On the Larry Derfner affair

On the Larry Derfner affair

It was last week, while marching in J Street’s day of action for two states, that I was shocked to learn of what Larry Derfner had written on his personal blog, explicitly justifying Palestinian terrorism.  As a result, he’s been fired as a columnist for The Jerusalem Post, even though he had published an apology and withdrawn the objectionable blog post.

It’s clear (even within the full context of what he wrote then) that Derfner meant to shock Israelis into action against the occupation and for a two-state solution rather than to applaud Palestinian terrorism.  I’m somewhat divided on whether The Post should have fired him.  Following his apology and explanation, it can be argued that the firing was not justified.  On the other hand, The Post faced an understandable backlash from many readers.

His blogging colleague, Dimi Reider, has pointed out that the right-leaning Post does not discipline its right-wing writers for their misdeeds.  I’d add that The Jerusalem Post was absolutely wrong for firing Naomi Chazan during the Im Tirtzu-New Israel Fund brouhaha last year.

Robert Mackey, in his NY Times Lede blog, has admirably summed up the issues in this matter.  He also includes important links and references, should you want to examine this further.

As for the substance of Derfner’s writing, what occupation still means for the Palestinians, I recommend this article by Haaretz West Bank correspondent Amira Hass.  Although I can do without her overall anti-Zionist perspective, this is a taste of why I’m recommending it:

…. What does it mean when Supreme Court justices allow the separation barrier to turn the village of Walajeh into a ghetto? Does it mean they’re not afraid of the International Court of Justice in the Hague? … What does it mean that in the midst of a period of calm in the West Bank, Israel Defense Forces soldiers kill two young men in Qalandiyah, that Civil Administration officials issue demolition orders, that the military court arrests Palestinian children on suspicion of throwing rocks and the civil court releases settlers who are suspected of nearly splitting the head of a Palestinian boy?….

By | 2011-08-31T15:18:00-04:00 August 31st, 2011|Blog|3 Comments


  1. DenverChuck September 2, 2011 at 6:06 pm - Reply

    No one should reject Larry Derfner’s reasonableness in writing what he wrote in his blog, unless they are willing to agree to a permanent ban on Ehud Barak for saying he would be a terrorist if he were a Palestinian under occupation, or agree to a vitriolic attack on the founders of Israel for actual terrorism against the British.

  2. Benjamin September 4, 2011 at 10:12 pm - Reply

    Two wrongs don’t make a right; just because Y does the same as X and isn’t punished, doesn’t make it any more right. Drefner said that the ‘Palestinians have the right to resist it – to use violence against Israelis, even to kill Israelis’. Not soldiers, not occupiers; Israelis. And in case there’s any possible ambiguity in his original post, he justifies the Eilat attack as well, which [i]wasn’t[/i] against civilians:

    ‘Whoever the Palestinians were who killed the eight Israelis near Eilat last week, however vile their ideology was, they were justified to attack.’

    I’m not sure how many mainstream American papers would tolerate someone who said that (hypothetical) Iraqi suicide ‘have the right to resist it – to use violence against Americans, even to kill Americans.’ (Of course, the political periodicals are another story).

    I don’t want to give the wrong impression on the issue; I don’t think Derfner should’ve been fired. But to cast him as visionary and free speech martyr like Silverstein and the Mondoweiss crowd has done, isn’t right either. The man justified indiscriminate mass murder; how anyone could call that ‘reasonable’ is beyond me.

  3. Tom Mitchell September 5, 2011 at 2:12 am - Reply

    I disagree with Derfner in one important regard–I don’t justify terrorism against ordinary civilians. Palestinians are entitled to use armed struggle, which unfortunately in Palestinian usage is a euphemism for terrorism. But armed struggle can also include sabotage and guerrilla warfare. But Israel by labeling all resistance as terrorism also bears some responsiblity for conflating the concepts. Hezbollah has used mostly guerrilla warfare in Lebanon against the Israeli occupation. Hamas in its early days used mostly guerrilla warfare against Israeli soldiers during the First Intifada. Lehi and Etzel used guerrilla warfare and sabotage against the British.

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