Media Matters takes on Israel

Media Matters, shifting from domestic American politics to foreign policy, are attempting to pull the mainstream Democratic party toward the far Left.

By DANIEL HALPER
March 10, 2012 21:32
4 minute read.
An Israeli official seen walking on AIPAC's stage.

AIPAC_521. (photo credit: JASON EED / REUTERS)

On September 3, 2009, M.J. Rosenberg made an announcement on his Talking Points Memo blog. “I am moving over to the Media Matters Actions [sic] Network to serve as Senior Fellow on Foreign Policy – with special emphasis on Israel, Iran, etc,” Rosenberg wrote. Media Matters, he explained, is “joining this fight.”

The fight Rosenberg apparently was referring to would “[focus] on promoting a solution to the Israeli- Palestinian conflict that offers security, sovereignty, and justice to Israelis and Palestinians,” as Media Matters would later describe its new effort in an internal strategy memo. (The document, presumably meant for staff, directors and donors, was eventually leaked to Ben Smith of BuzzFeed and the Daily Caller.) Media Matters describes itself as a “progressive research and information center dedicated to comprehensively monitoring, analyzing, and correcting conservative misinformation in the US media.” Its main focus has been to monitor and attack Fox News.

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“Launched in May 2004, Media Matters for America put in place, for the first time, the means to systematically monitor a cross section of print, broadcast, cable, radio, and Internet media outlets for conservative misinformation – news or commentary that is not accurate, reliable, or credible and that forwards the conservative agenda – every day, in real time,” the About Us page on its website reads.

So it might seem out of the organization’s comfort zone to delve into Israel and the like. Indeed, it was an unexpected move for an organization that had been around since 2004 to be suddenly “joining this fight.”

It was, however, in retrospect, the beginning of an institutional shift by Media Matters from domestic American politics to foreign policy – and an attempt to pull the mainstream Democratic party toward the far Left.

”WE’RE PLAYING the long game here,” Rosenberg would later say to Ben Smith in a Politico article about the shift of new liberal groups, the Center for American Progress as well as Media Matters, away from pro-Israel policy positions. The process would be slow – but steady.

And, it would seem, the strategy would require having an attack dog against Democrats. For Rosenberg, a longtime policy hand who has increasingly lurched more and more leftward, there is hardly a difference between the two parties these days.

“The worst AIPAC tools are Democrats, led by Steny Hoyer. The GOP’s only effective AIPAC tool is Cantor. The rest dont hold a candle 2 Dems,” Rosenberg tweeted in August. Hoyer is the Democratic whip – an establishment figure a liberal group would not, until now, be keen to pick a fight with, especially about such a bipartisan issue as support for the state of Israel.

Yet, these are the sorts of fights that seem to consume Rosenberg.

Rosenberg’s biggest target is the supposedly all-controlling Israel lobby which, if you are to believe him, manipulates American foreign policy to put Israel’s interests before America’s. He even often employs the term “Israel firster” to define an American politician or even pundit who he believes places Israel’s interest above his own nation’s. (The term itself was popularized by white supremacists.) For Rosenberg, support for Israel is tantamount to supporting a wouldbe murderous regime. “There is nothing Israel cd do to Arabs that Hoyer/Weiner/Ackerman/Berman/B erkley/Israel wd object 2.NOTHING,” Rosenberg tweeted, linking to a piece he had written that blasted Congress for welcoming Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to deliver a joint session of Congress. Congressmen Steny Hoyer, Anthony Weiner, Gary Ackerman, Howard Berman, Shelley Berkley and Steve Israel are all Democrats – and Jews.

Rosenberg also pushes the supposed influence Jewish money has in politics, as well. “I wonder if any candidate in either party other than Joe L would slobber over Israel if it wasn’t for the $. Actually I don’t wonder,” Rosenberg said on Twitter last month. The reference was to Joe Lieberman, the former vice presidential Democratic candidate.

Rosenberg himself credits notorious anti-Israel polemicists John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt, authors of The Israel Lobby, for creating a political environment friendly to his own political and personal beliefs.

“What has changed since [the Walt and Mearsheimer] book maybe is that big institutions that rely on contributions hire people like us and aren’t afraid to hire people like us,” Rosenberg has said. “And that is an important change.”

Or perhaps Rosenberg was hired because Media Matters embraced the Walt and Mearsheimer thesis.

“[Media Matters] is an amazing organization that is in the business of monitoring right-wing propaganda...until I got there they did not have any; they did nothing on foreign policy,” Rosenberg would tell an audience at the Palestine Center in Washington a year later on September 23, 2010. “They made this decision to hire me and hire me with my views because they wanted to be involved with this issue. They wanted to be involved in the Palestinian issue. They want to be involved in stopping war with Iran. And this is a big thing.”

Rosenberg’s hire might not have been a big thing – except that this establishment Democratic-leaning group has moved to the fringe on the issue of Israel.

Rosenberg is at Media Matters – and Media Matters has influence, and even a line to the White House.

“The group operates in regular coordination with the highest levels of the Obama White House, as well as with members of Congress and progressive groups around the country,” the Daily Caller reported earlier this month.

Does the advice about Israel and the Middle East that Media Matters gives on these calls reflect Rosenberg’s views?

The writer is an editor at The Weekly Standard.


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