In May, Akiva Eldar wrote in The Nation about a felicitous encounter he had with an Egyptian cab driver who picked him up in New York City. The man followed Eldar’s reporting religiously and praised it effusively. In the course of the article, Eldar notes an important column that Israel’s most popular daily columnist wrote criticizing Haaretz’s commentators for their attitude toward Palestinian terror:
…Nahum Barnea wrote in November 2000 (in a publication of the Israel Democracy Institute) that “there are Israeli reporters who do not pass the ‘lynch test.'” These, he wrote, are journalists who could not bring themselves to criticize the Arabs even when two Israelis were savagely murdered by a mob in Ramallah. Barnea…went on to argue that our [the journalists’] support for the Palestinian position is absolute. He concluded, “They have a mission.” I was honored to be mentioned as one of those journalists, alongside my fine colleagues Gideon Levy and Amira Hass.
I admit to being guilty as charged.
Me too. You see, I resent the fact that there is a “test” that you must pass in order to be considered truly supportive of Israel when it suffers a terror attack; that you must be prepared to bray for blood vengeance or else be insufficiently patriotic or pro-Israel or whatever term you’d like to use. Similarly, I’d like to think, in fact I know, there are Palestinians who don’t scream for vengeance whenever the Baruch Goldsteins, Natan-Zadas, or the IDF perpetrates a ritual act of bloodletting. There must be those on both sides who understand that the acts of individual terrorists do not mean that an entire people have hatred of the other inscribed in their DNA; or even that the horrific acts of a national army represents a destiny of perpetual war for both peoples.
The genesis of this post was entirely contrary to most posts based on ideas contributed by readers. This one came from an especially hateful and annoying one, Bill Pearlman, who wrote in reply to my last post about the bulldozer terror attack in Jerusalem:
…You should check out the lynch test has [sic] spelled out by Nahum Barnea. Sombody [sic] with way more reason to be bitter than you. You fail miserably…
Since I’d never heard of the “lynch test” it set me to Googling which turned up Akiva Eldar’s sterling piece from The Nation. Without Pearlman’s ankle-biting comment, I wouldn’t have learned that I proudly failed Nahum Barnea’s test, which insists that all red-blooded Israel supporters must hate ALL the enemy when a SINGLE one commits an act of blood lust.
Haaretz’s Brad Burston has definitely passed the lynch test with this churlish, obtuse rant:
The attack came after the latest in a series of attempts by groups in the States, some of them atheist/anarchist, some of them Muslim, some of them Jewish, to lobby Prostestant churches and respected universities to divest from Caterpillar, because the IDF uses its bulldozers to demolish Palestinian homes.
I would like to hear them now. Just once. I would like them to divest from terrorism. Not understand it as the natural outgrowth of the crimes of occupation. For once, I would like my sisters and brothers on the left to be every bit as hard on their comrades the Palestinians for taking a bulldozer and crushing Jews, as they are on Israel for bulldozing homes.
Why would anyone on the left or otherwise NOT understand terror as a “natural outgrowth of the crimes of Occupation?” In the Israeli context terror and Occupation walk hand in hand. What Burston does not understand is that believing this does not condone terror. It does not say Palestinian terror is justified. It merely says that such terror is not an evil without cause. This is what Burston refuses to concede.
…What’s a decent person supposed to think?
That it’s all right to launch rockets against residential areas during a cease-fire, because the occupation is still going on? That it’s all right to crush Jewish civilians, because the occupation has not been halted and settlers continue to build homes?
…What’s a decent person to think when the man who drove the bulldozer was himself the father of two, a construction worker from East Jerusalem, whose desire to kill Jews – and, in so doing, further soil and damage the cause and name of Palestine – was greater than his feeling for the mother who had to throw her baby from a car to save it?
What is astonishing about this monologue is that Burston refuses to understand the suffering the Occupation inflicts on the Palestinians. Does he believe that the Palestinians must simply acquiesce to that suffering; or perhaps protest it by writing letters to the prime minister? If the Occupation brings deadly violence to the everyday lives of Palestinians, does Burston think that the same will not happen to Israelis? What specifically indemnifies Israelis from feeling any pain when their army inflicts pain on another people?
What is astonishing about the following passage is that from the rampage of a single troubled Palestinian, Burston has extrapolated the innate hatred of the entire Palestinian people for Jews from time immemorial:
I, for one, would like to ask for proof of what it is that Palestinians really want. I no longer believe that it’s as simple as wanting statehood.
This is what I don’t yet want to admit: that for all these years…what a critical mass of Palestinians want most, perhaps even more than statehood, may be as simple as the vile thrill of vengeance, as straightforward as nothing more than seeing Jews dead and gone.
Here Burston has become entirely unmoored. He has used the beserk ramapage of a single troubled Palestinian and extrapolated from it an innate hatred of the entire Palestinian people for Jews. This is without doubt racism of the most pernicious sort. Yes, Burston and all Israelis have the right to feel anger for this attack. But their anger should be directed at the individual and not the individual’s nation. Once again, Burston is engaging in the politically bankrupt act of assigning collective guilt.
Let me be clear about what I am not saying: I am not saying that such acts of terror on both sides should not be condemned when they occur. That should go without saying. Terror does not bring peace closer. It only leads to more terror. That is why violence of any kind is reprehensible. It is why I am in favor of bringing both sides before the bar of international justice for their heinous acts.
But if there is going to be violence–and of that we can be sure given that we’re talking about one of the more blood-soaked regions of the world these days–we must not fall into traps set for us by false allegiance to a set of prejudices that make the enemy out to be demons and us out to be superior to them.