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MK Ben-Ari calls for Palestinian state in France
By BEN HARTMAN
05/12/2012
Far right MK also blasts "infiltrator occupation" during address at Blich high school's bellwether mock election.
 
MK Michael Ben-Ari, generally considered Israel’s most right-wing parliamentarian, is in favor of a Palestinian state... in France.

That 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.

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Ben-Ari suggested 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 completely.

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 important.”

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 two weeks.

Strong Israel had issued a complaint to the Central Elections Committee this week after the school did not include it in the model election.

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 decisions.”

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.
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