Internet Rumors, Republicans and Refugees from Gaza

Tuesday, March 17th, 2009

James Besser in Washington

It’s getting harder to tell urban legends from reality in this age of drive-by talk radio and an anarchic Internet.

Case in point: the widely proliferating rumor that the Obama administration is spending $20 million of your taxpayer dollars on “resettling Palestinians with ties to Hamas in the United States.”

That rumor was reportedly the motivation behind a spending bill amendment by Sen. John Kyl (R-Ariz) – quickly withdrawn when it was revealed to be an Internet myth.

But State Rep. Adam Hasner apparently didn’t get the memo. Hasner, the Republican leader in the Florida House of Representatives and Jewish outreach chair for John McCain’s Florida campaign, repeated the charge as part of a slashing attack on the Obama administration in The American Thinker.

“The policies put forth by President Obama during his first 30 days in office paint a disturbing picture,”  Hasner wrote, and include “his allocation of $20 million dollars of taxpayer money to resettling Palestinians with ties to Hamas in the United States.”

In fact, the  $20 million is just an Internet-propelled urban legend, documented by Snopes.Com, the authoritative, nonpartisan debunker of Web-driven urban legends.

Snopes writes that the rumor began with President Obama’s Presidential Determination stating that it is in the national interest of the United States to meet urgent “humanitarian needs of Palestinian refugees and conflict victims in Gaza.

The fact the money is coming out of a fund with the word “migration” in it  apparently caught the eye of administration critics and provided the seed that grew into an Internet rumor Snopes unequivocally branded “false.”

Hasner told the Jewish Week that he “regrets” that his article “wasn’t 100 percent accurate.”  The Palestinians in Gaza “are getting the money, but they are not relocating Gaza citizens to the United States. Nevertheless, it doesn’t take away from the core of the article – that the Jewish community doesn’t have a friend in the White House.”

He also said “It’s a cheap political stunt for partisan Democrats to point to one line in a 1000 word article and try to characterize it as being false.”

The Democrat Hasner was probably referring to is Ira Forman, director of the National Jewish Democratic Council (NJDC), who wrote in the Huffington Post that Hasner’s American Thinker piece is filled with “stunning distortions, half-truths and outright falsehoods.”

“One line?  There are 20 things in that story that are inaccurate,including his charge that Zbigniew Brzezinski is advising President Obama” Forman told the Jewish Week.

Hadar Susskind, vice president and Washington director for the Jewish Council for Public Affairs (JCPA), said he is disturbed by the continuing avalanche of Internet rumors that cross his desk and enter the public policy debate.

“None of this is accidental,” he said. “It’s not a kid sitting in a basement; these are carefully orchestrated and well funded efforts targeted at specific constituencies, including the Jewish community.  It’s a partisan effort to spin the Obama administration as anti-Israel; they continue to throw as many things against the wall as they can and hope something sticks.”

About the Author
Douglas M. Bloomfield is a syndicated columnist, Washington lobbyist and consultant. He spent nine years as the legislative director and chief lobbyist for AIPAC.