Wednesday, October 01, 2014

During Rosh Hashanah, the New York Times published an op-ed  by Mairav Zonszein called "How Israel Silences Dissent." The op-ed goes through various alleged examples of how "Israel" - which may be the government, but mostly Israeli society- have "silenced" Israel's radical Left during the summer war.

One example that Zonszein uses illustrates the problem with this essay nicely:

In July, the veteran Israeli actress Gila Almagor performed at Tel Aviv’s Habima Theater even though she had received threats that she would be murdered on stage. In an interview in the Israeli daily Yediot Aharonot a few days earlier, she had expressed feeling ashamed after a 16-year old Palestinian, Muhammad Abu Khdeir, was kidnapped and burned alive by Jewish extremists.

Was the criticism of Almagor because she said she was ashamed?

On July 6, I published an open letter that unequivocally condemned the murder of Muhammad Abu Khdeir and included this sentence: "The idea that Jews could do such an act fills us with shame and horror."

I received essentially no criticism for the piece. I didn't receive any death threats. On the contrary, scores of Zionist bloggers, many of them the same right-wing Israelis that Zonszein is attempting to vilify, signed on to this letter.

That little fact is not very convenient for Zonszein's thesis.

What was the difference between Almagor's statement and mine?

Almagor was quoted  in a Hebrew Yediot article as saying "I am ashamed to be an Israeli," which is a lot stronger than "feeling ashamed."

Whether the quote was accurate or not, the reaction of Israelis to this quote was not because they agree with the murder of Muhammed Abu Khdeir, as Zonszein disgracefully implies. It is because the Almagor was apparently saying that all of Israel is responsible for the murder - but she isn't, because she is above all that.

She insulted the entire Israeli people. (And, in reality, the  Israeli Jews, because if an Arab had murdered Abu Khdeir she wouldn't have said anything like that.)

Obviously the death threat that she received is reprehensible and indefensible, but it was the act of a single hater, not an indication of how "Israel" silences dissent. And the larger reaction to the quote was an indication of how people react when they are insulted, not evidence of any supposed silencing.

As a Haaretz op-ed by a leftist notes, Israeli society heard plenty from all sides during the war, no one was silenced.

It turns out that all of Zonstein's examples of supposed silencing are equally cherry-picked or described inaccurately. The anti-leftist protests were organized by extremists that hardly represent Israel. She said that Gideon Levy "wrote an article criticizing Israeli Air Force pilots" but Levy's article was a bit more than criticism: he said that Israel's pilots were "perpetrating the worst, the cruelest, the most despicable deeds." Again, this is an insult to the country and its army, not mere criticism of the war. And it is not done out of love of Israel but out of hate.

Which is the entire point of Zonszein's piece. Like most in Israel's radical left, she is not interested in criticism of Israel out of love. No, Zonszein is saying that "Israel" and "Israeli society" themselves are guilty of repressing dissent, of silencing criticism, of only allowing the most right-wing opinions to be aired. By doing so, and by publishing this in the New York Times (where fact checking is a bit selective in anti-Israel op-eds,) Zonszein is placing herself above and outside Israeli society altogether. "Israel" is guilty of all these crimes - but Zonszein and her similarly thinking cabal are not. Israel isn't a flawed society that she wants to improve out of love, it is an evil society that she is better than.

A true lover of Israel would note that her examples don't even come close to representing Israeli society. A hater of Israel will choose examples that justify their pre-existing hate for Israeli society.

Israelis have no problem with self-criticism. In fact, that is the national sport. But to have self-righteous ideologues like Zonszein place themselves above virtually the entire Israeli public is to invite vitriolic criticism by that public.

Criticism that free-speech advocate Zonszein seems not to be too thrilled with.

The radical Israeli Left, represented by +972 magazine writers and others, always expresses frustration as to why Israelis don't seem to listen and to their arguments and take them to heart. The reason is simple: Like all humans, Israelis aren't going to listen to people who constantly insult them. They will not be receptive to those who act out of malice towards their own people.

There's a lesson there.

(A followup post is coming...)

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Elder of Ziyon - حـكـيـم صـهـيـون

This blog may be a labor of love for me, but it takes a lot of effort, time and money. For over 14 years and 30,000 articles I have been providing accurate, original news that would have remained unnoticed. I've written hundreds of scoops and sometimes my reporting ends up making a real difference. I appreciate any donations you can give to keep this blog going.


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