Saturday, September 27, 2008

The Attempted Assassination of Professor Sternhell – So Why am I Not Surprised?

The pipe-bomb that was set to kill Prof. Zeev Sternhell, Israel prize winner and authority on fascism in Europe and in Israel, was most likely set by a rightwing terrorist. That is simply because in Israel there are no leftwing terrorists. Not only does all the Jewish terrorism come from the right, so too all the hate mail, the threatening letters, the physical violence. When was the last time one of the Hebron settlers was awaken in the middle of the night by an angry leftwinger? When was the last time a rightwinger was struck or harrassed by a leftwinger?

Of course, not all rightwingers advocate violence against Jews or support terrorism. But all the Jewish terrorists come from the right side of the political spectrum.

Why is that?

Well, rightwingers will say that the leftwing does not have to engage in violence or terrorism; they support the Palestinians who do. This, of course, is a Big Lie. When the leftwingers – strictly speaking, the human rights activists, since there are very few leftwing Marxists around – condemn violations of human rights on both sides, the rightwingers reply that wittingly or unwittingly their protests encourage Arab terrorism.

Since not a single Arab terrorist has ever said that he was motivated to perpetuate acts of terror because of the incitement of leftwing Israelis and human right activists, we can only say that the claim that the leftwing plays into the hands of the terrorist is – at best – wishful thinking on the part of the right. Something to try to level a very slanted playing field.

Now, that is not to say that there are not leftwing Israelis who offer varying degrees of support to Palestinian resistance. And there are certainly people on the left (though not a whole lot – Fanon and Hondereich come to mind) who justify acts of violence against civilians by a dispossed, occupied, colonized people.

But all this is irrelevant to the point on hand, which is why actual acts of terrorism, not to mention harrassment, threatening letters, eggs thrown, etc., is virtually the exclusive territory of the rightwingers.

I think there are a few reasons for that well-known phenomenon, some obvious, some not so.

For one thing, many rightwingers are ultra-nationalists who celebrate Jewish power and the tough guy image, a la Maccabees, Betar, Kahane, etc. For them, violence and zealotry are mitzvot (see under Shimon and Levi). Anybody who doesn't agree with them, who doesn't buy into their idea of what is good for the tribe, is a traitor, a moyser/malshin/informant, a malshin, blah-blah-blah. And of course, according to Jewish law, it is a mitzvah to kill informants, to lynch them without any judicial procedure. So that takes care of one group of rightwingers.

A more interesting group – generally orthodox rabbis – feel that while, theoretically, folks like Peace Now, Breaking the Silence, Yesh Din, etc., may deserve death, it would be imprudent and impractical to take the law in one's own hand. These are the folks who called Rabin a moyser before he died, and then professed shock and dismay when somebody took them literally. Some of them are more explicit than others, and some of them are profoundly sincere in their expressions of dismay.

The attempted assasination of Zev Sternhell is the latest in a string of attacks by rightwing elements against the left, ranging from personal harrassment (obscene phone calls, vicious talkbalks) to organizational harrassment (the Hebron settler thugs who harrass the tours of Breaking the Silence), to threats and physical attacks.

But your garden-variety ultra-nationalist celebration of power, typical of fascist movements, combined with the few scattered Jewish motifs in this direction, explains only some of the phenomenon.

For when you get down to it, the rightwing in Israel is not exactly a threatened minority; on the contrary, it ahs the upper hand. The settlers were moved from Gaza, but that was in order for Israel tighten its grip on the West Bank, or so thought Ariel Sharon. The settlements thrive; the outposts multiply; barukh ha-shem, things are going well, the settler leaders say. So why now, all of a sudden, do presumably rightwing terrorists try to blow up a professor who said – over five years ago -- that the Palestinians were unwise to attack over the Green Line?

I think the answer is twofold: a) the settler-extremists feel threatened by the negative media exposure and the minor judicial setbacks they have received; and b) they feel that their greater aspirations have been slown down by the exposure. While they really have no reason to feel threatened – the government will never move them – the settlers and their supporters don't like negative press, and certainly don't like criticism. Rabbi Israel Rosen, a prominent leader of the settlers, already said that Peace Now's Settlement Watch are made up of moyserim. So even though Peace Now's Settlement Watch is almost entirely ineffectual, and the settlers know that, the extremists feel…offended by it. And they are used to getting their way.

Similarly in Hebron. The settlers don't understand why the State allows a leftwing group like Breaking the Silence anywhere near Hebron – I mean, shouldn't the settlers call the shots? So their verbal and physical harrassment of the group is not so much because they feel genuinely threatened, as because they feel offended. If anything has been threatened, it is their masculinity.

When you are used to getting your own way, even minor things seem to be threats.

After all, the groups that lash out against the left are almost always pampered by the government. So for them, losing even minor publicity or legal battles is a terrible blow to their ego.

Kinda like the bully Biff in the Back to the Future movies. He may terrorize the school, but he is sensitive to even the slightest challenge to his authority.

As for the pious exclamations of the Defense Minister Ehud Barak that such things will not be tolerated – the best take on this is by Breaking the Silence's Mikhael Manekin, writing in Ynet here.

To save you from double-clicking, you can read it below.

Barak, just do your job

Barak knows far-right violence isn't new; he just needs to do something about it
Michael Manekin

To the honorable Defense Minister, Ehud Barak:

I was surprised to hear your response to the pipe bomb placed outside the home of Professor Ze'ev Sternhell. You said you would not allow any element within Israeli society to harass people who express their opinions.

Your position is clear, and I assume that most members of Israeli society, both on the Right and Left, would agree with you. Yet in your capacity as defense minister, who has been serving for two years now, you are not merely another concerned citizen. The incident that took place is under your direct responsibility; and it is most certainly not a unique or new act.

As defense minister, you're not supposed to be surprised. The organization I'm active in, Breaking the Silence, has been holding tours in Hebron for years, and we have been harassed by settlers for a long time now.

Hebron, as you know, is the lab where far rightists test the limits of the Israeli government's tolerance. The Jewish terrorism originating in the town, terror that is directed mostly at Palestinians, is known to all. We too, Israelis calling for the law to be enforced, have suffered the abuse of this group. The hurling of eggs and stones, shouts, swearwords, threats, and even physical violence have become a part of our tour routine. The police do not arrest the rioters. It is easier for them to remove us from town.

Recently the police canceled yet another planned tour. The reason: Police officials claim that they are concerned for our safety and fear that radical settlers are coming to the city from all across the territories. The police fear these settlers because they do not have the tools to deal with them. You, Mr. Barak, are not providing them with those tools.

Hebron is not the only focal point, as you know. In the past year we have witnessed many incidents in the south Mount Hebron area, in the Yitzhar region, and elsewhere. Violence is no longer directed only at Palestinians, or even leftists, but rather, also at soldiers and police officers.

In recent weeks we saw soldiers and a military outpost being attacked. Soldiers and police officers are scared to approach some Jewish communities. All the talk about the deterioration of the rule of law in the territories has become banal.

 "We won't let any element within Israeli society to harass others," you say resolutely, Defense Minister Barak. Yet you've let those things happen from your first day on the job. Instead of making declarations, you should face the public and say: "On this front, I failed."

Yet more importantly, you must act. After all, any Israeli who has been following the events of the recent year knows that the deterioration has merely started. The explosive device directed at Professor Sternhell is not a new incident; it's merely closer to your home.

No need to be shocked; just do your job.

Michael Mankin is a Breaking the Silence activist

8 comments:

Anonymous said...

To paraphrase Achad Ha'am- It more than the occupation sustained the settlers- it was that the settlers who sustained the occupation.
-Ploni

Disgruntled Goat said...

LOL, I love the Biff analogy. It seems to be a truism when the ideological dominance of one viewpoint is close to complete, its adherents go apes**t whenever a challenge is raised.

Y. Ben-David said...

Actually, the vast majority of political violence in Israel comes from the Left.
The first political murder was of Haredi anti-Zionist Yaakov De Haan in 1924, murdered on explicity orders of the Hagana, for political reasons.
During the Sezon, the repression of the ETZEL during the pre-state period, ETZEL people were kidnapped and tortured, murdered or handed over to the British for imprisonment or exile from the country.
In July 1948, Ben-Gurion ordered the Altalena ship (ETZEL ship bringing in arms and olim) attacked, something like 15 Jews were killed, some while they were in the water trying to surrender.

After the state was created, the Left did not need to use "freelance" violence against the Right, they now had the police force to do it "legally", however Amos Keinan, in 1952 a columnist for the Ha'aretz newspaper, tried to kill MIZRACHI cabinet minister David Zvi Pinkas by throwing a hand grenade into his house (Keinan was acquitted even though he has admitted doing it and is still a great hero on the Left).
Police violence was routinely used on people protesting the ruling party MAPAI's policies.

During the period of the Oslo "process", the Left, used a SHABAK agent provocateur, Avishai Raviv to assault Leftist politicians , such as HADASH MK Tamar Gozhansky as well as Arabs in the name of an extreme "right-wing" group which was actually a SHABAK front. He was the closest friend of Rabin's assassin Yigal Amir (the official state Shamgar Commission report on the assassination dwells on this at length) and Raviv egged on Amir to kill Rabin in front of many witnessess, in addition to threatening Rabin himself. He is the one who supplied the infamous picture of Rabin in the SS uniform.

Extreme police violence was used against peaceful anti-Oslo demonstrators repeatedly. The same was done to protestors against the destruction of Gush Katif. Recently several young girls were held in jail for MONTHS because they had been accused of being involved in "illegal demonstrations", although none were actually accused of using violence. Extreme police violence was used at the Amona demonstration which involved passive resistance to the government destroying nine supposedly "illegal structures" (Olmert justified the police violence saying those beaten up were "lawbreakers"....should we now beat up Olmert?). Several police officers were put on trial and convicted of brutality as a result of what happened at Amona.

Every week there are violent demonstrations by Leftists at Bil'in against building the wall, numerous police and soldiers have been injured, but the media doesn't report much on it because they want people to think it is the "right" that is violent. The reality is otherwise.

The Left has always viewed a perception of the "Right" as being violent as a political advantage because they have always portrayed the secular and religious right of the country as being a rabble and riffraff. However, it won't work today. Most Israelis are not Leftists and an attempt to build up media hysteria in the Sternhell case won't work because most Israelis know the truth. I would not rule out the possibility that the Sternhell incident was carried out by a police agent provocateur, but if it was carried out ba "right-winger", he should be locked up and they should throw away the key because these type of incidents only help the Left, they WELCOME them.

T. said...

I am a regular reader of our blog, and I just want to say how important I think your words are, and to encourage you to keep writing.

Jerry Haber said...

Y. Ben David, I don't know how to read your post.

It is full of such inaccuracies, non-sequiturs, and irrelevancies to what I wrote, that my first reaction was that you may yourself be a "leftwing Shabak provocateur" (how's that for an oxymoron) -- since you manage to shoot yourself in the foot, and thereby discredit what I would call the "intellectually interesting" right.

But then I thought that you were just shooting from the hip, and suffering from the Biff syndrome, and hence needed to be taught patiently.

So here goes.

Let me first thank you for arguing so beautifully my point.

In your litany of "leftwing violence" you were unable to give a single case of a Jewish leftwing underground or terrorist movement since the founding of the state that targeted the right. You did not talk about leftwing individuals (notice, I am saying individuals, not governments) harrassing the right, shooting at them, or blowing them up.

I notice that you did not mention the Jewish Underground of the Eighties, which was obviously a creation of the Leftwing government at the time....

Oh, OOPS! It was the rightwing Begin government? Gee, those rightwingers can't get anything right. (At least the president -- a "centrist" by the way, pardoned the murderers.)

You simply can't give an example, so you have to turn to government and state violence against the right -- even though in over the last thirty years, there have been only six years of a leftwing government.

In so do you so beautifully prove my point that it pleases me to say how much I love you for it.

In all that you wrote you were unable to cite a single case. Ribono shel olam, of a leftwing terrorist group or individual that targeted the right.

A SINGLE CASE!

As for the government and state violence against the right....

1) There is not a single thing that police and the governments have done against rightwing protesters that they have not done against leftwing protesters -- only more so.

You want provocateurs? Do you know how many Shabak people -- or paid agitators -- have infiltrated the Israeli, not to mention the Palestinian, protest movement. And how many Jews have been hurt by these Palestinian provocateurs

Now, here is the point where I say to you, "Will you oppose Shabak infiltrators and provocateurs on the left as much as the right -- including Palestinian groups?

You will? Yasher koah!

You won't...say, why I am not surprised?

OH, *those* guys are different, because they are enemies of the State of Israel....

Bingo, that's where they are the same!

As for the pre-state period, well, my friend, that's one road you don't want to go down..do you want to talk about rightwing violence directed against Jews in the pre-State period? Begin notwithstanding, there are enough stories out there to keep you in stitches....literally.

Still, i am satisfied with what I think are some good impulses.

You quite clearly oppose demanding of Fatah that they crack down on Hamas -- just as you opposed the Haganah cracking down on the Irgun.

You don't? Why am I not surprised?

Anyway, since it is erev Rosh Hashanah, I would like to end this comment with our points of agreement.

We agree that it is inadmissible for the police to use disproportionate force either in Amona on Bil'in.

We agree that the force used against the leftwingers should be no greater or less than that used against the right.

We agree that the protestors in Amona or anywhere else in the West Bank should have the same rights that the leftwing protesters at Bilin have -- and that the ammunition used against the two groups be the same.

Where we disagree is where you wrote, "I would not rule out the possibility that the Sternhell incident was carried out by a police agent provocateur".

Oh, really....if you believe that, there's a bridge in Alaska I would like to sell you.....

Sure, Yigal Amir, Ami Popper, Yona Avrushmi are a few individuals. Sure, there are only fringe groups that make martyrs out of them. Sure, the rightwing lobbied to get the Underground pardoned. Sure this is not the whole population.

But there is none of this on the Left. And how can I be so sure?

Not a single example, my friend....

Game, set, match

Jerry Haber said...

t,
thanks for the encouragement. I have been writing less, simply because I don't have the time to write. I never did, but I have said most of what I wanted to say, and aside from updating it, I don't have a whole lot more to say.

David L. said...

Well unfortunately some of the more ultramontaigne elements in the "Arutz 7" community are more, in the fashion of antebellum southern slaveholders, loyal to their cause than their country. Hopefully, they won't be as stupid.

Here's hoping 5769 is a good year for all and that Moshe Feiglin has the chance to save our beloved Zionist homeland!

Peter said...

Jerry, don't expect consistency from Y. Ben David types. They will cry gvald when Police or Shabak will as much as step on a pinky of a settler but ignore unarmed people actually killed or maimed by the same security apparatus if these come from the peace camp (and, Y.Ben David, it's a well known fact that violence in the demonstrations against the wall came from Shabak and Police agents acting as part of the demonstrations, and then used as a pretext for violent dispersal whereof.) They'll lament the young settler girls (some assalting Police officers) held for months in jail but ignore hundreds of Palestinians - including women and young girls -held for years in administrative detention without any recourse to normal procedure. In short, for them the same methods should be decried when applied to their side and lauded then applied to their nemeses.