There is still much discussion about the firing early last week of Larry Derfner, the lefty Jerusalem Post columnist. Derfner wrote in our pages that he regretted making it seem like he was legitimizing Palestinian terror against Israelis. He intended only to shock his readers into thinking about what some of the reasons behind the terror might be, namely the occupation.
To its credit, The Jerusalem Post ran on Sunday an op-ed by Jeff Barak, a former editor-in-chief of the newspaper, defending Derfner. Barak made the point that whether you find Derfner’s opinion abhorrent or not, “it’s not really a viewpoint that’s outside the Israeli consensus.”
As Exhibit A, he pointed to a well-known quote from Defense Minister Ehud Barak from when he was running for prime minister in 1999. If he had been born a Palestinian, he said, “I would join a terror organization.”
But it is how Barak (Jeff, not Ehud) ends his piece that seems most provocative. He sees in Derfner’s firing not what is wrong with Derfner or even the Jerusalem Post, but what might be wrong with an increasingly vocal element in Israeli society. Here are his closing words:
In fact, it is the readers who vehemently called for a boycott of the Post if Derfner were not fired who present the real danger to Israel. Their narrow, self-righteous view of the world and Israel’s place within it, coupled with their failure to accept any criticism of Israel that jars with this viewpoint, encourages a totalitarian mind-set that damages the fabric of Israel as an open, tolerant society in which freedom of expression is a basic right.
Gal Beckerman was a staff writer and then the Forward’s opinion editor until 2014. He was previously an assistant editor at the Columbia Journalism Review where he wrote essays and media criticism. His book reviews have appeared in The New York Times Book Review and Bookforum. His first book, “When They Come for Us, We’ll Be Gone: The Epic Struggle to Save Soviet Jewry,” won the 2010 National Jewish Book Award and the 2012 Sami Rohr Prize for Jewish Literature, as well as being named a best book of the year by The New Yorker and The Washington Post. Follow Gal on Twitter at @galbeckerman