BERLIN – Major Jewish leaders and the Simon Wiesenthal Center issued comments on Monday supporting the decision of watchdog organization Media Matters to separate itself from anti-Israel writer M.J. Rosenberg last week.
Critics accuse Rosenberg of frequently invoking the phrase “Israel firster,” a term which accuses American Jews of putting their loyalties to the Jewish state ahead of those to the US.
The phrase has its origins in the extremist American white supremacist movement.
The Harvard law school professor and pro-Israel advocate Alan Dershowitz announced in February his mission to oust Rosenberg from Media Matters and to turn his tirades against Israel into a campaign issue for US President Barack Obama and the Democratic party.
Media Matters is considered to be a left-liberal group affiliated with the Democratic party.
According to an article in the Washington Free Beacon news outlet on Monday, Dershowitz said “I’m proud of whatever small role I played” in forcing Media Matters to dismiss Rosenberg.
In an email to The Jerusalem Post on Monday, Rabbi Abraham Cooper, associate dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, wrote that “‘Israel Firster’ is a term that demonizes Israel’s supporters and that has debased critical Middle East debates and deliberations – including a nuclearizing Iran. Media Matters’ removal of M.J. Rosenberg and his anti-Israel rants from White House access to the margins is appropriate and long overdue.”
Josh Block, a Democratic political consultant and Middle East policy expert, whose complaints about anti-Israel bias and anti-Semitism at Media Matters and CAP jumpstarted the debate, told the Post on Monday that this is a positive but small step for the organization.
“For years, Media Matters has been spreading what the ADL, AJC, Simon Wiesenthal and others have all identified as anti-Semitic ideas and hate speech, and despite the departure of this person, this organization has yet to condemn or distance itself in any way from the vile things they have been advocating and paying him to say,” he said. “The real unanswered question for Media Matters is who hired him in the first place?” Block, who has served as a spokesman for the Clinton administration and the America Israel Public Affairs Committee, added, “Clearly, though, they and others now understand that the Democratic party discourse has no room for that kind of anti-Israel and anti-Semitic rhetoric.
Those who peddle such bile are free to do do, but those who pay them and give them a platform to do so will be held to account, damaging their credibility and making themselves unacceptable company to keep.”
Dershowitz told the Washington Free Beacon’s Adam Kredo that “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... 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 [AIPAC] of not having loyalty to the US.
That is such an off the chart accusation.”
Post email and telephone queries on Monday to Jess Levin, a spokeswoman for Media Matters, were not returned. Levin has refused over the past several months to respond to requests for comment from the Post about the growing scandal surrounding Rosenberg’s controversial statements.
Rosenberg wrote in his resignation letter last week on the Media Matters website that “my columns will continue to appear on Huffington Post, Al- Jazeera and dozens, if not hundreds, of other outlets where they tend to be reposted.”