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Editorial Article

About that Attack on Prof. Sternhell

www.israelnationalnews.com/Articles/Article.aspx/8282

By Steven Plaut
12/12/2008

The smoke from the pipe bomb had not yet cleared from the courtyard in front of the home of Prof. Zeev Sternhell in Jerusalem when the media launched their most ferocious McCarthyist broadside against the Israeli "Right" since the mid-1990s. The media leapt to the kneejerk conclusion that the attack on Sternhell, lightly wounded by the bomb, was politically motivated, this because Sternhell had a long track record of expressing radical opinions. These included his denouncing YESHA settlers and all non-leftists in Israel as "fascists," justifying terror attacks on "settlers," and calling for Soviet-style central planning of the Israeli economy and society.

The previous round of massive anti-dissident McCarthyism in Israel followed the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin. The leftist media invented the "theory" that Rabin had been killed as a direct result of the anti-Oslo "Right" exercising its freedom of speech and voicing its ideas. The McCarthyist Left in Israel insisted then that anyone who had disagreed with Rabin's Oslo initiative was collectively guilty of his murder. The Leftist theory of jurisprudence insisted that every Israeli non-leftist was collectively guilty of murder unless he or she could be proven innocent beyond a reasonable doubt. The episode demonstrated how shallow is the understanding of and commitment to democracy in large swaths of the Israeli political arena.

And a few days ago came the pipe bomb attack on Sternhell. Once again, every Israeli non-leftist is being pronounced by the media as guilty of "terrorism" against Sternhell unless proven innocent beyond a reasonable doubt, and never mind that there is no proof that the bomb was placed by anyone from the Israeli "Right" or even by anyone acting out of political motives. The media in Israel have no need of evidence or proof of anything. Article after article denounced the "Right" as being (collectively) behind the attack, and numerous pieces, including notably those by A.B. Yehoshua and by police czar Avi Dichter, insisted that nameless "settlers" were behind the attack on Sternhell. Lunatic far leftist professors, ordinarily ignored by most of the Israeli media outside of anti-Zionist Haaretz, the very people who have never heard of an Arab atrocity against Jews they wish to condemn, were carted out by the boxcar to issue proclamations about how the attack on Sternhell was simply a side consequence of Israeli brutality against poor Palestinians and how the attack proves that anyone who disagrees with the Far Left is by definition a terrorist.

Now a reasonable person would not rule out automatically the possibility that a lunatic from the fringe of the "Right" or even a "settler" might eventually be found to be involved in the attack. Incidentally, not a single news story or commentary in Haaretz or the rest of the Israeli media referred to the perpetrator(s) of the attack on Sternhell as "activists." But imagine, just suppose, that this turns out not to be the case. Would it not be amusing if the police were to uncover evidence that in fact Palestinian terrorists had targeted Sternhell with a bomb, after his receipt of the "Israel Prize" turned him ironically into a symbol of the Zionist entity and a trophy target? Moreover, Sternhell had over the years accumulated his fair share of others who hated him, including numerous French anti-Semites, one of whom successfully sued Sternhell for libel in France. So a prudent person would withhold pronouncements concerning who should be presumed to have carried out the attack until some real evidence actually is uncovered.

Meanwhile anyone who has ever dissented from the dogmas of the far Left and anyone who even expressed criticism of the views of Sternhell, including his statements calling for murder of "settlers," spent the week fielding media injunctions that he step forward to denounce the attack. As if anyone from the non-Left who fails to take the initiative to issue such a declaration should be presumed to support the attack! A prominent professor from the "Professors for a Strong Israel" got such a summons from an Israeli television station and refused to cooperate, viewing the summons as insulting. Isracampus.org.il, the web watchdog that exposes and monitors academic anti-Israel extremism in Israel, was similarly swamped with accusatory injunctions to appear and demands to renounce the attack.

Let me repeat here what I proposed to the members and leaders of "Professors for a Strong Israel" and hereby suggest to anyone else from the non-Left contemplating what the proper response to all this should be. My suggestion is to adapt the familiar aphorisms of David Ben Gurion to the challenge. Ben Gurion regularly made statements such as, "We will fight the White Paper as if there were no Hitler and we will fight Hitler as if there were no White Paper."

Accordingly, my suggestion is that all sensible non-Leftists, when asked about the attack on Sternhell, should reply as follows: We believe that political street violence in Israel must be fought as if there were no plague of leftist academic treason, and that the plague of leftist academic treason must be fought as if there were no political street violence in Israel.

Beyond that, several other rather tame observations might be mentioned. These include:

- Sternhell's political outlook and opinions were repugnant before the attack and did not become any less repugnant because of the attack.
- Radical Leftist sedition does not become legitimized because of the attack on Sternhell, no matter who carried it out.
- Critics of the radical Left do not become delegitimized because of the attack on Sternhell, no matter who carried it out.
- Critics of Prof. Sternhell's opinions have as much right to express their criticisms as Sternhell himself has to express his.

As a side note, should it actually turn out that a lunatic from the fringes of the Kahanist movement was involved, I strongly suggest that the denial of freedom of speech to Kahanists should be considered to be the primary cause of the attack. The Kahanists and ONLY the Kahanists have been criminalized in Israel, banned, denied freedom of speech, and declared racists and terrorists. Yet not a single far-Leftist "Post Zionist" nor a single Arab fascist or Stalinist group has been similarly criminalized and none were officially declared "racists," even when calling for mass murder of Jews or denying the Holocaust.

Forcing fanatics to compete in the marketplace of ideas exposes their ideas to sunshine and fresh air and ultimately neutralizes them. But the anti-democratic Left and the Israeli political establishment decided arbitrarily to criminalize the Kahanists, banning them as illegal, and people denied freedom of speech sometimes resort to violence. Should it turn out that any were involved, and there is not a shred of evidence that any were, the policy conclusion from such a discovery should be that Kahanism needs to be decriminalized and Kahanists permitted to exercise freedom of speech.

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Articles appearing on IsraCampus.Org.il are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the opinion of IsraCampus.Org.il