WASHINGTON – A handful of people at Democratic National Headquarters distributed material critical of Israel during a public forum questioning the Bush administration's Iraq policy, drawing an angry response and charges of anti-Semitism from party chairman Howard Dean (search) on Friday.
"We disavow the anti-Semitic literature, and the Democratic National Committee stands in absolute disagreement with and condemns the allegations," Dean said in a statement posted on the DNC Web site.
Rep. John Conyers (search) of Michigan, the senior Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee, organized the forum on Thursday at the Capitol to publicize and discuss the so-called Downing Street memo (search). That document suggests that the Bush administration believed that war with Iraq was inevitable and that the administration was determined to use intelligence about weapons of mass destruction to justify the ouster of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein.
The Sunday Times of London has reported that the prewar document, which recounts a meeting of Prime Minister Tony Blair's national security team, was leaked from inside the British government. The White House has rejected the memo's assertions.
Conyers' event occurred in a small Capitol meeting room, and an overflow crowd watched witnesses on television in a conference room at DNC headquarters. According to Dean, some material distributed within the DNC conference room implied that Israel was involved in the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
One witness, former intelligence analyst Ray McGovern, told Conyers and other House Democrats that the war was part of an effort to allow the United States and Israel to "dominate that part of the world," a statement Dean also condemned.
"As for any inferences that the United States went to war so Israel could 'dominate' the Middle East or that Israel was in any way behind the horrific September 11th attacks on America, let me say unequivocally that such statements are nothing but vile, anti-Semitic rhetoric," Dean said.
"The inferences are destructive and counterproductive, and have taken away from the true purpose of the Judiciary Committee members' meeting," he said. "The entire Democratic Party remains committed to fighting against such bigotry."