Aviad Kleinberg: Israeli leftist
... Among the leading voices opposing any Israeli action at all aimed at stopping the massive firing by Palestinian terrorists of Qassam and other rockets at Israeli civilians is Aviad Kleinberg, the chairman of the Department of History at Tel Aviv University. How convenient for him that his campus is not (yet) within range of the Palestinian rockets and missiles.
Kleinberg claims to have some expertise in medieval history, as well as philosophy and religion. (His interest in Jewish "religion" seems to end with his pronouncements that the sage Maimonides necessarily implies that one must vote for the Israeli Labor Party's candidate, or Kleinberg's fatwa that all retaliation against terrorists is "not kosher".) Some of his research has been on pop pseudo-medieval novels, like "The Name of the Rose" and the "Da Vinci Code." He also heads the Tel Aviv University Press, a small in-house publishing house at TAU, and writes a regular leftwing column for Yediot Ahronot, Israel's largest-circulation tabloid.
In a recent Op-Ed, Kleinberg denounced all counterattacks by Israel aimed at stopping the firing of Qassam rockets, insisting that the "War on Qassams (is) not kosher... Even during Pesach (Passover), there are methods that are simply not kosher."
Now Qassam rockets are routinely fired by Palestinian terrorists from the Hamas, the PLO and the Islamic Jihad, shot into civilian areas INSIDE Israel, that is, inside Israel's 1967 border lines. Thousands have already been fired at the Jews by the terrorists. Recently the PLO-Hamas terror army added Katyusha rockets to its Gaza arsenal, the same weapon used by the Soviet Red Army with such effectiveness in terrorizing its enemies in World War II, and at least one has been fired at Jewish civilians.
Kleinberg's central thesis is that Israel is behaving like a barbarian terrorist state when it defends its civilians from these rockets:
"IDF (Israel Defense Forces) attacks almost always strike the innocent. The reason they are being fired is psychological. They are intended to give Israelis a nice feeling for the beginning of Pesach (Passover) – "See, the IDF isn't sitting on its hands." Quite the opposite, the army is using what the media admiringly calls (sic) its "iron fist", and is striking painful blows to the innocent."
In other words, Israel shoots at the terrorists for the heck of it because it is a bloodthirsty irrational country trying to terrorize the poor innocent Palestinians for no reason. Kleinberg insists that Israel should not respond at all to having thousands of Qassam rockets shot into its civilian areas, since such rockets are not an "existential threat" to Israel.
Among his other comments in the same piece, Kleinberg denounces the Israeli media for not opposing Israeli retaliations against the rocket shooters:
"If you listen carefully, you can hear the sounds of spring: Birds chirping, the buzz of mosquitoes, and the incessant sound of IDF artillery, turning the lives of innocent Gazans into a living hell. Springtime's here, alright. The IDF's firing a lot, alright, thousands of shells into "open fields" from where the Qassam Rockets are being fired. Of course, the term "open fields" is given to interpretation….Qassams are primitive rockets… You can find an article, maybe even a picture, in (Israeli daily) Yedioth Ahronoth, of a dog at Kibbutz Zikim that was literally scared to death by the exchange of fire. "The artillery fire killed our dog," screamed the headlines. Who said Jews had no compassion?...And IDF attacks almost always strike the innocent..."
Kleinberg has long denounced Israel for retaliatory and pre-emptive anti-terror strikes. Kleinberg believes Israel should be prevented from conducting any such strikes as long as there is any risk at all that some Palestinian civilian might get hurt. But since the terrorists firing the rockets at the Jews always are based and hiding among Palestinian citizens, Kleinberg's position is equivalent to demanding that Israel refrain altogether from defending its own citizens from Palestinian rocket and mortar terrorism.
Instead, Kleinberg demands that Israel restrict its responses to terrorism to displays of pacifism and turning the other cheek, at least until a danger arises that is "considered an existential necessity." Otherwise, Israel itself is the real terrorist. Kleinberg then concludes: "Arab lives are very cheap in the State of Israel."
All this is the familiar message from Israel's extremist anti-Israel leftist academics: Palestinian atrocities are acts of "self-defense" and "protests against occupation," even when they involve shooting rockets into Jewish civilian homes. Israel's actions to stop the rockets are human rights abuses that must be denounced and obstructed at all costs, all so that the Qassams may be fired with continued impunity. As Kleinberg says:
"But more importantly, the (Israeli counter-) attacks are also intended - pay attention to the sophisticated psychology here – to put pressure on the civilian population, that (sic) will put pressure on PA authorities, that (sic) will put pressure on the Qassam gunmen to stop shooting. It's like that song about the little goat at the end of the Pesach haggadah (holiday prayer reader)."
Kleinberg has been turning out extremist anti-Israel propaganda from his Tel Aviv University office for many years. Israel is not a democracy at all, Kleinberg pontificates, because of the "reversal of Israel('s) integration into the block of democratic nations and the adoption in its place (of) the same pattern of violent and ethnocentric policies we officially condemn." In other words, in order to be a democracy, Israel first needs to adopt those extremist policies which he himself favors and most Israeli voters oppose.
Kleinberg insists Israel is "autocratic" and undemocratic because it "relies on its leaders," like Ariel Sharon. "This (system of democracy) is not the case in Israel today. The great weakness of the system is that too much power is concentrated in the hands of the prime minister, sending signs of autocracy (for instance, making his son a secret advisor.)"
Kleinberg considers Ariel Sharon a warmonger devoted to preventing peace, but also regards Ehud Barak from the Labor Party Left in the same way. All they offered the Palestinians, according to Kleinberg, was a "Bantustan," that familiar nonsense term beloved by the Bash-Israel Left. (Google and Yahoo list over 40,000 web pages in which Israel haters have linked the term "Israel" and "Palestinian" with "Bantustan".) Here is Kleinberg's bottom-line assessment of his own country's defense strategy: "So Israel has to make sure the Palestinians give up their dreams, that they reach total despair."
Kleinberg's conception of democracy is best illustrated by the fact that he is a longtime endorser of politically-motivated insurrection and mutiny by Israeli soldiers. Law-breaking is his notion of the highest values of democracy. As a writer featured on many Palestinian propaganda web sites, he has signed calls upon Israeli soldiers to refuse to serve in the military. This is his own anti-democratic tactic to coerce the country into implementing the policies endorsed by Israel's anti-Zionist far Left. Then, without pausing even to take a breath, he denounces the Jewish "settlers" for "law breaking": "The settlers pose a danger not only because the 'legal' settlements stand in the way of any lasting agreement between us and the Palestinians, but because a whole generation has grown up with no respect for authority and a view of its representatives as a hindrance." Meanwhile, the Gaza Jewish settlements were all removed, but in response the Palestinians escalated the rocket shootings. So much for the learned history professor's analysis of why there is no peace.
In general, Kleinberg dismisses Israel as a racist society and has denounced Israel as "marching to apartheid." A few years back Israeli universities temporarily abolished college board exams, but then reintroduced them, realizing that without them standards were simply being "dumbed down." Kleinberg attacked the universities for their "anti-Arab racism" in restoring the exams. In any test of academic proficiency, Arabs in Israel do worse than Jews on average, which indicates to Kleinberg that such proficiency must not be tested at all. [Interestingly, he did not denounce Arab universities in Arab countries for their own "anti-Arab racism," even though they also use entrance exams.] Never mind that those very same Israeli universities have implemented affirmative action preferences across the board in favor of Arabs.
Naturally, Kleinberg is also anti-American. Right after the start of the liberation of Iraq from Saddam, Kleinberg wrote: "The war in Iraq was more than the first expression of the United States' readiness to go to war as an empire (sic)….The world has a new sheriff who does not hesitate to use his pistol, with or without partners, with or without sanction, with or without justification."
Professor Kleinberg is somewhat knowledgeable about medieval Christianity, which he seems to think entitles him to issue policy pronouncements on everything from the Jewish religion to Israel's water policy. While he has trouble rustling up any sense of indignation at the firing of Qassam missiles into Jewish civilian homes, Kleinberg gets positively livid and uncontrollably outraged at one group of people: religious Jews. He is even more of a zealot of hate when it comes to the Jewish "settlers":
"The settlers are in the grip of a godly zealotry – for years they have been operating outside of the law, motivated by a deep feeling that they are not transgressing the ‘real laws.’ In the name of zealotry, they robbed, lied, and cheated, spilt blood, and all this so that their feeling of complete devotion to God remains undamaged."
A few years back, Kleinberg signed a statement that declared:
"In this part of the world there are two borders that are now recognized internationally and regionally: the international border (sic) between us and the Arab states and the border of June 1967 between Israel and the Palestinians. The Palestinians accept this border. Not only that, they have shown a readiness to demilitarize the Palestinian state in relation to heavy weapons, to recognize the annexation of the ring of Israeli suburbs built in Jerusalem, and other changes in the 1967 border, on the basis of a mutual agreement and lands swap."
Now that the Hamas has seized power in the West Bank and Gaza and is rapidly building an Islamofascist terror army, we are waiting for the TAU Professor of History Aviad Kleinberg and his extremist friends from Tel Aviv University to repudiate that statement and issue an academic apology. We will not be holding our breath.
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Louisa Burnham - 4/26/2006
It's one thing to disagree with someone's politics, and another to gratuitously attack his scholarship. Aviad Kleinberg is a very respected medievalist whose book Prophets in their Own Country: Living Saints and the Making of Sainthood in the Later Middle Ages (Chicago, 1992) is learned, well-written and important.