It's really sad and a little scary how anti-Semitism has become just one more piece of cheap campaign rhetoric, to be hurled at just about anybody and any organization that doesn't agree with you.
Today's case in point: the Illinois Republican Party, which just issued a statement headlined “This Just In: Anti-Semitic, Anti-Israel MoveOn.org Calls Giannoulias Their Hero.”
Alexi Giannoulias, in case you don't follow Illinois politics, is the Democrat running for the Senate seat once held by a guy named Obama. And MoveOn.org is the big, Internet-based liberal group that gets some of its money from George Soros.
Here's what the Illinois Republicans breathlessly report:
“Moments ago, the radical left-wing organization MoveOn.org, known for its history of anti-Semitism and anti-Israel activity, issued an urgent call for support of Alexi Giannoulias in the Illinois Senate race. In their email, MoveOn writes: “We're adding Alexi Giannoulias to our Progressive Heroes list because this race is so important. In case you missed it, this organization is well-known for its history of anti-Semitism, which begs a simple question: why is Alexi Giannoulias their hero?”
The problem is, the hit on MoveOn.org derives from anti-Semitic items posted on the group's blogs – open to the public - by outsiders .
As Web editor of the Jewish Week, I can tell you how hard it is from keeping offensive material out of blogs, comment pages and the like – but apparently MoveOn did the responsible thing and removed comments it termed “abhorrent.”
That won the praise of the Anti-Defamation League, which “welcomed the responsiveness of MoveOn.org."
In its statement, the Illinois GOPers had the sheer chutzpah to quote ADL director Abe Foxman's initial letter to MoveOn.org expressing concern about the blog items – ignoring his followup, in which he proclaimed himself satisfied at the group's actions and acknowledged the difficulty of policing open Web forums.
Thus the charge of anti-Semitism, like Holocaust comparisons, becomes just one more throwaway political line in the mud fight we call politics.
And thus the meaning of a social scourge that has persisted through the ages is devalued, rendered into meaningless pap, like so much of the hyper-partisan rhetoric we hear these days.
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