Wednesday, June 30, 2010

My Letter to the Huffington Post (MJ Rosenberg Edition)

Dear Huffington Post Staff,

I am writing in response to your request for more information in combating the problem of anti-Semitism on the Huffington Post. I would like to draw your attention to a blogger named MJ Rosenberg whose actions in many ways encapsulate this problem; he does not say anything anti-Semitic himself but enables and legitimizes those who do. If I could spare a moment of your time I will explain why I make this accusation. It was not made lightly.

I will began by informing you about an anti-Semitic staple that has appeared in various forms for centuries: The myth of the Zionist occupied government. In short this myth claims that a secret group of Jews control not only the government of many countries but in fact seek to control the entire world (if they do not do so already). The most prominent example of this is the famous forgery “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion” which made exactly that claim. Since then it has appeared in the writings and political cartoons of many anti-Semites, including the Nazis and quite a few Muslim nations. It is one of the few myths about Jews that have persisted into the modern era, even when many religiously-based slanders (such as deicide) have all but disappeared.

So you might be asking at this point: What does this have to do with MJ Rosenberg? Well I will tell you: Mr. Rosenberg writes almost exclusively about what he likes to call “The Lobby” aka “the pro-Israel lobby” aka AIPAC. In fact it appears that Mr. Rosenberg is on a quest to tear down AIPAC and replace it with other pro-Israel groups that he likes, most notably J Street. For every one post about any other topic, there is one attacking AIPAC or people who support it. This isn’t all that unusual, there is much to criticize about the way that AIPAC operates. If criticizing AIPAC was all that Mr. Rosenberg did, I would not be writing to you.

The problem is that Mr. Rosenberg discusses this issue in a matter that, quite frankly, inflames anti-Semitic sensibilities, though he is clearly not an anti-Semite himself. In fact he encourages people who believe the “Zionist Occupied Government” anti-Semitic myth mentioned above, and in some cases (intentionally or otherwise) appears to push it himself. Let me give you one of many examples. In his second most recent article published on the Huffington Post, Rosenberg wrote the following (emphasis mine):

“Take a look at this AIPAC-drafted Senate letter, designed to show that, flotilla or no flotilla, AIPAC owns the Senate including your favorite liberals”

As if this were not revealing enough, Rosenberg then links to another article (written by himself, though not on the HP) with the title, “On Israel, Congress Still Obedient.” That article closes with the sentence: “Our United States Congress hard at work, doing what it's told.” This is hardly the first time Rosenberg has gone so far as to claim that “the Lobby” has gone past merely influencing the US Congress to controlling it. In fact many of his writings take on the sound of conspiracy theory, only occasionally with facts to back up what he claims:

-Jewish bloggers exposed a story about Richard Goldstone? Israel told them to do it.
-The US Congress doesn't agree with Obama's handling of the peace process? AIPAC pushed them to sign.
-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.

I understand that there is some truth in what Mr. Rosenberg is saying. It is likely in all of those examples that AIPAC really did want America to recognize the genocide, disagree with Obama, etc. The problem is when Rosenberg implies that it was AIPAC and AIPAC alone that made this happen, and the Congresspeople in question were helpless to stop them. Then it stops becoming a measured critique of a Washington lobby and begins to sound like a conspiracy theory.

At this point you might be saying, “Zach, you are just being paranoid. Rosenberg makes it very clear in his articles that the problem is merely AIPAC having too much lobbying power. No one is interpreting it to mean that Jews secretly control America. The Huffington Post readership is much too enlightened for that.” This is not an unreasonable response. Which is why I decided to provide you with some examples of comments users have left in the talkback threads of Mr. Rosenberg’s articles:

“but wait, the jewish god gave the jews the exclusive right to whatever they claim as theirs, end of discussion.”
“Well they already have congress in their pockets.”

“Israel owns the United States. If Israel is against Obama he won't get reelected.”

“What do they think they are?American citizens serving the American people or Israeli servants?”

“More Americans now realize that the Jewish Lobby owns our political leaders.”

I understand that maybe these people held their views before reading Mr. Rosenberg’s articles. But then again, maybe not. Since you can see it from an outside view, I ask you, how big of a difference is there between saying “the Jews control America” and “AIPAC owns the Senate”? In my personal opinion, not a very large one. Whether Mr. Rosenberg holds such extreme views or not, his multiple articles on the subject provide a convenient fig leaf for those who do. Someone who is trying to prove a secret Jewish cabal is running America will find plenty of stories backing up his theory on Mr. Rosenberg’s page.

In other areas Mr. Rosenberg has violated journalistic standards as well as Huffington Post terms of service in the course of fighting his verbal war against all Israel supporters who are to the right of him (which is practically of them). I know this letter is getting long but I would like to provide you with some further examples.

A few months ago the students in some California universities went to the school boards and told them that they had been suffering harassment and anti-Semitic slurs from their fellow students. Mr. Rosenberg wrote about it, claiming that the students had in fact been coached to play the victim by AIPAC and Hillel. This is a serious accusation because it calls the legitimacy of these students (and perhaps Jews in general) into question. It is therefore unfortunate that Mr. Rosenberg provides no evidence of this coaching, nor was I able to find any in my search. Perhaps you could find some or ask Mr. Rosenberg where he got it.

In a February article Mr. Rosenberg wrote about how the Obama administration is “shifting toward the center” when it comes to Israel and the Middle East. According to Rosenberg this is because of AIPAC and “members of Congress who take their marching orders from [it].” Of course, there is no evidence to back this up nor is there even a hint that Obama’s policy changes might have to do with something other than manipulating Zionists.

In late April Mr. Rosenberg launched a diatribe and personal attack against Elie Wiesel, some of which was deserved, but most of which were things like accusing him of racism against non-Jews. Again, no actions taken or words written by Wiesel were used to back up these charges, leading the audience to infer that the conclusions were drawn simply from Rosenberg’s own head. Other targets of Mr. Rosenberg’s personal attacks include Jeffrey Goldberg.

And finally, Mr. Rosenberg has done his part to encourage meaningful dialogue among the users on the Huffington Post by dishing out insults to people who disagree with him. Here a couple of examples, and a longer list.

Maybe after reading all of this you still think I am just paranoid, that Mr. Rosenberg is a shining example of Huffington Post blogship, and that this whole exercise was a simple waste of time. That is fine, of course. It is your railroad, and I am not telling you how to run it. But if any of this doesn’t sit well with you, and if you think that Mr. Rosenberg’s work is not the kind of thing that you want to represent the Huffington Post, perhaps you should consider making a change. That is all I ask.

Thank you for your time and (if you are still reading this) your patience.



  1. Thanks Zach for your continuing efforts, although I believe it is a futile exercise. My casual observation in the last few weeks (even as you have been writing to HufPo editors) is there has been a significant increase in both anti-Israel bloggers and anti-Semitic posters. HufPo won't modify it's editorial position unless it is in it's self interest and given the number of "eyeballs" attracted by it's anti-Israel bias driving it's bottom line, I don't expect that to change. I think the only possible remedy is to hold Ariana responsible, money isn't as important to her as getting invited to the right parties. At all public functions she attends she must be questioned as to why she allows anti-Semites to dominate the conversation on HufPo, and whether it reflects her views. Until she feels the sting of public rebuke, nothing will change. Of course, some will say she is buckling under undue "Jewish influence" but what the hell, if we are to be accuse all the time we might as well put it to some good on occasion.

  2. MJ Rosenberg wants Jews to be second class citizens in the US. They can advocate for anything but Israel. If they do, they are told to sit down and shut up. The only thing he frowns on is pro-Israel activism. That is the essence of liberal tolerance and understanding of Jews today and someone who advocates that, Matt and Zach - IS I submit, an anti-Semite. If you ARE for limiting THEIR rights, you are ONE. Period.

  3. And - again, you have been disingenuous in your correspondence with HP, in failing to reveal your interest, any mention of your blog or its objectives.

    Is there ever going to be a point at which you become as honest as you would wish of the people your site is set up to denigrate?

    By the way, I am still not Tony Andrews.

  4. Actually anonymous, I have let both members of the HP staff with whom I have been communicating about the blog and my authorship of it (one of whom was already aware of it). I did not feel it was necessary to publish that correspondence because it did not make for very interesting reading.

    As for the claim that I want to "denigrate" the HP, I think these letters have proven that my true motivation is to improve the HP and make it better than what it is. If I only wished to tear down the HP I would not be bothering with these correspondence.

    Oh, and until you give yourself a name, even an Internet one, you will remain Tony Andrews to me, Tony Andrews.

  5. Interesting article, added his blog to Favorites