A left leaning anti-nuclear group that opposes sanctions on Iran and has criticized United States arms deals with Israel has thrown its support behind Jewish Democratic congressional hopeful Brad Schneider, further complicating the candidate’s claims to be staunchly pro-Israel and against a nuclear Iran.
However, Schneider’s relationship with two liberal foreign policy groups has led some observers to claim that the Democrat is speaking out of both sides of his mouth.
J Street has neither formally endorsed Schneider nor donated money to him, but the candidate’s past support for the group, which advocates in favor of increased U.S. pressure on the Jewish state, has caused concern among pro-Israel observers who believe that in Congress Schneider would toe the group’s line.
J Street has involved itself in several other Chicago political battles.
Some Jewish observers claim that Schneider’s relationship with CLW reveals troubling private beliefs that could influence his position despite his public support for tough Iran sanctions.
"This is really a radical organization that stands against America and Israel's security needs at every turn," said one Illinois Jewish official who spoke on background. "CLW believes ‘kumbaya’ is a viable foreign policy option—and it's not funny, it's dead serious."
CLW, which advocates against Iran sanctions, has touted Schneider in its fundraising appeals, hailing his "support for arms control and views on foreign and national security policy."
Schneider, the group has stated, "has a lifelong interest in global issues that informs his progressive approach to foreign affairs."
The CLW emails are explicitly authorized by the Schneider campaign and are viewed as proof that Schneider’s public stance on Iran is misleading.
"Brad Schneider endorsed their position by personally authorizing their endorsement and solicitation for his campaign," said the Jewish official. "You have to wonder what Schneider told them about Israel and Iran in order to gain their endorsement because a mainstream supporter of Israel would be ineligible for their support."
The Schneider campaign did not respond to a request for comment.
Schneider has talked tough on Iran during debates and at press conferences in an effort to court the district’s Jewish and independent voters, who will be critical blocs in the tight race.
Dold has sought to make CLW’s support for Schneider an issue in the race.
Schneider would not explain his ties to CLW during his own post-debate press conference.
Instead, he sharply criticized Iran, calling it "the greatest threat, not just to Israel, not just to the United States, to the world's security," the Daily Herald reported.
Schneider added that "as a member of Congress … I will make sure the U.S. relationship with Israel remains strong, that the U.S. security around the world remains strong, and that the U.S. support for peace between the Israelis and Palestinians remains strong," according to the report.
CLW’s own policy declarations conflict with Schneider’s rhetoric on the issues, raising questions as to why the group decided to support him and why Schneider accepted the endorsement.
CLW has been critical of U.S. arms sales to Israel. They fear the weapons could be used to strike Iran’s nuclear sites.
Following the 2005 announcement that Israel would receive U.S.-made bunker busters, CLW decried the deal as dangerous.
John Isaacs, CLW’s executive director, told Haaretz that the "proposed sale was clearly ‘a provocative step’ that would prompt concerns about a unilateral Israel strike, particularly in Iran and elsewhere in the Middle East."
Issacs went on to state that "one might be suspicious that these bombs could be used for an Israeli attack on Iran," according to the report.
When former President Bill Clinton backed the sale of U.S. fighter jets to the Jewish state in 2001, CLW balked.
"It is unprecedented for a U.S. president to promise the most technologically advanced weapon in the world to a foreign country before it is even produced," CLW official Luke Warren told the Washington Post.
The group has also pushed for the U.S. to unconditionally sit down at the bargaining table with Iran, which routinely deceives United Nations weapons inspectors about its enrichment of uranium.
"Council for a Livable World believes that direct diplomatic engagement with Iran on the nuclear issue, without preconditions, should be pursued as soon as possible," the group states on its website.