The Center for American Progress (CAP), one of the largest and most influential liberal think tanks in Washington, recently extended an invitation to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. He spoke there yesterday, and the New York Times write-up notes that Netanyahu "project[ed] a benevolent tone even as he countered criticism of his approach to resolving the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians."
And yet, in the run-up to Netanyahu's speech, a number of CAP employees objected to his appearence because, well, they think he's a bad man and it seems they don't like being exposed to ideas that differ from their own. At a meeting on Friday, some staffers read aloud a statement objecting to Netanyahu's appearence. According to a report in Foreign Policy, "opponents of the upcoming event received an enthusiastic round of applause in the 100-plus person conference room despite the presence of senior CAP leadership." What's notable about the statement, however, is how the rhetoric sounds awfully similar to the embarassing hyperbolic social justice boilerplate we've been hearing at Yale, Mizzou, and other colleges:
Coming to work at CAP gives many of us the opportunity to make this country safe and accepting of all. While we watch the hate crimes, discrimination and biases faced by some of our communities, we come to work every day proud that this institution is a space where our voices will be respected and where our leadership assures we feel safe, respected and heard. In that sense this place isn’t so much a job or a profession or a nine-to-six. It’s a survival tactic. But it’s not just about our individual struggles because, in the words of MLK, we’re not free until we’re all free.
And at CAP we are a family. We spend more hours with one another at this institution than we do with our own families and friends outside the office. It is imperative that we feel confident in this building to improve the lives of all Americans, and essentially to work on getting us all free. It becomes difficult to step outside of our building and say to our allies why this visit is happening, for some of us here we ourselves feel that we were not considered in that decision.
The statement goes on to address Netanyahu's role in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in a way that is predictably pro-Palestinian. But the expectation that merely being in the same building as a democratically elected head of an important state is a threat to employees' personal well-being, exacerbates their "individual struggles," and is otherwise oppressing people the world over is just cringeworthy. (Also, the employees at CAP spend more time with each other then their friends and families? Get out more, guys.) The statement concludes this way:
So what comes next? What happens when we come back to work on Thursday Nov. 12? What is the Center for Americans Progress to the people whose lived experiences Netanyahu’s policies directly impact? How do we face our communities with answers?
These are all questions that we, as passionate and committed employees of the Center for American Progress have been asking ourselves this past week and hope for answers to. As you look around the room, people of faith and all backgrounds are asking these questions. Some are standing; many, many more don’t feel empowered to do so. This is a humanity and human rights issue universally felt. Some of us think this event shouldn’t be happening at all and others think a broader discussion of this with CAP family should have happened before this major decision.
Again, we are appreciative of this institution, and the opportunity to speak out because this is a family and right now as members of the CAP family we are in a place of confusion and hurt.
When he agreed to appear at CAP, Netanyahu certainly knew that he would be facing an audience that would be hostile to some degree and he would be forced to confront some pointed questions. And it sounds like he did this in a way that was respectful, even conciliatory. But instead of viewing this as an opportunity to influence Netanyahu, or even expose how his leadership and policies are inferior, CAP employees were worried about how engaging in mere dialogue with someone they find disagreeable has put them "in a place of confusion and hurt."