A Democratic Candidate Criticized Israel. Republicans Shout ‘Anti-Semite.’

A Democratic Candidate Criticized Israel. Republicans Shout ‘Anti-Semite.’

When the book was published in 1991, a review in The New York Times described it as “largely dedicated to Israel-bashing for its own sake.”

“Its first message is that, win or lose, smart or dumb, right or wrong, suave or boorish, Israelis are a menace,” the review said. “The second is that the Israeli-American connection is somewhere behind just about everything that ails us.”

Ms. Cockburn told the group on Monday that she was being critical of government policy from a fact-based perspective, not out of animus toward Jews. In the interview, she said she was seeking the endorsement of J Street, a Jewish political group that has set itself up as a progressive alternative to other American Jewish organizations more uncritical of Israeli government policies.

“Yes, the U.S. should support Israel, and yes, the U.S. should be supporting, to some degree, the Palestinian Authority,” Ms. Cockburn said. “We have a disaster area in Gaza, and the U.S. should get involved in trying to sort that out. I think there’s a real role that we should have. Now given that, as a freshman congressperson, I’m not going to have a lot of responsibility for any of those issues, and will probably be a lowly person on the Agriculture Committee.”

But on Tuesday, Republicans pressed their attack.

“Whoever the Republican nominee is in the Fifth District will defeat anti-Semite Leslie Cockburn,” said John Findlay, the executive director of the Republican Party of Virginia. “The Fifth District is not a racist district, and I don’t see them ever voting for an anti-Semite like Leslie Cockburn.”

Tom Perriello, the most recent Democrat to represent the district, said those charges are “backfiring pretty badly on the Republicans because they failed to hold their staff accountable for anti-Semitic and racist things they have said.”

While the Republican efforts seem to have not persuaded Jewish leaders in Charlottesville, they might have a greater effect among evangelical voters in rural parts of the district who are strongly pro-Israel. Ms. Cockburn has made a point of campaigning vigorously in those deep-red areas.

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