The Human Stain of Moral Preening
Nicholas Kristof of The New York Times is everyone’s favorite bleeding-heart columnist. His focus on human rights abuses, especially in Darfur, won him a Pulitzer Prize (his second) for “his graphic, deeply reported columns that . . . gave voice to the voiceless.” Not surprisingly, his gaze has occasionally shifted to the evils of “Israeli colonies,” otherwise known as Jewish settlements.
Nearly seven years ago Kristof visited a colony/settlement located “in the heart of a city with 160,000 Palestinians.” The city was Hebron, the biblically revered site of the burial caves of the patriarchs and matriarchs of the Jewish people; and subsequently King David’s first capital before relocating his throne to Jerusalem. Jews lived in Hebron for centuries until the horrific massacre of 1929, when rampaging Arabs murdered 67 innocents and survivors fled the city. Not until 1968 did despised Jewish “settlers” return to rebuild their ancient community, established millennia before Palestinians invented themselves as a people. History did not matter to Kristof. Relying upon B’Tselem, the left-wing Israeli human-rights organization, and an interview with a Palestinian housewife who had the “misfortune” to live near Jews in Hebron, he decried the Israeli “oppressor that lets settlers steal land and club women.” (June 22, 2008)
Kristof’s most recent variation on his favorite theme of unjust oppression , entitled “The Human Stain” (February 26), focused on the Palestinian village of Sinjil, near Ramallah. Accompanied (no surprise) by a B’Tselem guide, he doubled his previous sample of one aggrieved Palestinian to quote two farmers who complained about Israeli abuses. Kristof acknowledged that “some Israeli settlers have been murdered by Palestinians.” Indeed, he might even have talked to “settler children traumatized by Palestinian violence.” But he didn’t. Yet somehow “that’s the point.” What “point” did Kristof discern? Predictably: “As long as Israel maintains these settlements, illegal in the eyes of most of the world, both sides will suffer.” But for Kristof, to be sure, only suffering Palestinians are newsworthy.
Responsible journalist that he is, Kristof concedes “far worse human rights abuses in the Middle East” than those committed against two Palestinian farmers by evil settlers. He recognizes that at “a time when Saudi Arabia is flogging dissidents, Egypt is sentencing them to death, and Syria is bombing them,” Israel “should stand as a model.” But not for Kristof. The only democratic country in the Middle East, indeed by his own acknowledgment “the nation in which Arab citizens have the most meaningful vote,” is the morally flawed Jewish state. Curiously, his enumeration of Arab misdeeds omits the forbidden phrase in liberal circles emanating from the White House: “Islamist terrorists.” There is no mention of ISIS, ISIL, al-Qaeda, Al-Nusra, Boko Haram, Hamas and Hezbollah, or other “folks” (in the current lexicon) who commit daily atrocities against innocents.
But Kristof finds Israel’s “occupation” (of its biblical homeland, no less) to be “particularly offensive.” Why? Because “it is conducted by the United States’ ally, underwritten with our tax dollars, supported by tax-deductible contributions to settlement groups, and carried out by American bulldozers and weaponry, and presided over by a prime minister who is scheduled to speak to Congress next week.” It is, in sum, all Netanyahu’s fault (and mine, since I contribute a small sum annually to The Hebron Fund).
If only Israel did not “squander” its political capital and “antagonize” friends “with its naked land grab in the West Bank,” it might reach his noble standard of moral purity. Perhaps, Kristof suggests, the Prime Minister might discuss such abuses in his forthcoming address to Congress. I have a better idea: perhaps Mr. Netanyahu will remind Israel’s professed American friends (like Nicholas Kristof) that Judea and Samaria (the West Bank) comprise the biblical homeland of the Jewish people, where Jewish history was forged millennia before self-righteous New York Times pundits offered Israeli prime ministers moral guidance.
Jerold S. Auerbach is a frequent contributor to The Algemeiner.