Accepting the other

Exasperatingly, we appear doomed to cyclical outbursts of prejudice and politically tinged intolerance.

April 18, 2015 22:50
3 minute read.
Benjamin Netanyahu

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu walks in front of a poster of the late Prime Minister Menachem Begin upon his arrival at the Likud party meeting at the Menachem Begin Heritage Center in Jerusalem. (photo credit: REUTERS)

Exasperatingly, we appear doomed to cyclical outbursts of prejudice and politically tinged intolerance.

Actress Anat Waxman follows in the inglorious footsteps of artist Yair Garbuz who lambasted right-wing supporters as “kissers of amulets, idol-worshipers and people who bow down and prostrate themselves on the graves of saints.”

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Playwright Yehoshua Sobol agreed wholeheartedly and added “mezuza-kissing” to the list of mocked practices.

Not to be outdone, author Amos Oz reminded the nation that rightists “don’t read books.”

That was during the recent Knesset election. After the results were in, the vogue on the Left was to explain away the loss with more outpourings of acrimony. Author Alona Kimhi advised Likud voters to “Go drink cyanide – you f***ing Neanderthals.”

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Waxman is only the latest among our cultural celebrities to join this chorus.

Likud supporters “didn’t vote rationally,” she opined in a Channel 2 interview on Monday night. She “wouldn’t crown such a leader, but the chocolates [presumably a reference to rowdy Israir passengers who in February created a disturbance over demands for candy] simply prefer that supposedly enlightened Ashkenazi with the American accent [i.e., Benjamin Netanyahu]... Those who yell, ‘Only Bibi, only Bibi and then curse.’” Waxman derisively mimicked the alleged shrill chants of the masses and contended that “Bibi just needs to say ‘Arabs’ and they [his supporters] emerge from their holes.”

She admitted to feeling “frustration and anger” because the “other side” speaks “in mantras and slogans... There’s no one at all to talk to... It speaks another language. It needs other things... hard-luck people.... It’s another nation.”

Following the ensuing hullabaloo, Waxman denied she is racist, as her mother is of Iraqi extraction. She’s just “worried about this country and wants change.”

The notion, however, that one’s family tree can excuse bigotry insults our intelligence. This is not an issue of racism per se and presenting it as such is a diversionary ploy that attempts to conceal a deeper bias.

That bias begins with stereotyping anyone who votes for the Likud as being non-Ashkenazi, loutish, uneducated, intellectually deficient, socioeconomically disadvantaged and generically inferior.

Such distortions may be a source of psychological comfort because they help rationalize political defeat and they defame political opponents as somehow of a lower standing to one’s own status. But such specious stereotypes tear at the very fabric of Israeli society, and they are inter alia geared to transform into self-fulfilling prophesies. They discourage the upwardly mobile from particular political affiliations lest they be denigrated as members of the rabble.

Moreover, once these stereotypes begin to be perceived as axiomatic, they mess with the minds of individuals who adhere to these lies. They create the need to account for the failure of the citizenry to be swayed by “superior” outlooks. Electoral defeats are analyzed as one would a disease and haughty diagnosticians take it upon themselves to account for what’s wrong with the voters and why the people behaved so aberrantly.

The notion that there must be something amiss with those who voted for candidates for whom a given political sector disapproves – indeed that political opponents ought to have their heads examined – carries within it the seeds of elitism and alienation and the makings of repeated political failure.

As long as some will view others as a bookless, uncouth and illogical lot, they stand no chance of winning them over – no matter how much patronizing lip service is paid to the supposed have-nots by their supposed betters.

Disdain for the common man won’t rake in votes and the same goes for fawning declarations. What is needed is genuine respect in lieu of demeaning and false characterizations.

There is absolutely nothing that justifies a disgraceful performance like Waxman’s. It was in no way a Freudian slip or a momentary lapse. It was well thought-out, pompous and geared to elicit applause from her clique.

The fact that it is yet another addition to a dishonorable series is cause for grave concern. Instead we need more unaffected humility, acceptance of the other without sour grapes and plain good sportsmanship.

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