several training camps for jihadists, including al-Qaeda.

This is to say that the U.S. had plenty of security concerns relating to a state-sponsor of terrorism actively pursuing weapons of mass destruction in a post-9/11 environment. The Islamic Republic of Iran, which as the U.S. State and Treasury Departments have noted, is the preeminent state sponsor of terrorism and backs Hezbollah, the Lebanese-based Shi'ite terrorist group. Prior to the Sept. 11, 2001 al-Qaeda terror attacks, Hezbollah had murdered more Americans than any other terror group. After 9/11, the Islamic Republic gave shelter to top al-Qaeda officials while simultaneously murdering U.S. soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan—part of an open war that it has declared against the United States since it's founding in 1979 (“Al-Qaeda's Iran Connection,” The Washington Times, Sept. 8, 2016).

As CAMERA has highlighted (“CAMERA Exposes Holes in Baltimore Sun commentary, Sept. 7, 2015), American Jews, like other Americans, have a variety of opinions about the so-called Iranian nuclear deal. Like most Americans, many were skeptical according to a Quinnipiac University poll conducted in the summer of 2015. Many Israeli political and security figures, whose opinions have frequently been misrepresented (see, here for an example), have also evidenced skepticism towards the deal. Some, with great reservations, even reluctantly supported it. These nuances—and the history of the Iraqi and Iranian regimes—go unmentioned by Roberts.

Contrary to both Plame's assertions and Roberts' attempt to explain it as “a debate worth having,” accusations of undue Israeli influence are common, and inevitably underpinned by flimsy and fabricated accusations against Jews. Walt and Mearsheimmer's book was excoriated by many scholars for its fast and loose use of materials, many of which appeared to come from antisemitic Internet sites. This did not, however, stop it from becoming a bestseller.

How antisemitism gets echoed

Irresponsible elements in the media have promoted this line of thinking.

During the debate over the Iranian nuclear deal, The New York Times even briefly listed which members of Congress were Jewish—and how they were expected to vote on the so-called Iran nuclear deal; disgustingly questioning their allegiance. Similar to The Times, Politico ran a cartoon showing pro-Israel organizations controlling Congress. And deal advocates, such as the pro-regime National Iranian American Council (NIAC), which partnered with organizations like J-Street and the Ploughshares Fund (whose board members included, until her recent tweet, Plame), asked if members of Congress would be “Israel-firsters” by voting against the deal.

Indeed, NIAC—and other Iran deal proponents—participated in a 2015 conference on the “Israel lobby,” in which participants claimed that information about Iran's nuclear program was “fabricated by the Mossad international intelligence service of Israel” and that in the U.S., Israeli “agents exist by the hundreds and hundreds throughout the country (“White House Ally Addresses ‘Israel Lobby' Conspiracy Conference,” Washington Free Beacon, April 13, 2015).”

Those who were critical of the deal, or of Iran's repression and support for terror, had their patriotism questioned, such as Michael Weiss, now a national security analyst for CNN. Weiss was labeled a “court Jew” in Plame's periodical of choice, The Unz Review. NIAC head Trita Parsi, whose organization is a Ploughshares fund partner, called the attack piece on Weiss a “must read” and then-CNN commentator Reza Aslan (known himself for his anti-Israel outbursts) shared it with his nearly 200,000 followers.

The thinking that Israelis and American Jews, or “neocons” as Plame would have it, control U.S. foreign policy, has become common enough that NPR host Diane Rehm accused a sitting U.S. Senator, Bernie Sanders, of having “dual citizenship with Israel,” in a June 10, 2015 broadcast that took place during the height of debate over the Iran deal. As CAMERA highlighted, Rehm's accusation had its origins in a neo-Nazi website called Stormfront, which was subsequently put on the left-wing extremist site, Counterpunch, before winding up on publicly funded radio. (“NPR's Diane Rehm ‘Likes' Facebook Neo-Nazi Claim,” CAMERA, June 10, 2015).

In that manner, antisemitism is mainstreamed. A former CIA operative turned pundit can share her antisemitic reading material on social media and The Washington Post calls it “horrible,” while nevertheless echoing its themes.


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