Roger Cohen Distorts Israel Hayom ‘Stone Age’ Comment

Days after a New York Times editorial completely distorted a Hebrew poem cited by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu – the Chaim Nahman Bialik was a rejection of human revenge, not an endorsement of it – columnist Roger Cohen similarly distorts another Israeli source. Cohen writes (“Israel’s bloody status quo“):

Sheldon Adelson’s right-wing Israel Hayom, the biggest-selling newspaper in Israel, has called for Gaza to be “returned to the Stone Age.” During the last Israeli bombing campaign in Gaza, in 2012, a government minister called for Gaza to be consigned “to the Middle Ages.” Before that, there was the Gaza War of 2008-2009, in which 1,166 Palestinians died and 13 Israelis, according to the Israel Defense Forces.

The story goes on and on. There is no denouement. Gaza, a small place jammed with 1.8 million people, does not recess to the Stone, Iron, Middle or other Ages. It does not get flattened, as Ariel Sharon’s son once proposed. The death toll is overwhelmingly skewed against Palestinians. Hamas, with its militia and arsenal of rockets, continues to run Gaza. The dead die for nothing.

Like the editorial writer who either ignored or did not comprehend the well-known, crucial lines of the Bialik poem rejecting the notion of human vengeance, Cohen has completely distorted an excerpt from  Israel Hayom by removing it from its context. Here is what Israel Hayom’s Amos Regev actually wrote:

The Gaza Strip must be returned to the Stone Age. Not in the sense of destroying every home and all the infrastructure, which would leave Gaza residents wandering among ruins. Rather, Israel should eliminate every rocket, bomb and gun in Gaza. In other words, get rid of the arsenal Hamas has accumulated over the past 10 years. The snake must be defanged, leaving Hamas without rockets. The most it would have left would be stones. . . .

Rather, Israel must return Hamas to a situation in which the most it can do is throw stones. This is how it was when Hamas was founded, in Gaza, during the First Intifada. But since then, particularly over the past 10 years, Hamas equipped itself with long-range rockets. It would take only 10 days to return Hamas to the Stone Age.

In other words, Regev is not talking about “flattening” Gaza, as Cohen would have readers believe. Rather, Regev’s reference to the “Stone Age” refers to the demilitarization of Gaza, in which Hamas, stripped of its rocket arsenal, would be armed only with stones.

Margaret Sullivan, public editor for The New York Times, just published a column on the onslaught of criticism that the paper has received for its coverage, including complaints about the distortion of the Bialik poem. Her list should be expanded.

Cohen also approvingly cites from a mendacious Haaretz editorial which attempted to implicate the entire “Jewish state” and “Jewish tribe” in the murder of Muhammad Abu Khdeir. Cohen writes:

Images of blown-up Palestinian children, and that skewed death toll, will hurt Israel. Its drift toward a culture of hatred toward Arabs will continue. The murder of Muhammad Abu Khdeir in revenge for the murders of three Israeli teenagers, and the brutal police beating of his cousin, were signs. Netanyahu called the Israeli teenagers’ killers “human animals.” The liberal daily Haaretz rightly observed: “Abu Khdeir’s murderers are not ‘Jewish extremists.’ They are the descendants and builders of a culture of hate and vengeance.”

Haaretz‘s gross charge about the essential nature of the “Jewish state” as possessing a “culture of hate and vengeance,” repeated by Cohen as well as Jake Tapper on CNN, is belied by the across the board condemnation of the despicable crime. Condemnations of Muhammad Abu Khdeir’s murder have poured in from all sectors of Israel– from politicians across the political spectrum, from rabbis of every denomination and stripe, from secular, religious and ultra-orthodox communities, from those living within Israel’s pre-1967 boundaries and those living in settlements.  Prime Minister Netayahu unequivocally condemned the perpetrators multiple times, both before and after the perpetrators were identified, stating that there was no place “for those kind of murderers in Israeli society,”  Israeli Chief Rabbis Yosef Yitzchak and David Lau condemned the murder as an “outrageous crime,” while Rabbi Elyakim Levanon, one of the leading rabbis of settlers in Judea and Samaria condemned the murder as evil, calling for the Jewish perpetrators to receive the death penalty. Haredi rabbis throughout the country also vigorously denounced the murder– from the spiritual leader of the Sephardic Shas faction to  the head of the Ashkenazi Haredi community, who both emphasized that “violence and revenge” is not the Jewish way and that whoever does such things “threatens the life of the Jewish people” and is deserving of the most severe punishment.  Knesset members from across the political spectrum unanimously condemned the murder.  All of Israel and  the entire Jewish nation were shocked and revolted by the murder and rushed to denounce and condemn it in no uncertain terms.
Those then who continue to suggest the Jewish culture is one of “hate and vengeance”  while willfully ignoring the condemnation and denunciations around them expose their own single-minded quest to libel and defame Israel, Judaism and Jews as a whole.

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