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Jonathan Freedland and the “Price Tag”

by LeanToTheLeft

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A response by CiFer “LeanToTheLeft” to the Guardian article “Israel’s hawks can’t dodge blame for this day of violence”


“Israel’s hawks can’t dodge blame for this day of violence”.

Even the title of the article smacks of damage limitation after the killing of the infant Ali Dawabshe in an Israeli settler arson attack.

It’s just one day not a systemic routine. Violence – not intent to murder.

Three paragraphs and we see where Freedland’s going. Firstly the hawks – Netanyahu, Naftali Bennett of Jewish Home, the army and defence minister and their empty condemnations of this terror attack. Countered by the third paragraph and the Israeli human rights group B’Tselem (think civil society, checks and balances, possibility of justice at some point).

But it has been acknowledged as a terror attack by all these people. That means the price tag settler terrorists potentially line up with Hamas, Al-Shabab, Al-Qaeda and even the devil incarnate ISIS.
ISIS of the beheadings. Al-Qaeda of the Twin towers . Al-Shabab of the Kenyan mall attack. Hamas of the suicide bombings. Price Tag of the baby burnings.

It’s a PR difficulty for a liberal Zionist like Freedland.

He uses the term “price tag” once in the article, using inverted commas just as I have. Has he ever used this term before in his op-eds on Israel and Palestine?

The habit of the media probably since it existed has been to simultaneously vilify and glamorise terror and other subversive threats – the names are still with us: Vietcong, Naxalite, Jacobin. Today’s media drum into people’s heads the evils of Al-Qaeda and ISIS.

Will we be following the progress of Price Tag daily in the British media as it wreaks havoc in the occupied territories and recruits from impressionable youth in Europe and the USA? Will there be regular analysis of how far the Price Tag ideology reaches into mainstream Israeli society? Will there be calls for all Israelis and in fact all Jews to denounce this ideology and inform on anyone they know who is involved?

Not if Freedland has anything to do with it.

I have read a few Jonathan Freedland articles over the years and sentences like ”The graffiti left by the murderers of baby Ali Saad offered a clue” ring alarm bells. This is distraction time – “offered a clue”, Freedland in expert detective mode. You see me, I got to the point of thinking there was a Jewish terrorist group operating in Israel, particularly in the occupied territories, called Price Tag. That’s how far off the script I went. Whoah! Slow down big guy. Time out. I need talking down.

For Freedland it’s not that simple. The graffiti left by the arsonists points to “a strand of settler extremism that denounces the actual state of Israel”. So. Actually. The State of Israel is our defender in this. The Israeli state is the best qualified to deal with settler extremism, as it is with all of its neighbourhood difficulties.

And implicitly Freedland wants us to understand these divisions are fundamental to the culture of Israeli society – not in fact that the State of Israel was built on settler ideology or that Jewish extremists from outside Israel are being given financial incentives to join their terrorist brethren.

The last few paragraphs must extinguish our concerns about the baby burners of Price Tag – “it would be wrong to see the Israeli right as a monolith”. The Israeli terrorists are outsiders, misfits and there is still strong evidence of pluralistic Israeli democracy with the mention of Reuven Rivlin “the country’s most urgent voice against bigotry”.

And finally we have a reminder of more familiar threats fed to us by our own media. What about Syria? Yemen? ISIS? – the newly identified Israeli terror group Price Tag is well down the list of fear now.

I find the last paragraph particularly suspicious because it is empty of the usual constructive liberal message. It seems there is a very simple “Us or them” narrative of the conflict currently being pushed on various levels by Israel as the latest excuse for its conduct, similar to George W Bush’s statement “either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists”. Freedland writes of “enmity piled on enmity, hatred on hatred, within and without”, effectively damning any prospect of peace between Israel and Palestine because the entire region has now been ignited in sectarian conflict. Maybe we the readers are better off with the Price Tag we know.

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