Analysis: Bash the parties, not people

mainstream parties do not seem to be as strident in their attacks and protestations as those parties fighting the cultural wars.

March 12, 2006 22:14
2 minute read.


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It is interesting to note that the only two election commercials that have aroused the opposition of Supreme Court Justice Dorit Beinisch thus far have centered on the haredi-secular dispute. It isn't as though the multi-issue parties, including Kadima, Labor and Likud, don't have strong differences of opinion over crucial issues such as Israel's response to the Hamas takeover of the Palestinian Authority, a projected unilateral withdrawal in the West Bank and so on. Somehow, however, the mainstream parties do not seem to be as strident in their attacks and protestations as those parties fighting the cultural wars. There are probably two reasons for this. First, the mainstream parties attack each other but not the population. Party bashing is acceptable within broad limits, because no one actually gets hurt, certainly not the segments of the population that cast their votes for the various parties. Second, although the promises the mainstream parties make are often wildly impossible to fulfill, they belong to this world. Peace and security, an end to poverty, across-the-board equality, good education - no one really believes any party will come close to fulfilling its promises, but every party makes them and it is all part of the rules of the election game. Shinui and Shas broke these rules. In its disqualified election commercial, Shinui did not attack the haredi parties but the haredi population. It portrayed them as something akin to leeches or parasites, which is how the party actually regards them. Had Shinui directed its attack against Shas or United Torah Judaism rather than against their constituents, Beinisch almost certainly would have let it pass. The issue with Shas goes much deeper. After all, if Kadima, Labor and Likud can promise peace and security etc., why can't Shas promise its supporters will go to paradise. The simple answer is that the law prohibits it. But the law was passed only a few years ago, in response to the extraordinarily successful "amulet" campaign run by Shas under then-party leader Aryeh Deri. The absolutely ungrounded promise of a blessing or of protection in return for one's vote seems to have great potency among certain sectors of the population, perhaps because of deep faith, but more likely out of ignorance. At any rate, for those willing to accept it at face value, it is a tangible promise, a tangible gift given to each individual who accepts it as such. In other words, it is an election bribe. It was for this reason that Beinisch instructed Shas to withdraw the ad in which its religious mentor, Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, offered a blessing of happiness and well-being to anyone who voted for his party.

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