Dems slam Moran's tying AIPAC to Iraq war

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Rep. Jim Moran
Democratic reps. are offended by Jim Moran's statement that Israel lobby group AIPAC "pushed [the Iraq] war." Photo: AP

Sixteen of Democratic Rep. Jim Moran’s House colleagues rebuked him in a withering letter Wednesday for saying last week that the pro-Israel lobby, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, “pushed [the Iraq] war from the beginning.”

It was the Virginia congressman’s latest dust-up over Israel — and one that brought a demand for a retraction by the House Democratic leader, Rep. Steny H. Hoyer of Maryland.

Moran’s colleagues — led by Rep. Henry A. Waxman (D-Calif.), a powerful committee chairman with close ties to the majority leadership — called the remarks of the Virginia congressman in the progressive Jewish magazine Tikkun inaccurate and “deeply offensive.”

“The idea that the war in Iraq began because of the influence of Jewish Americans is factually incorrect and unfortunately fits the anti-Semitic stereotypes some have used historically against Jews,” wrote the group of Jewish Democrats.

Moran, nonetheless, stood his ground.

“I appreciate the concerns of my colleagues, and I regret any efforts to misconstrue my position and long-standing support for Israel,” he said. “I have been and remain firmly of the view that diplomatic leadership, rather than military aggression, is essential for peace in the Middle East.”

In a statement, his spokesman Austin Durrer said that, while Moran “may have been unnecessarily harsh,” his comments were directed at a lobbying organization, “not a community of people.”

“Anyone attempting to mischaracterize his words as targeting the broader Jewish community rather than AIPAC’s leadership is being purposely misleading,” Durrer said.

Moran has found himself in trouble before for similar comments. In 2003, then-Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) ousted him from a minor leadership position after he said the United States would not be at war in Iraq “if it were not for the strong support of the Jewish community.”

With his more recent comments, he has again drawn the ire of his leadership. On Tuesday, Hoyer took to the microphone at a press conference and, despite having been asked a different question, called on Moran to retract his remarks.

“They are inaccurate, wrong and unfortunate,” Hoyer said.

On Wednesday, Waxman said he had drafted the pointed letter to Moran to show “how offended even his colleagues were about” his remarks.

“As Jewish colleagues, we don’t understand your hostility to AIPAC or your determination to embarrass yourself with this series of inaccurate, illogical and inflammatory comments,” the letter said.

Moran clearly knew as he was making the comments to Tikkun that they would ignite a firestorm.

“The reason I don’t hesitate to speak out about AIPAC’s influence — notwithstanding the fact that I’ll be accused of being anti-Semitic every time I suggest it — is that I don’t think AIPAC represents the mainstream of American Jewish thinking,” he told the magazine.

The Tikkun article, authored by Rabbi Michael Lerner, was sympathetic to Moran’s views. And Lerner has stood by Moran in the ensuing controversy.

Still, nearly every Jewish Democrat approached by Politico was upset about Moran’s words.

“It’s disappointing when people lash out like that,” said Rep. Ron Klein (D-Fla.). “It feeds people’s inaccurate views of Israel.”

Klein raised the issue of whether Moran could lose additional leadership positions. “Up here, as the leadership positions come into play, everyone is subject to review and evaluation by their peers.”

Rep. Gary Ackerman (D-N.Y.), who hosts an annual “deli fundraiser” with many Jewish foods, said the comments were “uncalled for.” But at the same time, he didn’t think they represented Moran’s real views.

“His utterances are very out of character. He doesn’t come off as a person who says these things. It’s puzzling,” Ackerman said after the House chaplain, Father Daniel Coughlin, wished him a happy new year. “I’ve traveled with him in the Mideast, and he has advocated for Israel in many other countries.”

The House’s only Jewish Republican, Rep. Eric Cantor of Virginia, was less forgiving.

“For Mr. Moran to again suggest that Jews are responsible for the war in Iraq and that they somehow strangle American foreign policy is as senseless as it is bigoted,” Cantor said in a statement.

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