(July 30, 2018 / JNS)
I have come to the conclusion, my personal conclusion (and maybe not for the first time), that the premier New York newspaper, The New York Times, from its owners and publishers on down through the senior and middle-level editors and even unto too many correspondents and reporters, simply hates Israel and Zionism.
Perhaps it even despises it. Whether those people (assuredly, not all, but far too many) carried those intellectual and cultural genes, so to say, before joining the paper’s staff or whether they came to absorb the pathosis due to the environment at 43rd Street in Manhattan, or there was a natural attraction to the paper’s well-known positions, foremost among them, its Holocaust coverage (as a recent documentary makes clear, “Between 1939 and 1945, The New York Times published more than 23,000 front-page stories. Of those, 11,500 were about World War II. Twenty-six were about the Holocaust”), the result is the same.
This past week, we were offered an op-ed composed by Omri Boehm, an associate professor of philosophy at the New School for Social Research. He holds a Ph.D. from Yale University, Germany’s University of Heidelberg and Tel Aviv University. He is an “engaged” academic retweeting not only the tweets of the vicious and anti-Zionist Jewish Voice for Peace, but Rivkah Vilkomerson’s personal tweets as well. He can be found at Opinionater, too—like this 2015 column bemoaning the unwillingness of Germans to denounce Israel’s policies—as well as in other prestigious platforms.
Back in December 2016, he had published “Liberal Zionism in the Age of Trump” in which he criticized the position he sees Jews take when they sanctify Zionism “to the point of tolerating anti-Semitism.” He points to an “original sin” of “such alliances” which was the 1941 letter of Avraham Stern—Yair the German Ambassador in Lebanon. Seeking to save Europe’s Jews and gain assistance to overthrow British rule in Mandate Palestine, Yair, commander of Lechi, to high Nazi officials, drafted in 1941 by Avraham Stern, known as Yair, in which he suggested a collaboration with German’s “war efforts” so as to establish a Jewish state to which end a treaty with the German Reich would be signed.
Since there were earlier examples of Zionists reaching out to anti-Semites to further Zionism, if not out of any presumed identification with that hatred, such as Ze’ev Jabotinsky, in seeking to protect Ukrainian and Polish Jews from the marauding pogromist troops of Symon Petliura in 1921 or the Transfer economic arrangement that Haim Arlosoroff completed in 1933 with Nazi officials, I can assume that the link Boehm makes with Binyamin Netanyahu’s son’s name is what drove him to select that particular example.
In that article, Boehm sees American Jewry as presented “with a decision that they have much preferred to avoid. Hold fast to their liberal tradition, as the only way to secure human, citizen and Jewish rights; or embrace the principles driving Zionism.” This either-or format is as non-philosophical as a philosopher can be as he simply denies the possibility of Zionism ever being liberal, democratic, a protector of basic human rights. He has neutered the world’s foremost humanist movement while, of course, skipping over the forces Jews and Zionism have faced in Eretz-Yisrael for centuries by Muslims whether in the first stage of their conquest and occupation in the seventh century or subsequent eras of oppression and anti-Jewish violence by Mameluks and Ottomans, as well as the Southern Syrians who in 1920 elected to turn themselves into “Palestinians.”
His July 26 piece, “Did Israel Just Stop Trying to Be a Democracy?” whose subject is Israel’s nation-state of the Jewish people legislation, wants to convince us that there is “an old dirty truth” and that Israel has given up trying to be “both Jewish and democratic” as it is like trying to square a circle. Moreover, its 1947-48 commitment to accept the U.N. partition with the establishment of an Arab state west of the Jordan River and implicitly giving a “nod to Palestinian self-determination” was “driven by an overriding concern for Jewish interests, not Arab rights.”
Of course, the chronicles of the violent murderous opposition of the Arabs of Palestine to Zionism, that is, a Jewish right to sovereignty in its historic homeland, beginning with the murder of Avraham Tzoref in 1851 and through other killings and on to the 1920, 1921, 1929, 1936-39 riots and, in the summer of 1947, the real beginning of the War of Independence he avoids. The Mufti’s complete identification and active participation in the mass murder of Jews during World War II, which, if based on his Stern example above, should deny the Arabs of Palestine any national rights, is similarly avoided. Boehm—a philosopher seeking truth? He neglects to remind us of the Zionist movement’s acceptance of several partition plans throughout the Mandate period. What kind of philosophy is this?
His hate-drive, as I perceive it, leads him to fool his readers, as if the demographic statistics in west of the Jordan territory are “56 percent are Jewish and 40 percent are Arab. He claims that in “promoting Jewish settlement doesn’t just mean favoring the interests of Jews; it also means undermining the interests of Arabs,” as if the physical, educational, agriculture, health and social welfare situation of the Arabs would be as it is, and especially in comparison to every other Arab state in the Middle East, if Israel had not existed.
Attacking the Jewish resettlement of its patrimony, the heartland of Judea and Samaria which had been ethnically cleansed of its Jews (is that also an act of apartheid or just ethnic cleansing?) by the Mufti’s gangs during the 1920s and 1930s, and then in the 1947-48 war, in which other Arab countries participated, another item Boehm leaves out of his narrative, makes it brutally clear, to adopt Boehm’s own language, that Boehm, in an intellectual sense, can be, it would appear, neither a philosopher or a Jew. He rejects the core essence of Jewishness and rationality in this piece, as he does in others. And it doing so, I think that, in addition, he is also neither liberal nor democratic.
Yisrael Medad is an American-born Israeli journalist and author.