Tuesday, August 30, 2011

An Open and Wide Tent

For years now, Israel has been under attack by the anti-Semitic BDS movement, their affiliate organizations, their supporters in the Palestinian Authority, and unfortunately their Jewish and Israeli radical left-wing supporters (not to mention those who pretend they are Jewish for the effect). The calls have been to boycott Israeli books, to boycott Israeli academic institutions, to boycott products from the settlements (even those whose companies support hundred and thousands of Arab families), to boycott Israeli investments, and even to boycott companies doing business with Israel.

Israel and the Jews have a terrible habit of not reacting or responding to these attacks. The underlying reasons stem from trying to not rock the boat, hoping the problem will go away, fear, indecision, confused ethics, and often no idea how to even respond – to name just a few explanations

But much of the Jewish people still have an instinctual community self-defense mechanism. They recognize when something has gone too far, when something has crossed the line between being within the tent or without, when an attack has reached a level where if it isn’t responded to it will expand to a level beyond reversal.

The Scottish Whisky Counter-boycott initiated by the Muqata was one such example. That Scottish boycott of Israel was expanding, driven by anti-Semitism, and quite probably part of a larger, more organized attack.

The response to the Scottish boycott among Jewish laymen (though not all Orthodox Jewish leadership I'm embarrassed to say) indicated that they internally felt and understood the threat, and in this case there was a clear action that could be taken in response. And as a result, the Scottish boycott, while not killed, has at least been contained and perhaps even blocked from future expansion.

Boycotts are a tricky thing. The Left loves to call for them against Israel, I would even say that some of our radical Leftists in Israel are the standard-bearers for some of those calls to boycott, but sometimes they bite back and you find yourself on the receiving end.

The Jerusalem Post made a business decision when they decided that keeping Larry Derfner on staff was hurting their bottom line rather than helping it (or even keeping it neutral). While unpopular for a while among certain circles, his expressed opinions weren’t far enough along, until now, to “provoke” a wholesale instinctual community self-defense reaction.

This time, Jerusalem Post subscribers felt that Derfner had stepped outside the very open and wide tent that is within acceptable Jewish opinion and debate, going to a place many Jerusalem Post’s subscriber’s apparently consider as being on the enemy’s side.

I’m not going to discuss which part caused this community response, his statement that he believed that Palestinian terror is “justified”, or the inherent disclosure of his internal narrative where he sees Israel as so evil that it actually led him to this incredible conclusion.

Personally, I see nothing surprising about his statements. It’s clear that this has been his belief for a while. But I would assume that expressing it so openly – despite whatever caveats and stipulations he tried to wrap around it “provoked” many to instinctually respond and demand he be placed outside the camp.

But this whole story raises and creates a number of interesting questions.

One might ask, where are the limits of free speech? But then, no one has actually taken Derfner’s free speech away. He has merely been removed from standing up on someone else’s private soapbox.

One might ask, how far is outside the camp? And that is an interesting question, as Derfner wrote nothing different than what’s regularly written in Haaretz. Though admittedly, most of Haaretz readers outside of Israel don’t identify with the mainstream Israeli narrative (you know what I’m trying to say here) and their readership in Israel is relatively fringe compared to the mainstream Israeli papers (I believe that even the Jerusalem Post prints more copies of their paper than Haaretz). So his views (and Haaretz's) place him (and them) at the same distance as Neturei Karta in so many similar ways.

One might ask, why are some on the radical Left so upset? After all, some of them are the same exact people that support (and introduce) some of these calls to boycott Israel and/or the settlements. Isn’t this how the game works? Or is it only good when it’s going one way? And furthermore, this wasn’t an organized attack like what one sees around the BDS movement and friends, but a natural grass-roots response by the people.

I will leave you with this thought. Boycotts like these are a dangerous game. Yes, this time it was a Leftist who expressed solidarity (or at least understanding) with terrorists and mass murderers, and quite possibly broke various Israeli laws in the process – not that the system will ever investigate him.

But perhaps there is a lesson here.

Perhaps the radical Left in Israel should stop supporting, aiding and demanding boycotts of any parts of Israel or the Jewish people (including calls for no religious Jews in Yafo, for instance). It should obvious to them now that it’s not enjoyable to be on the receiving end of these boycotts, and apparently, when the good Jewish people manage to stand together in solidarity, it’s not on the side of the radical Left.

So how about we call a truce (and not the Gazan version of a cease fire). Stop aiding and abetting in any way, manner, and form the various boycotts and attacks against Israel and your fellow Jews, and perhaps the majority of Jews will see to invite you back into their open and wide tent.

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Olah Chadasha said...

I totally agree with one caveat. Your bring up the question of free speech. If this was some guy standing in the middle of the street I would say that no one should stop him from saying whatever the hell he wants. However, his words are being paid for by a private company. He has no unlimited free speech. If his words are so outside of the line and reflects poorly on the company, then they have every right to terminate him.

The Reform Baal Teshuvah said...

You give Ha'aretz a bad rap I think. Or maybe I am just so in the habit of reading it against the grain that what you see rolls off of me. They strike me as better than the New York Times in this regard. Now, of course, the fact that there are substantive differences in content on the English and Hebrew sites makes for a whole different can of worms. In this, they sort of remind me of an Artscroll Shas - the Hebrew/Aramaic reader gets the text; but the English reader gets a spoon-feeding of what Artscroll wants one to believe.

There is a certain quality of . . . hyperventilation to the delivery of Israeli news to American Jewry, and reading the Hebrew editions, though much more difficult for me, is far less stressful.

Ha'aretz is unlike the NYT insofar as they will say "There was a Pigua, killing three, and the IDF responded with an operation that killed 5." The NYT is more likely to report "The IDF killed 5 Palestinians today. This is the third such operation in the past month. . . .{5 paragraphs later} . . . oh, and by the way, there was a suicide bombing which appeared to precipitate the IDF's operation."

nmf#7 said...

Agreeing with OC here- he worked for a company and as such, all words that he says can be construed as coming from something endorsed by that company.
And, the masses seem to have caused this one- withdrawing their subscriptions, emails, and so on.

JoeSettler said...

Where does work end and private life begin? He wrote it on his private blog.

Anonymous said...

The masses, as encouraged by your blog among others, brought this man's unemployment about. And like you say, JoeSettler, he wrote it on a private blog.

Your truce is too late for Derfner.

JoeSettler said...

Trying to lay blame here is misplaced.

Ultimately, the man was responsible for what he said, and this time he stepped over the bounds of what Jerusalem Post subscribers were willing to accept from him, even off that site.

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