Thursday, August 12, 2004

My Response to Schick's Response to Goldberg

My mother sent me a link to this Jewish Press column by Joseph Schick. The column is a response to the New York Times column by Jeffrey Goldberg to which I linked earlier this week. (Sorry, folks. The NYT column is no longer available for free.)

Schick writes:

The clear message from Goldberg`s piece is that Jewish settlers, with the tacit support of some Orthodox Jews and rabbis, want to kill Ariel Sharon. Unfortunately, this charge is not completely baseless. As I wrote in my last column, there are fanatics who have called for, or implicitly condoned the idea of, Sharon`s murder. Especially in light of Yitzhak Rabin`s murder at the hands of an Orthodox Jew, there is an obligation on all Jews to condemn the fanatics and not to ignore the danger they present.

However, Goldberg never distinguished between the fanatics and the other 95 percent of Yesha residents. Instead, he defamed all of them. He completely ignored the Yesha Council`s repeated statements that it unequivocally opposes any and all forms of violence in the framework of opposition to Sharon`s unilateral withdrawal plan. He also ignored the pact signed by Yesha Council leaders two weeks ago, in which they agreed that IDF soldiers would not be asked to disobey orders to dismantle settlements and that no form of violence was acceptable. And though Goldberg highlighted Avi Dichter`s concern about 150-200 extremists, he disregarded that Dichter also emphasized that the extremists were in no way representative of the general settler public.

I never had any doubt that these fanatics were in the minority. Residents of the settlements tend to be politically right-wing, but they are generally peaceful people. It is easy to be opposed to settlements; that is how supporters of Israel show that they are "moderate." But the issue doesn't seem that simple to me. There are some very well-established Jewish communities in the West Bank, and, after all, there are Arab communities in Israel. Why not Jewish communities in a Palestinian state?

Nonetheless, I am uncomfortable with Schick's article. It raises an issue with which I often struggle when I post on matters relating to Israel in this blog. On the one hand, I agree with Schick that the secular media is often unjust in its depiction of settlers, and that is a problem. On the other hand, I don't think readers of the Jewish Press need to be reminded of that. Ditto for readers of my blog, who (I surmise from the comments) are almost exclusively religious Jews who support the Jewish state.

I am grateful for media watchdog organizations such as CAMERA and Honest Reporting, but I seldom visit their websites or read their newsletters. I don't think there's much to be gained by nurturing feelings of victimization. Jews like to point out that Palestinian extremists are more numerous and more prone to violence than Israeli extremists. That is true, for a variety of reasons (none of which has to do with Arabs being evil or Jews being nice). But the violent Israeli extremists exist, and we, as Jews, should be more disturbed by that than by any bias we perceive in the media. It is our religion that they are perverting.

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