Most of us Israelis were literally dumbstruck by the imbecilities which our latest Nobel laureate, Ada Yonath, spouted. No sooner had she made us proud, Yonath proceeded to slap us hard across our collective face. We're still smarting from the supposed smart one's slurs, which is perhaps why it's better to pretend that she never advised we forthwith liberate all convicted terrorists - regardless of Gilad Schalit's ongoing captivity and certainly regardless of whatever atrocity they committed and were duly tried and convicted for.
"It's unclear to me why we're holding these Palestinians - the ones we call 'terrorists' - instead of releasing everybody from the outset, without any link to a deal for Schalit," Yonath opined in an Army Radio interview. Her incisive scientific logic continued: "It's in our power to change the present situation. When one is incarcerated for years, friends and family around him grow angry. That's how we create terrorists.... If no terrorists sat in our prisons, nobody would abduct Israelis to effect their release. By holding terrorists, we give the other side an appetite to launch kidnapping operations. Once we no longer imprison terrorists, they'd have no reason to kidnap."
If taken seriously, the implications of the above babble are staggering. It's akin to suggesting that the surefire crime stopper is to empty all prisons, halt all law enforcement activities, desist from arresting, prosecuting, sentencing and punishing miscreants - no matter how heinous their felonies. A free-for-all will safeguard our freedoms.
FOR A state like ours - the only one worldwide overtly threatened with genocide - the implications are altogether scary. They plainly mandate we stop defending ourselves.
If, as Yonath contends, hopelessness is the mother of conflict, then it might well be asked why well-off British-born youths of Pakistani extraction chose to detonate themselves at a beachfront Tel Aviv club. Were they so hopeless in the Labor-led UK that they decided to take it out on us?
If, according to Yonath, violence is triggered by sending murderers to prison, how is it that Arab massacres began many decades before we gained sovereignty and attendant authority to apprehend anyone?
How did Jews nettle Palestinian idol Haj Amin al-Husseini to induce him to join Hitler in Nazi Berlin and became an active accomplice in the "final solution?"
Does Yonath believe the masterminds of the Park Hotel, Sbarro Pizzeria, Maxim Restaurant and many more suicide bombings deserve no reckoning? Would she let off scot-free executioners, like those who shot (at point-blank, one-by-one) expectant mother Tali Hatuel and her four tiny daughters (as well as the fetus she carried to nearly full-term)?
If even legal action is illegitimate, how do we safeguard ourselves? By surrendering?
The so-called political right and center fear vocalizing their indignation, lest they thereby amplify Yonath's delegitimation of Israeli self-preservation. The embarrassment caused by so honored an Israeli echoing enemy rhetoric is too bitter a pill. Even our ever-voluble left-of-center crowd seems embarrassed. There's no exultant crowing, no "we told you so."
Yonath isn't even on the fringes of our consensus. Unbeknownst to most Israelis, who hadn't heard of her until the Nobel committee lifted her from anonymity, she is one of Uri Avnery's loyal sidekicks, a true disciple, even a quasi-protÃ©gÃ©e.
Read what he himself wrote: "Our table celebrated with Ada Yonath. This 'table' just had its 50th anniversary. It started by accident in California, the cafÃ© established at the time by Abie Nathan, who later became famous as the Peace Pilot. Afterward, we met for many years at the legendary artists' cafÃ© Cassit." Then "the table wandered to several other places and became known as the 'Cassit exiles' table." The "House of Lords," one newspaper nicknamed it.
"The habituÃ©s of the table come from different walks of life. There is a former director of the Israel Broadcasting Authority, several senior journalists, a linguist and Bible expert, a film producer, a professor of medicine, a psychiatrist, a town planner, an industrialist, a translator of literature, a radio program producer. And a scientist." The latter is Yonath.
AVNERY CONTENDS that "the table is not political. But all its habituÃ©s tend, as it so happens, to lean toward the Left. For years, Ada Yonath has been our candidate for the Nobel Prize. I recount all this not only in order to boast about the fact that Ada 'belongs to us.'"
In radio interviews, Avnery was downright fatherly and called Yonath "our Ada'le." He couldn't stop boasting that she indeed "belongs to us." In this context it's instructive to note that Avnery asserted in a recent op-ed that Schalit wasn't kidnapped, that he's a POW, that Israeli government propaganda claims otherwise to foil a swap, that it's wrong to classify "Palestinian candidates for release" as "terrorists with blood on their hands, criminals beyond the law, lowly murderers." Doesn't Ada'le sound like her mentor?
Said mentor, it needs be stressed, had long ago crossed the lines - physically, intellectually, spiritually and emotionally. He identifies with the enemy and subscribes to its perspective. Nevertheless, Avnery parades as the preeminent freethinking Israeli and is the darling of Israel-bashers for doing their dirty work. He's incidentally the single most popular Israeli in his native Germany.
As soon as Israel's government isolated Yasser Arafat in 2002, Avnery rushed to Ramallah to be at his side. He vowed to protect the ra'is with his very body - not for the first time either. Back in July 1982, Avnery sneaked into Beirut mid-war to hobnob with imperiled Arafat. Post-Oslo the imported PLO chieftain expressed his gratitude during his triumphant first public appearance in Gaza by seating Avnery right next to him on the podium.
Avnery's mischief doesn't stop here. He uses Israel's maligned image - the one he actively tarnishes - as proof of its depravity and villainy. It's the slanderer's classic pattern: First he thoroughly demonizes his target, then points to the demon of his creation as justifying his wrath.
Avnery causes far more harm than most Israelis, who had long written him off, imagine. He pulls strings behind the scenes. He's the ventriloquist, now projecting his voice through the lips of his beloved Ada'le. As a Nobel laureate, she can massively magnify the message that we should dismiss Arab death threats as innocuous, like some of Germany's Jews did when they initially pooh-poohed Hitler as an excessively grotesque loudmouth.
Luckily Helmut Ostermann's parents did at some point become alarmed enough to flee to this country (despite vehement Arab opposition that refugee Jews like them be granted asylum here). That's how little Helmut got to survive, evolve into Uri Avnery and counsel future Jewish generations not to take undiminished Arab threats at face value, to regard them as mere benign bluster, to trust that exhortations to spill our blood aren't bloody-minded, that they should be pooh-poohed as grotesque loudmouth excesses.