Right-wing media are now setting out to demonize one of President-elect Joe Biden’s newly announced staff appointees, singling out the incoming principal deputy press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre, a former official with the progressive activist group MoveOn.
The current right-wing push against Jean-Pierre is being led by the far-right Breitbart news site, as well as Mort Klein, head of the right-wing Zionist Organization of America. In a statement provided to Breitbart, Klein accused Jean-Pierre of having “shown essentially antisemitic hostility toward Israel,” and called the appointment“outrageous, incomprehensible anti-Israel, pro-terrorist and pro-Iran.”
Klein and ZOA have come under scrutiny from other Jewish groups due to his prolific record of racist and anti-Muslim statements and tweets, his organization having provided a platform to far-right figures such as Steve Bannon and Sebastian Gorka, and for calling the Black Lives Matter movement “an antisemitic, Israel hating Soros funded racist extremist Israelophobic hate group.” (The philanthropist George Soros is a frequent target of anti-Semitic conspiracy theories from the far right.) Indeed, Klein’s statement to Breitbart attacked Jean-Pierre for “having been a spokesperson for the anti-Zionist George Soros’ MoveOn.Org.”
Salon spoke with Klein 2014:
Reached by phone before leaving Las Vegas, Klein called the West Bank “unallocated international land,” and argued that Palestinians “have to first transform their society, their culture” before Palestinian statehood “can even be discussed” – but rejected the idea of letting Palestinians there become voting citizens of Israel, on the grounds that “the situation should remain as is until finally resolved.”
Klein called the Palestinian Authority “a dictatorship,” but argued Palestinians already “run their own lives” in the West Bank; he called the role of the Israeli Defense Forces there (which one report found included 99 fixed checkpoints as of February) an “extremely minimal inconvenience.” He argued that a “super-majority of the people of Israel need to be Jewish,” but said the ZOA had “not gotten into” whether the Israeli government could change citizenship rules, shift borders or forcibly transfer non-Jews in order to maintain that majority.
The two-decade ZOA head also defended calling Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas an “Arab terrorist,” told Salon he could “understand [the] concerns” that spurred a 2010 proposal to require loyalty oaths of new non-Jewish citizens, and argued, “There’s never been any Palestinian Arab kings and queens.”
The attacks on Jean-Pierre involve MoveOn’s role in a 2019 effort calling on the Democratic presidential field at the time to not attend that year’s conference of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee. (Among the candidates who did not attend was Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, who did meet with AIPAC representatives on Capitol Hill). In a guest column published in Newsweek in March 2019, Jean-Pierre said that AIPAC “has become known for trafficking in anti-Muslim and anti-Arab rhetoric while lifting up Islamophobic voices and attitudes,” and she called the group “nothing more than a partisan lobbying group that has failed, time and time again, to uphold progressive values.”
Jean-Pierre also called out Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, writing that “under his leadership of Israel, according to the United Nations, Israel may have committed war crimes in its attacks on Gazan protesters.” This is a reference to a violent crackdown on protesters in 2018, which resulted in the killing of 189 Palestinians over a nine-month period. In his statement to Breitbart, Klein said that she “is willing to lie about and vilify Israel and Jews to promote her ugly Israelophobic agenda” and that “she has glibly lied that Israel commits war crimes against Gaza Arabs.”
This story received further amplification on Fox News, in a segment Monday featuring chief breaking news correspondent Trace Gallagher and New York Post opinion columnist Michael Goodwin.
Jean-Pierre also received a brief mention on Monday’s edition of Outnumbered, in a discussion about Biden’s all-women communication team. Fox News anchor Harris Faulkner briefly noted that Jean-Pierre had been “a national spokesperson and senior adviser for the George Soros-funded left-wing group” MoveOn.
Faulkner added: “She lauded 2020 presidential candidates for boycotting AIPAC, the annual bipartisan pro-Israel gathering in 2019. So, I mean, it isn't just the communication skills. I'm wondering if some of the politics of some of these people will come to bear as well. It’s worth asking when you have those types of things in your background.”
Biden had not yet declared his candidacy for the Democratic nomination at the time of AIPAC’s 2019 conference. He did go on to deliver a video address to the 2020 conference — in which he bluntly told the organization that Israel “has to stop the threats of annexation and settlement activity” and that government policies in the country “are taking Israel further from its democratic values, undermining support for Israel in the United States especially among young people in both political parties.” He also called upon Palestinians to “eradicate incitement on the West Bank” and “end the rocket attacks from Gaza.”