Suddenly lots of people are asking whether calling someone an "Israel-firster" is anti-Semitic. The occasion for these reflections is a controversy--the subject of a Washington Post piece yesterday--surrounding the liberal think tank the Center for American Progress. The Post piece noted a "dispute with several Jewish organizations over charges that some center staffers have publicly used language that could be construed as anti-Israel or even anti-Semitic."
Don't be misled by the attention being given to the term "Israel-firster" into thinking that it's the real issue here. That term was used by a single, very junior CAP staffer on his personal twitter account, and he apologized weeks ago. So if people ostensibly complaining about the 'Israel-firster' thing are still after CAP scalps, we know that the issue must go deeper.
Here is the real issue: Some people at CAP who haven't used the term Israel-firster have committed a different sin--criticizing, sometimes harshly, the policies of Israel. And some defenders of those policies find it easier to stigmatize critics than to answer them.
This agenda was made surprisingly clear in an indictment of CAP that appeared this week on the New York Post op-ed page. The author, Commentary staffer Alana Goodman, reported that "three leading Jewish groups--the Anti-Defamation League, the American Jewish Committee and the Simon Wiesenthal Center--have accused CAP and its staff of publishing 'anti-Israel,' 'hateful' and 'toxic anti-Jewish' material." Yet when she got around to particulars, the complaints were mainly about the position of CAP staffers on substantive policy issues.