Friday, May 14, 2010

MJ Rosenberg Puts His Blinders On

I know it feels like I've been picking on MJ Rosenberg a lot lately, but it's really only because he's been writing so many articles. Which I then respond to. It's an action-reaction kind of thing.

Anyway, his latest work on the Huffington Post is entitled, "Teaching Zionist Kids to Lose Their Minds," and right from the title we can tell his mindset. To those of us who know the actual definition of Zionism, a Zionist is someone who believes (a) that Jews should have a state of their own and (b) that that state should continue to exist. Now in his title Rosenberg is casting "Zionist kids" as the other, in other words, not him and people he agrees with. Not only is he sounding like a typical anti-Zionist Huffington Poster, but he is also portraying himself as someone who is against Israel's very existence. Which would seem to contradicts his claims of being pro-Israel. Perhaps I am reading too much into his title here, but as someone who ought to know what the term "Zionist" means, I find it difficult to believe that Rosenberg's choice of wording wasn't intentional.

Anyway, on to the article itself. Even for Rosenberg, this one is a doozy. He starts off by telling us a story about his 14 year old son who went to Jewish summer camp. He found there that the kids who were "paranoid" about Israel's existence were "crazy." Wow! What a surprise! MJ Rosenberg's child doesn't think very highly of people who worry about Israel. I'll be damned. But then we had this line:
"'Dad,' he wrote, 'there is nothing worse than fascist children."
 Even assuming that the young Rosenberg actually did write that letter, I can't picture a 14-year-old using the term "fascist" correctly, except in regards to Nazi Germany. Especially when the only information that Rosenberg provides about these "fascist children" is that they are committed to Israel's security existence. Perhaps if there were additional details about the point of view of these children (if they even exist) might help: Did they think dissenters should be silenced? Did they think that America should always agree with whatever Israel wants? Rosenberg doesn't say, I'm guessing because he knows that it's better to attack these "fascist children" without them being able to defend themselves.

Then he goes on to inform us that no, these children aren't fascists, they are merely "brainwashed." Yes, brainwashed. That is the way that MJ Rosenberg, Huffington Post blogger, describes people who have different political views than him. But then again, he admitted that he didn't have a problem with ad hominem or personal attacks, so it's no surprise to see him using one here. And again (it bears repeating) the only crime these children are guilty of is being "too paranoid about Israel" in the opinion of the young Rosenberg. If anyone in this exchange is striking me as "brainwashed" it's not the children at the summer camp (who we never actually meet). It's the child whose reactions to people with different poltics is insults like "fascist" and "crazy." Clearly the apple doesn't fall far from the tree.

Rosenberg then shifts the target of his discussion to the reaction of Jewish students at the University of California at Berkeley to the BDS movement's latest work. And Rosenberg drops his latest shocker:
"AIPAC and Hillel, the Jewish student group allied with AIPAC, came up with the strategy of having Jewish students tell the university senate that seeing signs calling for divestment frightened them. Some broke down in tears when describing the pain of seeing pro-divestment placards in the student union."
 I'm not sure what he's referring to here, so I needed to look up the story myself. I found Rosenberg's story repeated on such anti-Zionist pages as Mondoweiss, but here is a news story about Jewish students being brought to tears by a I/P argument at Berkeley. I suggest you check out the article for yourself, as of course there is more to it than what MJ has to say. In the meanwhile, here's a video of students at UC Irvine that I got from Solomonia. Really listen to what they have to say:

Now, before I forget, let's talk about this completely ridiculous idea of Rosenberg's that it was actually the big wigs at AIPAC that came up with this "coaching strategy" for the students, an idea that has been dutifully repeated by Mondoweiss. It would be one thing if Rosenberg actually provided any evidence whatsoever to back up this accusation, but of course he doesn't. I could certainly believe that Hillel wanted to mobilize the Jewish students, but I find it more difficult to believe that they were "taught" to inform the university senate that they were scared.

For those of who are actually well informed about college campuses, we know that intimidation and harassment is a common problem for Jews at American universities. A simple Google search reveals that much. Based on his article, though, Rosenberg is implying that these Jewish students are simply reacting like this to a bunch of mild-mannered activists who think Berkeley should divest from Israel. And that their worries and fears are not genuine at all but are simply a tactic devised by his most hated enemies at AIPAC. For a Huffington Post talkbacker, such ignorance is embarrassing. For a Huffington Post blogger, it is simply inexcusable. In fairness, Rosenberg does address it briefly in his usual condescending manner:
"It was hilarious because it was so utterly bogus. I know that I come from a different era. Back in the day when I was a pro-Israel activist on campus, we traded insults and threw chairs when confronted by our adversaries (some were scary Maoists!) but I don't recall weeping. We liked confrontation. We were college kids."
 How many fights did you get into, Mr. Rosenberg? How many times was your door vandalized or your friends harassed? You at least were an activist and knew what you were getting into. Many of these Jewish students just want to be left alone and go to school. Were you even aware this is happening? I don't understand how he can compare his situation then to the current situation of the students now. That is, unless he just doesn't have a clue what he is talking about. That seems to be more likely. Rosenberg then takes his argument, already built on a weak foundation, and cranks it up to the next level:
"But this is the new style of pro-Israel advocacy built on victimhood....So this is what pro-Israel advocacy has come to: turning kids into scaredy-cats."
 Now remember, this is Rosenberg assuming that the students in question are advocating for Israel and not simply speaking their minds. I can understand why he might draw that conclusion, seeing as how in his first example in the story a BDS controversy figures prominently. But I think it's more likely that the divestment argument was simply a flashpoint for a much larger problem that was happening at Berkley and throughout California, and so that was when the students decide to speak out. Surely Rosenberg isn't going to claim that the hundreds of example of intimidation against students is "not a big deal?" He wouldn't be that dishonest, would he?

I'm just going to detour for a minute to talk about the other two examples that Rosenberg cites in his article: That of (unnamed) student complaining that the adults on a March of the Living trip tried to get the kids to cry on command and from  Forward report about a student who had a hysterical reaction to a question about Edward Said. Now, in the first example the student doesn't give his name, and seeing as how he is apparently the only person to write about these things, I call his story into question. As for the second, Rosenberg blows up to be more than it seems. The issue is more about test bias than about making Israel look good. In neither case can he prove that there is some sinister "lobby" behind it all. Though that is clearly what he believes.

At this point I have covered everything worth noting in his article, but I just wanted to reiterate for a minute Rosenberg's devotion to this myth of "the Lobby." In his world, it seems, every Jewish person who has a view he doesn't like about the Middle East is held in the thrall of "AIPAC." And if you look at the history of his writings, you will find that he honestly feels "the Lobby" is at work in every section of American society. Let's take a look:

Jewish bloggers write about Goldstone? Israel told them to do it.
The US Congress doesn't agree with Obama's handling of the peace process? AIPAC forced them.
Congress passes resolution recognizing Armenian Genocide? AIPAC.
California senate candidate wants to run? Needs to satisfy the Lobby!
American sanctions Iran? The Lobby is behind it!

You get the idea. It seems Rosenberg is dedicated to the destruction of AIPAC and the rest of the 'pro-Israel lobby' by any means necessary, including lying about them and giving them fictitious superpowers. I wish only that he would at least try to back up his accusations with facts. This time in particular he really let the curtain drop.

1 comment:

  1. MJ Rosenberg is the frightened little man behind the ant-Zionist curtain.