Flavius Josephus wrote an age-old classic of Jewish history, The War of the Jews (or “Jewish War”), hence my post title.
This could get interesting: the last time we left Ben Smith, he was conniving with Josh Block to smear Eli Clifton, Matt Duss, and Ziad Jilani for their forthright coverage of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict at Think Progress, the blog of the Center for American Progress. Block also attempted to smear M.J. Rosenberg, who writes for Media Matters, because he called Aipac and the rest of the Israel lobby, “Israel Firsters.”
CAP more or less caved to the pressure, apologized and fired Jilani, while Media Matters held firm and wrote off the Block-Smith attack as much ado about nothing.
Now, a new and more powerful Friend of the Lobby (FOL) has entered the fray: Alan Dershowitz. Fresh off getting Norman Finkelstein fired from DePaul (well, maybe not so fresh) and defending former Ukrainian strongman and accused murderer Leonid Kuchma, Dershowitz deludes himself into believing he’s going to make MJ a sacrificial offering to the Lobby. The guy seems to believe he has infinite power and sway over the presidential political debate:
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 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.”
“I think a lot of the donors to Media Matters just don’t know what has happened. They began to donate to the organization just because they thought it was a counter-weight to Fox News,” Dershowitz said.
If you read Buzzfeed’s story closely you see it links to two giant figures of Jewish activism/journalism: ZStreet and World News Daily, both of which are the equivalent of the National Enquirer in terms of their credibility.
Dershowitz has brought out the field artillery by publishing his screed in the pages of the NY Daily News, that bastion of Democratic liberalism. There, he’s likened M.J.’s writing to “neo-Nazis” and Pat Buchanan. And here are some of the “shameful” things Rosenberg has written which warrant a session on the auto da fe:
He has called Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu a “terrorist,” and Israel’s peace-loving President Shimon Peres an “uberhawk on Iran.”
He has denied that Iran’s Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has ever threatened to wipe Israel off the map, suggesting it was a mistranslation…
He had criticized those who call for punishing sanctions against Iran and has claimed that “if Iran gets the bomb, we are fully capable of containing a nuclear Iran.”
Oh my God, have you ever read such despicable lies before in your life? How could M.J. accuse Bibi Netanyahu of ordering acts of terror against Iran and the Palestinian people? How could he claim Shimon Peres said that an Iranian nuke would be a “flying Holocaust?” Or that the U.S. is capable of containing Iran when we know an Iranian nuke means the end of life as we know it everywhere?
How could any red-blooded Jew not recoil in revulsion at such Israel-hatred? And please, pro-Israelists don’t take this out of context, it’s meant ironically.
If Der Dersh believes this lunacy is gonna have any traction he’s, well, out of his friggin’ mind. First, Obama faces a relatively easy election, especially if Santorum is nominated. Second, if he believes this will resonate with anyone except Abe Foxman and Malcolm Hoenlein, he’s sadly mistaken. But gesund aheit. If they want to waste their time go right ahead. It will only give MJ’s work and views more prominence. Tens of thousands will wonder what the fuss is all about and become new readers and followers. If you’ve got to have an enemy, Der Dersh is the one you want.
UPDATE: Thanks to reader Pete for his comment below. Contrary to what I wrote in the closing paragraphs here, Phil Weiss notes the first use of the term by Abram Sachar (and M.J. has expanded on this here), noted Jewish historian and first president of Brandeis University, in the 1961 edition of the American Jewish Yearbook:
Abram L. Sachar, president of Brandeis University, at the biennial convention of JWB [Jewish Welfare Board], declared on April 2, 1960 that among Jews there is no room “for Israel Firsters whose chauvinism and arrogance find nothing relevant or viable in any area outside of Israel.”
Sachar used the term precisely as M.J. Rosenberg uses it, as a cudgel against classical Zionists who argue that American Jews owe a primary loyalty to Israel. Don’t expect to see any of this actual historical truth and research featured by Dershowitz.
The fight will be over use of the term “Israel Firster,” which the far-right pro-Israel crowd objects to disingenuously as anti-Semitic. The history of the term going back to the 1950s has anti-Semitic connotations as used by American Nazis and the like. But the term is not being used by Rosenberg or Israel critics in any anti-Semitic sense. They use the term as an attack those who confuse Israel’s interests with America’s. There’s a notion among the pro-Israel crowd that if we advance Israel’s interests it will ipso fact advance America’s. This is a deeply pernicious notion, since two separate nations must perforce have separate interests. If they don’t then one is a vassal of the other.
So while I don’t use the term Israel Firster myself, it’s a perfectly valid term to define those who set Israel’s interests above those of the United States (whether they do so knowingly or not). America’s interests are separate and different from Israel’s. Any American who rejects this notion will do things that harm Israel’s interests AND America’s.