Commentary Magazine


Topic: Media Matters

M.J. Rosenberg Out at Media Matters

Under pressure from the pro-Israel community, embattled former Media Matters for America fellow M.J. Rosenberg has finally parted ways with the left-wing media watchdog group. As Contentions has reported, Rosenberg was one of a handful of staffers at Democratic-affiliated Washington think tanks who used terms like “Israel-firster” and other dual-loyalty charges to attack Israel supporters and members of the Jewish community.

WFB’s Adam Kredo reports on Rosenberg’s resignation:

Months of public pressure and outrage from across the pro-Israel spectrum forced Media Matters for America staffer M.J. Rosenberg to tender his resignation Friday from the left-wing media watchdog group.

Rosenberg is the notorious proprietor of the term “Israel-firster,” a phrase with origins in the white supremacist movement that many consider anti-Semitic. During his tenure at MMFA, Rosenberg proudly used the term in his weekly columns and on his Twitter feed in an attempt to paint pro-Israel lawmakers and American Jews as being more loyal to the state of Israel than America.

In a final post titled, Last Media Matters Column, Rosenberg signed off by admitting that he had tarnished the liberal group’s image.

“The reason for this step is that it disturbed me greatly to see an organization to which I am devoted facing possible harm because of my critical writings about Israel,” he wrote. “I have no doubt that the crowd that opposes any and all criticism of Israeli government policies will continue to turn its guns on Media Matters if I am associated with it.”

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Under pressure from the pro-Israel community, embattled former Media Matters for America fellow M.J. Rosenberg has finally parted ways with the left-wing media watchdog group. As Contentions has reported, Rosenberg was one of a handful of staffers at Democratic-affiliated Washington think tanks who used terms like “Israel-firster” and other dual-loyalty charges to attack Israel supporters and members of the Jewish community.

WFB’s Adam Kredo reports on Rosenberg’s resignation:

Months of public pressure and outrage from across the pro-Israel spectrum forced Media Matters for America staffer M.J. Rosenberg to tender his resignation Friday from the left-wing media watchdog group.

Rosenberg is the notorious proprietor of the term “Israel-firster,” a phrase with origins in the white supremacist movement that many consider anti-Semitic. During his tenure at MMFA, Rosenberg proudly used the term in his weekly columns and on his Twitter feed in an attempt to paint pro-Israel lawmakers and American Jews as being more loyal to the state of Israel than America.

In a final post titled, Last Media Matters Column, Rosenberg signed off by admitting that he had tarnished the liberal group’s image.

“The reason for this step is that it disturbed me greatly to see an organization to which I am devoted facing possible harm because of my critical writings about Israel,” he wrote. “I have no doubt that the crowd that opposes any and all criticism of Israeli government policies will continue to turn its guns on Media Matters if I am associated with it.”

Rosenberg maintains he wasn’t forced out, and says he chose to leave because he felt his position opened the organization up to attacks. Either way, the implication is that Rosenberg’s continued affiliation with MMFA was damaging its image. His decision is best for both sides. Rosenberg saves face by saying he left on his own accord, and MMFA gets rid of one of its biggest headaches.

A little credit for MMFA. Breaking with Rosenberg is an acknowledgement that the organization may want to move closer to the center on Israel issues. But that credit only goes so far – after all, MMFA still defended Rosenberg for months after Ben Smith first drew attention to his anti-Semitic, dual-loyalty slurs in a Politico article. There have been no public apologies from the organization, and there were no apparent attempts to rein in Rosenberg’s continued attacks on Israel supporters during the past several months. Instead, the two cut ties on the afternoon of the first night of Passover, which is kind of like making a public announcement at 5 p.m. on New Years Eve.

Well, good for Rosenberg, who will undoubtedly find fringier outlets to promote his anti-Semitic “Israel lobby” conspiracies. And better for Israel policy writers, who no longer have any obligation to write about or pay attention to him. But maybe it wouldn’t have had to end this way if Rosenberg and MMFA hadn’t taken the cowardly way out – if admissions of wrongdoing, or apologies were made. Instead, they cut ties as quietly and unrepentantly as possible. And by doing so, the organization will continue to carry a small mark of shame.

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Does Maher Have the Guts to Call Out Media Matters on Anti-Rush Campaign?

The progressive movement is really squeezing every last drop out mock outrage out of this increasingly-stale controversy:

Rush Limbaugh’s opponents are starting a radio campaign against him Thursday, seizing upon the radio star’s attack of a Georgetown law student as a “slut” to make a long-term effort aimed at weakening his business. …

Media Matters is spending at least $100,000 for two advertisements that will run in eight cities.

The ads use Limbaugh’s own words about student Sandra Fluke, who told congressional Democrats that contraception should be paid for in health plans. Limbaugh, on his radio programs, suggested Fluke wanted to be paid to have sex, which made her a “slut” and a “prostitute.” In return for the money, he said Fluke should post videos of herself having sex. Under sharp criticism, Limbaugh later apologized.

In one of the anti-Limbaugh ads, listeners are urged to call the local station that carries Limbaugh to say “we don’t talk to women like that” in our city.

Media Matters is placing the radio ads in cities with strong progressive activist networks and place where it believes Rush Limbaugh is particularly vulnerable. The group says it’s modeling this after its “Stop Beck” campaign, but that’s a little misleading. While Media Matters did target Glenn Beck’s advertisers, the main reason he was dropped from Fox News was because of his plummeting ratings. That had more to do with conservatives tuning out than anything Media Matters orchestrated.

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The progressive movement is really squeezing every last drop out mock outrage out of this increasingly-stale controversy:

Rush Limbaugh’s opponents are starting a radio campaign against him Thursday, seizing upon the radio star’s attack of a Georgetown law student as a “slut” to make a long-term effort aimed at weakening his business. …

Media Matters is spending at least $100,000 for two advertisements that will run in eight cities.

The ads use Limbaugh’s own words about student Sandra Fluke, who told congressional Democrats that contraception should be paid for in health plans. Limbaugh, on his radio programs, suggested Fluke wanted to be paid to have sex, which made her a “slut” and a “prostitute.” In return for the money, he said Fluke should post videos of herself having sex. Under sharp criticism, Limbaugh later apologized.

In one of the anti-Limbaugh ads, listeners are urged to call the local station that carries Limbaugh to say “we don’t talk to women like that” in our city.

Media Matters is placing the radio ads in cities with strong progressive activist networks and place where it believes Rush Limbaugh is particularly vulnerable. The group says it’s modeling this after its “Stop Beck” campaign, but that’s a little misleading. While Media Matters did target Glenn Beck’s advertisers, the main reason he was dropped from Fox News was because of his plummeting ratings. That had more to do with conservatives tuning out than anything Media Matters orchestrated.

And Media Matters also risks overreaching with the anti-Rush campaign. Not all liberals are comfortable with the idea of trying to push Limbaugh off the air. In the New York Times today, Bill Maher writes:

The answer to whenever another human being annoys you is not “make them go away forever.” We need to learn to coexist, and it’s actually pretty easy to do. For example, I find Rush Limbaugh obnoxious, but I’ve been able to coexist comfortably with him for 20 years by using this simple method: I never listen to his program. The only time I hear him is when I’m at a stoplight next to a pickup truck.

When the lady at Costco gives you a free sample of its new ham pudding and you don’t like it, you spit it into a napkin and keep shopping. You don’t declare a holy war on ham.

I don’t want to live in a country where no one ever says anything that offends anyone. That’s why we have Canada.

Maher makes good points, though he also places far more emphasis on the fake outrage from conservatives than he does on the fake outrage coming from liberals. Sure, conservatives overreact to comments and demand apologies from their political opponents all the time, welcome to politics. But the major campaign to shut down a talk show host for disagreeable language is being orchestrated and funded by the left. Maher should at least have the guts to call out Media Matters by name.

As an aside, would it even matter anymore if Media Matters somehow managed to get Rush kicked off the air (an extremely unlikely possibility at this point)? Sure, it would be a symbolic victory for the left and set a disastrous precedent for entertainers. But Rush has a massive, devoted audience and could probably maintain similar ratings on an online-only platform. The biggest loser in that scenario would be radio, which needs hosts like Rush far more than he needs the medium.

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Removing All Traces of Islamist Terror from Toulouse Shootings

How could the same man gun down three French soliders in the city of Toulouse — two of them Muslim, the other North African — and then attack children at a Jewish school? Something just didn’t add up. There was “no clear motive” for the attacks, the New York Times said in an early draft of its story on the shooting at Collège et Lycée Ozar Hatorah on Monday. In later versions, after an outcry of disbelief, this was self-protectively revised to read: “Speculation over the motives for the killings ranged from anger at Muslims fighting in Afghanistan — the unit of three of the soldiers has been deployed there — and anti-Semitism, to a hatred of immigrants.”

Wrong. The alleged gunman, who reportedly has claimed all three French shootings, is a 24-year-old Muslim named Mohammad Merah.

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How could the same man gun down three French soliders in the city of Toulouse — two of them Muslim, the other North African — and then attack children at a Jewish school? Something just didn’t add up. There was “no clear motive” for the attacks, the New York Times said in an early draft of its story on the shooting at Collège et Lycée Ozar Hatorah on Monday. In later versions, after an outcry of disbelief, this was self-protectively revised to read: “Speculation over the motives for the killings ranged from anger at Muslims fighting in Afghanistan — the unit of three of the soldiers has been deployed there — and anti-Semitism, to a hatred of immigrants.”

Wrong. The alleged gunman, who reportedly has claimed all three French shootings, is a 24-year-old Muslim named Mohammad Merah.

Please don’t tell M. Jay Rosenberg of Media Matters Action Network. He will be badly disappointed at the news. When I first wrote about the Toulouse school shooting on Monday, Rosenberg tweeted:

https://twitter.com/#!/dg_myers

Oops. Oh, well. Rosenberg won’t be alone in trying to cover his tracks. In reporting that “French Police Say They Have Cornered Suspect in School Shooting,” the New York Times earlier today described Merah as a “French national of Algerian descent,” carefully avoiding any mention of his religion. After saying that Merah “told negotiators that he belonged to Al Qaeda,” and after identifying his motives at last (“the attacks were meant to avenge the deaths of Palestinian children and to protest French military deployments abroad”), the Times went on to reveal that Merah “called himself a mujahedeen [sic],” which the newspaper helpfully translated as a “freedom fighter.” (Because, you know, to shoot Jewish schoolchildren in the head at close range is obviously to strike a blow for freedom.)

No further mention was made of Al Qaeda or mujahedeen, and none at all of anti-Semitism or Islamist terror. Instead, the Times found a way, like Rosenberg, to keep talking about rightists. Three times its story mentioned the political right in connection with the murders. Easily the best passage was this:

Muslims [in France] complain widely of feeling vilified by some political elements, on the right in particular, and the anti-immigration far right has been gaining unprecedented popularity in recent months.

Still no mention of Merah’s being a Muslim, by the way. Nor any suggestion that French Jews might complain of feeling targeted for murder.

And so it goes. The campaign by the mainstream media to whitewash Islamist terrorism and pin Jew hatred only on the extreme political right is being conducted even now, even as a self-confessed Islamist terrorist holds French police at bay. In a few hours, of course, Merah will be captured or killed. And the New York Times will have removed all traces of its self-embarrassment again.

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Anti-Rush Campaign Was in the Works

Wonder how the left was able to mobilize so quickly on the Rush Limbaugh boycott? According to the architect behind it, Media Matters online strategy director Angelo Carusone, the project was actually created in 2009, but stayed inactive until the Sandra Fluke controversy boiled over (via Legal Insurrection):

I started Stop Rush in 2009, 2010, and when I went to register the domain, I saw that Rush owned StopRush.com….

The Beck work was working, and I kind of froze the Rush work, and experimented with it a little, to get a sense of who Rush’s advertisers were and what their comfort level with him was. It was definitely valuable, and I am glad I spent some time doing it. It has informed the work I am doing now.

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Wonder how the left was able to mobilize so quickly on the Rush Limbaugh boycott? According to the architect behind it, Media Matters online strategy director Angelo Carusone, the project was actually created in 2009, but stayed inactive until the Sandra Fluke controversy boiled over (via Legal Insurrection):

I started Stop Rush in 2009, 2010, and when I went to register the domain, I saw that Rush owned StopRush.com….

The Beck work was working, and I kind of froze the Rush work, and experimented with it a little, to get a sense of who Rush’s advertisers were and what their comfort level with him was. It was definitely valuable, and I am glad I spent some time doing it. It has informed the work I am doing now.

Legal Insurrection’s William Jacobson connects the dots on the story most of the media missed: that the entire Limbaugh boycott was pure, undistilled Astroturf.

The secondary boycott of Rush Limbaugh advertisers is portrayed in the media as a reaction to a groundswell of public outrage.  In fact, the secondary boycott was initiated by and driven by Media Matters, which had a “Stop Limbaugh” campaign on the shelf waiting to be used, and was executed by Angelo Carusone, Director of Online Strategy for Media Matters.

But while Carusone depicts his campaign as a response to the Fluke controversy, it seems obvious from the timeline that Media Matters played a large role in creating the controversy. According to the New York Times, the dormant “Stop Rush” twitter account run by Carusone snapped to life on Wednesday, Feb. 29, the day Limbaugh made his now-infamous comments. Media Matters also appears to be the first media outlet that reported on Limbaugh’s remarks, with Think Progress picking up on the story a few hours later, and the Huffington Post following up that evening.

This is a really useful case study of how the left coordinates to create a full-blown media uproar. Democrats in Congress don’t typically rush out to respond to every insult from conservative radio hosts. But Rep. Nancy Pelosi managed to round up six other female congressional Democrats to release a joint statement condemning Limbaugh’s comments within hours of the broadcast:

“When Sandra Fluke testified before the House Democratic Steering and Policy Committee after Republicans attempted to silence her, she courageously spoke truth to power. As a result, today, she has been subject to attacks that are outside the circle of civilized discussion and that unmask the strong disrespect for women held by some in this country. We call upon the Republican leaders in the House to condemn these vicious attacks on Ms. Fluke, which are in response to her testimony to the Congress. Democrats will always stand up for women’s health and women’s voices.”

According to Carusone, he began reaching out to Rush’s advertisers the next day to put the boycott campaign into action. Two days after Limbaugh’s comments, a Friday, President Obama put in a call to Sandra Fluke, which fanned the flames of the controversy and kept it going through the weekend.

Something else worth noting: Tucker Carlson recently reported that Media Matters representatives have weekly meetings with the White House, and the activist group is in close contact with the administration. Was anti-Rush media strategy ever discussed? Was the White House aware that Media Matters had a “Stop Rush” boycott campaign teed up and ready to go? After all, top White House officials have spoken openly about their 2009 campaign to use Rush Limbaugh to attack the Republican Party.

The anti-Limbaugh boycott may not have been the wild success Media Matters wanted it to be, since at this point it doesn’t look like there’s going to be any long-term fallout for Rush. But they were able to dominate the news cycle with their message for weeks and during a contentious primary race – a pretty impressive feat. Ruthless conservative political strategists out there would do well to take notes.

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“Anti-Israel” the Same as “Israel-Firster?”

JTA editor Ami Eden draws our attention today to the fact that M.J. Rosenberg has waved the white flag on his penchant for labeling supporters of Israel as “Israel-firsters.” That term is redolent of anti-Semitic stereotypes that seek to smear Jews with the charge of dual loyalty. On his Media Matters blog, Rosenberg writes he won’t use the term any more, but writing in his characteristically obnoxious and abusive manner, Rosenberg doesn’t admit that what he had done was wrong but merely discards it now as a “distraction” from his great work of preventing a war with Iran. That is, I suppose, some sort of progress. With Rosenberg, style long ago became substance as his impotent rage at the fact that his views have been rejected by Israel’s voters and the vast majority of American Jews, bubbled over in abusive language aimed at anyone who disagreed with him. “Israel-firster” was just the tip of the iceberg for Rosenberg, whose writing and tweeting has become an object lesson in the myth that liberals or leftists believe in civil discourse.

However, Eden takes Rosenberg’s concession as an opportunity to play the moral equivalence game with those who have criticized the Media Matters staffer. He pivots the discussion into one about the way the term “anti-Israel” has been applied to critics of Israel’s government and asks whether right-wingers will give up that practice now that Rosenberg has taken the pledge. But the problem with this argument put forward by my old friend and colleague is that there is a big difference between the two charges.

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JTA editor Ami Eden draws our attention today to the fact that M.J. Rosenberg has waved the white flag on his penchant for labeling supporters of Israel as “Israel-firsters.” That term is redolent of anti-Semitic stereotypes that seek to smear Jews with the charge of dual loyalty. On his Media Matters blog, Rosenberg writes he won’t use the term any more, but writing in his characteristically obnoxious and abusive manner, Rosenberg doesn’t admit that what he had done was wrong but merely discards it now as a “distraction” from his great work of preventing a war with Iran. That is, I suppose, some sort of progress. With Rosenberg, style long ago became substance as his impotent rage at the fact that his views have been rejected by Israel’s voters and the vast majority of American Jews, bubbled over in abusive language aimed at anyone who disagreed with him. “Israel-firster” was just the tip of the iceberg for Rosenberg, whose writing and tweeting has become an object lesson in the myth that liberals or leftists believe in civil discourse.

However, Eden takes Rosenberg’s concession as an opportunity to play the moral equivalence game with those who have criticized the Media Matters staffer. He pivots the discussion into one about the way the term “anti-Israel” has been applied to critics of Israel’s government and asks whether right-wingers will give up that practice now that Rosenberg has taken the pledge. But the problem with this argument put forward by my old friend and colleague is that there is a big difference between the two charges.

Calling someone “anti-Israel” is wrong if the persons at whom it is aimed are in fact merely supporters of Israel who are critics of its current government. But it is more than apt when applied to those who actually are foes of Israel, such as those who are either neutral about or supporters of the movement to boycott, divest and sanction the Jewish state.

But contrary to Eden’s formulation, it is not just the right that plays the “anti-Israel” game. In recent years, people like Rosenberg and others on the left have taken to labeling those who support the settlement movement or even those who regard the issue as superseded by security concerns as “anti-Israel” because they think the “occupation” is a threat to the country’s future. Eden is right when he lambasts those who seek to view anyone who dissents from a particular position on Israeli politics as foes of the state though nowadays that’s a sin that left-wingers are as likely to commit as their foes. However, he goes too far when he claims the term “anti-Israel” has led “to as much bullying and violence, probably even more, than the use of terms like ‘Israel-firster’ (see the Yitzhak Rabin assassination and the failed assassination plot against Shimon Peres, death threats and attacks against left-wing activists, and efforts to blackball some liberal groups from communal settings).”

Bringing up the Rabin assassination in conjunction with an argument about whether American Jews are sufficiently supportive of Israel is nothing but a red herring. It has long been used in Israel as unfair tactic intended to smear anyone who opposed or raised questions about the Oslo Accords as having somehow been connected to an extremist unconnected with any real political movement. It has no bearing on this discussion and dragging it into this dispute does nothing but to further muddy the waters. Moreover, the idea that liberal American Jewish critics of Israel are living in fear seems the stuff of satire more than anything else. If there is anything that we have learned in the last 30 years as Israel-bashing has become one of the mainstream media’s favorite sports it is that it takes little courage to run with the pack of abusers of the Jewish state.

As for the charge of “bullying,” it is more than a little out of place when discussing a vigorous public debate about the future of Israel. Civility and good manners are always to be encouraged, but as M.J. Rosenberg and others of his ilk on the far left has showed us the idea that the right has a monopoly on bad behavior is a joke.

Let’s also remember that while “anti-Israel” is sometimes used promiscuously and incorrectly, there are a lot of people out there who really are “anti-Israel” and many, if not most of them, are on the left. Even worse, when Jewish newspapers like the Forward honor those who call for economic war to be waged on Israel with flattering profiles, editors should not be surprised when some observers begin to question their motives.

It is also a mistake to minimize the damage the term “Israel-firster” can cause. To call the pro-Israel community “Israel-firsters,” as Rosenberg repeatedly did, is an attempt to delegitimize more than just his ideological foes. It’s a canard intended to silence all Jews. Using it is an implicit endorsement of the Walt-Mearsheimer conspiracy theory that is thinly veiled anti-Semitism. Those who do so cross a line that no supporter of Israel or Jew should cross. The fact that Rosenberg has begrudgingly and belatedly given it up does little to restore his credibility.

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How Do We Define “Pro-Israel?”

One of the standard arguments currently being employed against supporters of the State of Israel is that the true friends of the Jewish state are those who are doing their best to undermine its democratically-elected government and force it to submit to foreign pressure to make concessions to the Palestinians. It is an old and somewhat disingenuous ploy that is, at best, an effort by supporters of the losing side in Israeli elections to win back what their friends have lost in the ballot box. There are times when those who like the right-of-center parties in Israel have played this game.  However, since the evisceration of the Israeli left by the refusal of the Palestinians to make peace, it is the sole consolation of those who despise Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his allies. But the anger and frustration of the Jewish left is such these days that some have expanded this tactic and taken to using anti-Semitic tropes about “Israel-firsters” which are straight out of the Walt-Mearsheimer Israel lobby thesis. To listen to people like Media Matters scribbler M.J. Rosenberg these days, it is hard to distinguish the bile he spews at AIPAC and liberal supporters of Israel (forget about what he says about conservatives) from that of out-and-out anti-Zionists.

Rosenberg’s old friend J.J. Goldberg writes in the Forward this week to defend his buddy. It is an unconvincing piece marred not so much by the frame of reference of friendship as it is by a refusal to come to grips with the way Rosenberg’s anger at his former employers at AIPAC and everyone who doesn’t share his opinion has distorted this debate. According to J.J., M.J. is still pro-Israel at heart but just doesn’t like the policies of its government and those Americans who back it. But Rosenberg’s willingness to adopt the rhetoric of Israel-haters undermines his defenders. That this apologia for Rosenberg ran in the same issue of the paper that also contained a flattering profile of Ali Abunimah, one of the leading advocates of the campaign to boycott Israel in the United States, only reinforces the impression that some on the Jewish left are so deeply invested in the effort to undermine backers of the pro-Israel consensus that they are seeking to erase any boundary between mere criticism of the government in Jerusalem and activity whose aims are clearly more sinister.

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One of the standard arguments currently being employed against supporters of the State of Israel is that the true friends of the Jewish state are those who are doing their best to undermine its democratically-elected government and force it to submit to foreign pressure to make concessions to the Palestinians. It is an old and somewhat disingenuous ploy that is, at best, an effort by supporters of the losing side in Israeli elections to win back what their friends have lost in the ballot box. There are times when those who like the right-of-center parties in Israel have played this game.  However, since the evisceration of the Israeli left by the refusal of the Palestinians to make peace, it is the sole consolation of those who despise Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his allies. But the anger and frustration of the Jewish left is such these days that some have expanded this tactic and taken to using anti-Semitic tropes about “Israel-firsters” which are straight out of the Walt-Mearsheimer Israel lobby thesis. To listen to people like Media Matters scribbler M.J. Rosenberg these days, it is hard to distinguish the bile he spews at AIPAC and liberal supporters of Israel (forget about what he says about conservatives) from that of out-and-out anti-Zionists.

Rosenberg’s old friend J.J. Goldberg writes in the Forward this week to defend his buddy. It is an unconvincing piece marred not so much by the frame of reference of friendship as it is by a refusal to come to grips with the way Rosenberg’s anger at his former employers at AIPAC and everyone who doesn’t share his opinion has distorted this debate. According to J.J., M.J. is still pro-Israel at heart but just doesn’t like the policies of its government and those Americans who back it. But Rosenberg’s willingness to adopt the rhetoric of Israel-haters undermines his defenders. That this apologia for Rosenberg ran in the same issue of the paper that also contained a flattering profile of Ali Abunimah, one of the leading advocates of the campaign to boycott Israel in the United States, only reinforces the impression that some on the Jewish left are so deeply invested in the effort to undermine backers of the pro-Israel consensus that they are seeking to erase any boundary between mere criticism of the government in Jerusalem and activity whose aims are clearly more sinister.

Given the viciousness of his rhetoric, it is not surprising that Rosenberg has become a lightening rod. Liberal icon Alan Dershowitz has called on the White House to disassociate itself from his current employer, the prominent liberal group Media Matters, due to Rosenberg’s conduct. That is a matter for the left to hash out. I am more interested in the attempts by people like Goldberg to defend Rosenberg on the grounds that he is just a garden-variety critic of Netanyahu. Indeed, Goldberg claims the whole dustup is the fault of Netanyahu and his anti-peace policies. This is an absurd distortion of Netanyahu’s record, but its main fault is that he ignores the fact that it is the Palestinians who have conclusively rejected peace. Goldberg and Rosenberg’s positions on the peace process have been rendered not so much incorrect but irrelevant by the ruthless dynamics of Palestinian politics that has made peace unlikely for the foreseeable future. But rather than acknowledge this reality, they prefer to keep up their fight against the Jewish right. In the case of Rosenberg, his position is now so extreme that he is not only unable to put forward his opinions in a reasonable manner unmarred by hate speech, he also seems unwilling to recognize any distinction between attacks on supporters of Israel’s current government and the right of its people to have their democratic verdict respected abroad and the violent rhetoric employed by those who literally wish to see the state destroyed.

Many on the left these days lack the humility that ought to always be part of American Jewish attempts to diagnose Israel’s problems. Even worse, some like Rosenberg are so frustrated by the way their assumptions about how to make peace have been overtaken by events that they have come to see any attack on Israel’s leaders or the vast majority of Americans who have stepped forward to support that government as being fair comment. In doing so, he has resorted to the lowest sort of smear that had heretofore been the province of Israel-haters. Though Goldberg assures us M.J. is the same lover of Israel he was in his youth, that only goes to show how politics can distort a man’s vision and his moral compass so as to allow him to try to destroy that which he once held dear in the name of preserving that same thing.

As the decision by the Forward’s editors to publish a puff piece on Abunimah shows, Rosenberg is not alone in having stepped over the line from honest Zionist criticism to that shadowy no man’s land in which those who are neutral about Israel’s existence live. Abunimah’s Electronic Intifada website is the source of a non-stop flow of hatred at the Jewish state and Zionism. For a Jewish newspaper that considers itself to uphold the liberal end of the pro-Zionist spectrum to have made such a decision calls into question not only the judgment of the editors but also whether they believe there is any line across which Jews may not stray before their conduct can be properly termed “anti-Israel.”

There is no one definition of the term pro-Israel. It does not require anyone to be a cheerleader for Netanyahu or any other Israeli leader or party. One need not be pro-settlements or anti-settlements or espouse any particular position on Iran or any other issue that divides Israelis and American Jews. But there are some things one cannot do and still claim to be within the pro-Israel camp. One of them is to adopt rhetoric that apes the efforts of Israel-haters to delegitimize supporters of Israel and which adopts the classic themes of anti-Semitism. The other is to espouse neutrality about attempts to wage economic warfare on Israel via the BDS movement that calls for Americans to boycott, divest and sanction the Jewish state.

What is needed now is not so much ideological conformity within the pro-Israel camp as some soul-searching by a Jewish left that appears to have lost its way. Let us pray they come to their senses and recognize that however frustrated they may be by the current state of Israeli and Palestinian politics, there are some things they may not do and still be included under the rubric of “pro-Israel.”

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Why Has J Street Defended Media Matters?

Back when the “Israel-Firsters” controversy first started to get picked up by major newspapers, J Street President Jeremy Ben-Ami spoke to the Washington Post and defended Media Matters and Think Progress staffers who used the dual-loyalty charge.

“If the charge is that you’re putting the interests of another country before the interests of the United States in the way you would advocate that, it’s a legitimate question,” he told the Post.

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Back when the “Israel-Firsters” controversy first started to get picked up by major newspapers, J Street President Jeremy Ben-Ami spoke to the Washington Post and defended Media Matters and Think Progress staffers who used the dual-loyalty charge.

“If the charge is that you’re putting the interests of another country before the interests of the United States in the way you would advocate that, it’s a legitimate question,” he told the Post.

Ben Ami is obviously no stranger to controversy, and by now he’s probably used to catching flack from the Jewish community. But the public condemnation in this instance was so swift and forceful that Ben Ami felt the need to rush out a clearly-panicked apology and weak clarification of his comments just hours after the article was published.

“I agree that the use of the term ‘Israel Firster’ is a bad choice of words. The conspiracy theory that American Jews have dual loyalty is just that, a conspiracy theory and must be refuted in the strongest possible way,” conceded Ben Ami, before urging the American Jewish community to stop debating the subject and focus on other issues.

The whole quote-and-recantation dance wasn’t exactly a surprise, considering J Street’s unlucky history with public relations. But the comments Ben Ami made to the Post were so wildly tone-deaf, so offensive, so far-off from reality – and in an interview he had no real obligation to give – that it was hard to imagine why he would ever make them in the first place.

So why do it? The Daily Caller reports on a funding overlap between J Street and Media Matters that raises one intriguing idea:

A source told The DC that [liberal philanthropist Bill] Benter donated to Media Matters, at least in part, so the liberal organization could bring MJ Rosenberg on board as its foreign policy voice.

Rosenberg has become a lightning rod for questioning the loyalty of American supporters of Israel by calling them “Israel-Firsters,” and for taking other radical positions. Alan Dershowitz, the liberal Harvard Law School professor, has denounced him in a series of recent interviews and articles, saying that Rosenberg’s rhetoric and ideas are similar to what neo-Nazi and pro-Hezbollah websites offer.

Bill Benter is the wealthy horse-better who helped financially prop up J Street when it was first getting off the ground. He also reportedly solicited over $800,000 in J Street contributions through a mysterious Hong Kong frontwoman named Consolacion Esdicul.

J Street didn’t return a call for comment about its current association with Benter today. But if Benter did specifically fund MJ Rosenberg’s position at Media Matters, it raises questions about whether this connection had anything to do with Ben Ami inserting himself into the controversy and initially defending Rosenberg’s indefensible dual-loyalty smears. Of course, J Street is the only group that would have the answer to that, and until they respond to requests for comment, it’s impossible to know for sure.

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Media Matters’ Worst Nightmare?

If you’ve been keeping up with Harvard Law Professor Alan Dershowitz, you know he’s recently been battering President Obama for his association with the anti-Israel group Media Matters. While Dershowitz is a Democrat who supported Obama in 2008, he’s demanded the president cut ties with the left-wing media watchdog group, whose writers have made anti-Semitic remarks.

Today, Dershowitz took it a step further, promising to turn the issue into an election matter during an interview with WABC’s Aaron Klein (via BuzzFeed):

Harvard Law Professor Alan Dershowitz, a leading Democratic lawyer who takes a hawkish line on Israel, has declared a personal war on the liberal group Media Matters, which has branched out into sharp criticism of Israel.

“Not only will [the Media Matters controversy] be an election matter, I will personally make it an election matter,” Dershowitz, a professor at Harvard Law School, told WABC’s Aaron Klein today. …

“I don’t know whether President Obama has any idea that Media Matters has turned the corner against Israel in this way,” he said. “I can tell you this, he will know very shortly because I am beginning a serious campaign on this issue and I will not let it drop until and unless [writer and activist MJ] Rosenberg is fired from Media Matters, or Media Matters changes its policy or the White House disassociates itself from Media Matters.”

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If you’ve been keeping up with Harvard Law Professor Alan Dershowitz, you know he’s recently been battering President Obama for his association with the anti-Israel group Media Matters. While Dershowitz is a Democrat who supported Obama in 2008, he’s demanded the president cut ties with the left-wing media watchdog group, whose writers have made anti-Semitic remarks.

Today, Dershowitz took it a step further, promising to turn the issue into an election matter during an interview with WABC’s Aaron Klein (via BuzzFeed):

Harvard Law Professor Alan Dershowitz, a leading Democratic lawyer who takes a hawkish line on Israel, has declared a personal war on the liberal group Media Matters, which has branched out into sharp criticism of Israel.

“Not only will [the Media Matters controversy] be an election matter, I will personally make it an election matter,” Dershowitz, a professor at Harvard Law School, told WABC’s Aaron Klein today. …

“I don’t know whether President Obama has any idea that Media Matters has turned the corner against Israel in this way,” he said. “I can tell you this, he will know very shortly because I am beginning a serious campaign on this issue and I will not let it drop until and unless [writer and activist MJ] Rosenberg is fired from Media Matters, or Media Matters changes its policy or the White House disassociates itself from Media Matters.”

Dershowitz launched his campaign today with a column denouncing Media Matters’ use of the term “Israel Firster” in the New York Daily News. The law professor has successfully battled left-wing anti-Israel groups in the past, including J Street. Here’s what Dershowitz had to say about J Street during a debate with its president, Jeremy Ben-Ami, last year:

“The reason you have to attack me is very simple: I am J Street’s nightmare. Let me tell you why. Because I am a liberal Democratic Jew who strongly opposes the settlements, who strongly favors a two-state solution, who supports Obama, who supports Hillary Clinton, who supports Petraeus, but who does not support J Street. You have to create the illusion that everybody against J Street is a member of the right, and is part of the Sarah Palin-Rush Limbaugh group. And you can’t explain me.”

A vocal campaign against Media Matters, especially if it includes other prominent Democrats in the Jewish community, could cause major problems for Media Matters and increase pressure on Obama to distance himself from the group.

But it will also be a test of whether Democrats are willing to call out anti-Semitism and Israel-bashing within their own ranks. After former AIPAC spokesman Josh Block criticized Media Matters staffers for making anti-Semitic comments late last year, the Truman Institute cut its association with him, claiming Block was trying to shut down “honest debate.” Will Democratic Party institutions side with Dershowitz on this issue? Or will they continue to stay silent on the uncomfortable but very real Israel problem at Media Matters?

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