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‘NYT’ and ‘NYRB’ publish important pieces on Jewish terrorism

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This month has seen another breakthrough in the U.S. media: two leading publications have run important and often-eloquent pieces on Jewish terrorism. Both are from a liberal Zionist perspective, but both bring news to the U.S. public about the frightful state of Israeli political culture today.

The New York Times two weeks ago ran Sara Yael Hirschhorn’s piece called, “Israeli Terrorists, Born in the U.S.A.,” saying that the Jewish settler/terrorists often have American roots. The piece was unflinching about the American support for Jewish terrorism. Hirshhorn urged Jews to take “aggressive steps within their own communities” and asked, where is the rage is in the United States Jewish community.

[W]hy have their rabbis not held news conferences loudly denouncing the terrorists in their own communities and families? Where are their op-eds in American and Israeli newspapers condemning violent Jewish extremism?

American Jews at home and abroad can no longer condone these blind spots and damning silences when it comes to Jewish extremism in Israel.

This month too, Assaf Sharon has a piece up in the New York Review of Books on “The Jewish Terrorists”. It traces the Revisionist terrorist gangs of the 1930s, Irgun and Stern, on up to their heirs Naftali Bennett and Benjamin Netanyahu, who are atop the Israeli government.

The recent election of Benjamin Netanyahu–who after trailing in the polls made racist statements that were clearly intended to arouse fear–shows that the violent sentiments and views discussed by [authors Bruce] Hoffman and [Patrick] Bishop are still very much alive. Netanyahu’s father, a formidable scholar of the Inquisition who died in 2012, was a revisionist ideologue who belonged to the “maximalist” circle. He was an Islamophobe who supported pre-state terrorism and opposed any agreement with Arabs, even the peace accord with Egypt.

His son shares many of his views despite opportunistic rhetoric about a two-state solution, which he opposed during the election and then limply endorsed afterward. In early May he formed a new government including members of [Bennett’s] Jewish Home party, which supports expansion of West Bank settlements and opposes a Palestinian state. The Likud, under Netanyahu’s leadership, has shed the last remnants of [Revisionist Vladimir] Jabotinsky’s liberal commitment and became a party willing to exploit racist contempt for Arabs. Understanding the ideological roots of Israel’s current leaders is indispensable if they are ever to be successfully challenged and replaced.

Let’s celebrate the publication of these articles. “The more of this the better. These pieces are a big step forward,” James North reminds me. “Hirschhorn writes about Jewish terrorism, which is hardly ever talked about in the Times. I was delighted to read her reporting; and the Times commenters were impressive. Her article also undercut the idea that Israel is a haven for persecuted Jews. No one in their right mind is going to believe these Americans are fleeing anti-Semitism. They’re going there to throw their weight around with Palestinians.”

Now let me get to my criticisms. Hirschhorn is blaming America for the extremist ideology; Sharon is saying that terrorism is an aberration of Zionism. Both pieces leave out the degree to which violence has for decades served Israel and Zionists in acquiring more land with fewer Arabs on it. Both express the romance of an Israel somehow redeemed of its extremist elements overnight, when as even the Jerusalem Post makes clear, the terrorists in the West Bank have quiet support inside the right wing parties that help constitute the government.

The Times piece actually begins with a falsehood; the headline (chosen by the editors) states, “Israeli Terrorists, Born in the U.S.A.” These Jewish settler terrorists may have “American roots,” as Hirschhorn states in her piece; but they weren’t born here; in some cases their parents were.

Hirschhorn’s contention is that American settlers are among the most virulently ideological:

This disproportionately large American contingent — relative to the total number of American-Israelis — has joined secular, religious and ultra-Orthodox Israelis, and other more recent immigrants. Few of them live in extremist hilltop outposts; a majority live in suburbanized settlements near Jerusalem, but they are considered among the most highly ideological.

She blames an ideology composed in part of American liberalism:

Rather than quoting the Bible or rhapsodizing about a messianic vision, they tend to describe their activities in the language of American values and idealism — as an opportunity to defend human rights and live in the “whole land of Israel” — often over a cup of Starbucks coffee in their boxy aluminum prefab houses or in the mansions of settlement suburbia. To them, living in the West Bank is pioneering on the new frontier…

many law-abiding American settlers continue to see themselves as good liberals.. Not only is this belief still intrinsic to the self-image of many mainstream American settlers, they have also learned the value of speaking fluent liberalese on the international stage

I don’t believe that these settlers are less likely to quote the Bible than they are American liberal traditions. I have talked to at least two dozen American settlers in my times in Palestine, and they invariably quote the Bible. I have never heard them talk about Martin Luther King or speak liberalese. Virtually everyone of them has given me religious claptrap about which ancient Jews bought the land and who God gave the land to.

Hirschhorn’s forthcoming book surely also blames an American ethos. It is called City on a Hilltop, in a variation on the Puritan ideal of a City on a Hill. It would seem to be a variation on Power, Faith and Fantasy, by Michael Oren, an effort to implicate U.S. ideologies in the racism and ethnic cleansing involved in colony-building. I blame a European Jewish ideology, Zionism, which of course borrowed intellectually from nationalism and colonialism, but was always a promise of tribal deliverance, and motivated people to cross an ocean and a sea and a desert.

Hirschhorn leaves out Zionist violence entirely. She quotes Yitzhak Rabin saying that America is a “murderous swamp” that gave Israel the mass murderer Baruch Goldstein, but doesn’t mention the Nakba massacres, or the Labor-approved massacres in Gaza. She says that American Jews “at home and abroad” are now compelled to heed Rabin’s “clarion call” to “spit out” the terrorists and sympathizers in “our midst.” But the Israeli political establishment is shot through with terrorist sympathizers, and this is an Israeli Zionist problem before it is an American one.

Assaf Sharon’s piece in the New York Review of Books also has a bad headline, thanks to the editors. The magazine’s cover headlines the piece “Jewish Terrorists!” as if this is some surprise or aberration. Who knew!

Sharon says terrorism has “marred Zionist history” since the 1930s, and that terrorism has never been politically effective, even though its living tradition goes from Menachem Begin to Yitzhak Shamir to Netanyahu and Bennett. He believes that the terrorism did nothing for Israel. It served the emotional self-interest of the terrorists, he says, though yes, maybe it also hastened the end of the British mandate, he concedes, but that’s about it.

His definition of terrorism leaves out a lot of violence; and Zionism has used violence often to great political effect, and considerable terror. The good Jews of his Zionist history, the Labor Jews, used it to expel Palestinians from the coastal cities in 1948, and they used the terrorist massacre at Deir Yassin to capture Jerusalem. Sharon cites Arthur Koestler; I’ve read Koestler’s Zionist books, and they treat the Jewish terrorists as an important and necessary military arm of a colonial struggle to establish the Jewish presence in a Palestinian landscape, the Galilee and Jerusalem. Sharon leaves out several effective uses of terror: the murder of Chaim Arlosoroff on the beach in 1933, which helped to end the co-existence model of Zionism, and the murder of U.N. mediator Folke Bernadotte by a gang led by a future Israeli prime minister in 1948, resulting in Jewish control of West Jerusalem, and not the internationalization Bernadotte was planning. If Begin and Shamir were so useless, why were they made prime ministers even with their terrorist past? Why was Netanyahu with his dubious record during the Rabin days? Because they are seen as heroes of a Zionist struggle to wrest land from Arabs that continues to this day.

Sharon says that terrorists use violence to prevent diplomatic resolutions. Isn’t that just what the Jewish terrorists are doing on the West Bank today? As the Jerusalem Post writes,

many [in the political establishment] quietly sympathize with the [murderous] attacks as helping to bring about the Jewish-dominated Greater Israel they seek.

Sharon treats the recent Dawabshe murders in the West Bank as acts of pure viciousness. But they also have a political aim, to demonstrate to the state the impossibility of making a two state solution; and they appear to be effective in that goal. Sharon is a friend of mine; he accompanied me on a protest of settlements five years ago. It was not clear to me then or now, how he hopes to save Zionism from its colonizing racist strain.


Philip Weiss

Philip Weiss is Founder and Co-Editor of

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26 Responses

  1. Marshall on September 18, 2015, 11:15 am

    Terrorism has never been politically effective?? AYFKM?

    Let’s start with the assassination of Rabin himself! Not to diminish the thousands of Palestinian victims of course.

    • philweiss on September 18, 2015, 11:27 am

      I agree with you. But Sharon says that Palestinian terror in the 20s and 30s set back Palestinian political goals. Maybe it did. Political movements use violence, that’s for sure. And often it’s effective. US got the heck out of Lebanon after that bombing killed all the Marines.

      • Marshall on September 18, 2015, 11:29 am

        To say terrorism is politically effective is not to say it is always politically effective. Mandatory Palestine is a great example–the Jews sided with the British authorities to put down the Arab uprising, then turned around and launched their own violent resistance. Result: they got most of what they wanted.

        And when you look at something like the nonviolence of the American Civil Rights Movement, it was a conscious, highly elaborate staging to appeal to white, northern sympathy and (at least for awhile) maintain unity among black activists. The lesson there for contemporary Palestinian freedom fighters is a negative proof: there is no equivalent power that could be moved to aid them by ostentatious nonviolence. Pictures of bloody, mangled Palestinian children on the front page of the Times are always accompanied by Israelis pretending to cower in their bunkers, and they don’t get published at all anywhere else. Here in the US we’re still at the Birth of a Nation phase vis a vis the Palestinians.

      • Marshall on September 18, 2015, 11:40 am

        Another update: that reminds of the most spectacular example of successful terrorism in history. I speak of the KKK, of course.

      • Stephen Shenfield on September 19, 2015, 10:23 am

        Zionist terrorism has always been carefully designed to achieve specific results and has therefore achieved them, whether sabotaging diplomacy or inducing Palestinian flight. It has often been hard to understand what specific effects terrorist acts by Palestinians were designed to achieve and I suspect that there has usually been no such design (except for the PFLP). As a result they achieve nothing and are often counterproductive.

        In his “Personal History” Vincent Sheehan — an Irish-American journalist who visited Palestine in 1929 and lost his initial sympathy for Zionism in the light of his own observations — presents evidence that Zionists deliberately provoked and privately welcomed Arab massacres of Jews, which could be effectively exploited to win international support for the Zionist cause. Few Palestinians understood at that time that the crucial arena was the struggle for international opinion. Now they increasingly do understand that and that is why they will win.

  2. pabelmont on September 18, 2015, 12:05 pm

    A lot of kibbitzing, here, about the origins of Jewish terrorism. I suggest that’s a red herring. Whoever spills ink on the origins of Al Qaeda’s or Taliban’s or Daesh’s (ISIS’s) terrorism?

    Origins are a way of explaining, a short step from excusing. we should point to Jewish terrorism (by settlers, by army and police, whoever does it) and not waste any time in explaining it (except to say that it goes unpunished and appears to be Isrfaeli government policy).

    In the USA, normally, if we identify an act as terroristic, we blame the terrorist, and that’s that. (If we are not prepared to blame the terrorist, we simply don’t call the act “terrorist”, as with some white-supremicist and anti-black acts of violence inside the USA.

    I believe (but could be wrong) that terror on the part both of drug-gangs and also of armies and police forces in Central and South America were always bigger (more deaths, more disappearances, more torture) than terrorism in the Middle East. But American politicians and media preferred to make their “War on Terrorism” apply only against their oil-rich Muslim imperial targets.

    And, for the most part, USA’s media and pols are not shouting about “Jewish terrorism.” The burning of black churches was not shouted as “Christian terrorism” either.

    History is written by the guy with the megaphone.

    • John Douglas on September 18, 2015, 4:42 pm

      I think there is in fact a good deal of ink consumed in explanation of jihadist terrorism. It’s the the ink that spills over into diatribes against Muslims and Islam. It’s the claim that Islam is of its nature violent, a bad religion. Would that we could all be Anglicans, whoops, there are those nasty fires with people at the center and ropes with people at the end. Okay, Roman Catholics then, well let’s not get started on 1492 in Spain. Okay at least there are the Jews with their expectation of care for neighbors, but even Jesus, a Jew himself, scoffed at that, depicting the scorned Samaritan as more neighborly. And forget all the tribes and nations that Yahweh ordered slaughtered to mow the lawn for his chosen People. Yes Sam Harris is right, if only Islam would go away there would be peace in the valley.

      • Krauss on September 18, 2015, 5:40 pm

        I think there is in fact a good deal of ink consumed in explanation of jihadist terrorism.

        Yeah, I agree. I don’t know where pabelmont is coming from with his attempts to wish this away.

        The origins of Jewish terrorism does matter. And Hirschhorn’s attempts to pass blame on America are quite pathetic. She appears to be a woman who simply cannot deal with the fact that Jews can be responsible for terrible deeds without being compelled to do so by another, larger culture. That’s why her cries for self-reflection sound so hallow. Start at your own door, Sara.

        As I’m reading these articles, I’m again reminded how important it is to get non/anti-Zionist voices in the mainstream. The “liberal” Zionist types peddle falsehood as replacement for history. This is the kind of stuff that used to be taken seriously in Reaganesque America when people, unironically, invoked Manifest Destiny as something noble and legitimate.

        They do the same, by peddling Labor Zionist myths, ignoring the massive and systematic violence employed to drive Palestinians out of their homeland. You get smarter reading them than you would a Likudnik ideologue, at least in the short run. But over the long term you might even be better off with the Likudnik because those lies employed are so childish that you’ll stumble upon the truth without issue.

        These “liberal” Zionist types are far more slippery. But their mythmaking deserves a good takedown and a Palestinian intellectual is what we need here.

        But the left-wing media’s insistence that only “liberal” Zionist Jews can weigh in on these issues is destroying the conversation. Luckily, I know that there is a sweeping and quiet revolution happening around campuses right now. I can’t wait for these people to publish in liberal magazines.

  3. JLewisDickerson on September 18, 2015, 3:48 pm

    RE: “Sharon cites Arthur Koestler; I’ve read Koestler’s Zionist books, and they treat the Jewish terrorists as an important and necessary military arm of a colonial struggle to establish the Jewish presence in a Palestinian landscape, the Galilee and Jerusalem.” ~ Weiss

    The Thirteenth Tribe
    From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
    The Thirteenth Tribe is a 1976 book by Arthur Koestler, in which he advances the thesis that Ashkenazi Jews are not descended from the historical Israelites of antiquity, but from Khazars, a Turkic people. Koestler’s hypothesis is that the Khazars (who converted to Judaism in the 8th century) migrated westwards into Eastern Europe in the 12th and 13th centuries when the Khazar Empire was collapsing.
    Koestler used previous works by Abraham Poliak, Raphael Patai and Douglas Morton Dunlop as sources. His stated intent was to make antisemitism disappear by disproving its racial basis. . .
    SOURCE –

    • Mooser on September 18, 2015, 7:39 pm

      “that Ashkenazi Jews are not descended from the historical Israelites of antiquity, but from Khazars, a Turkic people”

      There’s drama there, “JL”! Think of it:
      “My Mother the Khazar”, a Jew in search of his origins.

      And a tribute band, too.

    • Stephen Shenfield on September 19, 2015, 10:32 am

      Ashkenazi Jews are PARTLY descended from the Khazars. There are certain Jewish families who have preserved the memory of their Khazar origins. I met a man at a conference who proudly told me that he was of Khazar origin — he was from the Crimea and his name was Kazarin, which is a bit of a giveaway. The Karaite and Krymchaks of Crimea are undoubtedly of Khazar origin. However, Ashkenazi Jews are partly of Slavic origin (many members of Slavic tribes converted to Judaism under Khazar rule) and partly of ancient Judean origin.

      It seems very likely that Palestinians are also partly of ancient Judean origin. It was only the priestly castes that were exiled to Babylon while the rest of the population stayed in Palestine (the so-called “people of the land”). Probably the Palestinians are of ancient Judean origin to a much greater extent than the Ashkenazi Jews.

      • Mooser on September 19, 2015, 11:54 am

        “Ashkenazi Jews are PARTLY descended from the Khazars.”

        No wonder I can be so hard to get started on cold mornings, and unwilling to shift myself.

        I knew a florid Jewish gentleman who proudly told me he was descended from a pink Khazar nation!

      • MHughes976 on September 19, 2015, 12:51 pm

        If many Jewish people were violently and unjustly expelled from Khazaria, as I strongly suppose that they were, then it follows by parity of reasoning from the less religious, more historicist, versions of Zionism that Israeli annexation of Khazaria may be overdue. I’ll-defined borders need not be a problem.

      • Mooser on September 19, 2015, 3:50 pm

        Darn it. My wife just informed me that the “z” isn’t silent. I thought it was pronounced “Khars”. Sorry.

      • echinococcus on September 19, 2015, 8:32 pm

        Why would the very Khazars be expelled from Khazaria? As far as we can make out, the conversion to Judaism touched the ruling classes and it was the religion of state. The barbarian migrations or conquests were terrible, but we have no example of a massive expulsion of the inhabitants –like the one the Zionists are pursuing. The majority of people just stay and convert with the different regime changes. It’s always the emigrants and foreign minorities that don’t.

    • Elizabeth Block on September 20, 2015, 10:23 am

      Sholom Sand, at the head of a chapter, quotes Isaac Asimov saying that perhaps he is not descended from Middle European Jews but from Khazars, and adding “Who knows? and who cares?”

      Amen to that.

  4. yourstruly on September 18, 2015, 4:39 pm

    Without its employment of violence would settler colonialism exist?

    • JWalters on September 18, 2015, 6:42 pm

      Good question, and “no”. The use of the term “settler” by U.S. reporters should raise your question in their minds. And it may, but the U.S. media is largely dominated by Isreali money (as everybody in the media well knows, being terrorized by it.)

  5. JWalters on September 18, 2015, 6:36 pm

    I agree these pieces are welcome steps forward, and there is still a significant distance to the whole truth.

    “doesn’t mention the Nakba massacres”
    It seems that “Zionist = Nakba denier”.

    Overall, it appears “liberal Zionists” want to keep the Jewish state, but treat the livestock better.

  6. Stogumber on September 19, 2015, 2:16 pm

    “Terrorism” as a concept became popular in the 1970s (vz. Google Engram Viewer). It became popular in academia, as far as I see, mostly by the work of two Jewish scientists: psychologist Frederick J. Hacker and historian Walter Laqueur.

    The roaring success of this concept depended on the fact that the two traditonal enemies – Nazism and Communism – had lost their relevance (for Jews and non-Jews likewise).

    The new enemy “terrorism” was a rather abstract conglomerate of Palestinians, Irish, Basks and German students, which actually professed some small-scale collaboration.

    It was just a bit too abstract to influence the masses, so it’s understandable that it was in the end replaced by the more concrete enemy “Islamism”.

    But from its conceptual origins, we can see that Jewish terrorism wasn’t part of the story and much people are really ignorant about it. (Did Hacker or Laqueur ever write about it?)

    • Sibiriak on September 19, 2015, 3:08 pm

      Stogumber: But from its conceptual origins, we can see that Jewish terrorism wasn’t part of the story and much people are really ignorant about it. (Did Hacker or Laqueur ever write about it? )

      As a matter of fact, Walter Laqueur in “A History of Zionism — From the French Revolution to the Establishment of Israel” does write about Jewish terrorism and the debate about it within the Zionist movement.

    • echinococcus on September 22, 2015, 2:43 pm

      “Terrorism” became famous as a concept, as you say, with the Nazis. It was the standard term used for the resistance to Nazi occupation.
      Sometimes also for just people waling in the streets, who happened to be rounded up and killed
      for no good reason.

      Just exactly as it is used by the Zionist entity and the US of A.

      If you trace the use frequencies of the word, we learned it from the Zionists.

      • lysias on September 22, 2015, 3:52 pm

        Vichy propaganda also used the terror- words for the French Resistance.

        Goebbels’s propaganda regularly called airmen of the RAF and of the U.S. Army Air Force “Terrorflieger”.

      • echinococcus on September 22, 2015, 7:17 pm

        Yes, Lysias.
        It also seems that, in a really terrorizing re-enactment, we see the Zionists’ Pétain, Mr. Abbas, starting to use the same word (“Irhab”) speaking of some Palestinian resistance actions. At least, that’s what I think I heard from a clip seen a couple months ago.
        Could perhaps those more up to date can give better info here?

  7. Elizabeth Block on September 20, 2015, 10:26 am

    I wear a button that says “Jews Against the Occupation.” It starts conversations. A few weeks ago, after this happened in a supermarket, my interlocutor said, “Why can’t they just get along?” I answered, “Because the Israeli Jews want all the land with none of the people; they think they have a right to it; and they know they can get it.”

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