MJ Rosenberg, Senior Foreign Policy Fellow at the Media Matters Action Network and a regular contributor at the Huffington Post, until recently routinely labeled those he found insufficiently critical of Israel as “Israel firsters” – see for example his article Why the Term “Israel First” Matters. For this he was roundly criticized (notably here and here), since the term “Israel firster” is usually associated with neo-Nazis like Willis Carto, founder of the anti-Semitic Liberty Lobby, and with others who accuse Jewish supporters of Israel with holding “dual loyalty” – that is, being disloyal to the United States.
Rosenberg was then apparently rescued from such criticism by Philip Weiss, proprietor of the virulently anti-Israel blog Mondoweiss, who discovered that the term was employed long ago by none other than Abram Sachar, the noted historian and founding president of Brandeis University.
According to Weiss, quoting from the 1961 edition of the AJC’s American Jewish Yearbook:American Jews continued to object to Israel’s claim that a genuine Jewish life was possible only in Israel. Abram L. Sachar, president of Brandeis University, at the biennial convention of JWB [Jewish Welfare Board], declared on April 2, 1960 that among Jews there is no room “for Israel Firsters whose chauvinism and arrogance find nothing relevant or viable in any area outside of Israel.”
...It’s too bad that Weiss’s computer is “wonky,” since he really didn’t “get the point.” In fact, had he recounted the next two paragraphs of the Times report (of April 3, 1960), he and his readers would have realized the fatal error of his thesis: Sachar was referring to Israelis holding such views, not Americans:
Note that Sachar is clearly refering to Israelis: “the desperate need for American immigration” and “such sentiments are not really a core feeling on the part of knowledgeable Israelis.” In other words, Weiss’s claim that Sachar made “his comments in the context of American Jews being loyal citizens of the U.S.” could not be more wrong. While the term “Israel firster” is not in the Times report, the point is clear: to Sachar, “Israel firsters" were Israelis, not Americans.
...That is, in Sachar’s usage in this speech, America Firsters are not Charles Lindbergh-like apologists for Nazi Germany, they are Americans who deny the importance to Jewish life of Israel, and Israel Firsters are Israelis who deny the importance to Jewish life of the American Jewish community.
With his claims now exposed as nonsense, will Philip Weiss issue a forthright correction in his blog?
And Rosenberg, who announced he would stop using the term “Israel firster” not because it was wrong but because it was becoming a “distraction,”continues to cite Sachar’s speech as a defense. With the cover of Sachar now removed, will he finally concede that his usage was indeed indefensible and wrong?