“For Miriam Peretz, there is one goal in life: Sanctification of death.” — Rogel Alpher, Haaretz, April 28, 2020 (from the Hebrew)

“From the Al-Qassam Brigades to the Zionist soldiers: The Al-Qassam Brigades love death more than you love life.” — Hamas’s Al-Aqsa TV, Nov. 18, 2012

“Explode, onward, explode, and let your soul be liberated. … How beautiful the [explosive] belt is on your waist; anyone who faces you as an enemy will be humiliated. Water your land with blood, when your weapon speaks. Smile on the day of your death as a martyr. … Onward to Paradise, and Allah is the one who will remain for your children.” —Hamas’s Al-Aqsa TV, Nov. 12, 2019.

Of course, Haaretz, an allegedly “Israeli” daily, has every right to print whatever depraved drivel and reprehensible rubbish it wishes. It must, however, be prepared to bear the commercial consequences.

The ability to rise above personal tragedy

For decades, under the ludicrous pretext of being the “paper for thoughtful readers,” it has given a platform for the grotesque garbage, noxious nonsense and preposterous poppycock of the likes of Gideon Levy and Amira Hass, who regularly condone—or at least, express sympathetic understanding for—Palestinian-Arab terror attacks against Israel/Israelis, while demeaning, delegitimizing and demonizing Israeli punitive and preemptive countermeasures against it.

But on April 28—Israel’s National Memorial Day, when Israel remembers its fallen warriors—it might just have carried its caustic crusade against the Jewish state one outrage too far.

On what is arguably the most hallowed date on the national calendar, Haaretz chose to publish a toxic tirade by its arrogant and pompous TV critic, one Rogel Alpher, against Miriam Peretz, arguably one of Israel’s more noble public figures. A twice-bereaved mother, Peretz lost two sons, Uriel and Eliraz, both officers in the Israel Defense Forces killed in action, and her husband, Eliezer, who died at the age of 56, shortly after the death of Uriel, his eldest son, reportedly from an illness brought on by the grief over his loss.

For many, Peretz has become a symbol of the ability to rise above personal sorrow and tragedy, and to rally the strength to contribute to others and to Israeli society at large, devoting her life to educating youth and young IDF soldiers on Jewish and Zionist values.

Indeed, her endeavor has been a source of inspiration. In recognition of her efforts, she was chosen to light a torch at Israel’s 66th Independence Day ceremony (2014); awarded an honorary doctorate from a leading Israeli university (2016); and received the prestigious Israel Prize (Israel’s highest civilian honor) for Lifetime Achievement (2018).

An uncouth assault

Despite this, Alpher launched into his usual vulgar and uncouth assault on anything vaguely reminiscent of Israeli patriotism.

Referring to a recent television interview, he ranted: “I do not know whether Miriam Peretz was reading from a teleprompter during the interview or whether she simply has a teleprompter in her heart. But as usual, she managed to irritate me with her articulate presidential rhetoric, both pompous and dramatic, all of which was [nothing more] than slogans, sanctifying the Israeli cult of death and grief.” (Translated from the Hebrew)

With his usual “gentlemanly aplomb,” Alpher even decided to exploit the COVID-19 crisis, excoriating Peretz for advocating compliance with the government directive not to visit the gravesides of fallen soldiers, which was intended to reduce the chances of infection.

Scoffing at her response of “I cherish life” when asked about her position on the “stay-at home” directive, Alpher jeered at her statement that she was careful with her health because, “I want to be able to come to Mt. Herzl next year to visit my sons’ graves.”

It is here that Alpher’s distorted, deformed—and indeed, borderline demented—“logic” is on full display, interpreting Peretz’s desire to be able to visit her son’s place of burial as … “sanctifying death.” According to his twisted and tortuous rationale: “Pertetz sanctifies life—because only the living can sanctify death.

You couldn’t make this stuff up. But wait, it gets even weirder.

Cherishing life does not mandate forgetting the dead

Thus, the intrepid Alpher continues: “[For Peretz] life’s goal is sanctification of death. The dead cannot sanctify the dead. They cannot visit graves, or gather around them. That, only the living can do. … Accordingly, Peretz sanctifies life so as to be able to continue visiting her sons’ graves.” 

Apparently devoid of the mental/emotional capacity to distinguish between a cult of sanctifying death and a natural desire to commemorate departed loved ones, Alpher takes the “art” of the non sequitur to unprecedented heights: “But this is not sanctifying life. It is the diametric opposite. It is the subjugation of life to the sanctification of death.” 

I guess one can only puzzle over how Alpher missed the fact that Peretz has done much more with her life than merely visit her sons’ graves and apparently has unsurmountable difficulty in grasping that cherishing life does not mandate forgetting the dead.

But undaunted, the obsessive Alpher continues to condemn her understanding attitude towards the prohibition on visits to graveyards on Memorial Day this year, as betraying her alleged sanctification of death. Disdainfully, he sneers: “Another reason she gave for imposing the ‘stay-at home’ decree on herself, which allegedly sanctifies life is ‘so I can sit with my grandchildren at the Shabbat table.’ ”

Oblivious to the fact that Israel is the Jewish nation-state?

Alpher is ostensibly flabbergasted by this, reprimanding her: “Not to play with them, not even to be able to enjoy some joint activity with them that does not have some nationalistic-Jewish character to it. For her, ideology is everything.”

Heaven forfend! How morbid of her. Imagine the horror of it! A Jewish grandmother having the macabre desire to sit with her grandkids at a Shabbat table. Just how obsessed with death can you get?

Apparently oblivious of the fact that Israel is the nation-state of the Jewish people, he exclaims with dismay: “She wants to sit with them around the ‘Shabbat table’—that ‘Shabbat table,’ with all its charged nationalistic-Jewish symbolism. To sit with the next generation in a setting that symbolizes traditional Jewish multi-generational continuity. The ‘Shabbat table.’ That is not sanctifying life. That is subjugating the individual to the nation, to turn one into an instrument of the preservation of ‘the people.’

For Alpher, “preservation of the people” is the utter negation of the “sanctification of life.” Gee, I guess he missed the Holocaust. And the pogroms. And the Spanish Inquisition And the myriad of other Judeocidal episodes of Jew-baiting with which our history is strewn …

Could he be both so arrogant and so ignorant?

But this is not his first abusive assault on Miriam Peretz. His derogatory diatribes against her feature frequently in his numerous Haaretz “articles” (for want of a better word).

Venomous anti-Israel vitriol

One particularly illustrative of instance of his venomous vitriol against Israel, Israelis and the nation’s most venerated institutions, chillingly (or is that creepily) titled Israeli Army Chief, the High Priest of Human Sacrifice, published on Jan. 20, 2019, just five days after Lt.-Gen. Aviv Kochavi was promoted to be the new IDF chief of staff.

Derisively, he writes “ … the chief of staff is the high priest. He is in charge of the sacrificial ritual—with God at his side, the wind of the Holocaust at his back and the spirits of the fallen surrounding him. That is the holy trinity of the Israeli religion: the Israel Defense Forces, the Holocaust, the Blessed Holy One. … This religion sanctifies death and feeds it with the living.”

He then goes on to take a slanderous swipe at Peretz: “That is why there is a growing demand for the appointment of bereaved mother Miriam Peretz as president. She has gained the image of the high priestess of the sanctification of death for the sake of God and for the sake of the state, of justifying it and even seeing it as a positive value that grants supreme existential meaning to the lives of young Israelis. In their death they will fulfill their destiny.”

Perplexing, paradoxical and perverse

Alpher’s obsession with Israel’s purported sanctification of death is perplexing, paradoxical and perverse.

After all, Alpher is demonstratively supportive of the Palestinian-Arab cause—leaving us to wonder how endorsing the establishment of yet another misogynistic, homophobic Muslim-majority tyranny (aka, a Palestinian state) would advance any of the values to which he professes to subscribe. But beyond that, and even more puzzling, if ever there was a death cult, it is in Palestinian-Arab society.

The sharp dichotomy between the ethos of the two societies—Jewish Israel and Arab Palestine was starkly delineated by former Police Commissioner Roni Alsheich, at a conference of bereaved families. (Intriguingly, Alpher himself quotes the speech in Israel tells itself it sanctifies life to dehumanize Palestinians,  but of course, predictably, he rejects its validity.) Alsheich told his audience: “It’s impossible not to sense the difference between the bereavement we see in your eyes and that we have seen intensively in recent years in the eyes of some of our neighbors.” 

On the divergent perspectives regarding the sanctity of life in each society, he underscored: “It seems that while we have chosen to sanctify life, to give it meaning, to extol the victims’ contribution to society and the eternal legacy they have bequeathed us, our enemies have chosen to sanctify death.”

Alsheich concluded: “Their hidden message is that life is of no importance, and that by pressing a button or pulling out a knife, it’s possible to move on to a better world. … This, in my view, is the antithesis of the values of Israeli society.” 

Antithetical societal values

There is, of course, much to support this perspective on the opposing societal credos regarding the sanctity of life and of death.

After all, how else are we to account for the exultation of suicide in Palestinian-Arab society, for the idealization of martyrdom, the lionization of the shahid, for the cynical and callous use of “human shields” against the IDF, the remuneration of convicted Judeocidal terrorists …

Indeed, little can convey the Palestinian-Arabs’ macabre cult of death better than their own words—spine-chillingly reflected in the introductory experts from Hamas’s Al-Aqsa television network: “The Al-Qassam Brigades love death more than you love life.Explode, onward, explode, and let your soul be liberated. … How beautiful the [explosive] belt is on your waist; anyone who faces you as an enemy will be humiliated. Water your land with blood, when your weapon speaks. Smile on the day of your death as a martyr. …Onward to Paradise, and Allah is the one who will remain for your children.”

Contrast this with Israel’s emphasis on civil defense to minimize its own civilian casualties, its hyper-sensitivity of fatalities both military and civilian, and the huge expense undertaken to protect the life and limb of its citizens.

But Israel also makes inordinate—arguably, excessive—efforts to preserve the lives of enemy civilians.

Thus, in a 2014 interview, Col. Richard Kemp, former commander of British forces in Afghanistan unequivocally asserted: “I believe that on the basis of everything that I’ve seen, that everything the IDF does to protect civilians and to stop the death of innocent civilians is a great deal more than any other army, and it’s more than the British and the American armies.”

It would seem then that Alpher has his allegiances and his analyses well and truly backwards!

Not merely a boycott by readers

For decades, Haaretz, and many of its journalists, have thumbed their noses at all—certainly, at most—of what the majority of Israelis hold dear. Time and time again, they have demeaned the Zionist endeavor. The flag, the anthem, the sacrifice, the staggering achievements, its commitment to democratic governance, despite it blemishes.

Thus, as I conceded in the opening paragraph of this column, Haaretz, an allegedly “Israeli” daily, has every right to print whatever depraved drivel and reprehensible rubbish it wishes. It must however be prepared to bear the commercial consequences.

The time has come for retribution, for the paper to pay for the outrageous, offensive and obtuse fare it provides the public, both in Israel and abroad, and for the ample “ammunition” with which it supplies Israel’s most vehement detractors.

This, of course, is not a call to impose governmental censorship on the paper, but to cause it to suffer the ramifications of the ire and the insult it inflicts on the Israeli public.

In the past, public anger has led to some cancellation of subscriptions. But this clearly has not been sufficient. Now more robust and resolute action is called for.

Now is the time to adopt strategies used to pressure FoxNews to oust offending media personalities by threatening to cut advertising revenue via a consumer boycott of the products of commercial companies that run ads in the paper.

This—vox populi—is the only way to bring this deeply detrimental media vehicle back into a position where it advances, rather than undermines, the public interest.

Martin Sherman is the founder and executive director of the Israel Institute for Strategic Studies.

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