(See UPDATE on this post below)
While the UK media (much like its US counterpart) often employ euphemisms – and often wild rhetorical somersaults – to avoid passing ‘value judgments’ on Palestinian terror groups, there are typically no such restraints in news stories and commentaries about Israeli ‘settlers’.
Though only a tiny fraction of Israelis who live in cities across the green line (in Jerusalem and the West Bank) have engaged in violence or advocate its use, words like ‘radical’, ‘extremist’ and ‘fanatical’ are often used by journalists to place this Jewish population on the ‘wrong side’ of their moral divide.
A good illustration of this knee-jerk impulse to demonize ‘settlers’ – by journalist who often seem to possess little real knowledge about such communities – can be found in a May 3rd article in The Economist titled ‘Making of a martyr‘ – a review of a book about the killing, by British officers, of Avraham (Ya’ir) Stern, leader of the pre-state underground Zionist group known as Lehi (Lohamei Herut Yisrael – Fighters for the Freedom of Israel).
After a few paragraphs which focus on the book itself, the article then pivots to a broader critique of what the anonymous Economist writer believes to be Stern’s legacy:
Stern still commands a striking hold over many of Israel’s ruling right-wingers, including the successors of the mandate-era Jewish underground who continue to perpetrate attacks on Palestinian civilians. Many still choose his nom de guerre, Yair, for their sons, including Israel’s current prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu.
The author’s rhetorical slight of hand is almost comical. Though Ya’ir is a common Hebrew name, are we supposed to intuit from the sentence that the current Israeli Prime Minister chose his son’s name based on the life and politics of Ya’ir Stern?
However, the author’s polemical inventions become even more pronounced in the following sentence:
One of the most fanatical settlements, Kochav Yair, is named after him.
Additionally, the claim that Kochav Ya’ir is “fanatical” does not hold up to scrutiny.
First, contrary to the stereotype of such fanatical ‘settlers’ [sic] as religious fundamentalists, Kochav Ya’ir is an overwhelmingly secular community.
Moreover, in the last national elections in 2013 a majority of Kochav Ya’ir residents (according to official results) voted for centre and left-wing political parties. In fact, while Likud-Israel Beiteinu was the party which attracted the greatest percentage of votes overall in the country, the top vote-getters in Kochav Ya’ir were centrist Yesh Atid and the left-wing Labor Party (at 24 and 21 percent respectively).
So, Kochav Ya’ir is clearly not a “settlement”, nor does it appear to be at all “fanatical”.
The Economist got it wrong.
UPDATE, May 11: Following our communication with Economist editors, the article was amended and an addendum added acknowledging that Kochav Ya’ir is neither fanatical nor a settlement.