Tag Archives: MJ Rosenberg

Al Jazeera unleashes an ‘orgy of conspiratorial theorizing’

In a brilliantly titled – “Arafatuous” – and scathing commentary on Al Jazeera’s recent attempt to revive old conspiracy theories about Yassir Arafat’s death in late 2004, Hussein Ibish notes that the network’s sensationalist report prompted a predictable “orgy of conspiratorial theorizing.”

Here are a few glimpses of the orgy:

Let us remember that just a few months ago, MJ Rosenberg was a Senior Foreign Policy Fellow at the progressive Media Matters Action Network (MMAN). He didn’t behave much more respectable back then. By now, he has “resigned” and apparently enjoys his new-found freedom to ignore even minimal professional or ethical constraints.

Another eager orgy-participant is the notorious blogger Richard Silverstein. Under the entirely expected headline “Did the Mossad Murder Arafat?” Silverstein writes:

“Next, we should turn to speculation about who might have been able and willing to kill the Palestinian leader. There are many who fit some of those criteria but few that fit all. The Israelis leap out in that regard. Not only does Israel have a highly developed research capability in chemical and biological warfare, its scientists and intelligence services would have the technical abilities to mount such an attack. It also has the nuclear reactor in Dimona necessary to produce the poison. In fact, the Al Jazeera article notes that two Israeli nuclear technicians are rumored to have died from accidental polonium exposure. […]

Polonium, though rare, is used in some industrial processes. So it’s possible to secure such material. Once you have it, you only have to get access to the victim through poisoning his food or some other material that he might ingest. Israel would, of course, have any number of means to gain such access, as would some Palestinians, though the latter wouldn’t have the technical ability to make, secure, or administer polonium. Israel could have had a double agent within Arafat’s entourage or it could’ve introduced the poison without any Palestinian knowing what it had done.”

It turns out that Silverstein is a real expert when it comes to speculating about Arafat’s death: as documented on IsraellyCool, in November 2004 Silverstein opined that “Arafat died of AIDS”– but amusingly, Silverstein will now denounce anyone who thinks this is a plausible theory as “pro Israel scumbags.” In an apparent attempt to substantiate this new-found view, Silverstein links to a lengthy Electronic Intifada post by Ali Abunimah who rants about how “Israel’s PR hacks revive lies that Arafat was gay and died of AIDS.” Abunimah’s post is another amusing read, because he accuses “Israel’s PR hacks” of trying “to provoke homophobic [sic] reactions and marshal this homophobia to produce hostility and revulsion at Arafat, and to deligitmize [sic] him in the eyes of an Arab audience that is presumed to always be disgusted by such behavior.”

In the world of Ali Abunimah’s Electronic Intifada, this is presumably a wrong presumption – instead, I guess, we should all presume that the vast majority of Arabs couldn’t care less whether or not Arafat was gay…

Of course, that makes it a bit strange that Ali Abunimah gets so upset about rumors that Arafat may have been gay and died of AIDS.

By contrast, Abunimah has apparently no problem with the kind of speculation Silverstein is peddling now – after distancing himself from “pro Israel scumbags” and giving up on his AIDS theory:

Pity the Palestinians

This past week, supporters of the Palestinian cause were once again out in full force to prove that with friends like them, Palestine needs no enemies.

The target of the assorted “friends” of Palestine was the American Task Force on Palestine (ATFP), which is arguably the one Palestinian-American organization with the most clout in Washington. I’ve written before about ATFP and the hypocrisy of its critics. The latest incident that got ATFP’s opponents all worked up are two photos showing ATFP president Ziad Asali attending an event hosted by Israel’s US Ambassador  Michael Oren to mark Israel’s Independence Day.

Inviting Asali to this event obviously implies respect, if not outright recognition for the agenda pursued by his organization. But since the ATFP advocates the establishment of a Palestinian state through negotiations, supporters of the Palestinian cause couldn’t care less. To show their displeasure with Asali, they are circulating a pathetic petition demanding his resignation.

This petition could well serve as a great illustration of much of what is wrong with popular “pro-Palestinian” activism, and in a response to the criticism against him, Asali puts his finger on one of the most important points. Under the title “The Lessons of the Nakba,” Asali recounts the experience of his own family and points out:

“I recount this not to bewail my fate, or to dwell in the past. The four generations of Palestinians who have lived and died in refugee camps are the real face of the Palestinian tragedy. It is fitting and proper to honor historical truths, but also to learn the lessons they teach us.

Israelis and Palestinians alike are two peoples who have experienced traumatic histories. We must never forget them. But we must not be held hostage by history either. We must care more about the future of our grandchildren than the past of our grandparents, or even ourselves.”

No doubt many Jews will have reservations about the equivalence between the “traumatic histories” of Israelis and Palestinians implied by Asali. But such entirely justified criticism should not distract from the fact that Asali’s broader vision is one that is largely shared by the Israeli mainstream and the vast majority of Jews in the US and elsewhere in the diaspora:

“We must work together to build a future in which both peoples can enjoy the rights, responsibilities and dignity of citizenship and self-determination. There is only one way to actually accomplish this: ending the occupation and creating a Palestinian state to live alongside Israel. Palestinians must recognize and accept Israel, which is a legitimate member state of the United Nations. The Palestinians must have one place on earth, the territories occupied in 1967, where they can live freely as first class citizens in their own independent state. There is no other way to end the cycle of bloodshed, pain and hatred has that lasted for so long.

To accomplish this, half measures and partial acknowledgment are insufficient. Both people must fully recognize each other’s national rights and states.”

And make no mistake: it is exactly this vision of two states living side by side in peace that most of Asali’s critics reject. It’s no coincidence that the petition against Asali was drawn up by Sa’ed Atshan, a Harvard Ph.D. candidate who is a proponent of the so-called “one-state solution” that aims at Israel’s abolition in favor of a bi-national state.

In this context, it’s interesting to note that the campaign against Asali and the ATFP is not only supported by the usual suspects from the lunatic fringes – see e.g. this piece at Mondoweiss, and the hate-filled comments that follow – but also by MJ Rosenberg, who is no longer with Media Matters and therefore free to write without even minimal constraints.

MJ Rosenberg, Media Matters and misinformation

Media Matters for America (MMfA) describes itself as a “progressive research and information center dedicated to comprehensively monitoring, analyzing, and correcting conservative misinformation in the U.S. media.” As a partner project, it operates Media Matters Action Network (MMAN), which is described in very similar terms as “a progressive research and information center dedicated to analyzing and correcting conservative misinformation; ensuring accuracy, appropriate balance, and accountability in the media through targeted public action campaigns; empowering and expanding progressive voices in the media by providing a full range of resources to assist the larger progressive community in creating and disseminating progressive information and views; and engaging in other activities at the confluence of progressive thought, policy, and media.”

It should go without saying that anyone who works for an outfit that is monitoring political opponents for “misinformation” will obviously be expected to be very careful about the information they are putting out. However, this is apparently not a standard embraced by Media Matters.

One of the people who work for MMAN is MJ Rosenberg. He holds the position of Senior Foreign Policy Fellow,  writes a blog at the Huffington Post and contributes regularly to Al Jazeera – including a recent piece that promotes the demagogic trope that the Israel Lobby controls Washington.

Unfortunately, it seems that Rosenberg is prone to spreading even worse misinformation about Israel. As I documented in a blog post yesterday, Rosenberg claimed in a tweet that Ha’aretz had reported that a “Palestinian infant died in incubator which went dead due to Israeli electricity shutdown.”

But the relevant Associated Press (AP) report published by Ha’aretz did not blame Israel in any way; instead, it stated explicitly that the power shortage that led to the baby’s death had “been caused by a cut-off of Egyptian fuel.”

Due to the fact that Rosenberg had blocked me on Twitter some two months ago after I had challenged him about his enthusiastic endorsement of a controversial essay, I was not able to draw his attention to my post, but since many others on Twitter mentioned it, there is little doubt that he was aware that his slander had been noticed.

Yet, for much of the day, Rosenberg did not react in any way, and did not retract his false claim, even though he was very active on Twitter throughout the day, with many of his tweets devoted to praising Peter Beinart’s recently published book and denigrating its many critics:

Eventually, however, Rosenberg posted this tweet: “AP corrects report I linked to that Israel’s illegal blockade of Gaza caused electricity short & baby’s death. Not so.” http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5h2zT_SjrNb_ae8164oW6QBLLLpZw?docId=5b16fbbae67641d88b044fa37b057a6c

It is a sad reflection of MJ Rosenberg’s professional ethics and competence if he thinks that this is an appropriate retraction of his completely false claim that adds to so many similar accusations echoing ancient blood libels against Jews.

Let’s list the many falsehoods Rosenberg managed to pack into his half-hearted retraction:

1)    Contrary to his claim, Rosenberg’s original tweet about the death of the baby did not link to any AP report; instead, as I documented, he simply referred to a Ha’aretz report without providing any link

2)    The AP report Rosenberg now links to is not a correction of the original AP report published by Ha’aretz; indeed, the report is dated as “4 days ago,” which means it was published before the report on the death of the baby – and therefore, it does of course not mention this incident.

3)    However, as documented by Camera, AP did actually issue a correction of the original report published by Ha’aretz, and it is a riddle why Rosenberg avoided linking to it. One possible explanation is that he didn’t like the fact that the rewritten AP report gave Israeli government spokesman Mark Regev the opportunity to comment on the apparent attempt by Hamas to alter details of the baby’s death in order to use it for political propaganda.

4)    Rosenberg’s tweet implies that there was actually an AP story that blamed “Israel’s illegal blockade of Gaza” for the electricity shortage that caused the baby’s death – but of course, there was no such story.

5)    While Rosenberg will certainly be able to quote opinions that agree with his view that Israel’s blockade of Gaza is “illegal,” the fact of the matter is that the UN Palmer Commission found it to be legal.

Rosenberg certainly managed to give a master class demonstrating how much misinformation can be packed into a single tweet. But by doing so, he exposed himself as a reckless partisan campaigner who is not only unwilling to take responsibility when he is caught spreading lies, but who seems to think he can make do with a disingenuous “retraction” that replaces one big lie with lots of little ones.

* * *

Cross-posted from my JPost blog.

UPDATE:

MJ Rosenberg doubles down — here are screenshots of his most recent relevant tweets; the YNet article he links to in one of them is from 2006 and sets up yet another lie, because the bombing of a Gaza power station some six years ago has nothing whatsoever to do with the current power shortage that is caused by Hamas policies that have angered Egypt and led to a severe fuel shortage.

Reading Rosenberg’s recent tweets tells us a lot about the sincerity of his professed commitment to Israel’s right to exist in security: when it comes to a land-for-peace deal, MJ Rosenberg clearly cares primarily about pressuring Israel to give up land – and if, like in the case of Gaza, there is no peace in return, MJ Rosenberg will eagerly join the chorus condemning Israel for defending itself.

To sum up this episode, MJ Rosenberg first provided a demonstration of the cynical carelessness and dishonesty that are always at work in the demonization of Israel, and he then proceeded to show that even where Israel has withdrawn to the pre-1967 lines, progressives like him don’t think this is enough to entitle Israel to peace, or even to the right to defend itself.

 

MJ Rosenberg improves on Palestinian propaganda

When Harvard Law Professor Alan Dershowitz, a prominent defender of Israel, recently vowed to take on the self-described progressive watchdog group Media Matters, he singled out the group’s senior foreign policy fellow MJ Rosenberg for his particularly vitriolic attacks against Israel and its supporters.

Rushing to Rosenberg’s defense, one of his old friends argued that Rosenberg was really an “Israel-Lover” who was unfairly criticized because he was simply continuing “what he’s done for 43 years, mounting the barricades for the Jewish cause of a safe, peaceful Israel and damn what others think. The ground around him has moved, but he hasn’t.”

However, it wouldn’t be hard to collect innumerable examples of Rosenberg rhetoric that cannot be spun as in any way promoting the “Jewish cause of a safe, peaceful Israel.” By coincidence, I came across just one example today that can only be explained by a deep animus against Israel.

Yesterday afternoon, Ha’aretz published an AP report on the death of a baby in Gaza. According to the report, the baby needed a respirator which, due to a fuel shortage, had to be powered by a generator that, by mistake, ran out of fuel overnight. Most of the report was devoted to explaining the fuel shortage:

“The power shortage has been caused by a cut-off of Egyptian fuel.

A shipment of 450,000 liters of gasoline and diesel fuel purchased by the Palestinian Authority was sent into the Gaza Strip through the Kerem Shalom border crossing on Friday, after Israel agreed to permit the transfer.

Over a year ago, Hamas ceased importing fuel from Israel.

The shipment is meant to provide temporary relief for the fuel shortage in the Gaza strip, which started after Egypt cut off all shipments of fuel to Gaza. Senior Hamas officials blamed the Egyptian intelligence services, claiming that they were behind cutting off fuel to Gaza, in order to force the Hamas government into an agreement with Fatah.

Over the past year, Hamas has been smuggling fuel into Gaza at reduced prices through underground tunnels. The shortage began last month as fuel supplies smuggled from Egypt began to dry up. The Palestinian Authority paid full price for the shipment to be delivered on Friday, in order to help ease the current fuel crisis, which has forced Gaza’s 1.7 million to endure widespread blackouts.”

Yet, this is what MJ Rosenberg tweeted:

It is notable that Rosenberg did not provide the link to the Ha’aretz report. But clearly, there was nothing in the report that could explain his claim that the baby died “due to Israeli electricity shut down” – this was something he simply made up.

But there is another twist to the story, because, as documented by Camera, AP soon realized that the baby had apparently died already in early March and that “Hamas was now trying to recycle the story to capitalize on the family’s tragedy.”

According to AP, the changed timing of the baby’s death would allow Hamas to “highlight the human cost Gaza’s 1.6 million residents are paying for 18-hour-a-day blackouts, triggered by a cutoff of Egyptian fuel.”

In other words, the Palestinian propaganda methods that have been so often used against Israel are now used against Egypt. But Hamas will find out that when the Jewish state is to blame, the media and so-called pro-Palestinian activists will be infinitely more interested than when Egypt is the target.

Maybe Rosenberg’s mistake simply reflects a Pavlovian response: if a Ha’aretz headline announces the death of a baby in Gaza, there is no need to read on: it must be Israel’s fault. It’s unlikely that this is the first time he has operated under this assumption: Israel is guilty until proven otherwise.

UPDATE:

Many more recent examples of false accusations blaming Israel for the death of Palestinian children in this Camera piece on “The Global Blood Libel against Israel.”