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An Extreme Reversal

After years of avoiding describing right-wing Jewish extremists as, well, extremists, WorldNetDaily's Aaron Klein is suddenly tossing the word around.

By Terry Krepel
Posted 10/16/2008

Aaron Klein is not unfamiliar with Jewish extremism in the West Bank and Gaza. He just has a history of whitewashing it:

  • When Eden Natan-Zada, an AWOL Israeli soldier, shot and killed four Arabs and wounded a dozen more on a bus in Gaza without provocation and was then killed by bystanders who witnessed the shooting before he could reload, Klein declared that Natan-Zada was "murdered" by a "mob of Palestinians." He never described Natan-Zada's victims as having been "murdered."
  • Klein has interviewed sympathizers to the far-right-wing Kach/Kahane Chai and related movements, such as Yekutel Ben Yaacov, without telling his readers about the violent history of those movements.
  • Klein reported on a Jewish woman, Shlomit Bar-Kochba, who moved illegally with her family into a market in the West Bank town of Hebron without mention the violent history of her family; the woman's father was part of a "Jewish underground" group that targeted violence against Arabs in the West Bank.

Of all the words Klein used to describe these people, there was one that pretty much avoided: extremist.

So why is Klein suddenly throwing the word around now to describe certain Jews?

In a Sept. 29 article, Klein asked: "Is the Israeli government leading a campaign to de-legitimize Jewish settlers who live in the West Bank – territory slated to become part of a Palestinian state if current negotiations are pushed through?"

Klein began by claiming that "authorities blamed a series of extremist acts on the Jews of Gush Katif, the former Jewish communities of Gaza" during the Israeli withdrawal from Gaza in 2005 when "many of the acts in question actually were carried out by extremist elements with dubious connections to fringe Jewish organizations from outside Gaza, unconnected to and unsupported by Gush Katif or the larger settler movement," adding:

A case in point was the extremism of protesters inside the Palm Beach Hotel, a rundown former Jewish beachside resort on the shores of Gaza that had been utilized as a staging ground for a group of rowdy protesters who came to Gush Katif to oppose Israel's Gaza evacuation. The Jews inside the hotel staged several events provoking Israeli forces, and even were involved with some run-ins with local Arabs, although it seemed the Arabs had started the confrontations.

The Jewish residents of Gaza, mostly peaceful farmers who put up passive resistance to Israel's evacuation, distanced themselves from the extremist hotel protesters. And yet the Israeli and international media did not distinguish Gaza's Jews from the outside provocateurs at the hotel, which was one of several examples of extremism blamed on the tree-lined communities of Gush Katif and used against them to argue for their expulsion.

But when Klein covered the Israeli withdrawal from Gush Katif for WND in the summer of 2005, at no time did he describe any of the events there as being perpetrated by "extremists":

  • An Aug. 16, 2005, article, for instance, Klein noted that "violence broke out here this afternoon between security forces and residents who tried to block army moving trucks from entering the area ahead of tonight's final evacuation deadline."
  • A Sept. 17 article stated that "upwards of 7,000 protesters have infiltrated Gush Katif the past few weeks and have been living in tent cities scattered throughout various communities. Many are clashing with police and soldiers," but Klein did not indicate they were "extremists."
  • A Sept. 18 article claimed that "the international media have been reporting on a 'standoff' here between Israeli troops and ''activists' here who have 'barricaded' themselves inside the main synagogue, even though the activists -- teenagers from throughout Israel and around the world -- are entering and leaving the structure freely."
  • A Sept. 19 summary of the evacuation noted a "standoff between security forces and residents," and later added: "A few activists light tires on fire and place two large, burning garbage bins in the middle of the road. Several news anchors broadcast live in front of the burning garbage bins and claim settlers are violently resisting orders to evacuate." Klein further notes, "Protests breakout, with residents and teenage protesters blocking buses brought in to hole off residents slated to be forced from their homes," adding, "Some families reluctantly walk out of their homes, tears streaming down their faces. Others put up resistance." He described the post-evacuation "ghost town" of Neve Dekalim: "Rows of houses that once contained 467 Jewish families are now deserted, debris strewn across lawns and along the sidewalks. Many front doors are wide open, windows smashed through. Inside evacuated homes, kitchen counters, closets and bathrooms lie in ruins, broken to pieces by Jewish residents." There is no mention of "extremists."

Similarly, Klein's contemporaneous reporting on the Palm Beach Hotel incident did not find any "extremists" involved there from his point of view -- he described them only as "anti-withdrawal activists." The only time the word appears is when Klein quoted Israeli officials asserting "provocations by right-wing extremists." If, as Klein claimed, " the Israeli and international media did not distinguish Gaza's Jews from the outside provocateurs at the hotel," Klein really didn't either.

If Klein didn't see any "extremists" then, why is he going through all this revisionism to find them now? Because he thinks his "mostly peaceful farmers" in those "tree-lined communities" in the Gaza and the West Bank are being framed, which he portrays as a conspiracy to, as he stated in his lead paragraph, "de-legitimize Jewish settlers."

Of course, Klein's refusal to see "extremism" back then and to make little, if any, distinction between what he is now portraying as workaday settlers and the likes of Eden Natan-Zada, Yekutel Ben Yaacov and Shlomit Bar-Kochba. Now he's working overtime -- variations on "extremist" appear 13 times in his Sept. 29 article, while "fringe" appears five times.

Klein asserts that "The news here the past few weeks has been filled with reports of 'extremist' West Bank settlers engaged in violence against Palestinians and Israeli troops." But he cites only a few examples -- one of which he seems to justify.

Klein noted a pipe bomb explosion outside the home of Zeev Sternhell, a peace activist Klein described only as "an extreme leftist Israeli professor ... who is a prominent proponent of expelling Jews from the West Bank." Klein offers no evidence that Sternhell is an "extreme leftist" or that "expelling Jews from the West Bank" is inherently an "extreme leftist" position.

At no point did Klein ascribe any political ideology to anyone else in his article. Nor does acknowledge that if having Jews leave the West Bank is "extreme leftist," its opposite -- removing Palestinians from the West Bank -- would thus be an "extreme right" view.

Removing Palestinians and Arabs from not just the West Bank and Gaza but from Israel proper was a key component of the Kach/Kahane Chai movement. And Klein, in November 2007, wrote favorably of what could be termed a more moderate version of that stance: a plan, called the Israeli Initiative, to pay Palestinians to leave the West Bank and for Israel to take full possession of it. As might be expected, nowhere did Klein describe the plan or its chief promoter, Benny Elon, as "extreme right" even though Elon is chairman of the right-wing National Union party.

Klein repeated his point in an Oct. 2 article featuring an Israeli politician, David Rotem, making the same claim. But while Klein again called Sternhell an "extreme leftist," he described Rotem only as a "nationalist." In fact, Rotem is a member of the right-wing Yisrael Beitenu party, which believes that Arabs should not allowed to become Israeli citizens and opposed the 2005 disengagement from Gush Katif and Gaza.

An Oct. 4 article by Klein, meanwhile, went into conspiracy-theory territory, reporting that "[a] prominent leader of the West Bank's Jewish communities has accused Israel's security forces of orchestrating a recent attack on an extreme leftist Israeli professor and then using the attack to demonize West Bank Jews ahead of an expected evacuation of the territory":

Settler leader Daniela Weiss today charged the attack was orchestrated by Israel's Shin Bet Security Services to turn public opinion against the settlers.

"A settler would never have done a thing like that," Weiss said. "It's in Shin Bet's best interest to create this provocation, in order to libel the settlers and thereby pave the way to settlement evacuation."

What Klein doesn't tell you: Weiss' current criminal history. From an Oct. 3 Israel National News article:

Weiss was charged Friday with assaulting a police officer, interfering with legal proceedings and hindering a police officer in the performance of his duty. Police said she harassed and attacked police officers while resisting her own arrest. They also claimed that she "touched" a vehicle which earlier carried three Jews suspected of setting fire to an Arab olive grove at Kadum Thursday.

According to a report in Ynet, police claimed that they were in the process of dusting the car for fingerprints of the suspects and that by touching it repeatedly, Weiss was tampering with evidence. They also claimed that she resisted arrest by lying down under a vehicle and kicking police when they dragged her out from under it. They claim they were using "reasonable force."

Seven other Jews, besides Weiss and [Shoshana] Shilo, were arrested after police tore down the outpost of Shvut Ami, near Kedumim. Police forces continued visiting the site of the outpost during the night and prevented youths from re-establishing the point of settlement.

Isn't Weiss' background relevant to the issue of allegations of violence and criminality among Jews in the West Bank, which Klein has been focused upon of late?

Perhaps Klein didn't report it because it would undermine his whole thesis: that there aren't any "extremist" settlers living in the West Bank.

Note that, again, Klein makes sure to call Sternhell an "extreme leftist Israeli professor" and, again, is the only person in the article identified by political ideology.

Indeed, the words "right" or "conservative" are found nowhere in any of Klein's articles -- not even to describe the "extremists" he suddenly abhors. Nor does Klein name any of the "fringe Jewish organizations" he purports to be behind the "extremist" violence.

Apparently, Aaron Klein is not ready to be that extreme -- or that honest as a reporter.

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