AIPAC American Jews American Task Force On Palestine Iran Israel Israel lobby Middle East peace process Palestinians

The best post by MJ Rosenberg…ever

The latest “IPFriday” from MJ Rosenberg was obviously written in a kind of white heat. It is engagingly furious about the “Status Quo Lobby.” Nobody does fury better than MJ. Here he is on Eric Cantor’s speech at the AIPAC Policy Conference:

The crowd adored Cantor who managed to invoke the Holocaust, gas chambers, and cattle cars in his shameful and hysterical call to arms. Cantor cynically demonstrated that there are indeed limits on how far one may go when exploiting the emotions of a Jewish audience for partisan profit, and then cheerfully crossed them. He literally said that “men are pointing guns at Israel, indeed at Jews everywhere, promising to kill us.”

He said that Ahmadinejad’s goal is not merely building a bomb but “killing all the world’s Jews.” Imagine. An American politician born in 1963 in Richmond, Virginia (last under outside “threat” by the Union Army in the 1860’s) tells a crowd of secure, comfortable Americans that they are in as much physical danger as the Jews of Eastern Europe whose children were slaughtered in front of their eyes-and they cheer! (I’m sure Cantor loves this country but he might want to avoid suggestions that, for Jews, it bears resemblance to Europe in the 1940’s.)

As is often the case with these events that call themselves “pro-Israel,” most of the emotion was produced by contemplating the atrocities of the dead past, rather than celebrating the wonders of Israel’s living present or hopes for its future. For these people, the triumphant Israel of the film “Exodus” has been replaced with the horrors of “Schindler’s List” or “Sophie’s Choice.” (And they wonder why their kids just aren’t so interested!)

40 thoughts on “The best post by MJ Rosenberg…ever

  1. Hard to know how hybolic he is without seeing the full context.

    I don’t think America is anywhere close to being like 1930s Germany. Not even close. However, anti-semitism (including assaults, threats and vandalism) are on the rise around the globe.

    Yet, appealing to people through fear or negativity is a bit manipulative, imo.

    I watched a program on American Jews on PBS the other night (actually, I think it’s a repeat from a few years ago). They covered the whole Leopold Frank story.

    Before we get into any “the South is a different and more primitive animal”–consider that Southern Jews lived a very comfortable and integrated lifestyle.

    Ditto Germany for about 1000 years leading up to the Holocaust.

    My point here is…that while I seriously doubt America would head in that direction…the elements for persecution DO exist…and civilization is a thin veneer.

    And then there is the question of the safety of Jews in other parts of the world.

    I wouldn’t take anything for granted, is all I’m saying.

    Those are my thoughts, not an endorsement of anybody’s manipulation through hysteria.

  2. Suzanne,

    I agree there is always a potential problem of overt prejudice against Jews in this country. The answer is the kind of monitoring of hate groups done by the Southern Poverty Law Center and yes, some of the less ideologically charged work of the ADL. But Cantor and AIPAC are using that historical problem to whip up hysteria against Iran, creating a bogey man because it suits their purposes to have one.

  3. I didn’t think it was a particularly effective post. Nor, did I think your citation of it was up to your standard.

    Dissent that is only critical is that, only critical. It provides no path for alternative, no coherent direction, even to criticize the speaker.

    For example, the contrast with the fear approach would be statements of confidence, that the world for Jews and for Israelis has changed significantly positively since even 1973.

    Rather than “surrounded by enemies”, the majority of borders of Israel are with states that have diplomatic relations and have NOT aggressed militarily on Israel even incidentally or accidentally since the treaties were formed.

    That is CONFIDENCE, not fear.

    Further, that the Arab League has proposed full recognition to Israel on the basis of achievable parameters, that probably are not possible with the entirely literal proposal (the nut is the implication of loss of sovereignty over the Kotel and Jewish parts of the walled city).

    But, they are possible with achievable mutually consented minor revisions.

    Saying “you are a racist Zionist” regardless of the individual’s “balance”, is ONLY name-calling, if stated without contrast and proposal.

  4. Richard,

    I thought the post was a rapier-sharp depiction of a mentality that is far too prevalent in the organized American Jewish community, at least in AIPAC. It’s Inside American Jewish Baseball. He didn’t call them “racist Zionists” or desl with the situation in the region. So I don’t quite know what your problem is

  5. Teddy

    I don’t know what the true situation is with Iran’s intentions. I’m not sure anyone does. But I have noticed that Israel is not the only one in that neighborhood who feels Iran poses a regional threat.

  6. Suzanne,

    You’re right. It is troublesome. Something has to be done about it. Magnifying the threat and ratcheting up tensions that already exist is not the answer

  7. From Ben-Gurion facing Nasser in the 1950s to Netanyahu facing Ahmedinajad a half century later, Israeli leaders and their American Jewish counterparts have found it easier to hold seances and conjure up the spirit of Adolf Hitler to frighten the public than to engage in serious analysis of the threat. Up until now Israel has enjoyed the luxury of a regional nuclear monopoly. It now might have to contemplate entering the same situation of ambiguity that the leading democratic powers have lived with since the early 1950s when the Soviet Union developed a deliverable nuclear capability. Instead of examining the history of deterrence and the fact that it worked with both Stalin and Mao, and in chemical terms worked with Hitler in World War II, it is apparently more relevant to turn Ahmadinejad, whose authority in Iran is more akin to that of Peres than to that of Obama, into Hitler. Well even if Hitler was suicidal, his generals were not. I think the same can safely be said of most of the Iranian generals and mullahs.

  8. Actually, Dan, after having read Rosenberg’s whole column, I tend to agree with Richard. By far the more interesting portion was that dealing with the Stenny Hoyer letter. It is also the portion that requests action.

  9. I hadn’t read the whole Rosenberg post when I commented above.

    Why do we admire “rapier” or “fury”?

    I don’t so much.

    I wish MJ would post his e-mail address on his blogs, so that others outside of a closed circle could communicate with him. He could get a gmail account for free, separate from any that he uses for more sincere business.

    Even Noam Chomsky and Norman Finkelstein post their e-mails and actually respond.

  10. Thomas,
    Suppose someone who had a prison record moved in next door to you, started saying you were like a “cancerous threat to the neighborhood”, said you it was certain you were “going to disappear soon” and started walking around the neighborhood brandishing a rife while telling everyone he meets what a terrible person you are and how dangerous you are. How would like like that? Would you simply dismiss it as “simply talk”? Would you laugh it off? The Holocaust occurred within living memory. Before that, during the Russian Civil War 100,000 Jews were murdered (everyone seems to have forgetten that one). It is not simply “paranoia”. When governments fill their media, day after day, with antisemitic screeds and open threats, we have a right to be worried about it.

  11. It could be said that Israel (and AIPAC) is responding to/stooping to Ahmadinejad’s buffoonish antics.

    If this were me, I wouldn’t respond publicly to the threats & goading– but quietly prepare to blow Iran into next week if they tried anything funny.

    In other words, why pay it any lip service at all?

    Maybe I’m underestimating the necessity of public support here.

  12. Ya’akov,
    Are you considering me to be an ordinary home owner or the local chief of police? If I was the former I would report it to the police and maybe buy myself a gun. If I was the latter I would keep the ex-con under surveillance, maybe pay him a not so friendly visit. But I wouldn’t confuse the Don’s unconnected nephew with the Godfather (Ahmadinajad with Ali Khamenei) or go around and tell everyone how helpless the police are to protect them when that is not the case.

  13. Thomas-
    Besides Ahmedinejad’s incendiary comments (which no doubt are reflected in their state-controlled media), it is important to remember that Iran has a very aggressive foreign policy, including involvement in terrorist attacks in foreign countries, including the two murderous attacks in Argentina, support for armed groups like HIZBULLAH and HAMAS, interference in Iraq and Afghanistan, plus an aggressive missionary campaign for Shi’ism in Sunni countries, which as I understand is frequently against the law in those countries. In addition to the so-called “moderate” Arab states, many supporters of the Left in Israel are very worried about the Iranians as well as “right-wingers” so it is incorrect to say that Netanyahu is simply trying to whip up hysteria out as a cynical political ploy.

  14. You know, Dan, I doubt M.J. Rosenberg has any real Arab or Iranian friends. And by friend, I mean someone he grew up with, goes out with, dates, makes a fool of himself with, drinks with, parties with, commiserates with over failed romance, went to college with and got high with, etc.

    I do not mean a colleague or connection among a group of activists, or someone he introduces family or friends to as a kind of model Muslim, with whom Jews can learn to co-exist—something he’s chronicled in the past and that is just offensively patronizing.

    Because if he heard, privately and among friends, what Arabs and Iranians have to say about politics in their respective homelands, he would blanch at just how lacerating their criticism is, criticism by comparison with which the heated rhetoric of the most ardent Neocon pales.

    And frankly, Rosenberg’s attitude explains why J Street hasn’t taken off. Eric Cantor may be a fool, or not, and may or may not be representative of Jewish opinion at large, but he is, at worst, a nuisance.

    No one should be defending Ahmadinejad, who denies the historic connection of Jews to the land of Israel and makes very real threats to eradicate it, or attacking anyone who criticizes him. For God’s sake, the man is a Holocaust denier!

    Who does M.J. Rosenberg purport to represent exactly!!?

  15. C Laskov,

    The fact that many Arabs and Iranians are harshly critical of their own governments and political systems is irrelevant to what MJ wrote. It’s true, but so what? The post was about a certain mentality prevalent in certain parts of the American Jewish commuunity.

    Where have you found examples of MJ or anyone else at IPF or J Street “defending Ahmadinejad”. That’s a straw man.

  16. I don’t think it’s irrelevant at all, Dan. I don’t think it’s healthy to cultivate a bunker mentality, but what right does he have to criticize Cantor for invoking a threat that does in fact have a real basis? The Israelis aren’t any more jittery than most Arab states about the prospect of a nuclear-armed Iran.

    Moreover, Cantor is a member of a party that is out of power and out of favor. Why continue to harp on him, instead of focusing on how Israel might move forward constructively? Why the obsession with neoconservative thinkers?

  17. Claskov,
    You say Ahmadinejad presents a “real threat.” How? As president of Iran, a secular position, he has very little real power in the Islamic Republic of Iran. He is not a member of their version of the Council of Torah Sages. It would be like President Shimon Peres, as opposed to Prime Minister Peres, threatening some Arab state. It might make good press in the Israeli Arab press or among Arab countries and Israel’s enemies but it would have very little real operational significance.

    If you want to get worried about Holocaust denial reflect on a recent Haifa University poll that showed that 40% of Israeli Arabs claimed not to believe that the Holocaust occurred. This is because believing would seem to benefit the Zionists. Think of how many Jews, Israeli or foreign, believe that there was no massacre at Dir Yassin in April 1948 and that the Arabs left because of radio broadcasts by their leaders. Most peoples are inclined to believe what their leaders tell them about their enemy’s history.

  18. Thomas, even the International Atomic Energy Commission believes that Iran is trying to develop nuclear weapons, and that they have been doing everything in their power to stall further inspections. Why, precisely, do they want to acquire weapons of mass destruction? Arab countries have known about Israel’s nuclear arsenal for decades, and have felt no compulsion to develop similar weapons–excepting Sadam Hussein, whose aggressive intentions were made clear when he invaded Kuwait. Fortunately, Israel had taken preemptive action, in his case.

    I’m not necessarily advocating that they do the same with Iran; only that M.J. Rosenberg’s anger with Eric Cantor is totally misplaced.

    What’s more, characterizing Ahmedinejad as secular, simply by virtue of his title, is a little ridiculous. Anyway, I’m not worried about Holocaust denial. That’s just disgusting. I think worry about a government that was happy to send tens of thousands of children into battle against their adversary Iraq acquiring nuclear weapons is in fact a legitimate concern.

  19. Anonymous,
    If you want to know what I think about Iran’s motives, read my previous column on this blog from several months ago on the subject.

    I never called Ahmedinajad secular. What I said was that he wasn’t on the council that really decides things in Iran so his speeches can be regarded basically as political propaganda.

    And Anonymous, Claskov et al. what do you propose to do about Iran acquiring nuclear weapons?

  20. Thomas,
    If Ahmedinejad is so unimportant, and his words do not reflect the policies of the Council that really controls the power, then why do they support him in power, if all he is doing is damaging the country’s interests?
    He didn’t start the hostility against Israel. It was Khomeini himself that called Israel the “Little Satan” (and guess who the big one is?-Obama’s country).

  21. Sorry, that was me posting above; a little punchy and tired so I must have forgotten to enter my name.

    Look, I don’t think there is a good solution; ideally, the community of nations would rally together, and put on a united front, imposing stiff sanctions should Iran continue to fail to comply with international law. Under those circumstances, they might be induced to desist in pursuing their program. But what’s the likelihood of getting everyone on board for this, especially when Iran is a valuable market?

    I happen to think Israel may be bluffing, in hopes of prompting other nations to mount some kind of diplomatic blockade. I don’t think you announce, months in advance, that you’re going to attack a particular facility. That would only guarantee that it’s sufficiently fortified to withstand attack.

    Again, my initial point was that Eric Cantor, whether or not his arguments are valid, isn’t saying anything different than what a lot of Arabs, and Arab diplomats are saying in private, so I don’t think M.J. Rosenberg should be reserving his scorn for Cantor simply because he raises the specter of a nuclear Iran with maximalist designs on the region.

    Moreover, Rosenberg did wax enthusiastic about Ahmedinejad’s professed disinterest in the outcome of Palestinian/Israeli peace talks, which is ridiculous. No one, not even the confirmed pacifists in Europe, take Ahmedinejad at his word. This is a country that has been arming Hezbollah, and sponsoring attacks on U.S. servicemen in Iraq. And yet, Rosenberg cries tears of rage over Eric Cantor, but has nothing but plaudits for this dictator’s transparent dishonesty.

  22. Claskov-
    Regarding your statement that MJ Rosenberg “waxes enthusiastic about Ahmedinejad’s professed disinterst in the outcome of Palestinian/Israeli peace talks”, you have to understand that MJ is a product of the old Jewish Marxist-oriented “Left”. For these people, what is important is the “party line” that the leader states. He is assuming that Ahmedinejad is like Stalin in that whatever he says is automatically adopted as the official position of the entire apparatus below him and that now the whole Iranian state will supposedly support peace with Israel. The same was thought about Sadat and Arafat, that when they signed a piece of paper called a “peace agreement”, every Egyptian and Palestinian would start spouting the same line. Just like when in early 1939 Stalin took an anti-Nazi line and then in August 1939 he turned around and signed the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact and so the party line swung around and started seeing Nazism as a “progressive, anti-capitalist” movement. Events have shows that the Middle East doesn’t work the same way European and Jewish Leftists think it does. When I saw MJ make the statement you mentioned this just confirmed to me how out of touch with reality the man really is.

  23. I pop in this blog occasionally when ever something about the US-ME and Israel makes the news because I find Silverstein injects some common sense into the I-P issues.

    I was reading his Guardian piece over at Antiwar where I also noticed a report on Israel building a “new’ settlement…even as Netanyahu was being told by Obama … no new settlements. An obvious slap in the face to the USA…without whom Israel would not and could not exist.

    As a non jew I have no attachments to Israel and look at the situtation in terms of how it effects my own country and in universal humanitarian terms.

    So I have to ask….what on earth are the Israelis and their US supporters thinking? Objective observers see quite clearly what I-P is about, what the Cantors in congress are doing and where it is likely to lead for Israel, Jews and the US.

    If you feed these people, if you buy into their agenda hysterics,if you agitate for the US to become embroiled in any kind of war with Iran for Israel you are writting Israel’s epitah and the begining of active opposition to any support of Israel among the US public.

  24. How do you conclude that a country that funds, arms, encourages terror actions through proxies (Hezbollah, Hamas, Islamic Jihad) on civilians within UN recognized sovereign states (Israel), is innocent, or not deserving of at least some hysterics?

  25. Not only do some on the Left think Iran is innocent–they believe Iran SHOULD have nuclear arsenal to level the playing field.

    Iran is their new Soviet Union. (something about totalitarianism turns them on, I guess)

  26. To read “progressive” bloggers, one would think the most pressing matter in the world is the Arab-Israeli conflict, and more specifically, the settlements. For people like MJ Rosenberg, Phil Weiss and others, their whole world outlook is focused on this, primarily because of Jewish “angst” and guilt feelings. They then extrapolate their own mentality on everyone one else. For MJ, this is primarily Obama and the Democrats in Congress, who as he sees it, were elected for the express purpose of doing what MJ wants.
    For a real view of the situation:

  27. Ya’akov,
    I find it interesting that you think that Rosenberg is some kind of Marxist. He worked for AIPAC for about a decade and on Capitol Hill. Neither AIPAC nor Congress is normally in the habit of employing Marxists.

    And I never claimed that he was damaging his country’s interests. Iran is trying to expand its influence in the Mideast, specifically in the Arab world. The way to do that is to champion the Palestinians, denigrate Israel and look powerful. Iran has decided to outbid the Arabs in the propaganda war. It is similar to the Communist Chinese in the 1960s. Mao Tse Tung made lots of nuclear threats in the 1960s, but it was all empty talk.

    And I never claimed that Iran wasn’t dangerous, I just don’t believe that a lot of hysteria won’t do anything to make it less dangerous. Part of the problem with indifference on the part of the West is that since the mid-1990s people have been announcing every couple of years that Iran will have a nuclear bomb in two years. I remember reading an issue of the “Jerusalem Report” in 2003 that predicted that Iran would have the bomb within two years. Crying wolf repeatedly makes one less credible not more credible.

  28. Thomas,

    I didn’t say that MJ was a “Marxist”.
    Many Jews who are “Israel bashers” such as MJ Rosenberg come from “Left-wing” backgrounds (some even come from “right-wing” backgrounds such as Jeremy Ben-Ami of J-Street, but most come from the Left). This may be “Zionist” such as Labor Zionism, MAPAI, or MAPAM-HaShomer HaTzair, or anti-Zionists like the Bund or the Communists.
    All the groups I mention here were very strongly influenced by parts of Marxist thinking, even if they long ago jettisoned the socialism of it. This attitude a left very strong impression on this who were educated that way. All viewed religious Jews with contempt, consider them barbaric and primitive and viewed “Right-Wing” Jews such as those in Betar and the Revisionist movement as “Fascists” and, as such, THE enemy.
    It may be that MJ and others like him have now adopted a “petit bourgoieous” lifestyle and may whole heartedly believe in capitalism, but their way of thinking regarding political and ideological opponentsis very strongly influenced by this Jewish-Leftist background which is quite intolerant. Labor Zionism contained an internal contradiction—it despised Jewish tradition, yet used Jewish history to justify taking Palestine. It claimed to be “universalist” and “Jewish nationalist-particularist” at the same time. “Progressives” today are now pushing these people, such as MJ who supported Zionism in the past, up to the wall and pointing out they are essentially hypocrites. This pushes many, like MJ, into the Israel-bashing camp as a way to “purify” themselves, and to shift the blame for being “particularist” off themselves onto the groups they traditionally had contempt for (Orthodox religious, settlers, Likudniks) making them say “I am alright, its THEM you don’t like, don’t confuse me with THEM”.

  29. Ya’akov,
    So you despise the Jewish “Leftists” because they have a different set of contradictions in their thinking to that which you have in yours. How big of you. Actually, if you are to wrap all Labor Zionists in the covering of the Marxist orientation from the 1920s and 1930s then it would be equally fair to brand all those from a Revisionist background as fascist because of Brit haBiryonim. I think it is much more productive to deal with the camps as they exist today rather than as they might have existed seventy years ago.

    And why should Rosenberg defend those whose actions he disagrees with? I haven’t noticed a great tendency on your part to defend the Israeli Left.

  30. Thomas,
    You apparently don’t understand what I am saying. I am not using the term “Marxist” in the way many Americans have used the term “Communist”, i.e. as something inherently bad. I am using it as a term to express a worldview. There have been democratic Marxist parties, including both the pre-war and post-war German Social Democratic Party and the British Labor Party which had a strong Marxist base. What I mean is that a Marxist view advocated things like nationalisation of industry, guaranteed employment and class struggle leading to the workers (“the proletariat”) taking control of the state. Some advocated doing these things democratically, the Communists by force.
    For example, in Israel, the MAPAI’s slogan in the 1950’s was “In Israel, the Working Class rules”. Those who were educated in this way, which includes the Labor Zionists of that period (say, up to the 1970’s) retained a certain way of thinking that was formed by this outlook even thought they through out key parts of it, like the socialism. An important aspect is that of “class struggle”, which said the proletariat was in a permanent state of struggle with the bourgouisie (sp?). Us vs Them. This, in Israel, became extrapolated into dividing the society into groups such as “the secular against the religious”, the “Ashenazim vs Sefardim” (usually expressed more elegantly as “the enlightened vs the uneducated rabble”)…i.e. branding whole groups as the enemy (e.g. the settlers, Likudniks, etc). I am sure you have seen the word “Likudnik” brandished like this as a synonym for “racist, fascist, Nazi”, etc. This is a good example. Other examples of the prevalence of this way of thinking is the fact that Shulamit Aloni, a “progressive” if there ever was one, who twice in recent years called political opponents “kulaks”. I am sure 95 percent of those hearing her didn’t have the faintest idea of what she was talking about, but she is still apparently fighting for Stalin’s collectivisation of Soviet agriculture. Rabin, while lashing out at opponents of his Olso Agreements said “they are spewing out Jabotinskian poison”. Again, I am sure very few people knew what he was talking about. But even younger Leftist talk like this. Yossi Beilin said a few years ago “I have never met an intelligent right-winger”. He also was asked a question about something Aryeh Stav, editor of Right-wing “Nativ” magazine said. Beilin replied “what are you quoting him for, he is a right-winger?”. You will see that MJ Rosenberg and other American Jewish Leftists use similar ways of speaking and referring to their opponents, such as his banning me from TPMCafe because I pointedly disagreed with him.
    I am not saying the Israeli “Right” doesn’t have flaws or contradictions either, but I stand by what I said….the inherent contradictions between Labor Zionism and modern “progressive” thinking which is becoming basically anti-Zionist is causing a major crises for those who grew up in Labor Zionism.

  31. Sorry, I fouled up. I meant to write:
    (1) The British Labour Party had Marxist elements in it, but it was never officially Marxist.
    (2) Labor Zionists retained a certain way of thinking that was formed by this lookout even THOUGH they THREW out the socialist aspects of it.

  32. I know what the word Marxist means. I just don’t think you know what the word Left means in a political context–either as used outside Israel or as used by most people within Israel. Calling Sharon a Leftist demonstrates how skewed your thinking is. Sure if you are on the Far Right, everyone else is a Leftist because they are to the Left of you. But I look at the spectrum from outside.

  33. I never said Sharon is a Leftist, although it is generally accepted that he more or less adopted their viewpoint at the end.

    I have repeatedly said that I have no problem with people who define themselves as Zionists, who accept that in principle Jews have a right to live anywhere in Eretz Israel, but for pragmatic reasons, we should give up that right in certain parts of the country. The problem is that “the Left” has, to a large degree, adopted post-Zionist ideology, and I define “post-Zionism” as saying that whereas at one time there maybe was some justification for Jews building a state, it is essentially obsolete today and the state should now begin “deJudaizing” itself. This is also the line that says “it is immoral” to build Jewish settlements in Judea/Samara. Bernard Avishai says this explicitly, MERETZ and the Labor Party have also most subtly much of this attitude. This is the essential ideological struggle today, although post-Zionism’s proponents attempt to hide their real objectives behind the “peace process”.

  34. Actually you said Sharon was a leftist or on the left several strings ago.

    As far as the Jewish content of the state, I suppose that depends upon how you define it. Herzl deliberately titled his book Der Judenstaat and not Der Judischestaat–the state of the Jews and not the Jewish state as it is usually translated into English. In his novel Alteneuland he had a state that was very European and cosmopolitan in character. No one is proposing that Israel give up Hebrew as its main language. I also see building settlements in Judea and Samaria as immoral for several reasons. First, it makes it that much harder to negotiate peace. Second, the settlements encourage terrorism. Settlers engage in vigilante actions that cause resentment and make it easier to recruit terrorists. Third, if peace comes the settlements will have to be evacuated and the settlers will want compensation so much money is wasted in both establishing them and then in removing them. Wasting someone else’s money that you have no claim on is immoral.

  35. Thomas,
    There was plenty of Arab anti-Jewiswh terrorism before 1967 and even before there was a Jewish state in 1948 because of Jewish “settlements” such as Tel Aviv, Beersheva, Ashdod, Ashkelon, etc, etc. Thus, the post-1967 are NOT the cause of any terrorim in an of themselves, and if they were removed, as was the case in Gush Katif, the terrorism, not only decreases, it INCREASES. They are not immoral. If you do want to say they are immoral, then Tel Aviv is immoral. That is the Arab position.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.