"A case in point: recent attacks on the Simon Wiesenthal Center by the Center for American Progress (CAP)-associated bloggers on "the far-right Simon Wiesenthal Center, which purports to promote tolerance, [but] basically called Obama a Nazi" for saying that Israel should return to the pre-1967 borders (Ben Armbruster). CAP blogger Eli Clifton joined Media Matters Senior Foreign Policy Fellow MJ Rosenberg in using Twitter to promote an article accusing the Simon Wiesenthal Center's Museum of Tolerance of pushing "Western groupthink that has for centuries justified wars and countless atrocities against the Arab world... [that's] representative of the way many Americans feel toward Muslims and Arabs-that they are all terrorists." Rosenberg himself has repeatedly smeared Jewish groups such the Anti-Defamation League, the American Jewish Committee, and the American Israel Public Affairs Committee as "Israel Firsters."
First, let's admit to the terrible sins that we are indeed concerned about the future of Israel, about U.S. security interests in the Middle East, and about the threat posed to regional and even global peace by Iran's nuclear program which, according the International Atomic Energy Commission and other authorities, may be within six to nine months of putting an nuclear weapon in the hands of a regime committed to annihilating Israel.
When it comes to the charges of being "Israel Firsters" and having "dual loyalty," we not only plead innocent but also counter-charge that these sponsored bloggers are guilty of dangerous political libels resonating with historic and toxic anti-Jewish prejudices.
These odious charges have been around since Henry Ford in 1920 said "wars are the Jews' harvest," Charles Lindbergh in 1940 condemned Jews for conspiring to plunge America into World War II, and "Jewish neocons" were charged with colluding with Israel to cause the 2003 Iraq War. Recently, University of Chicago Professor John Mearsheimer, co-author of The Israel Lobby and Foreign Policy, has descended to making the accusation that American Jews-unlike American Poles, Italians, Greeks, Turks, Chinese, Africans, etc., etc.-exercise a uniquely malevolent influence over American foreign policy. Now, he writes publicity blurbs for Gilad Atzmon's genocidal broadside, The Wandering Who?, accusing the Jews of responsibility for bringing the Holocaust on themselves."If MJ Rosenberg was hoping to bring Jews over to his point of view, it doesn't seem to be working too well. But let's not kid ourselves: Did he really think he could run roughshod over everyone who didn't toe his line with insults tinged with obvious anti-Semitism? We tried to tell him that many times over Twitter but did he listen? No, of course not. He was too wrapped up in his own self-righteousness.
Now I know what you are expecting. He's MJ Rosenberg so he'll just put up his nose, accusing the Weisenthal Center of "trying to silence his legitimate political point of view," perhaps on orders of "the Lobby," accuse them of being Israel firsters again and then go on his merry way right? After all, that's been the way he has operated so far!
But it turns out that wasn't what happened. In his newest article on the Huffington Post he backs down slightly from his earlier claims, which I guess is the closest he will come to admitting he was wrong, after labeling the whole thing a "brouhaha" of course. And what we see is the classic "blogger defense." Step one, he's still right:
"Another charge, made against me, is that I habitually use the term "Israel Firster" to denounce those who are promoting Israel's positions on Iran and other issues over those of the United States. For some reason, that drives the right crazy although they consistently denounce both President Obama and his policies with almost obscene relish while consistently fawning over Netanyahu and his policies of the moment."First of all, it's not a "charge" if they're right. And they are. Secondly, Rosenberg should know that the positions of what he calls "the right" are political, not personal. If President Obama called for a war with Iran and Netanyahu pulled a Sharon, the right wouldn't be singing Netanyahu's praises either. Rosenberg is only griping like this because he got lucky enough to be around at a point where a right wing Israeli government was in power at the same time that a liberal American government was as well. Thirdly, disagreeing with President Obama is a right of every American and doesn't make that American Israel firster, as we have discussed. And fourthly, it's not about the politics. It's about the fact that Rosenberg thinks it's acceptable to introduce anti-Semitic type insults into mainstream discourse just because he's a Jew. Clearly, most Jewish organizations disagree, and that's why Rosenberg is alone right now.
But he isn't finished yet, because here comes the next movement of his defense:
"But I need to offer a clarification. By the term "Israel Firster, I do not mean that right-wingers and neocons who advance bellicose Middle East policies are putting the interests of Israel first....Far from it. They are putting the interests of Binyamin Netanyahu and his hardliners first...The people I call "Israel Firsters" are, in fact, Netanyahu Firsters."Oh of course. He was "misunderstood." And of course this "clarification" really doesn't help him at all, because calling someone a "firster" still means they are a traitor and accordingly is still siphoning off the dual loyalty charge so often leveled against the Jews. It isn't that much better. That being said, if Rosenberg wants to go on calling people "Netanyahu Firsters," then go for it. His Arabist readers won't like it and it sounds just as ridiculous as he is. So in my mind that's an improvement.
With that in mind, he wades into the politics:
"One might ask: why are progressives who care deeply about Israel never deemed Israel Firsters. (Think of people like those in J Street and Americans For Peace Now who devote their lives to achieving peace for Israel.) [The reason is because they want peace.]"If Rosenberg thinks he is fooling anybody with this he is sorely mistaken. No, the reason why he never calls people on the left "Israel firsters" is because he is on the left. That doesn't stop his buddies like Sharmine Narwani from using it though, with nary a peep from the author of the phrase. But I digress: When you look at the facts many of the so-called "leftist" groups not only disagree with American foreign policy when it comes to Israel and the Arabs, but actually go so far as to undermine it.
Perhaps Rosenberg would like to explain why when he demands that America pressure Israel to negotiate with Hamas over the wishes of President Obama himself, he is not a "Hamas firster." Or when left wing Americans go on a US boat to Gaza despite the condemnations of everyone in the free world including their own President, they are not "Gaza firsters." Does Rosenberg expect us to believe that people like Lauren Booth (who I know isn't American) travel to Gaza because they want peace? Why is it that people can only be "Israel firsters" and then only "right wingers?" I for one am not willing to over look the bad behavior of even those whose politics I might share, and I can't help but wonder what Rosenberg was saying 10 years ago when Labor ruled Israel and George W Bush ruled America. One last bit:
"The bottom line here is that it is important not to allow the right to highjack Israel's cause. For the right, Israel is all about maintaining occupation, ensuring Israel's regional hegemony, and fighting a civilizational war with Muslims."Great. So see if you can do that without reinforcing anti-Semitic stereotypes. I am always of the opinion that if you can't win the argument on the merits, you don't deserve to win the argument. Hopefully the Weinsenthal Center has convinced Rosenberg to change his ways, but I wouldn't bet on it.
Update: It doesn't seem to have worked, since right now on Twitter he's back using it with a vengeance: