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by Richard H. Shulman


When the terminology is prejudicial, can an article be objective? An example of weighted terminology is The New Yorker (Jeffrey Goldberg, 5/31/04) calling the Jews of Hebron "settlers" and the Arabs "residents." The two peoples go back a long way in that area, the Jews by far the furthest - three thousand years.

On the other hand, the two peoples are largely of relatively recent immigrant stock. Many of the Jews in Hebron are from families that Arab pogromniks had chased out in 1929. They come back into their city and paid Arab usurpers for property that is owned by Jews. Why did the author fail to furnish that context? After decades of residency there, they are called "settlers." Nowhere else is the term "settler" used for people who move into established cities. As The New Yorker must know, the term "settler" is pejorative. Apparently, having failed to prove anything improper about their return, opponents of that return defame them. Sully their reputation, and you sully their cause, at least in the popular belief.

The article starts out unfairly by referring to them in its title as "The Zealots," and in the first sentence as "the militant Jewish ghetto of Hebron." The Arab population, which approves of terrorism against them and often had rioted against them, is not termed "militant," nor is their mass media, which exhorts to murder against all Jews, termed "zealous." The New Yorker reserves term of opprobrium for Jews as if descriptive rather than propagandistic. Will readers not realize their view is being manipulated when the people who, at their worst overturn carts or call names, are called zealous, and the people who generally shoot and stab the elderly and babies are not? The article portrays almost everything about Jews there as unpalatable, something like the reputed methodology in the Mel Gibson movie.

Some of the Jews interviewed do sound over-zealous. Who is selected to be interviewed and what parts of the interview are selected to be quoted? Journalists tend to look for the most colorful people and quotes, both to make their companies exciting and to make Israelis look over-excited. The selections are not representative. NPR uses the same technique: interview Arabs who denigrate Jews, interview Israelis who denigrate Jews, and interview the most tactless and least explanatory right-wingers, if at all. Many quotations are distorted.

One Jew displayed a photograph of Meir Kahane, whom the article labels "the zealot rabbi from Brooklyn, who advocated the expulsion of all Arabs from Israel." He did not. He suggested bonuses for leaving and letting stay those who would behave. A real zealot here may be Mr. Goldberg, the reporter. Nor would it be over-zealous to propose actual expulsion of a people determined to murder as many of yours as possible. The proper assessment of such a policy would be that it is prudent and, by keeping aggressors away from victims, just and humane.

The article follows the New York Times practice of referring first to forceful Israeli reaction as if the initial provocation, and then referring to the Arab initiative as if the reaction. The victim's self-defense is perverted into egregious aggression. Thus a written anti-Arab racial slur is "answered by Muslim insults." How does the journalist know which came first? No indication of how findings were gathered and from whom is cited in that and in many other cases. Sometimes an Arab is quoted, but since the Arabs are thoroughly indoctrinated, and since their society exalts successful deceit, such a source hardly is reliable or independent.

I have read many reports of attacks by Hebron Arabs and then, what the media calls "provocative," Israeli citizen reaction, usually less violent. Isn't it the initial, unprovoked attack that is provocative? Arabs have attacked Jewish girls and tried to abduct them. Never have Israelis been reported attacking Arab girls and trying to abduct them. What do you think of journalism that ignores attempted kidnapping and reserves its indignation for name-calling?

An associate of mine, who lives in Judea-Samaria, explained to me that the Arabs constantly taunt Jews, not only in Hebron but at checkpoints, as happened to her. The Jewish youth of Hebron apparently answer back. I do not approve of retaliating in nasty speech by those Jews nor by my leftist readers addressing me.

The Temple Mt. is described as "the site from which, Muslims believe, Muhammad ascended to Heaven." That is stated as Islamic doctrine, but it is not established. It has two myths, one of which holds that view and the other does not. Islamic scholars, Muslims among them, have pointed out that the vague Koranic phrase for the site of he ascent, "the furthest mosque," would not mean the Temple Mount, because no mosque was atop it at the time. Jerusalem historically is not important to the Arabs, until for political reasons they claim it. This is such a time. Westerners play into Muslim politics in the irrational Western desire for equivalency.

Goldberg understated the Jewish notion of Hebron being one of Judaism's four most holy cities, as "there were Jews in Hebron before Islam was founded." Hebron is where the Bible states that the founder of Judaism lived, about three thousand years ago, just "before Islam." It was where King David made his first capital. It was inhabited by Jews, among others, continuously until 1929. Jews make pilgrimages to it.

Yes, the Arabs launched a pogrom against the Jews there, then. Yes, too, the British Mandatory authorities removed the surviving Jews. Not correct is that they removed them "for their own safety." The British were behind the Arab riots, saw to it that the Jews were not protected during them, and punished Jews who organized self-defense.

An old firebrand rabbi advocates "transfer" of the Arabs, "a euphemism for mass expulsion." The author is exploiting contemporary readers' unfamiliarity with population exchange having had honorable usage, or is he unfamiliar with it? At least he might have balanced Rabbi Levinger's statement with Arab ideology, which is to murder the Jews. To prevent murder, transfer makes sense. If you oppose transfer of Arabs, then you logically must oppose transfer of Jews. To oppose transfer of Arabs is to anticipate murder without compunction.

The 1967 war is described as starting with Israeli preemptive strikes against Egypt and Syria, "which had been jointly planning an invasion." Jordan then "entered the war," but was defeated by Israel, "seizing" the Old City and other areas. This is a shaded version of history. Egypt, Syria, and other Arab states did more than plan an invasion. They committed two acts of war. First, they mobilized on their borders with Israel, with the avowed intent of invading and not just to defeat Jewish sovereignty but to exterminate the Jews. Second, Egypt blockaded an Israeli port.

"Seize" is a negative way of putting Israeli liberation of its homeland's capital from discriminatory dictatorship. The Israelis fought for Jerusalem hand-to-hand, out of respect for the holy places. The author might have mentioned that the Jordanian Army had orders to exterminate all the citizens of certain Israeli cities it might conquer. Fortunately, it "transferred" out the Jews of the Old City; transfer is a virtue compared to genocide. This author, who leaves a bad taste in readers over a non-influential Israeli rabbi's wish to transfer Arabs, ignores altogether actual transfer by Arabs of Jews. This skirting of the whole truth reflects poor journalistic ethics. Facts about Jews being victims get short shrift in this article. Actual expulsions of Jews are treated casually if at all; potential expulsion of Arabs is stressed.

Are "settlements" legal? "Most international legal authorities believe that all settlements, including those built with the permission of the Israeli government, are illegal." I think it is irresponsible for a journalist to poll authorities on an issue that he could research, himself. Experts are no less ideologically biased than non-experts. Most of the bias is anti-Israel. I found the explanation of illegality more than answered by the explanation of legality. Those who call Jewish residency in the Territories illegal quote part of the Geneva Conventions. Those who call Jewish residency in the territories legal add qualifying, and therefore more relevant parts of the Geneva Conventions, explain why the Geneva Conventions do not apply, and explain that the status of the Territories is as the unallocated part of the Mandate that requires "close settlement on the land by the Jews." Why do opponents fail to mention the current status of the territories, the Mandate, the qualifying part of the Geneva Conventions, and the argument that the Conventions do not apply?

It would be odd that in the Jewish homeland, Jewish residency be considered illegal while residency by the Arabs, who have no jurisdictional standing there, be legal. In the minds of the anti-Zionists, however, those Territories are to be given away to the Arabs. As if that were already done, the anti-Zionists assume that the Jews have no rights there and the Arabs do. Wishful thinking is not the basis for legality, as implied by these anti-Zionists, who hypocritically make arguments about legality. They wish for Arab sovereignty, and then act as if the Arabs were sovereign. Sorry folks, the Geneva Convention does not apply in the absence of sovereignty. That is the rule of the Convention. If you want to apply international law, then stick to international law, not wishful thinking. Don't get indignant at the Jews without factual basis. There is a word for that, be the self-righteous objector, gentile or Jewish.

That citing of authorities by counting them, in this prejudiced world, is unfair. It turns an academic matter into one on how many people have which opinions. More people thinking something, or lying about something, does not make something out of nothing.

A true statement is the dubiousness many secular Israelis feel about Arafat's Arabs being unwilling to recognize the legitimacy of a Jewish state and then anger at Arab violence. Also correct is the belief of many Israelis that evacuating all of Yesha still would not satisfy the Arabs. Since the P.A. still denies the historical Jewish connection to the Land of Israel and the Jews' right to sovereignty, the secular Israelis' beliefs should be called knowledge, not beliefs. The logical conclusion, if the author were to make one there, is that evacuation serves no purpose but ill purpose. How he shies from this logical conclusion that refutes his thesis!

By contrast, the author described Arab claims as factual when they are mere feelings contrary to fact. The Arabs are in jihad. Jihad is violent. The Arabs reject compromise (which withdrawal would be, since the Arabs already control 75% of the Land of Israel, that portion now called Jordan). Since the Arabs are violent and wish to conquer, not only would withdrawal not end the war, it would strengthen the aggressor Arabs in that war. Therefore, Israeli withdrawal would be an evil step. The proper and legal solution would be for Israel to incorporate the territories, but without the Arabs. If Israel stopped subsidizing the Arabs, they would have to leave. It is interesting that the author tried so hard to portray Hebron Jewry negatively, and ends up -- too briefly and unemotionally - admitting that the Arabs are bigoted, lying, aggressors.

Again Goldberg uses the ploy of referring to tendentious statements by interested parties to lend color to a far-fetched point in behalf of the Arabs, when he mentions that many critics of PM Barak complained that the concessions he offered Arafat were unacceptably miserly. (They did not explain why Israel should yield more of its homeland to jihadist aggressors.) Actually, Barak had offered almost all of the Arabs' immediate demands. That was not "miserly." The critics were stretching the truth to excuse Arafat's refusal and to avoid acknowledging that the Arabs are recalcitrant and not interested in making peace, whereas Israel is.

Next, the current war is unfairly connected with MK Sharon's visit to the Temple Mount. That serves to keep in people's mind the exposed canard that the visit sparked the current war and somehow justified it. Nor is it a mere "Intifada," as Goldberg calls it, but a war. Years after, it came out that the Arabs planned the war and used the visit as a pretext, Goldberg still is citing the pretext.

The author interprets PM Sharon's opinion as that Israel has to evacuate some areas of Yesha, lest the Jews become a minority there. His logic is fallacious -- it limits that concept to Yesha. In Israel, itself, however, the Arab minority is expanding faster than the non-Arab majority, and within that majority, the proportion of Jews is falling, as Christians come in. If the author were consistent, he would urge Israel to evacuate from parts of Israel. If he faced reality, he would urge Israel to evacuate the Arabs from Israel and Yesha. But that would rouse Jews to their danger. Some right-wing Israelis also fail to understand this situation. It is a matter of limited perspective both geographically and chronologically.

What would an Arab majority do? It would end Zionism, says Goldberg. Oh, it would do more than that. It would terminate the Jewish people. Has he not read their sermons?

The Arabs of Judea-Samaria fall under different laws from the Israelis. Calling this apartheid, which is a misleading exaggeration, the author implies that this is the fault of Israel and bad for the Arabs. Neither is so. Israel believes that it is obliged to apply the pre-existing, Jordanian law to the Arabs, whereas its own citizens may follow Israeli law. I don't agree with Israel on that, but Israel does make a strong legal case for doing this. There is a measure of tolerance in allowing the Arabs to follow their own laws, just as the autonomy that Israel allowed the Arabs was tolerant.

As for the application of the law, fact is, Israel lets the Arabs do pretty much what they want to, even in negation of the law. Should the Arabs complain that Israel lets them steal land, build illegally, and rarely punished rioters? That is my complaint.

In noting PM Sharon's not having ended Arab violence, the implication is that he has tried but can't do it, so he builds a fence and proposes some unilateral withdrawal. Sharon hardly has tried. His response to the Arab war, a response constantly criticized by the media as excessive, though militarily it is limited, largely has succeeded. It is obvious, from Sharon's many relaxations of tough measures, that if he persisted, he would reduce Arab violence further. So he doesn't need a fence and need not propose withdrawal, unilateral or negotiated.

Deputy PM Olmert is quoted as realizing "we would have to share this land." Fact is, Israel already shares its homeland with Arabs (who have 200 times as much land), after the first partition gave most of it to the Hashemites in what now is Jordan.

The next couple of points further reiterate popular misconceptions. One is that Israel has not done much to encourage negotiations. Another is that the fence "will penetrate deep" into Judea-Samaria. Everyone copies the word "deep," but nobody consults a map. The article's two maps of Israel and the territories fail to sketch in the fence. If it did, one could see that the fence hardly goes far into Judea-Samaria. Readers are not given a chance to see through the propaganda.

As for negotiations, the author mentioned that after Israel's last offer of most of Yesha and more, the Arabs walked out and made war. Then why does the author insinuate any guilt in Israeli behavior? He thinks that negotiations are some means of solution. Then he doesn't understand the Arabs. They use negotiations to exacerbate the problem. They don't want a peaceful solution. They want conquest. Westerners who urge Israel to negotiate with would-be conquerors are assisting aggression. They should be urging Israel not to negotiate and to squeeze the Arabs out. Unfortunately, right and wrong do not influence prejudiced views.

The author depict the withdrawal plan as if Israel would control the borders, coastal waters, and airspace. Sharon declared the plan consistent with the Road Map, which would make the Arabs sovereign over those areas. (Sharon's plan was an opening bid, after which he agreed to relinquish that control.) The way the author puts it again throws a negative cloud over Israeli intentions. Why doesn't the author discuss what the Arabs would do with such sovereignty. The outcome is clear from the Arabs' unregenerate belligerency and their current arms smuggling. They would bring in heavy weapons to place along the Green Line and pound Israelis to death. They could fire thousands of rounds of cannon shells, before what is left of Israel could respond. That is what Israel has to look forward to under Sharon's plan that Goldberg mistakenly asserts gives the Arabs too little power. Those are the wrong people to give any power to.

Again pandering to misconceptions of democracy, in which public opinion makes right, the author refers to what most of the Arabs "see" as comically parsimonious measures proposed by Sharon. What the Arabs are said to "see" are statements of their false propaganda, to be ignored. The settlers are described in Jewish terms but like a Frankenstein, in opposing Sharon's plan, as "rising against one of their creators," Sharon, who inaugurated many Jewish communities in Yesha. They are not rising against him, they are resisting his rising against them. It is he who is betraying them! The author got it backwards. He further errs in calling this an attempt to disentangle the two peoples. It simply would enable the Arabs to attack Israel more readily.

Oh those foolish settlers (who really oppose the greater insecurity Sharon would bring all of Israel), they may "prevent the emergence of a viable (second) Palestinian (Arab) state. Viable? Is he kidding? Mired in poverty of their own making, the Arabs would bring more Arabs into an area already short of water and without resources. A second Arab Palestinian state not only would not be viable, it would not be stable. It would be at war and host international terrorism.

The Shinui Party is described as interested in separation of synagogue and state. I find it to be against Judaism. As for the followers of Judaism, "Indeed, some of the leading ideologues of the settlements, far from supporting the idea of a Jewish democracy, hope to establish a Jewish theocracy in Israel, ruled by a Sanhedrin and governed by Jewish law." Any statement of Judaism is made with unrelieved undertones of contempt. What does that mean, "some of the leading ideologues?" I interpret it as an attempt to smear the mass by citing some individuals.

Admitting that the P.A. vandalized Josephs' Tomb despite Arafat's promise to protect Jewish holy sites, one wonders at an author who implies that it would be stingy of Israel not to put more of its holy places under P.A. control. He might have added that the Arabs destroyed or attacked other Jewish holy places, including the Temple Mount, and that they warn the Jews that if they control the holy site in Hebron, Jews will not be allowed to enter it. Apparently, tolerance is something for the Jews to show the Arabs, but not for the Arabs to show the Jews. The Arabs have committed desecration and murder. Will the author agree that such people deserve nothing?

The old story of Israelis destroying Arab groves is trotted out. Convenient to the author's thesis, he finds a non-responsive Israeli to ask about it, instead of the Army, whose reports are objective to the point of being wooden. Goldberg uses a one-sided example to implant a negative generalization in readers' minds. He omits the fact that the Arabs either steal Jews' or state land and cultivate it to establish squatters' rights, or they use the groves for ambush. Israel has every right to uproot such groves. When the author tries to cite Judaism against this, asserting, "The destruction of fruit-giving trees, even those belonging to an enemy," he gets the priority wrong. The priority is lives before trees; safety but not wanton vengeance. Ask yourselves, as Goldberg doesn't, if Israel really sought to ruin Arab farmers, would it continue being their main market and limit destruction to incidents related to ambush?

The wrong priority is implied again, in asking whether it is right for Jewish parents to have their children live within range of P.A. rockets. Now it's interesting that he mentioned rockets and not rifles, because rockets are fired into Israel, too. That fact contradicts his point. His question hints at the Jewish option of saving lives as priority. The writer's answer is to save lives by running away. That is not Zionism's answer. The same problem of being attacked occurred during the development of Israel. Where were the Jews to run that would be safe from attack? But if Israel gives up Yesha, with its strategic borders, not only would Arafat's Arabs attack it, so would the outside Arab armies invade. No understanding of the value of Yesha in protecting Israel is hinted at. Only the erroneous claim is made that solders are diverted to guard it. The Army has explained that the Army is able to maintain its presence in Yesha, to protect Israel from attacks, thanks to the pre-existing presence of Jewish communities there. The Army can maneuver under cover of those communities.

According to the author, Army operations in the territories dehumanizes it. This alleged dehumanization is a serious charge. It is not substantiated. If he could back up his charges, surely he would. Sounds like libel, to me. Be suspicious of anti-Zionists wringing their hands over Israeli souls! Is that the only time they sympathize with the Jewish people?

Nor is the Army' role stated properly. The Army is defending Israelis, both in Yesha and in Israel. It cannot defend Israel without operating in the territories, where the Arab cells are located, their arms are smuggled in, their factories make bombs, and they stash their mortars. Did it never occur to Goldberg that before Israelis moved back into Yesha, the Arabs attacked Israel from Yesha? It was in self-defense that Israel acquired Yesha in the first place.

The modern Zionist movement, Goldberg points out, was secularist. It supposed that by being a "normal" state, Israel would end antisemitism. The early movement was nationalistic and believed in liberal democracy rather than in the teachings of rabbis. Goldberg might have pointed out that the existence of Israel has not ended antisemitism. Then he might discover that one reason for it is that it is a normal state without a mission, and the Arabs hate its not being religious even though it would be a different religion from theirs. How odd that such an author respects the Arabs' religious claims to the area, but his secularism mocks the Jews' religious claims!

The author piles on the contumely against Judaism and settlers when he quotes an Israeli as hating the settlers for "arrogance." By that he means that the government subsidizes their communities, which they build up by starting with a foothold and then bringing in more people and demanding facilities for them. How odd that this Israeli he quotes denounces the Jews in Yesha as arrogant for demanding subsidy, in a country whose government owns most industry and controls much of the rest, so that it subsidizes almost everything and everyone, including communities in Israel. Jews in the Negev are not arrogant for getting subsidy, but Jews in Yesha are? This is inconsistent.

The defamation rises in pitch as it descends in logic and decency, when that same fellow denounces settlements for disrespect for the law," because, first of all, he says, they are illegal. Most were set up under Israeli law and by Israeli governments. I have contended before that they are legal under international law. Second, the man asserts by way of false example that the settlements were plunked down on Arabs' farmland. Arabs' farmland was not used for Jewish communities in Yesha. Zionists either purchased their land or used state land, which most of Yesha is. It is the Arabs who steal land and whose settlements and farms often are illegal. Sometimes roads are built partly on former farmland, but Arabs receive compensation, just as eminent domain works in the US.

That same person goes on to accuse Zionism of having "racist, colonialist elements" and chauvinism. It would be interesting, and would buttress the author's case, if those accusations were defined and examples were given. They are not. We have just the name-calling. The author calls the Zionist settlers zealous, but who is more zealous than that name-caller? How useful that man is to the author! He make all sorts of false or unsubstantiated accusations for the author, and the author sits back and accepts them as if Gospel. Ironically, in the end, that man admits that a full withdrawal from Yesha would not lead to peace.

The author went to Gaza City to visit Sheikh Yassin and Rantisi, heads of Hamas. To the author's credit, he does not pull punches about the terrorists, though he does not use that word but "extremists." He does not use the emotional language against the Arabs that he uses against the Jews. Neither does he quote their opponents, the way he does with the Jews. About the Jews, he uses the epithet "racist," without demonstrating any racism. He quotes Rantisi matter of factly, "The Jews are the enemy of God, and God is the enemy of the Jews." No hostile remarks are made about that fanaticism and bigotry. That is a double standard in behalf of the Arabs. In my youth, we considered those who call the Jews names, and not others, antisemites.

At least Israeli checkpoints are explained as a reaction to Arab attacks.

Two more criticisms of Israeli communities in Yesha: (1) They make Israel "a pariah among the nations;" and (2) The ideology behind them lives "in the glorious Jewish past and in the messianic future, not in the reality of today, in which Jewish soldiers give their lives to protect settlements," etc. Since the Arabs would not be satisfied with total Israeli abandonment of the Jewish settlements, and since the rest of the world appeases the Arabs, abandonment would not elevate Israel's reputation but forfeit respect. The importance to having a Jewish state of keeping the cradle of Jewish civilization, and the holy sites in it, escapes the author. It is too complex for me to elaborate here.

The author's solution is for Israel to run away and let the Arabs import heavy weaponry. He thinks that such a victory for jihad would be safe for the Jews rather than prompt a surge of fanaticism. Then it is he who is not realistic. The religious Jews are realistic.

Israel has these options, we are told: Keep the settlements and become demographically submerged, institute apartheid, or withdraw behind a wall. He forgets about the million Arabs within Israel, who would be multiplying on the Israeli side of the wall and who are increasingly prone to commit terrorism. The unstated choice, which I favor, is for Israel to hold on to Yesha and give the Arabs true autonomy. Bar them from employment in Jewish communities there and in Israel and stop subsidizing them. The Arabs, who make nothing of their opportunities, would have to evacuate. In Israel, if the government required national service of its Arab citizens, and if it cracked down on land theft, illegal building, tax evasion, and rioting, and if it stopped the quota system in favor of Arab college students, and if it discontinued the use of Arabic as a national language, those Arabs, too, would reconsider their residency.

How awful of the Israeli Army -- it "fired on a demonstration!" When the Army fires, it is not a demonstration but a riot. How awful of the Army -- "at least four children were killed." Might the author not inquire why Arab children are positioned amongst adult rioters and gunmen? The answer is to provide human shields for the gunmen and to provide propaganda if killed. Golderg is falling in with the propaganda motive and failing to support the children, after all.

The summary paragraph is, "Today, the Jews have a national home, a potent Air Force to protect it, and the patronage of the most powerful country on earth." He concludes that the Jews don't need Yesha. How wrong he is! Today the Jews have a sliver of their national home, too small to afford strategic depth. It must have Yesha. Yesha is the historical core of the homeland. Without Yesha, that Air Force cannot train or turn around in the air easily. Nor is an Air Force whose bases easily can be bombarded, so potent. The natural tank traps of Yesha and the Golan keep the enemy away, as the oceans once did for American defense.

The P.A. and Egypt have the patronage of the most powerful country on earth. Every means of defense used by Israel draws US criticism. The US subsidizes the P.A., trains its terrorists, and seeks to strip Israel of territory needed for defense both from Arafat's Arabs and from outside Arabs. The US does little for Israel but Congress gives it the money to pay the annual interest on high-interest loans by the US and the US makes occasional vetoes in the Security Council. The US prefers to feed Israel disinformation, to minimize and then undo its military victories, to rearm Egypt against it, to deny its moral case, and to ignore its war on terrorism. The US uses its leverage over Israel to demand it not sell arms that compete with US arms makers, thereby crimping Israel's military industry and its development and therefore Israeli defense.

As an exercise in pro-Arab propaganda, the article is superb. The author managed to drag in numerous popular misconceptions as if uneducated about the issues, find the worst spokesmen for Israel's cause, treat the Arabs gingerly, mix lies, half-truths, and truths, and engage in religious bigotry in the name of ethics. That is quite a feat. The New Yorker has produced quite a polemic.


Richard Shulman is a veteran defender of Israel on several web-based forums. His comments and analyses appear often on Think-Israel. He provides cool information and right-on-target overviews. He distributes his essays by email. To subscribe, write him at


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