MJ Rosenberg, the head foreign policy voice at Media Matters and virulent critic of Israel, announced his departure in a final column on the site, posted Friday afternoon.
“The reason for this step is that it disturbed me greatly to see an organization to which I am devoted facing possible harm because of my critical writings about Israel,” wrote Rosenberg. “I have no doubt that the crowd that opposes any and all criticism of Israeli government policies will continue to turn its guns on Media Matters if I am associated with it.”
“The last thing I want to do is allow the right to use my support for a reinvigorated Middle East peace process to distract Media Matters from its primary mission: fighting for truth in the media,” wrote Rosenberg.
But the right is hardly the only critic of Media Matters’ treatment of Israel.
Liberal Harvard Law Professor Alan Dershowitz had been at the forefront of public criticism of the group, calling for — and now receiving — Rosenberg’s departure.
“Rosenberg was an extremist,” Dershowitz told The Daily Caller. “He didn’t engage in careful, nuanced critiques of Israel, which is fine. He engaged in hyperbole, name-calling. He just hated, hated, hated, with a passion, almost an eroticized passion of anything associated with Israel. He was like a spurned lover — irrational.”
“So it’s an enormous improvement for Media Matters,” he said.
Dershowitz had publicly called on President Barack Obama to distance himself from Media Matters, so long as Rosenberg remained with the group. Dershowitz told TheDC that Rosenberg is an “intellectual thug who uses anti-Semitic and bigoted references.”
“I think Media Matters did a smart thing, and I think it will help Media Matters’ credibility,” he explained. (RELATED: Full coverage of Media Matters)
Rosenberg’s time at Media Matters may have been partially bankrolled by Bill Benter, a wealthy Hong Kong gambler who confirmed his support of the organization in a statement to TheDC.
According to tax documents obtained by TheDC, the Media Matters Action Network paid Rosenberg $129,568 in 2010, plus $4,505 in other compensation. That organization is one of Media Matters’ political arms. It is tax-exempt under section 501(c)(4) of the Internal Revenue Code.
“MJ is more than a colleague, he is a close friend,” Ari Rabin-Havt, Media Matters’ executive vice president said in a statement to JTA. “I’m very sorry to see him go but am excited to see him continue his work on his new website.”