Derfner’s next assignment

by Eleanor Kilroy on August 30, 2011 | Mondoweiss

I wonder if I am being uncharitable in thinking that Larry Derfner got himself into this predicament by failing to apply moral standards consistently. Any such ethical position would, of course, have got him fired from JPost, but at least he’d have fallen more firmly on the side of human rights and international law. Derfner’s starting point is an unquestioning defence of an ethnocracy in Israel; when he refers to his ‘countrymen’, the ‘Israeli public’, ‘our own people’ and ‘us’, the reader knows he means Jews only. His position is honourable in so far as he is calling for an end to the ‘terrible injustice’ of Israel’s military occupation. The argument for which he ostensibly lost his column is that Israelis/Jews need to stop hurting Palestinians, who have the right to resist and whose murderous reaction is understandable given the extreme provocation – this in spite of the fact that there are remarkably few terror attacks on Israeli civilians/non-combatants and 99.9% of Palestinians living under occupation and apartheid are daily waging a non-violent struggle, which is crushed with horrifying brutality.

‘We’ are, he writes, “driving them to try to kill us, that we are compelling them to engage in terrorism, that the blood of Israeli victims is ultimately on our hands, and that it’s up to us to stop provoking our own people’s murder by ending the occupation… by tacitly encouraging Israelis in their blindness, I think we endanger their lives and ours, their country and ours, much more than if we told the truth and got quoted on Hamas websites.”

With a future two-state solution in mind, Derfner is careful to draw a line between two ethnic groups: in one camp are the Jews in their ‘own country’, and in the other are the angry, oppressed Palestinians living under military occupation – in what he hopes will be ‘their country’, thereby resolving a historic grievance. What of the Palestinians living in ’48/Israel? They are absent from his discourse – neither Jews nor occupied Palestinians. As for Palestinian refugees, could any of them return to Derfner’s posited Jewish state?

As he concludes, “Writing this is not treason. It is an attempt at patriotism.”

Derfner’s position is unsustainable – based not on international law or human rights, but on some folkist insistence that Israel can be a Jewish, democratic state and yet one that acts humanely to a people it has dispossessed. Doesn’t he see that such an exclusionist Israel will never be able to forgive the Palestinians for not disappearing all together?

It seems that Derfner tripped himself up when as a self-confessed ‘liberal Zionist’ he expressed such an impassioned sympathy for Zionism’s victims; in order to be consistent, he must now get up, dust himself off and address the core assumptions of a racist ideology.


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