One of the most bizarre controversies concerning freedom of the press and freedom of speech has been afflicting Israel in recent days. The basic question is whether there exists some sort of right to advocate the mass murder of Jews.
That sounds as if it is some sort of debate that took place in the 1930s in the darkest regimes. The entire affair began when a far-leftist columnist for the only English-language newspaper in Israel, the Jerusalem Post, expressed support for such a right to conduct mass murder of Jews. The columnist is Larry Derfner. The Post is probably the most pluralistic and balanced newspaper in Israel, giving ample room for opining by writers from the Right, the Left, the Center, by Arabs and non-Israelis, and by just about everyone else.
Derfner’s endorsement of the right to murder Jews was actually published in a blog not connected with the newspaper, and it was his response to the mass murder that was conducted by Palestinians and some Egyptian collaborators in Israel’s deep south near Eilat a few weeks back. The column triggered a boisterous debate inside Israel and outside it about the limits of journalistic license and freedom of speech.
Derfner’s comments can be seen as roughly similar to the infamous comments by Ward Churchill after the 9-11 attack. Churchill had justified the attacks and denounced the victims as “Little Eichmanns.”
Derfner’s celebratory justifications of mass murders of Jewish civilians were not a prank. His comments appeared on a blog, from which he has since removed them, and his original posting can be read in full here. His posting began:
‘I think a lot of people who realize that the occupation is wrong also realize that the Palestinians have the right to resist it to use violence against Israelis, even to kill Israelis, especially when Israel is showing zero willingness to end the occupation, which has been the case since the Netanyahu government took over (among other times in the past). But people don’t want to say this, especially right after a terror attack like this last one that killed eight Israelis near Eilat. And there are lots of good reasons for this reticence, such as: You don’t want to further upset your own countrymen when they are grieving, you don’t want to say or write anything that could be picked up by Israel’s enemies and used as justification for killing more of us. (These are good reasons; fear of being called a traitor, for instance, is a bad reason.) But I think it’s time to overcome this reticence, even at the cost of enflaming the already enflamed sensitivities of the Israeli public, because this unwillingness to say outright that Palestinians have the right to fight the occupation, especially now, inadvertently helps keep the occupation going.’
He then went on:
‘But if, on the other hand, we were to say very forthrightly what many of us believe and the rest of us suspect that the Palestinians, like every nation living under hostile rule, have the right to fight back, that their terrorism, especially in the face of a rejectionist Israeli government, is justified what effect would that have? A powerful one, I think, because the truth is powerful. If those who oppose the occupation acknowledged publicly that it justifies Palestinian terrorism, then those who support the occupation would have to explain why it doesn’t.’
It goes without saying that Derfner failed to volunteer himself and his own family as people who should be murdered by Palestinian terrorism as resistance against Israeli occupation. It is also not surprising that many an Israeli found Derfner’s defense of some sort of divine right to murder Jews as part of resistance against “occupation” to be highly reminiscent of similar German claims and of similar German allegations that their country was under Jewish “occupation” and control.
Derfner’s comments triggered a firestorm of rage. By his own admission, hundreds of outraged subscribers to the Jerusalem Post cancelled their subscriptions. Within days the editor of the Jerusalem Post announced that the paper would no longer employ or publish Derfner, because of the poor taste in his justification of mass murder of Jews. Derfner issued a “clarification” and a sort of apology, but fired he remained. He then took to the pages of the small socialist newspaper in New York, the Forward, to try to spin his advocacy of murder into something less offensive.
Very soon Derfner was not only being denounced for his advocacy of murder, but leftists and anti-Semites within Israel and from all over the world were defending him, endorsing his comments, and denouncing the Jerusalem Post for canning him. Countless anti-Israel blogs denounced the newspaper and its editor for supposedly engaging in suppressing freedom of speech, calling them “fascists” and “McCarthyists.” Even a New York Times blogger took up the banner for Derfner, a bit curious since the Times has not published Ward Churchill nor bin Laden nor others who celebrate the 9-11 attacks on New York.
Firing Derfner of course had nothing to do with freedom of speech. No one is stopping Derfner from standing on the street corners of Zion and advocating murder of Jews. Actually, open advocacy of murder is against the law in Israel and is decidedly NOT regarded as protected speech, but that law is never applied against Israeli leftists. So Derfner obviously has nothing to fear in terms of prosecution. Israel’s Attorney General office is dominated by leftists who never prosecute other leftists for engaging in violence or advocating it, even when they openly advocate murder. Arabs who openly support terrorist atrocities and call for mass murder of Jews are never prosecuted and their statements are regarded as protected speech. Rabbis and right-wingers who advocate things the prosecutors regard as “racist” or “incitement” however have been arrested by the score. A non-leftist who criticizes the illegal and treasonous political behavior of a leftist extremist is regarded as having engaged in “libel.”
There are some calls in Israel for the enforcement of the law against Derfner.
Ward Churchill’s defamation of the victims of the 9-11 attacks might be protected speech. But that does not grant Churchill any sort of entitlement to publish his views in any mainstream newspaper, nor to advocate them in front of any classroom or other forum. Freedom of speech is not an automatic entitlement to newspaper space.
Yet the radical anti-Israel Left has scrambled out of its espresso bars to insist that Derfner’s “rights” had been violated by the Jerusalem Post, and that – yes indeed – Arabs certainly DO have an automatic right to murder Jewish civilians. Some members of the semi-Marxist “Meretz Party” have endorsed Derfner’s position as did some other leftist extremist groups inside Israel.
Suddenly the far Left is outraged that the Jerusalem Post “suppressed diversity of opinion and pluralism” by sacking Derfner. This is amusing because it is coming from leftists who are at the forefront of the campaign AGAINST freedom of speech and pluralism of ideas. For the radical Left, there is one single correct set of opinions, and democracy means that only people holding such correct opinions should be entitled to express them in the media.
Of all the members of the Derfner lobby, the most outrageous and interesting of them is the composer of a blog entry celebrating Derfner and denouncing the Jerusalem Post that was published in the Huffington Post blog. It is written by Bradley Burston, a senior editor at the Israeli daily Haaretz. Haaretz is the Israeli analogue to “The Nation,” a radical leftist daily newspaper.
In that posting, Burston is complaining that pluralism and diversity of opinion at the
Jerusalem Post are being jeopardized by the canning of Derfner. After all, the firing was just because Derfner endorsed murder and terrorism.
The delightful part of this is watching Burston whine about the loss in pluralism and diversity at a rival newspaper. This is because he is employed by what is probably the worst totalitarian leftist anti-pluralistic newspaper in the Western world. The levels of pluralism and diversity at Haaretz are similar to those in Pravda in the Brezhnev era. And Burston’s self-righteous posturing for “diversity” is a brilliant illustration of the thinking about freedom in vogue amongst the radical Left.
Haaretz is a monolithic engine of propaganda in which virtually no non-leftist opinion is permitted. Its editorial pages are uniformly far-leftist, anti-Zionist and semi-communist. Once a week a token Right-winger is allowed to publish an Op-Ed, and the token slot is obviously there so that Haaretz editors like Burston can roll their eyes in hurt feelings whenever anyone says that Haaretz has no pluralism or diversity. The ratio of leftist opinion in the paper to non-leftist opinion is perhaps a hundred to one.
The propagandizing at Haaretz fills the paper and is not restricted to the editorial page. Aljazeera may be a less biased, less one-sided news source than Haaretz. News stories at Haaretz are daily distorted to give them far-leftist ideological themes and twists and messages. Letters to the editor at the paper are censored and non-leftist letters banned. Book reviews are invariably leftist and ideological. I never read the sports pages there but I would not be surprised if half the sports news stories are devoted to the evils of settlers and Orthodox Jews and the need to convert Israel into a bi-national state.
While liberal newspapers like the NY Times and Washington Post have their biases, those biases do not dominate each and every page in the newspaper, and non-liberal opinion pieces are published there often.
But not at Haaretz. There is only one single correct point of view permitted in that newspaper, and it is ALWAYS the far-leftist anti-Israel “Post-Zionist” one.
So here we have the spectacle of an editor for a newspaper, one that suppresses all diversity of opinion and imposes its political bias even upon the most minor news stories, who then comes along and whines about the Jerusalem Post not living up to its proud tradition of permitting pluralism and diversity!!
Burston ran his comments on the Huffington Post, an unbalanced non-pluralistic blog in which conservatives are not permitted to publish.
Burston writes, the “management of the Jerusalem Post has caved in to what amounts to a political boycott.” No it hasn’t. It simply maintained fundamental standards of decency. Unlike Haaretz.
Burston is suddenly all in favor of pluralism and diversity. But never, Stalin forbid, at his OWN newspaper!
The Left is proclaiming Derfner some sort of martyr of anti-democratic suppression of freedom. Freedom of speech for leftists is the right to agree with the Left and never the right to denounce it, disagree with it, or mock it.