I’m at the point that when I see Aaron Klein’s name in the byline of a WND story, I assume it’s fake. It may not be a completely accurate heuristic, but it’s developed over the lifetime of this blog. Let’s start this time with the debunking itself, and then get into Klein’s claims: “Right-Wing Smear Baselessly Links Obama Admin to Anti-Netanyahu Campaign” by Hannah Groch-Begley on Media Matters.
Hannah comes out swinging, debunking the claim – or at least mollifying it – in the first paragraph, by pointing out “American political consultants from both parties have been independently working in Israeli campaigns for decades — including former Obama aides who have worked for Netanyahu.” I actually recommend reading Hannah’s article in full because it points out the path of the “Chinese Whispers” that have been blown out of any proportion or context due to a desire to undermine President Obama for any reason – real or not. (And to be fair, I don’t think everything President Obama does is good or fair or reasonable, I’d just rather dislike his actions if they’re real, rather than dislike his actions that are shown to be fake.)
Here’s the basic idea, or claimed evidence: “[… A] former Obama campaign staffer went to Israel “to oust Netanyahu,” suggesting the former staffer would not do this work “if he thought Obama opposed it” and implying the administration was “actively working to defeat Netanyahu.””
Here’s the reality: “Two policy groups in Israel, OneVoice and Victory 15, are currently working together to promote platforms that reportedly “are not friendly” to Netanyahu ahead of the upcoming election. The groups have also partnered with American consulting group 270 Strategies, which is headed by Jeremy Bird, a former Obama campaign staffer. OneVoice began working with 270 Strategies in 2013, long before the Israeli elections were announced.”
But, as she stated at the beginning: “There is a long history of U.S. political consultants from both parties working for Israeli political campaigns.” She then lists ones from US presidential campaigns that have worked both for and against various parties in Israel. But, apparently, this one is somehow different. The rumor that it’s different is possibly in response to House Speaker John Boehner inviting Netanyahu to address Congress — a major faux pas in Washington because foreign dignitaries are supposed to be handled by the State Department, part of the Executive Branch. This was seen as a major snub to Obama both by the House for offering it and Netanyahu for accepting. And so, “Conservatives claim that 270 Strategies’ work with OneVoice proves Obama is either retaliating against Netanyahu or engaging in a similar effort to meddle in foreign politics; but again, 270’s work on the ground in Israel began long before this most recent disagreement, and it is typical for American political consultants to engage in Israeli politics.”
This was then hyped by the Drudge Report, by Sen. Ted Cruz on Brietbart, and even Megan Kelly on Fox “news” who suggested “that the administration sent an Obama “field general” to help Israel “elect Netanyahu’s opponent.””
This took another twist because of money: “Many of the media outlets took the smear further, by also claiming that tax-payer dollars were funding the campaign. OneVoice briefly received a one-time grant for about $200,000 from the State Department, which ended in November 2014. As State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki noted in a briefing, the grant “ended before there was a declaration of an Israeli election.””
So, because some organization got a grant at one time, that means everything they do in the future is linked to that funding source? Uh huh …
That’s the extent of that. So, now we have WND:
- “‘Obama Army’ Deploys to Tel Aviv to Topple Netanyahu” –Aaron Klein (January 27, 2015), 1447 comments
- “Inside HQ of ‘Obama Army’ Opposing Netanyahu” –Aaron Klein (January 28, 2015), 770 comments
- “Cruz Grills Kerry on Anti-Netanyahu Spending” –Bob Unruh (January 31, 2015), 340 comments
- “Netanyahu Fires Back at ‘Obama Army’ Plotting His Defeat*” –Aaron Klein (February 01, 2015), 1974 comments
- “Anti-Netanyahu Election Group Admits to American Funding” –Aaron Klein (February 01, 2015), 102 comments
- “Meet Obama Organizer Working to Boot Bibi” –Aaron Klein (February 03, 2015), 555 comments
- “Another U.S.-Backed Scheme to Defeat Netanyahu” –Aaron Klein (February 05, 2015), 97 comments
*Reposted under the headline, “FOR TRAINING ONLY – Netanyahu fires back at U.S. election meddling” on February 6, but the link on February 6 returns a 404 Error (file not found).
Really, you can read down those headlines and check off each conspiracy that I explained above. But, with very sensationalistic headlines. For example, with the “Cruz Grills Kerry” one, it’s not a grilling. It’s a letter that Sen. Cruz sent to Sec. of State Kerry asking to make sure that no US taxpayer funds are being used. That’s it. Oh, except that in the WND story, there are many quotes from anonymous internet commenters who are opposed to what they are being mislead to think is going on.
The only one not in there is the one about Netanyahu “firing back” at an “Obama Army.” To quote from WND: “During a press conference Sunday, the Likud Party officially accused V15 and other related nonprofits of being supported “through millions of dollars funneled from Europe, the U.S. and the New Israel Fund and international factors interested in bringing down Prime Minister Netanyahu” who think “that all means are appropriate.” The Likud further called for Israel’s Central Elections Committee to outlaw V15′s activities to “ensure the integrity of the election.””
It may be a tu quoque fallacy on my part, but I would like to point out that there is plenty of foreign money in US politics, too. Something that is generally advocated for by conservative groups by trying to remove caps on spending and general accountability, and/or lessening funding for groups meant to watch for potential campaign spending violations.
In the end, what makes more sense? Scenario 1 is a vast, nefarious plot of one world leader plotting against the leader of an ally state. Which takes pace in a scenario where the former world leader’s every move is being watched by an incredibly hostile group of lawmakers. Or, Scenario 2 which is where a political campaign team that has a proven track record is either hired by or volunteers to help the campaign of someone else. Just happens to be that the new campaign is in a different country.
One of the reasons that I consider myself part of the modern scientific skepticism movement is because of crap like this. You need to question things. You need to look into sources and look for the story behind what you’re being told. You need to look at the evidence and get beyond the hype. Otherwise, you’re just a drone. And WND commenters are mainly drones. They just get riled up because they’re supposed to by stories like this. As “Envoy Master” wrote, “A sitting US president actively trying to cause a regime change in an ALLIED country is arguably treasonous as such an act is likely to benefit our enemies.” Yup, WND has done its job.