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James Zogby’s AAI: Ros-Lehtinen, Others Like Her Are “Israel-Firsters”

If you type “Israel-Firster” into Google or Bing, the first hit you get is to a Jeffrey Goldberg post tracing how it and other anti-Semitic tropes are entering mainstream anti-Israel discourse. The rest of the top links are to hate sites like davidduke.com, america-hijacked.com, stormfront.org, and waronyou.com, where the dual-loyalty canard gets routine play.

Presumably search engines will soon pick up the most recent use of the phrase, this time courtesy of James Zogby’s Arab American Institute (AAI):

U.S. Ambassador to the UN Susan Rice was not happy with this legislation, telling Ros-Lehtinen, “There’s no question that when the United States is in debt to the United Nations, when we fail to meet our treaty obligations to pay our assessed contributions, that our influence is diminished, our standing is injured, and our ability to pursue important initiatives that advance U.S. national security and U.S. national interest is gravely undermined.” Whether Israel-Firsters (as MJ Rosenberg calls them) like Ros-Lehtinen will bother to heed Rice’s cautions is doubtful.

The legislation in question is Ros-Lehtinen’s bill to defund the United Nations, should the organization go along with the Palestinians’ Oslo-abrogating concession-pocketing unilateral statehood declaration. Jonathan blogged yesterday the White House opposes the accountability measure for the same “we have to preserve our influence” reasons articulated by Rice.

That we obviously don’t have much influence–inasmuch as we can’t prevent the General Assembly from attacking the last stable and reliable ally we have in the region–seems to be getting less argumentative play than the point might. It’s also not exactly clear how trying to protect a U.S. ally is so detrimental to U.S. interests that it becomes a matter of dual loyalty rather than legitimate debate. But civic deliberation isn’t really what’s at stake here. The goal is to vaguely link supporters of the U.S./Israel relationship to literally ancient anti-Semitic canards, and to erode public debate until those smears become acceptable in polite discourse.

When asked about the incident on Twitter, whoever is behind the Arab American Institute Twitter account responded glibly: “The term is actually that of MJ Rosenberg. If you want to argue that he’s an anti-Semite, good luck with that.”

While it’s true Rosenberg once made John Mearsheimer’s “Good Jews” list, there’s reason to suspect looking to him for a certificate of rhetorical kashrut on this issue will not have the intended anodyne effect. He does not seem like a credible example of someone who trots out “Israel-Firsters” minus its anti-Semitic connotations. His use of the phrase has instead been in the context of railing against the influence of Jewish money, in between paranoia about Israeli warmongering and nudge-wink crossed-out assertions that “Jews control America.” In any case, “Israel-Firster” is not Rosenberg’s phrase, but rather that of anti-Jewish hate groups. He just adopted it, before passing it on to the AAI.

Ros-Lehtinen isn’t technically a Jew, although she often plays one on hate sites. It’d be nonetheless interesting to know what the AAI meant when they said that others “like” her are Israel-Firsters. Women? Floridians? Congresspeople with vaguely Jewish last names? Maybe someone can ask them.


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