Even before the Middle Ages, we encountered marginal Jews who turned against their own people. Among apostates to Christianity, there were those who wrote inflammatory libels against the Jews, paving the way for pogroms; socialists like Karl Marx whose vile anti-Semitic tirades speak for themselves; and more recently, Jewish communists purportedly supporting a new world order who applauded Stalin while he was murdering and imprisoning their fellow Jews.
Today in Israel and abroad, there are Jews who retain the wretched tradition of their renegade antecedents. They are few in number, but their influence extends beyond their Jewish fringe status because many occupy prominent roles in universities, the media and the arts. Of late, much of the Western liberal media has been idolizing them.
A few days ago, I was alerted to an unprecedentedly obscene extension of such behavior emanating, to my profound regret, from Larry Derfner, a senior staff writer for The Jerusalem Post. Only days after Israeli infants and families had been brutally murdered by terrorists, Derfner publicly stated that the murder of Israeli citizens was a justifiable weapon for Palestinians in order to overcome the “occupation.”
It was not published as a Jerusalem Post column, but was posted on his public website, to which readers of his regular articles are occasionally referred. It also appeared on Facebook.
The essence of a good paper is to open its columns to opposing views. The Jerusalem Post and Israel’s most widely circulated Hebrew daily, Israel Hayom, irrespective of editorial positions, always provide readers with a wide spectrum of opinions. I take pride in the fact that I contribute regular columns to both papers, and my column is frequently accompanied by diametrically opposing views.
That of course does not imply that a selfrespecting Israeli paper would accept contributions from a neo-Nazi, an anti-Semitic jihadist or a person justifying the murder of Israelis.
Whereas Derfner is regarded an an in-house leftist opinion writer for The Jerusalem Post, his chilling outburst extends far beyond traditional far-Left efforts aimed at applying moral equivalence to Israelis and terrorists. In fact, Derfner actually scolds those on the Left who condemn Palestinian terrorism.
To avoid any misunderstanding, let me be specific about what Derfner actually said. He asserted that in fighting for their “independence,” Palestinian terrorists are “justified” in deliberately murdering innocent Israeli women and children. He even explicitly said that “whoever the Palestinians were who killed the eight Israelis near Eilat last week, however vile the ideology was, they were justified to attack,” and it is the Israeli government that “is to blame for those eight Israeli deaths.” He opined that it was high time for Israelis to appreciate “that terrorism in the face of a rejectionist Israeli government is justified… even to kill Israelis.”
He stated that while he endorsed the right of Palestinians “to use terrorism against us,” he did not wish to see Israelis killed and, like Abbas, felt that terrorism (while justifiable) can be counterproductive to the Palestinian cause. However, Israeli “blindness” was “compelling the Palestinians to engage in terrorism,” and exposing the “unjust” Israeli government as being “to blame for these Israeli deaths,” would contribute toward “ending the occupation.”
Derfner conceded that such remarks would encourage Hamas, but was not unduly concerned because Hamas is already committed to Israel’s destruction. It was more important for him to ensure that Israelis recognize that by their behavior, “they are compelling Palestinians to engage in terrorism” than to worry about whether his remarks would be quoted approvingly on Hamas websites. In fact, the Arab media have already widely reproduced his remarks, highlighting the fact that he is a prominent Jerusalem Post contributor.
Derfner concluded his shocking remarks with the extraordinary statement that “writing this is not treason. It is patriotism.” That he justifies the murder of innocent women and children while describing himself as a “patriot” makes one question his sanity.
In a twisted sense, Derfner is probably justified in claiming that his remarks are not treasonable. Although there may well be grounds for the Attorney General to charge him with incitement to murder, his remarks are so vile that they go beyond treason. They display an utter lack of sensitivity, humanity and compassion for the tens of thousands of Israeli families who since the creation of Israel have lost loved ones, murdered by the barbarians whose actions Derfner justifies due to “harsh” Israeli government policies.
If an anti-Israeli Western politician or media outlet published such remarks, it would raise a storm. For a purportedly respectable Israeli journalist to do so is simply incomprehensible.
This is not the place to refute Derfner’s ridiculous remarks about the “occupation.” Nor to relate to the offers of 95% of the territories extended to the Palestinians by prime ministers Barak in 2000 and Olmert in 2008, which were summarily rejected by Arafat and Abbas. Nor that the principal objective of all Palestinian factions is ending Jewish sovereignty in the region rather than attaining independence. And that, since Netanyahu assumed office, the Palestinians no less than Hamas have refused to partake in negotiations, even after Netanyahu’s unprecedented 10- month settlement freeze.
For an Israeli Jew professionally employed by the only Israeli English language newspaper to justify the barbaric murder of his own brothers and sisters in a public website is unforgivable.
Presumably in response to massive protests directed against him, Derfner “apologized” a week after his article appeared, and deleted it from his website. However, he has the chutzpa to reiterate the justification for terrorism, and merely states that he does not endorse the murder of fellow Israelis.
This is neither a retraction nor an apology.
His obscene and callously insensitive remarks are likely to haunt him for the rest of his life.
This column was originally published in the Jerusalem Post and Israel Hayom
Postscript, August 30, 2011
Today the Jerusalem Post announced that it had terminated Larry Derfner’s position.
In response there were a number of critics alleging that Derfner had been misrepresented in my column and that he had apologized. I am therefore linking to his original blog post and his “apology,” hosted on Snapshots, a blog affiliated with Camera, as Derfner removed the original post from his own blog. You can compare this to what I wrote and decide for yourselves if I misrepresented Derfner in any way.