Israel obsessive MJ Rosenberg out; Alan Dershowitz suspects pressure from White House led to ouster of fringe writer

April 9, 2012

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."

Lashing out at the pro-Israel movement and outlets like the Washington Free Beacon—which thoroughly investigated and chronicled the controversy—Rosenberg griped that his "presence here [at MMFA] is being used in an effort to shut Media Matters up."

He cast blame on "the right-wing pro-Israel types," and weaved unsubstantiated conspiracy theories, in a follow up article posted Saturday on the Huffington Post.

"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," he wrote.

At several points leading up to his departure, the Free Beacon attempted to ask MMFA’s top officials if they considered Rosenberg’s rhetoric appropriate.

On one such occasion, Media Matters founder David Brock evaded a reporter’s questions about the controversy.

On March 25, the Free Beacon approached Ari Rabin Havt, the group’s executive vice president, who responded to questions by distancing himself from Rosenberg’s use of the "Israel firster" slur. Rosenberg resigned from Media Matters on April 6.

One of the clearest signs that Rosenberg’s smears had struck a nerve among Israel’s chief advocates came when Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz launched a "personal war" to end Rosenberg’s career.

Dershowitz called Rosenberg "radioactive" and a "perennial liar" who "deserved what he got" in an interview Saturday with the Free Beacon.

"I’m proud of whatever small role I played," Dershowitz said, explaining that if Media Matters and Rosenberg had not parted ways, the latter’s association with the group would have become an electoral issue for President Obama.

"I really do think that if Media Matter had kept Rosenberg on, this would have become the Jeremiah Wright issue of the 2012 election," he said, referring to Obama’s controversial former pastor whose anti-Semitic and anti-American rants dogged Obama on the 2008 campaign trail.

"It’s a good thing for the White House. It wouldn’t surprise me if there were some calls to Media Matters from the White House" expressing ire about Rosenberg’s rhetoric, Dershowitz added. "It would have been a smart thing for somebody to have made it clear that the White House could not have any association to somebody who accuses [the American Israel Public Affairs Committee] of not having loyalty to the U.S. That is such an off the chart accusation."

Rosenberg declined to be interviewed by the Free Beacon on grounds that it is a "racist" publication, though he provided no evidence to support this allegation.

"No interviews with racist right media. Ever," Rosenberg tweeted in response to a reporter’s request for comment via Twitter. "I would never talk to your ridiculous publication."

Aside from charging American Jews and members of Congress of being "Israel firsters," Rosenberg frequently wrote about what he claims is AIPAC’s nefarious control over the U.S. foreign policy establishment.

In his Saturday posting about the controversy, Rosenberg continued his assault on AIPAC, accusing the group of "fomenting Islamo-hatred in this country."

Dershowitz said this type of rhetoric reveals that Rosenberg’s true audience is the "hard left," or those who reflexively blame Israel for all of the world’s woes.

"He will continue to write for Al Jazeera and that’s perfect," Dershowitz said. "He’ll go where he belongs—to the irrational ‘Israel’s always wrong’ camp. He’s never been good at nuanced critique of Israel."

Rosenberg, however, is waging a losing ideological battle, Dershowitz said.

"The hard left has one criteria today: If you’re anti-Israel you’re good, and if you’re nuanced about it you must be a fascist," he explained. "The hard left is losing this fight. Serious intellectuals don’t take seriously the ravings of the hard left about Israel."