Why Did MoveOn Apologize for Opposing Radical Foe of Israel?
Jonathan S. Tobin
Last month, MoveOn.org joined a chorus of liberals and Democrats pleading with New York Democrats not to nominate Charles Barron for a safe New York City congressional seat. MoveOn sent out an email blast aimed at the radical candidate. Barron, a vicious anti-Zionist and radical supporter of dictators like Libya’s Muammar Qaddafi and Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe, was political poison for the Democrats, and his defeat by the more centrist Hakeem Jeffries caused the entire party to heave a sigh of relief. But according to one of the group’s top leaders, the decision to draw a line between its activities and a hatemonger was a terrible mistake.
As JTA reports, Justin Ruben, executive director of MoveOn.org Political Action, apologized for the email blast at Barron. Calling the group’s condemnation of Barron — a candidate who was endorsed by the Ku Klux Klan’s David Duke — “offensive and inflammatory,” Ruben walked back MoveOn’s involvement in the race saying:
The email was all too reminiscent of the kind of attacks that have been used by our opponents to divide progressives over and over again — white folks from African Americans, Jews from non-Jews, recent immigrants from descendants of immigrants, etc.
Why would anyone regret being part of an effort to save the Democrats from the humiliation of nominating someone who has become the poster child for the radicalization of their party? The answer is simple. Ruben’s walk back of the attack on Barron is consistent with the group’s origins and its basic purpose.
The email blast at Barron might have seemed like a sensible thing for a liberal group to do. But MoveOn’s apology is a reminder that it is a beachhead for the radical left in American politics, not a bastion of traditional liberalism.
The JTA article referred to past controversies about MoveOn’s website forums, which were well-known for being home to the worst sort of anti-Semitic and anti-Zionist hate speech. The group says it removed any offensive speech, but critics have rightly pointed out that most of the really nasty stuff about Jews and Israel remained. But no matter what its online fans say or don’t say, MoveOn’s far left politics are antithetical to the maintenance of a strong U.S.-Israel alliance.
Even more to the point, as Ruben’s apology highlights, it is the sort of radical group which can never envision having any enemies on the left even if that puts them into bed with the worst sort of anti-Semites and haters. If MoveOn’s political action committee thinks there is something wrong with pointing out that a politician spews bile at Israel and the Jews, it is an indication that the group believes there is nothing wrong with such behavior. Though the group’s condemnation of Barron was the act of a rational liberal group, it was actually out of character with the organization’s spirit and, no doubt, repulsive to many of its activists.
While some in the media have treated MoveOn as a serious player, its moment in the national spotlight during the heyday of the anti-Iraq war protests is over and with it, its claim to mainstream status. The Barron walk back ought to signal those who have lauded it that this creature of George Soros’s wealth should not be accorded the respect it has gotten. The mutual affection of MoveOn and David Duke for an Israel-hater tells you all you need to know about where the group fits into the political spectrum — on the margins where the far left and the far right merge.