We call them men of letters, peace activists, democracy’s champions and human rights campaigners.
We never, ever call them extremists. The word “fanatic” couldn’t be remotely considered in reference to the sensitive, caring and agonized denizens of Israel’s political Left.
Only reputed right-wingers are maligned as extremists, fanatics, fascists, rabble-rousing inciters, enemies of democracy, lawbreakers, wreckers of peace prospects, and/or demolishers of our way of life. In fact, Israel’s Left-dominated media even decides for us which baddies to brand right-wingers.
Sure to be included in the broad category of rightist bogeymen are dark, unkempt, menacing football-hooligan types that no dainty lady would ever want to encounter down a dark alley. Rightists are forever the great unwashed, unschooled, loud, pugnacious, non-Ashkenazi and hotheaded.
There’s a sub-category of immigrants from the former USSR, disparaged as lamentably Lieberman loyalists because – alas – they’re stuck on speaking Russian, are alien to nativist Israeli niceties, use too much makeup, are partial to bling and might even expose gold teeth when grinning. They’re disdained by our trendsetters as lost causes with fascist proclivities, who maybe shouldn’t even be given the vote (unless they can be reeducated to make more desirable political choices). Their Israelireared offspring, though, may still be converted to Tel Aviv’s Sheinkin-scene bon ton.
But absolute anathema to star-scribblers and talking heads are religious Jews – of all varieties. Here all residual verbal restraints disappear. It’s quite eerily on par with the “organized loathing” in George Orwell’s 1984. Big Brother’s arch-antagonist was reviled regularly on the official “telescreen” daily “Two Minutes of Hate” feature, till his very image evoked hisses and reactions of “mingled fear and disgust.”
Doubtless there’s a clear penchant among our news processors to carefully home in on the most deranged looking, wild-eyed, shrillvoiced teenager with zits and long unruly sidecurls (reminiscent of yesteryear’s in-your-face hippie vogue). They appoint him spokesman not only for the settler collective, but for the majority of Israelis who – heaven preserve us – dare disobey the diktats of media movers-andshakers and vote commonsensically. By the idiosyncratic definitions prevailing in Israel, any vote disapproved of by the eminent guardians of our collective conscience is denigrated as right-wing.
Yet these average Israelis – who come in assorted shapes and forms, varying degrees of erudition and sophistication, Ashkenazi and of Mideastern extraction (or a blend thereof), observant or secular (or somewhere in the middle) – are all represented by whichever random kook a tendentious TV crew rescues from well-deserved anonymity.
The most bizarre-looking settler/self-certified sage/self-proclaimed messiah embodies the National Camp collectively. The more outlandish his/her remarks and the more oddball the delivery, the easier to tar an entire segment of society and caricature it as lunatic.
That’s not deemed a smear-job. Crusading journalists insist they fulfill their professionalcum- ethical duty to inform members of the public of nefarious miscreants in their midst.
The plebeians need to be taught whom to dread.
Ze’ev Jabotinsky, grandson of the famed Revisionist leader, recently published an oped in Yisrael Hayom protesting the “rightwing activities” label slapped by media headliners on Rabbi Dov Lior’s and Rabbi Ya’acov Yosef’s refusal to humor the police and report for interrogation (for having endorsed an obscure booklet with alleged hate-mongering content).
“Media personalities use the microphones entrusted to their hands to
tarnish an entire body of political opinion which they oppose.
Not only do these newsmen betray their profession,” Jabotinsky writes,
“but it behooves [Deputy State Prosecutor] Shai Nitzan to probe whether
said reporters aren’t inciting to hate.”
Jabotinsky knows, of course, that there’s no chance of that happening
because of the conspicuous disinclination to call any advocate of the
enlightened Left to account. The inference might be that the Left is by
definition gentle, noble and scrupulously decent.
Yet some of what leftist luminaries in this country spout verges on the not fit to print.
We’ll avoid the worst of the violent, vulgar and vehemently Judeophobic
upchuck reflex triggers. Indeed, we won’t cite spite spouted by
non-household names – who, it may be claimed, are way out on the far-out
fringe and therefore possibly not authentically representative.
Extending fairness not often accorded by left-wingers, we’ll focus
solely on the Left’s respectable and esteemed gurus – all Israel Prize
laureates. Although their invective is comparatively moderate, just get a
load of what passed through their refined lips: • Sculptor Yigal Tumarkin
(Tel Aviv Magazine, November 4, 1988): “When I see Orthodox Jews, I understand the Nazis.”
Tumarkin (his own op-ed in Hadashot, November 14, 1988): “The Jew’s
outward strangeness and the pretentious notion that God chose us...
caused violent surrounding cultures to clash... with this arrogant
The image of the cunning, ambitious scoundrel, lending money at
exorbitant interest, turned the bent, hook-nosed, bearded Jew into the
enemy of civilization... which didn’t help belatedly-enlightened Jews.”
Tumarkin (February 13, 2004): “If a settler child or two get killed, the
settler parents say: ‘No problem. We’ll make four instead and all will
Tumarkin (April 22, 2004): “When I fashioned a pig wearing
phylacteries I merely meant to display a fetish to deride those
settlers, because settlements are idolatry. Because of them we’re in
trouble with the whole world and our neighbors.”• Political scientist Prof. Ze’ev Sternhell
April 4, 1988): “Only those ready to storm Ofra with tanks will stem
the fascist tide, which threatens to engulf Israel’s democracy.”
Sternhell (Haaretz, May 11, 2001): “For many Israelis, perhaps the
majority of voters, there is no doubt about the legitimacy of armed
resistance in the territories proper.
Were the Palestinians wiser, they would concentrate their struggle
against the settlements...instead of placing bombs west of the Green
Line.”• Author Amos Oz
(June 8, 1989,
at a Peace Now rally): “Gush Emunim is a messianic sect, closed-minded
and cruel, a band of armed gangsters, perpetrators of crimes against
humanity, sadists, pogromists and murderers who crept out of a dark
corner of Judaism, from the cellars of bestiality and defilement, in
order to impose their bloodthirsty mad ritual.”• Author A.B. Yehoshua
(Ma’ariv, June 20, 2002): “The Palestinians aren’t the first we drove insane. Look what happened to the Germans...
What brought the Germans and brings the Palestinians to such hatred of us?...
We have a tough history. We came here out of a Jewish experience and the settlements are messing it up.”• Filmmaker Judd Ne’eman
(Ma’ariv, July 7, 2011): “The desirable thing here is that there be a
civil war between Left and Right – a war between the settlers and
leftists. The settlers might well win, because a majority of public
opinion and the government support them, and then this will become a
fascist state... Civil war is the way to solve the problem we face.
We tried all other means and none worked...long live death.”
Deafening decibels of indignation would rock our existence were Lior and
Yosef to utter Ne’eman’s battle-cry verbatim. Dutiful cops wouldn’t
dither. Yet nobody ever contemplated investigating the inflammatory
rhetoric of Israel’s “beautiful people,” those whom our opinion-molders
cultivate, promote and overall hype as role models. After all, Israel’s
constabulary has double standards to uphold.www.sarahhonig.com