WASHINGTON -- Democrats are furious about a Republican campaign video that accuses Rep. Steve Israel (D-N.Y.) of embracing anti-Semitism in the Occupy Wall Street movement -- and Republicans are not backing down.
The National Republican Congressional Committee sparked the fight Thursday by releasing a hard-hitting web video that focuses only on the uglier aspects of the wide-ranging movement, including some participants who offer various anti-Semitic conspiracy theories.
After running one of the more hateful-sounding clips, the video concludes, "Steve Israel Stands With Them."
Israel, the chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and former head of the Institute on the Holocaust and the Law, was incensed and fired back with an email to supporters charging that Republicans had "hit a new low."
"The extreme right wing has launched an outrageous attack to distract us from their reckless economic policies," Israel said in the email, which also links to a petition calling for people to stand with the congressman. "They are questioning my commitment to my own religion."
The DCCC has embraced the Occupy Wall Street movement with another online petition that quotes Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and supports Americans' anger at the financial industry failures that sparked the recession.
Israel again espoused that anger in his email Thursday. "Hard working people are standing with middle income families across the country who are angry about Republican policies that failed them. The American people are outraged, and they have every right to be," he wrote.
"In response, over the last 24 hours, National Republicans have started personally attacking me by questioning my commitment to my own Jewish community," Israel continued. "I'm proud of my Jewish faith and heritage, of my leadership for Israel's safety and security and my strong fight against the serious threats of anti-Semitism. It is outrageous that national Republicans are questioning that."
NRCC spokesman Paul Lindsey, in turn, fired off an email to reporters that said, "Sorry, we're not sorry."
"Someone at the DCCC is very upset that we would have the audacity to highlight their support for the Occupy Wall Street movement and the extreme anti-Semitic and incendiary rhetoric coming from protestors. I wonder why," Lindsay said in a statement.
The anti-Semitic charge has gained a certain currency on the right. While groups such as the Anti-Defamation League have expressed alarm at some of the anti-Jewish slurs coming from elements of the Occupy Wall Street crowd, they have found "no evidence" that such views represent the views of the broader movement.