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MJ Rosenberg
MJ Rosenberg
MJ Rosenberg is a commentator on Israel and the Middle East who draws on thirty-five years of experience as a congressional aide, State Department political appointee under President Clinton, four years at AIPAC, ten at Israel Policy Forum, and three at Media Matters for America.

Netanyahu Is Mostly Right About BDS — But BDS Is Not The Problem


by: on March 4th, 2014 | 4 Comments »

As I have written before, I don’t much like the BDS movement for many of the same reasons Prime Minister Netanyahu doesn’t. It demonizes Israel, many of its leading proponents are anti-Semites, and its rage against Israel is entirely selective. I also believe (from reading its material) that the movement exists to eliminate the State of Israel by replacing it by “One State” in which Jews will be a minority. As one who supports the continued existence of a secure Jewish state, I have no choice but to oppose the BDS movement.


Rabbis Defend Colleagues Against AIPAC


by: on March 1st, 2014 | 3 Comments »

One of the first acts taken by New York’s Mayor Bill De Blasio was to convene a secret meeting with AIPAC to tell the lobby that he will always do whatever it wants. This is, of course, typical behavior for New York politicians but rather surprising coming from a progressive like De Blasio rather than the likes of Ed Koch, Al D’Amato or Chuck Schumer. The only indication that De Blasio knew that what he was doing was wrong was his insistence that the meeting be kept secret. This is also an indication of how toxic AIPAC has become for liberals. (Read the full story of the secret AIPAC meeting here)

Shortly after the meeting, the senior rabbis at Congregation Bnai Jeshurun In Manhattan, Rolando Matalon and Felicia Sol, signed a letter to De Blasio which stated that AIPAC does not speak for them. Within hours, a few of the congregational big shots (big money, AIPAC members) condemned the two rabbis and began organizing the congregation against them. This is, of course, what AIPAC types do. Prohibit free thinking on Israel. (They, of course, are all for free speech on all matters relating to the United States.)

The point of the AIPAC efforts is to make the rabbis fear for their jobs. (More than most, I know how that works.) And if the rabbis don’t back down, their jobs could indeed be in jeopardy, in theory at least.

But here’s the thing. Bnai Jeshurun is perfectly suited to its community and so are its rabbis. Located in the heart of Bella Abzug/Ted Weiss country, the congregation is known nationally as one of the safest places to be ethical, spiritual and Jewish especially for young people. I say safe because young people avoid synagogues in general because you never know when the rabbi will start ranting about Iran or reading from AIPAC talking points. That won’t happen at Bnai Jeshurun, which is why, unlike pretty much any other synagogue in America, it is actually a cool place to be on Friday nights. (My younger son lives right nearby so I’ve see the crowds of kids filling the place.)

In short, the rabbis not only did the moral thing in speaking out against AIPAC, it did the right thing for their business: keeping Bnai Jeshurun viable and appealing to Jews (especially the young) who simply cannot stand AIPAC or Netanyahu, if they think about them at all. In other words, the Jews of their community.

Nonetheless, AIPAC now has it in for the rabbis. But, happily, hundreds of other rabbis and Jewish lay leaders are pushing back. Read the letter below. Look at those names. (Hey, where are Rabbis David Saperstein and Eric Yoffie? Oh yeah, they are at the AIPAC conference.) And be hopeful about the future of Jews, at least at Bnai Jeshurun where Judaism trumps politics. Hang in there, rabbis. Judaism’s future depends on people like you. And Israel’s too.

Do not miss the best line in the letter which sums up how the organized “mainstream” Jewish community operates:


The “Fat Lady” Sings For AIPAC


by: on March 1st, 2014 | Comments Off

AIPAC’s annual conference that begins Sunday night promises to be less interesting than any in recent memory.

That is because the main event took place months ago.

Think about it.


Why I Don’t Support The BDS Movement


by: on February 21st, 2014 | 18 Comments »

This will be a short one as I only choose to make one point. I make it as someone who absolutely supports the boycott, divestment, and sanctions movement (BDS) as applied to the West Bank. Even if I deeply desired a seltzer machine, I would not buy the one manufactured in occupied territory.

However, I do not support boycotting Israel itself because, although I have no problem at all about applying collective economic punishment on settlers and the loathsome settlement enterprise, I do not feel that way about Israelis in general. I am not anti-Zionist. I am, for lack of a better term, a liberal Zionist. I want the Jewish state to survive and prosper which is impossible so long as it maintains its colonial and oppressive regime in the West Bank and its blockade of Gaza.

But all that is beside the one point I need to make today.


Museum of Jewish Heritage Bans Discussion Of Truman & Israel: Too Controversial!


by: on February 19th, 2014 | Comments Off

Credit: Creative Commons

It is almost laughable. The organized Jewish community, which claims to be worried about young Jews defecting in droves, just cannot help itself from doing things that drive Jews (not just young ones) away. Between supporting Netanyahu, advocating for war with Iran and maintaining the occupation, and keeping silent as Israel evolves into a theocracy, it also is in the business of preventing debate on all these things and more.

The latest is this. Phil Weiss reports that the Museum of Jewish Heritage in New York has banned an appearance by New Republic journalist, John Judis, who has written a book challenging the conventional wisdom about why President Truman recognized Israel. The book argues that Truman recognized Israel in 1948 not because he was a fervent Zionist but because it was May of an election year, he was trailing in the polls and he was heavily lobbied by Zionists to do so. Shocking, right. Who would think that politics would enter into a decision like that?


AIPAC: Now Stuck With The GOP


by: on February 14th, 2014 | 3 Comments »

Suddenly AIPAC is a lobby without a cause.

In three weeks thousands of delegates from all over the country will descend on the Washington, D.C. convention center to get their marching orders but, as of today, AIPAC hasn’t even drafted them.


AIPAC Loses, Just As Its Former Executive Director Predicted


by: on January 31st, 2014 | 3 Comments »

It didn’t take much. Just the power of the presidency, the State Of The Union, and the whole country watching.

Plus the president’s will.

And AIPAC’s entire campaign to destroy America’s chance to reach an agreement with Iran crumbled. Within hours, three senators announced they were no longer cosponsoring AIPAC’s bill to kill the Iran negotiations (Gillibrand, Coons and Manchin), and AIPAC’s hopes to override Obama’s veto ended with a whimper, AIPAC’s whimper. 


If Hillary Doesn’t Back Obama On Iran, We Cannot Support Her


by: on January 29th, 2014 | Comments Off

There can be little doubt that Hillary Clinton lost the 2008 nomination for president because she voted to authorize the Iraq war. If she had opposed it, there would have been no rationale for the Obama candidacy. It is likely that she, not President Obama, would now be in the White House.

It seems crazy. But Clinton might see history repeat itself.


AIPAC Keeps Its Skulduggery Secret


by: on January 28th, 2014 | Comments Off

I have been thinking about that secret meeting Mayor De Blasio had with AIPAC, the meeting Andrew Sullivan brilliantly analyzed here. 

And the more I think about it, the happier the meeting makes me.

The reason is simple. Both De Blasio and AIPAC decided that the meeting should be kept top  secret. De Blasio kept it off his schedule and banned reporters from the room. AIPAC did the same.

And that makes me happy because it indicates that both the mayor and the lobby understand that the meeting was shameful.

AIPAC met with the mayor to receive his pledge of uncritical support for Israel, the decisions of its government, and the actions its lobby takes here. To put it mildly, no other country in the world would dream of asking a U.S. official to make such a pledge. And, if any did, it would be a scandal.


US Jews Celebrate Same Sex Marriage While Israel In Uproar Because Bibi’s Son Is Dating “Out”


by: on January 27th, 2014 | 8 Comments »

A front page article in today’s Ha’aretz struck me with the thought that, no matter what happens with the peace process, it is becoming impossible to expect non-Orthodox (i.e. 90-plus per cent) of young American Jews to identify with today’s Israel.

There, on page one, was a photo of a beautiful young couple in their early 20′s who are seriously dating. One is Prime Minister Netanyahu’s son. The other is a Norwegian girl who happens not to be Jewish. Sweet looking kids. But, in Israel, a scandal.