World News

08.01.14

The Blogger Who Offered an Argument for Palestinian Genocide

New York-based writer Yochanan Gordon created a Twitter firestorm Friday with a piece on The Times of Israel—since deleted—called ‘When Genocide Is Permissible.’

In a piece on The Times of Israel site headlined “When Genocide is Permissible,” the New York-based blogger waited until the end of his 811-word diatribe to deliver his damning thesis statement:

“I will conclude with a question for all the humanitarians out there,” Gordon writes. “Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu clearly stated at the outset of this incursion that his objective is to restore a sustainable quiet for the citizens of Israel. We have already established that it is the responsibility of every government to ensure the safety and security of its people. If political leaders and military experts determine that the only way to achieve its goal of sustaining quiet is through genocide, is it then permissible to achieve those responsible goals?”

Within moments, outraged reactions began pouring in on Twitter—including one from this writer—and shortly after, the post was taken down.

But a cached version of the piece, including all of the original language is still available, and Gordon also posted it in a recent Facebook status. Three people have liked it.

Gordon did not respond to a request for comment from The Daily Beast, but David Horovitz, the founding editor of The Times of Israel, said in an email that the post “breaches Times of Israel editorial guidelines.”

He said that after ensuring that the publication took the post down, he did not wish to speak on the matter any further. Asked if he believed he bore any responsibility for the outrage the piece inspired, as his publication is in the midst of covering an ongoing conflict, he offered no response.

“The existence of Israel and the Jewish people is at stake. How do you suggest we neutralize the threat?”

Gordon’s piece comes on the heels of a recent op-ed from Thane Rosenbaum, director of the Forum on Law, Culture & Society at New York University Law School, arguing that Palestinians can no longer be considered “citizens.”

And earlier this summer, Israeli Knesset member Ayelet Shaked shared a Facebook post that included language referring to Palestinian children as “little snakes.”

Gordon is a blogger and not a staffer at The Times of Israel, which does nothing to excuse his language but does help offer Horovitz an opportunity to dodge questions from reporters. The process of becoming a blogger for the site appears to be simple, with questions about topics that will be covered, experience with said topics, and a brief biography of the author to accompany a 300x300 pixel black-and-white image.

The blogger defended his piece Friday in a series of tweets to outraged readers, including writer Elon Green.

“The existence of Israel and the Jewish people is at stake. How do you suggest we neutralize the threat?” Gordon tweeted.

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Maybe Gordon is just a moron. But extreme language like his has a tendency to spur yet more hate, some of it anti-Semitic, like this image that was sent to me on Twitter:

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The blogger contends that the media coverage of the Israel-Hamas conflict has been one-sided, portraying Israel as a violent bully and Palestinians in Gaza as hapless victims subject to a calculated assault.

“News anchors such as those from CNN, BBC and Al-Jazeera have not missed an opportunity to point out the majority of innocent civilians who have lost their lives as a result of this war,” Gordon writes. “But anyone who lives with rocket launchers installed or terror tunnels burrowed in or around the vicinity of their home cannot be considered an innocent civilian.”

That argument, against the innocence of Palestinian civilians, is what Rosenbaum attempted to describe in his op-ed for The Wall Street Journal. After reading Gordon’s piece, the law expert assured The Daily Beast that Israel wasn’t committing genocide but that it could if it wanted.

“Well, using the word ‘genocide’ is an insult to what Operation Protective Edge is about. It’s morally wrong and it’s belied by the facts,” Rosenbaum said. “The goal is to protect, not mass murder. The Israelis don’t have a systematic plan to kill all Gazans. They receive no advantage on the world stage whenever a single civilian is killed. If they wanted to commit genocide, given the massive firepower they possess, they could achieve it in a day without the loss of life of a single Israeli soldier.”

Even suggesting in public discourse that a reasoned and analytical line of thinking could lead a person to genocide as a conclusion is dangerous. Hamas, the militant Islamist wing that wields political power in Gaza, is the organization most often accused of being genocidal. So what can be said when it is discussed as a possibility in a media outlet like The Times of Israel?

“The blog post, which was both damnable and ignorant, was posted to the site by a blogger,” Miriam Herschlag, the ops and blogs editor of The Times of Israel, said in an emailed statement to The Daily Beast. “It was removed by the Times of Israel for breaching our editorial guidelines. The blog has been discontinued.”

Discontinued, but not forgotten, Gordon’s headline was trending on Twitter on Friday, so perhaps he got the notoriety he wanted.

The Times of Israel welcomes bloggers of all stripes,” the website states. “If you have an idea for a new blog about anything from your life as a struggling thespian (or politician, plumber or fisherman, for that matter), to the daily doings of your remote Jewish community, recipes for potato latkes, compelling musings on the divine—we’re open-minded; you get the idea.”