Opinion |

Terrorist Sponsorship for a Night

As editor of newspaper Makor Rishon, convicted Jewish terrorist Haggai Segal is a sponsor of a conference about Israel’s “Seventy Years – A Vibrant Democracy.”

Odeh Bisharat
Odeh Bisharat
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Haggai Segal, 2011.
Haggai Segal in 2011. He spent two years in jail in the 1980s for his involvement in the bombing campaign against Palestinian mayors, and is now editor-in-chief of Makor Rishon.Credit: Nir Keidar
Odeh Bisharat
Odeh Bisharat

The editor of the Makor Rishon weekly, Haggai Segal, has responded to those who have been nagging him about his past. “I have been a journalist at this point for about four decades and was only a terrorist for one night,” he says.

Yet even an epiphany like that won’t wash. After all, Yigal Amir was the assassin of a prime minister for just a split second, and he is still serving his jail sentence. What’s more, it’s because of that night in 1980 in which Segal switched professions for a moment that two Palestinian mayors in the occupied territories, Bassam al-Shaka’a and Karim Khalaf, lost their legs while border policeman Suleiman Hirbawi lost his sight trying to defuse the bomb laid by members of the Jewish Underground, which included Segal.

So in the course of one night, Segal managed to change the lives of several people forever. It’s good that the Jewish Underground’s other designs, such as blowing up the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem, didn’t come to fruition, because if they had, the entire region would have been transformed from top to bottom in one night.

But Segal can’t complain. After all, if a Palestinian had done a fraction of what he did, it’s doubtful that even 40 years later, he would see the light of day. All told, Segal got two years in prison, a sentence fitting someone who stole tomatoes from an open-air market.

It’s important to explain that in Hebrew, Palestinians don’t get the honorary title “terrorist.” They get the inferior Hebrew term “mechabel” – “saboteur” – and, of course, can’t dream of being referred to as members of an “underground.” Such a term is reserved for a select few, not for Arabs, who when all is said and done are just members of gangs that riot. Heroic acts, such as the “Night of the Bridges,” when the Haganah blew up several of them, is reserved for their Jewish brothers.

Putting semantics and nomenclature aside, it turns out that a Palestinian terrorist (“mechabel”) is a terrorist for life. It recalls an Arabic expression that, freely translated, means that if you’re born, you’re trapped. Furthermore, the label is thrown out indiscriminately, until it seems that any Palestinian is a potential terrorist, if not today then tomorrow.

Haggai Segal and other Jewish terrorists are one-night terrorists. Their children will get full national insurance benefits without a single Palestinian complaining that the Israeli government is funding terrorists. Neither will a Palestinian leader issue denunciations, as Israeli leaders have, over how terrorists are being rewarded. What’s more, the Jewish terrorist’s past does not disrupt his future; maybe it even improves his future.

And now, as editor of Makor Rishon, Segal is a sponsor of a conference about Israel’s “Seventy Years – A Vibrant Democracy,” as it is being called in English. What’s more, the Israel Democracy Institute is a sponsor of this important event and Israel’s president, Reuven Rivlin, will honor the event with his presence. Then they will ask about the state of Israeli democracy.

In my mind’s eye, I can just imagine what would have happened if such a conference were to take place in Ramallah. What would Arnon Milchan’s friends in Likud and Yesh Atid have done? What would our defense minister, axe in hand, have done, and how would the champions of human rights here have reacted?

But let’s not get hung up on trivialities. If we’re talking about democracy, let’s get on with it! It’s a known fact that the main mouthpieces of democracy in Israel are financed by Sheldon Adelson’s casino revenues. One of them is Israel Hayom and the other is Makor Rishon.

So instead of debating 70 years of democracy in Israel, the organizers’ records should be examined to discover the nature of this democracy. In Hebrew, the conference is billed as “Democracy on the Move.” It is a democracy on the move, but in dangerous directions. Democracy in Israel bows before tycoons and ultra-nationalism.

And by the way, when is Haaretz’s next Israel Conference on Peace? I need a ray of light.

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