The Israel Firster Brouhaha & Why I Left Media Matters

A day after leaving Media Matters For America, I feel a need for an explanation beyond what I posted at the MMFA site. It was provoked by all the right-wing "pro-Israel" types who don't believe I quit and insist I was fired because I attacked the dual holy of holies: Israeli government policies and the Israel lobby.

They are wrong. I left on my own, despite the protestations of MMFA management. But, in a way, the right-wingers are correct. I left MMFA because I did not want an organization that does such great work exposing Fox News and bringing down Glenn Beck and now leading the anti-Limbaugh effort to be hurt because of my stands on the Middle East.

But, followed to its logical conclusion that means that criticizing Israel and its lobby is, in fact, dangerous and I had to leave to protect an organization I love from people who, in their single-minded devotion to the Israeli government, will go after anyone and anything who stands in their way.

After all, the huge anti-Media Matters onslaught from the right (the one related to me not the incessant right-wing smears against MMFA) came over my use of the term Israel Firsters, by which I meant those people who put the interests of the Netanyahu government over those of the United States, people who wouldn't hesitate to criticize an Obama or a Bush but defend anything and everything that comes out of a right wing Israeli prime minister's mouth. This dynamic did not apply to Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin for obvious reasons.

Take Alan Dershowitz.

Here is what the famous lawyer had to say about me leaving Media Matters in Daily Caller:

"Liberal Harvard Law Professor Alan Dershowitz had been at the forefront of public criticism of the group, calling for -- and now receiving -- Rosenberg's departure."

"Rosenberg was an extremist," Dershowitz told the Daily Caller. "He didn't engage in careful, nuanced critiques of Israel, which is fine. He engaged in hyperbole, name-calling. He just hated, hated, hated, with a passion, almost an eroticized passion of anything associated with Israel. He was like a spurned lover -- irrational."

"So it's an enormous improvement for Media Matters," he said.

Dershowitz, you may recall, joined the effort to "get" Media Matters and me after my 200th (or so) use of the term Israel Firster.

In fact, he denounced me in a full page ad that a bunch of GOP operatives, led by William Kristol, took out in the New York Times. That must have cost a hundred thousand dollars or so, demonstrating the importance the right attaches to going after critics of Netanyahu. And preventing the use of the term Israel Firster, which drives them nuts.

In an interview about the time the ad was published, Dershowitz said that he was both a liberal and a Democrat but that unless Media Matters fired me, he would spread the word against... President Obama (on the grounds that Media Matters is close to the president).

His logic:

"I don't know whether President Obama has any idea that Media Matters has turned the corner against Israel in this way," Dershowitz 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 Rosenberg is fired from Media Matters, or Media Matters changes its policy or the White House disassociates itself from Media Matters.

He continued:

I will speak to every Jewish group that invites me, and I think it's fair to say I speak to more Jewish groups than probably any other person in the world. I spoke to over a million Jews over the years. You know, just last Thursday spoke to 1200, just in the next weeks alone I'll be speaking and in the past weeks to thousands of American Jews. And believe me, I will not let them ignore this issue.

Think about it. Dershowitz says he is a liberal and a Democrat but would oppose a Democratic president (with whom he agrees on domestic American issues) because that president may be close to an organization that employed a staffer who opposes policies of the Israeli government.

In other words, the well-being of every American matters less to Dershowitz than one critic of Israeli policies.

What is that definition of Israel Firster again?

But I shouldn't use Dershowitz as a stand-in for the more serious McCarthyites who patrol the Israel debate. He has, in fact, become a caricature of the "pro-Israel" (actually pro-Likud) zealot.

In a new book by best-selling author Shalom Auslander (he wrote "Foreskin's Lament") called Hope: A Tragedy, Dershowitz is repeatedly invoked in a continuing joke. It seems that one character, an old Jewish woman, is obsessed with her suffering in the Holocaust. She hates all non-Jews and is always sure that the Nazis are coming back. Except the old lady is not a Holocaust survivor. She is a paranoid rich American lady from Long Island who never suffered a day in her life.

Here's the beauty part. Every time one of her imaginary "anti-Semites" appears near her home in Westchester County, she responds with her demented threat: "Get Mr. Alan Morton Dershowitz on the phone."

But Dershowitz is far from alone. In fact, he is not very important. The serious enforcers who suppress any criticism of Israeli policies and who are also implicated in fomenting Islamo-hatred in this country (remember the New York mosque controversy) is the lobby, led by AIPAC but whose less savory work is carried out by its allies, paid and unpaid. AIPAC confines itself to keeping the president and Congress in line by the selective use of campaign contributions.The dirty work is done by others.

Bottom line. The bad guys didn't "get" me. But they did create the climate that made me decide to leave. Keep taking bows, boys.

Only problem: you can't shut us up.

The things I've been saying for years are now conventional wisdom. After all, does anyone seriously argue anymore that our Middle East foreign policy is not dictated by the lobby and its network of donors?

Except maybe Alan Morton Dershowitz when he isn't bragging about it.

The people I no longer call Israel Firsters have, once again, proven my point.