By B. Cohen
Even a week of terrorist outrages in Paris wasn’t enough to convince the New York Times editorial page to temporarily suspend its obsession with the supposed evils of Israeli policy.
On Monday morning, alongside a piece signed by the Times Editorial Board which discussed anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim sentiment in France in several places – but did not deign to mention the fear among French Jews of rising anti-Semitism – readers of the “newspaper of record” were confronted with another article, entitled “Why I Won’t Serve Israel.”
The author, a 25 year-old Israeli-American named Moriel Rothman-Zecher, penned a lengthy manifesto justifying his refusal to be drafted into the IDF. “Some hope for a less violent, more decent future lies with the real traitors, the disregarded millions of Israeli citizens who have refused to serve in the army,” he wrote.
Neither the timing of the article nor its theme escaped critical scrutiny, however.
“Tomorrow, the families of four French Jews, were murdered in Paris for the sin of buying challot before shabbat, have chosen to bury their loved ones in Israel,” Rabbi Abraham Cooper, associate dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, told The Algemeiner. Cooper pointed out that last year, more than 50,000 French Jews sought information about immigrating to Israel, a country, he said, that remains “a safe haven for Jews targeted for death because they are Jews.”
“Too bad there was no such state during the Shoah. Six million Jews paid the price,” said Cooper. “Apparently, there was no space in the oped pages of the New York Times for these inconvenient truths. Instead we got another cranky essay by another Israeli exercising his right to dissent, a right safeguarded by the very IDF he loathes.”
Until today, Rothman-Zecher – who confusingly gives his name as “Moriel Zachariah Rothman” on his personal blog – was virtually unknown. Those visitors to his blog who are familiar with the endless meditations on personal identity beloved of the American Jewish left will immediately be struck by a number of familiar themes.
In a personal statement, Rothman-Zecher, who was born in Israel and grew up in the United States, acknowledged on his blog “both my privilege and the fact that I am here [in Israel] by choice.” Had he been an 18 year-old drafted into the army, he speculated, he probably would not have refused the draft.
Rothman-Zecher then went on to argue that “most” young Israelis serve in the IDF because of legal and social pressure to do so, and not because they aspire to military service. “In many if not most cases, the decision to serve was barely a choice, and was more of a product of 18 years of upbringing, societal pressure, propaganda, the threat of jail or punishment and the perhaps more devastating threat of stigmatization and metaphorical/spiritual exile,” he wrote.
Perhaps predictably, Rothman-Zecher made no secret of his ambition to be a cause celebre. “I certainly hope that my action can be an example for others (including other immigrants from the US who have similar privileges and opportunities), that it will take away a bit of the fear and stigma surrounding the idea of refusal, and that others will, indeed, follow in the same path, just as I am following in the path of those who have refused to serve in the military before me, here and elsewhere in the world.”
In his New York Times piece today, Rothman-Zecher was at pains to portray Israel as a rogue state. “As the Israeli government leads us further from peace, and the army faithfully executes its violent orders, this is the kind of treachery we need most,” he said.
Gilead Ini, a senior analyst with media watchdog CAMERA, slammed the Times for “perversely using the emigration of over one percent of the French Jewish population as an occasion to do what the newspaper does so often: Undermine Israel’s right to exist or, in this case, its ability to defend itself, by giving the country’s most marginal and hateful critics a platform.”
Added Ini: “It is a reminder that the New York Times opinion editor recently admitted to treating Israel with a harsher standard.”
For Rabbi Cooper, however, the publication of the piece “inadvertently highlighted an important truth.”
“Israel the only democracy in the neighborhood,” he said. “Good luck to the author if he had dared pen such a piece from Beirut, Damascus or Tehran.”