MK Michael Ben-Ari, generally considered Israel’s most right-wing
parliamentarian, is in favor of a Palestinian state... in France.
line drew great applause at a speech Ben- Ari gave to a group of students at
Ramat Gan’s Blich High School on Wednesday, a day before the school’s model
election, whose results have often provided a quite accurate breakdown of what
can be expected of the electorate as a whole.
Ben-Ari didn’t waste time,
and began his remarks speaking about the “deluge” of “infiltrators” from Africa,
who he said have taken over the poor neighborhoods of south Tel Aviv that are a
world away from the middle class environs of Blich High.
“I assume you
guys are less exposed to this phenomenon, the flood of infiltrators who have
entered Israel in the past few years, around 70,000 people, most of whom live in
south Tel Aviv. Some people call them refugees, but they are migrant workers in
every definition of the word,” Ben-Ari said.
“Entire neighborhoods are
under [African migrant] occupation, and their residents only waiting for an
opportunity to flee,” he said.
Ben-Ari touted his refusal to “sit in the
ivory tower of the Knesset,” and talked about his efforts to deal with the
problem, with his push to have local authorities crack down on unlicensed
African businesses in south Tel Aviv, and the well-publicized stunt in June
2011, when he filled a bus with African migrants from south Tel Aviv, took them
to north Tel Aviv’s Gordon Pool. He and his legislative aide, far-right activist
Itamar Ben-Gvir, paid their entrance fees to, in Ben-Ari’s words, show the
hypocrisy of liberal Ashkenazis from the city’s better-off districts fleeing the
pool once the very people they defend enter the water.
the students follow him on Facebook and YouTube, “where we bypass the leftist
media, which tries to silence us.”
The some 200 youngsters appeared to be
paying fairly close attention to the speech, but they weren’t roused to applause
or impassioned jeering. They seemed most animated when Ben-Ari would
accidentally bump against his microphone, or when they broke into widespread
giggling during his reference to Israel- Arab MK Ibrahim Sarsour, whose surname
means “pimp” in Hebrew.
During the question and answer section, a student
in a Meretz T-shirt asked about the lawmaker’s statements during last month’s
Gaza operation that there should be more dead on the Gazan side, saying “How can
someone of your status say something as stupid as this?” Ben-Ari spoke about
visiting the families of the three people killed by a Palestinian rocket in
Kiryat Malachi on the first day of the operation (“a place where your friends
didn’t visit”), and said, “I believe we have to show mercy and we can’t be cruel
towards them [Gazans],” before unveiling his solution to the years of rocket
fire: Give all residents of the northern Gaza town of Beit Hanun (population
over 30,000) 24 hours to leave, before “emptying” the town
The MK also spoke of Jewish roots in the Arab cities of the
West Bank, and illustrated the point by asking “Who was born in Bethlehem?” to
which a teacher responded, “Jesus?” Ben-Ari responded, “Yes, Jesus was born
there, too, he was a Jew, too, whoever claimed him for himself afterward isn’t
Ben-Ari recently co-founded the Strong Israel party along
with MK Arieh Eldad, and was joined at Blich High School on Wednesday by
Ben-Gvir, No. 5 on Strong Israel’s candidates list, and Maya Golan, a
26-year-old anti- African-migrants activist who lives in south Tel Aviv and is
in the No. 6 spot.
Throughout his speech, civics teacher Oved Tzur, one
of the managers of the school’s election program, made comments both under and
over his breath at Ben-Ari’s claims, and drew some laughs for his mention of the
birthplace of Jesus.
After the speech was over Tzur got in a shouting
match with Ben-Gvir, telling him: “You have so much hate, you hate everyone. You
hate Arabs, you hate Jews who disagree with you, you hate everyone who does not
agree with you.”
When asked if he was opposed to Ben-Ari appearing at the
school, Tzur said, “No, the opposite, I’m glad they came, now the students can
see what people like this are all about.”
Ben-Ari was the final speaker
in a series that has seen Kadima Party chairman Shaul Mofaz, Labor chairwoman
Shelly Yacimovich and Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid visit the school over the past
Strong Israel had issued a complaint to the Central Elections
Committee this week after the school did not include it in the model
Following a ruling in favor of the party, Ben-Ari made his way
to the school on Wednesday.
Principal Revital Lev-Goren said the model
election gives students a way to take part in the democratic process and that
they have been able to hear from voices across the political spectrum over the
past few weeks. She said she was not sure if the students have become more
right-wing in recent years, and that regardless, they are “very capable of
filtering what people tell them, and of being critical and making their own
Lev-Goren added that they will hold the election on Thursday,
with juniors and seniors eligible to vote beginning at 10 a.m. She added that
the entire ballot system will be computerized, “but not like the Likud,” whose
primary was beset by computer malfunctions.
The school appointed an
election committee, which wrote a code of ethics, laying out the allowed
campaigning methods and voting guidelines.