This weekend, all of the Democratic candidates for president (with the sane exception of Joe Biden) will trek to Chicago to speak at the YearlyKos convention, the gathering of those who populate the powerful Democratic blog, the DailyKos.
Defenders of the DailyKos, like Clinton campaign spokesman Howard Wolfson, claim "blogs are the 21st century version of the public square." But the DailyKos is not just a blog. It is a political force. It is not, for instance FreeRepublic.com that has its share of racists, cranks and nut jobs. And it is not a talk-show host or celebrity who makes an intemperate remark like Don Imus. The DailyKos is organized to mobilize Democrats around specific policies and force politicians to support those policies. The blog — consisting of the Kos-selected and -monitored diarists and its minions is managed carefully to achieve maximum political power. The DailyKos is closer to Tammany Hall than MySpace.
But instead of handing out turkeys at Thanksgiving for votes the dozens of commentators on the DailyKos are driven by ideological passion and then some. And anti-Semitism is a significant source of that zeal.
Don't take my word for it. Ask Eyal Rosenberg who resigned as a diarist for the DailyKos on May 9 after in his words "all the Israel Hate spewing out of one too many diaries around here." As he wrote in his last post: "with this last post: Reading these past months on dkos has led me to believe that people here, under the 'progressive' banner, support views that end up in one place: Me dead."
Mr. Rosenberg is not the only one they want to kill. Recently, a DailyKos diarist suggested "gassing Joe Lieberman like a dog." This exchange followed:
"I know you didn't mean it that way, but a reference to gassing a Jew needs to be hidden.
"I hope you will join me in asking that this comment be hidden and that there will not be a pile on. I will find some other comments of yours and uprate to make up for this."
Jew gassing is something to be hidden or uprated (whatever that means) but nothing to be ashamed of at the DailyKos.
Mr. Rosenberg notes, contradicting Clinton spinmeister Wolfson, that the anti-Semitic attacks are not "isolated." In his brief time as a diarist (several months), he counted 5,000 Israel or Jewish references in the DailyKos. That's about 23 posts on Jews or Israel a day, most negative.
This past spring, during Passover, one of the site's diarists, a Belgian graphic artist, posted an image that morphs the face of Israel's minister of strategic affairs, Avigdor Lieberman, with that of Adolf Hitler's shown holding a skull painted with a Star of David, under the caption "Zionism was and remains a racist ideology."
Similarly, I found several posts from this year alone calling Jews "Zionazis" as in "anyone who in any way tells the truth or criticizes Jews is accused of anti-Semitism by the Zionazi lobby" or "I don't really care what those clueless fools in the Zionazi ADL yap about — their whole existence is to defend Israel rather than protecting against defamation as their name would proclaim" or my favorite "Zionanzis seems to believe that people should be forced to listen to that yapping idiot Horowitz — why ?? because he spews that BS calim [sic] that Jews are supposedly special?"
There are thousands of posts blaming Israel for all the terror and conflict in the Middle East: One post, which captures the anger and intent, states that "Israel is showing the entire world why the Iranian President was absolutely right to suggest that Israel cease being a sovereign state as is." Most people responding to that statement supported it on DailyKos, as they did a diarist who claimed that Hamas was actually a positive force in Gaza.
One would hope for a Sister Souljah moment from the likes of Sen. Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton. Indeed, if as Mr. Wolfson claims, these are isolated comments, condemning them would be a political free-throw shot.
For Mrs. Clinton, it would be in keeping with her condemnation of Don Imus and her 2005 speech to AIPAC, where she spoke of her pledge to Eli Wiesel to be "vigilant about monitoring hate and incitement and anti-Semitism" and "to shine a bright spotlight on these messages of hatred."
Instead, through Mr. Wolfson, Mrs. Clinton said (and probably speaks for all candidates showing up) "Sen. Clinton does not agree with everything said on Daily Kos, but isolating a few comments as a way to smear a blog frequented by hundreds of thousands of people a day is wrong... Sen. Clinton is looking forward to attending YearlyKos."
Martin Luther King Jr. said "there comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular — but one must take it simply because it is right." Translation: If you can't tell the YearlyKos there's no place for anti-Semitism you lack moral courage.
Robert Goldberg is vice president of the Center for Medicine in the Public Interest.