Tiger in cage.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
In one of my first columns as editor-in-chief (“Halting the hatred,” July 22), I
urged The Jerusalem Post’s journalists and contributors to be more sensitive
when it comes to reporting and commenting on potentially inflammatory topics in
“We at the Post believe that hate speech harms the civil
discourse in Israel, and in my opinion, it poses a real danger to the country’s
very existence as a democratic Jewish state,” I wrote.
Larry Derfner, a
veteran journalist who penned a weekly column and reported for our Magazine
crossed the line into the territory of hate speech when in a personal blog last
week he sought to justify Palestinian terrorism against Israelis.
egregious posting came in response to the August 18 terrorist murder of Israeli
citizens on the Egyptian border.
“Whoever the Palestinians were who
killed the eight Israelis near Eilat last week, however vile their ideology was,
they were justified to attack,” Derfner wrote. “Palestinians have the right to
resist – to use violence against Israelis, even to kill Israelis.”
comments are exceptionally offensive to most Israelis, and especially hurtful to
those who have been victims of terror. They endorse and encourage, if not incite
and inflame, terrorism against Israel.
When Derfner asked that we run the
piece in the Post
, we rejected it and dissociated ourselves completely from his
comments, to which we object in the strongest possible terms.
his column did not appear in the paper, we came to the conclusion that we could
no longer provide a stage to someone who openly promulgates such venomous
Derfner later wrote an apology that we chose not to run. In it, he
expresses deep regret for his blog post, saying: “My intention was to shock
people into recognition, but I ended up shocking many of them into revulsion,
and twisting what I wanted to say into something I didn’t and don’t mean at
“I regret what I wrote [last] Sunday. I apologize to everyone who
was offended by it, and I apologize to my countrymen. The post is no
longer on my blog; I’ve taken it down.”
The substance of Derfner’s
apology itself was not convincing. He used ludicrous logic to defend his
position, repeating the same obscene sentiments that made many readers sick to
their stomachs in the first place.
He had meant, he said, “to shock
Israelis and friends of Israel into seeing how badly we’re hurting the
Palestinians by denying them independence: It’s so bad that it’s helping drive
them to try to kill us.”
If you saw Oren Kessler’s article
in the paper
this week about the anti-Israel coverage in the Arab media following the attacks
on the southern border, you may have noticed that their commentaries were not
significantly different from Derfner’s.
Abdel Bari Atwan, editor-inchief
of the London-based pan- Arab daily Al-Quds Al-Arabi
, wrote that Israel bore
direct responsibility for the terrorist attack on its soil.
put the spotlight back on the most important struggle – that for the honor of
the Arab and Islamic nation,” Atwan argued. “Resistance is a legitimate right as
long as land is occupied and the people and holy places are
Derfner’s blog later appeared on a Hamas website, giving
succor to Israel’s enemies.
By trying to rationalize the murder of his
fellow Jews by terrorists, Derfner – who has always been the consummate
journalist for the Post – went beyond the pale. Consequently we terminated his
The move, I stress, had nothing to do with threats to cancel
subscriptions or advertisements; it was an editorial decision taken on moral
grounds. While politically independent, the Post
is a quintessentially
Zionist newspaper priding itself on its patriotism and credibility, as well as
its balanced reporting and diverse commentaries.
We are certainly not
silencing the Left, and will continue to feature columnists of all political
stripes. Freedom of speech has its limits, however, and Derfner clearly
Derfner is a fine writer but a loose cannon. His column
in the Post
was titled “Rattling the Cage.” There is a huge difference between
rattling the bars and letting the tiger out.