‘New Yorker’ defends Rosenberg (and use of term ‘Israel firster’)

Israel/PalestineUS Politics
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MJ Rosenberg

The New Yorker and Jerry Haber are both pushing back against the smear campaign against MJ Rosenberg. Both sites implicitly defend Rosenberg’s use of the term Israel firster. Gosh, but we live in amazing times. First, Connie Bruck’s report on Rosenberg’s antagonist, Bill Kristol’s Emergency Committee for Israel, in the New Yorker:

In December, Rosenberg responded to the criticism of the term, “Israel firster.” “Can anyone argue with the assertion that, for neocons, Obama is always wrong and Bibi is always right? Not only that, they denounce those who dare criticize Netanyahu over anything while never ever letting up on Obama.” He added:

‘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…. They are putting the interests of Binyamin Netanyahu and his hardliners first. After all, if they were putting Israel first, they would not be promoting policies (such as war with Iran or the perpetuation of the occupation) that could very easily lead to Israel’s destruction or, at least, to the loss of its Jewish majority. The people I call “Israel firsters” are, in fact, “Netanyahu firsters.”’

The idea that Rosenberg (whom I have known for years as someone who is profoundly devoted to Israel and, at the same time, abhors the Israeli occupation) could be labelled an anti-Semite is an indicator of the lengths to which this smear-campaign has gone. It is hardly the first time in American history that those with a political agenda have sought to demonize others whose views they dislike, as a means of destroying them and silencing any potential sympathizers.

Judging by the virulence of the E.C.I. attack, the term, “Israel firster,” seems to have struck a chord. And while truth is generally an early casualty in the political heat of an election year, E.C.I. stands out in its disregard for it.

And here is Jerry Haber at the Magnes Zionist, calling out Rosenberg nemesis Alan Dershowitz as a hypocrite in a post that likens Rosenberg to Spinoza: “Spinoza and the Heresy Hunter from Harvard”:

For years I have been waiting for Alan Dershowitz to meet his Edward R. Murrow, and I believe that he has met him in M. J. …

M. J. accused AIPAC of being an Israel-firster organization, and that aroused the ire of Dershowitz? M. J. worked for AIPAC for years, and he knows whereof he speaks. I can tell you that many  AIPAC people I know, including relatives and friends, not only place Israel’s interests above American’s interest, they delude themselves into thinking that Israel’s interests are by definition identical with America’s interests.

M J allegedly tweeted in response to Dershowitz’s threats that he can go to hell. Dershowitz has responded by going nuclear.  Because of his fury at Rosenberg, he is willing to attempt to cost Obama the election if the White House doesn’t publicly distance itself from Media Matters, or if Media Matters doesn’t fire Rosenberg, such is his fervor of the heresy hunter scorned. This time he has set the bar high, and, optimist that I am, I trust that he will fail.

Liberal Zionists, I am talking to you! Stand up for M. J. and you are standing up for your own against the like of those who delude themselves into thinking they are liberal Zionists. Otherwise you will end up by saying

“I was silent when Dershowitz went after Norman Finkelstein because I am not Norman Finkelstein. I was silent when he came for Matar, Giora, and Sand because, well, I had never heard of them. I was silent when he came for a liberal Zionist like M. J. Rosenberg because I don’t tweet. Then when he went after me, nobody was there to help me….”

Perhaps there is a ray of light in all this. The Israeli Reut Institute last year outlined an Israel advocacy  strategy of driving a wedge between the liberal Zionist and the extreme left in Israel and abroad. For the most part, it hasn’t worked.  There is indeed a gap, but it is between the real liberal Zionists like M.J., Peter Beinart, Naomi Hazan, Larry Derfner, Michael Lerner, Leibel Fein, David Grossman, Amos Oz, as well as the activist groups in Israel like B’Tselem, Rabbis for Human Rights, Breaking the Silence, on the one hand, and the faux liberal Zionists like Dershowitz, Abe Foxman, Benny Morris, Ari Shavit, and all those members of the so-called “disappointed left” in Israel, on the other.

How do you distinguish between the genuine and the fake liberal Zionist? After all, both kinds say that they are for two states, oppose settlements and settlers, support  territorial compromise, etc. It’s very simple: if they publicly criticize Israel’s human rights violations; if they support groups that expose such violations; if they call out Israel’s elected leaders on matters of policy and morality –  in short, if they adopt the stance of moral critic because that is deep in their Jewish and mentshlich soul – then they are true liberal Zionists. All the others are deluded into thinking they are.

And no one is more deluded into thinking he is a liberal Zionist than Alan Dershowitz, who never ceases to remind his readers that  he opposes the settlements and supports the two-state solution.

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