Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Romney, Obama, and MJ Rosenberg

You may have noticed that over the past couple of days we haven't commented much on the Huffington Posts' endless set of anti-Israel articles. That's because the Israel coverage overlapped with the Mitt Romney coverage, since he visited there and made the usual politician remarks. We didn't have much to say about it there because the comments threads were 12,000 variations upon "Mitt Romney sucks, go Obama." Which as I'm sure you can attest would get boring enough.

However at this point we can begin to transition out, our first article to look at it is by Al Jazeera blogger MJ Rosenberg, in which he discusses the sad sad problem that the American people support Israel and so do our politicians. I'm not as political as some other Zionist bloggers, so I don't have strong opinions on Obama vs Romney, there were some remarks that Mr. Rosenberg makes with which I take issue. Most notably his first paragraph:
"It's difficult for me to address Mitt Romney's blunders in Israel because I come at them from a different place than many in the pro-Israel community."
Hang on. Is he implying that he is part of the "pro-Israel community?" Because after dozens of articles and tweets referring to that community as "Israel firsters" and "AIPAC drones," that ship not only has sailed, it is far out of sight over the horizon. Now if Mr. Rosenberg would like to continue to insist that he is "pro-Israel" then he is more than welcome to, but if I were him I wouldn't expect anyone to believe him.

So after this, he references Americans for Peace Now criticizing Romney for trying to make Israel into a political football (though not in so many words) and saying he shouldn't exploit that issue to "score political points." Mr. Rosenberg, naturally, has a problem with this.
"Why shouldn't Israel be a "partisan issue" in American elections? If Democrats and Republicans have differing views on an issue, why shouldn't they try to "score political points" off of them? That is what they do on every other issue. Why should Israel be above or beyond politics? U.S. taxpayers send more money to Israel than any other country and millions of Americans care deeply about Israel's fate. What makes it not a legitimate issue?"
Now I don't know whether he jsut didn't understand what APN was saying, or what, but he seems to be attacking a strawman with this. APN wasn't approaching what Romney said from a position of your average American, they did from a position of a pro-Israel advocate. Which if you recall, is also a position that Mr. Rosenberg is pretending to have. APN knows that the American people are pro-Israel so there is no benefit to driving a wedge between the two parties on that issue. Thomas Friedman agrees. Liberals like MJ Rosenberg who want "their guy" to win (right or wrong) would be happy to see support for Israel go down if it means the Democrats win the election. Maybe he sees that as being an "America firster" but personally if there is a way to keep the Israel-USA alliance strong and run a well orchestrated political campaign, clearly that's what APN would prefer.

The point, if all that is too long to read, is that Mr. Rosenberg either ignored or didn't understand what APN was actually saying. As usual. This next paragraph is extremely ironic. Can you spot it?
"Unfortunately, however, the two parties do not have differing views on Israel. Both candidates and both parties support the Netanyahu government's positions on Iran, the Palestinians, Hamas and pretty much everything else. Sure, Mitt Romney went overboard in Jerusalem by saying that on critical matters like Iran we should defer to the wishes of Israel (rather than decide these issues exclusively based on U.S. interests) but that is what successive administrations have been doing for years. It is certainly what the Obama administration has done. Obama just doesn't proclaim it while in Israel's capital."
Did you see the irony there? The one major difference so far is that Romney declared Jerusalem to be the capital of Israel, and if you read this paragraph, apparently MJ Rosenberg agrees with him. This puts MJ Rosenberg to the right of the Obama administration on this particular issue which (just by coincidence) happens to be related to Israel. Does this make him an "Israel firster" do you suppose? No, it makes him an America that happens to disagree with the President on a particular issue. Just like millions of others who he would be happy to declare "Israel firsters" given half the chance.

So anyway at this point MJR wades into the question of what Obama has done for Israel, while ignoring all the facts that don't support his argument. As usual, I'm not as well qualified to speak on this issue as some other people. However I do read the newspapers so I even I can tell that something like this is wrong (emphasis mine):
"Romney can be no more "pro-Israel" than Obama because Obama simply does everything Israel asks for: from raising aid levels, to accepting Israeli settlements, to vetoing every resolution Israel wants vetoed at the United Nations, to piling Iran sanction on top of Iran sanction (while leaving the possibility of war on the table), to exempting Israel from budget cuts that will affect every other program in the budget. What more can Romney do? Move our capital to Jerusalem?"
Um, no. I don't think Israel asked for Obama to demand a settlement freeze. And remember this?

So I'm sorry, it's one thing to say that the Republicans are being ridiculous. It's another thing to straight up lie, as MJ Rosenberg has an incredibly long history of doing. And while we're at it, let's talk to Aaron David Miller, seeing as who Rosenberg himself references him later in the article and I'm a personal fan of his after reading some of his books:
"I think he's much more detached, much more analytical, much more deliberate. He doesn't relate well to the trope that Israel is a tiny country living on the knife's edge, with a very dark past, the way President Clinton, for example, related to the Israelis or Clinton's successor, George W. Bush. Both men had their view of Israel rooted in a kind of an emotional reverence. And with Obama, you get something different. He relates to Israel, it seems to me, much more along a continuum of national security interests rather than through the values continuum."
Is this a meaningful difference, or substantial enough to warrant voting for Romney? I couldn't say. But it is there.

One last thing to discuss. Click below to read it.

I'm just going to finish with how Rosenberg hopes that Israel will become a political issue:
"I wish one of the two parties would say that the United States will do everything in its power to prevent Iran's development of nuclear weapons through diplomacy -- and not by means of a war that would result in needless deaths and crash the world economy. I wish one of the two parties would say that the United State will promote Israeli-Palestinian negotiations that include representatives of Israel, the Palestinian Authority and Gaza with only one condition: that all sides foreswear violence. I wish one of the two parties would commit our country to serving as an honest broker in the Middle East rather than as "Israel's lawyer,""
If you would permit me a humble response:

What happens if diplomacy with Iran doesn't work? If the choice is between Iran getting nuclear weapons or war, which would Rosenberg pick? Of course, Rosenberg has also said that Iran isn't getting nuclear weapons and that even if they were it's not such a big deal. But it is interesting that here he says that they definitely are unless America stops them (whether by words or with force), so that doesn't sound like something you should leave up to political posturing. But I'm getting the impression that even he no longer really knows what he is saying, aside from "say something left wing."

Ditto with the demand to include Hamas in the negotiations. MJ Rosenberg has always been in favor of giving Hamas a break, but President Obama has not felt the same way. President Obama has made it clear what it would take for the Palestinians to receive American support, and he has been frustrated by the PA as well. MJ Rosenberg, being a leftist, will naturally just ignore whatever doesn't fit his point of views but our President is smart enough not make the same mistake. This attitude also puts Rosenberg to the left of the Obama administration but does not IMO make him a "Palestine firster."

With that in mind, the article includes with the usual "Romney sucks, go Obama" which fits right in on the Huffington Post. And hopefully we won't be back to politics for a very long time.

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