They were neighbors once, in suburban Washington. Their wives were close friends. Their children played together. And both were senior staffers at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, the pro-Israel lobby.
But M.J. Rosenberg and Lenny Ben-David are now definitely on the outs over Israel. And it’s up-close and personal.
It began with an April 18 Jerusalem Post article in which Rosenberg, of the dovish Israel Policy Forum, blasted hawkish polemicist Daniel Pipes as "a new kind of Israel-basher": one who, from the diaspora, criticizes Israelis for having "lost their nerve" because their government now seeks to evacuate West Bank settlements. Rosenberg’s rambling piece also ruminated about his son’s recent wedding and the relationship between the Israeli and American branches of his extended family, descended from Holocaust survivors.
Ben-David’s return blast in the Post also included a personal touch.
"Congratulations on your son Nicholas’s wedding," wrote Ben-David in his April 25 rebuttal. "It seems only yesterday, and not 30 years ago that we were neighbors. … The three kids you once knew now have three more siblings, born here in Israel after we made aliya." The three U.S.-born kids, he added, were now married and living near him in the West Bank settlement bloc Gush Etzion.
Ben-David added, pointedly, "Our oldest recovered from a terrorist attack six years ago without any physical scars." Then he stuck in the shiv: "Sitting in suburban Washington, you have become a spokesperson for the ‘Appeasement Lobby,’ calling for Israeli concessions while sanctimoniously wrapping your misinformation in images of Israel’s military cemeteries and the Holocaust."
Accusing Rosenberg of minimizing the threat from Hamas while misleadingly playing up Israel’s military and economic power, Ben-David wrote, "We have buried friends and their children over the years. In some cases they were killed after pressure from the appeasement lobby removed roadblocks that made ‘life difficult’ for the Palestinians."
He also accused Rosenberg of having written a startlingly dovish speech that Ehud Olmert, then deputy prime minister, gave to IPF last year, prefiguring his current drive as prime minister to evacuate settlements.
All fair comment, says Rosenberg, except for the "libelous" suggestion he wrote Olmert’s speech.
As for the "Appeasement Lobby" charge: "This is the way he also talked about Yitzchak Rabin, Shimon Peres and Ariel Sharon when he disengaged from Gaza. I’m in good company."
Well, there was one "sleazy" thing that bothered him, Rosenberg admitted:
"The only reason he mentioned my kids was so that he could take my son Nick and call him Nicholas, to get across he had non-Jewish name: i.e., to say, what kind of Jew is that?"