Benjamin and Sara Netanyahu.
(photo credit: AVI OHAYON - GPO)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu often criticizes the media for the attention it devotes to his wife Sarah. Conveniently forgetting that he is the one who has deliberately put her in the spotlight, always fulsomely praising her in his speeches or never traveling overseas or attending a major event outside the Knesset without her (and often his grown sons) in tow, the prime minister believes that his critics target Sarah as a means of attacking him and his government.
“Leave my family alone” he once demanded on his Facebook page, in reference to media coverage concerning the scandals around his wife’s unreasonable behavior in the prime minister’s official residence, complaints that deserved media scrutiny and which the national labor court later found to be true.
But Netanyahu’s hypocrisy in demanding that the media place Sarah off-limits while at the same time using her and his sons as props to portray himself as a family man par excellence, whitewashing his previous marital history and self-confessed adultery, is no major crime, just a personal weakness. What becomes unforgivable is when Netanyahu, in his role as a political leader, fails to rally to support others facing more unpleasant and undeserved attacks on their families.
As a self-appointed expert on the Holocaust – can anybody remember a major speech by Netanyahu on world affairs that did not contain at least one reference to the Shoah? – one assumes the prime minister is well acquainted with Pastor Martin Niemöller’s poem “First they came... ,” in which the poet lists all the groups rounded up by the Nazis while he failed to speak out, until finally “they came for me – and there was no one left to speak for me.”
And yet Netanyahu, who believes his family has been much maligned over the years, did not feel it necessary to speak out against the Likud’s latest addition to its ranks, the rapper Yoav Eliasi, aka The Shadow, and his outrageous ad hominem vitriol directed at Likud MK Benny Begin.
The fact that Eliasi’s Likud membership was enthusiastically sponsored by MK Oren Hazan of Bulgarian casino fame tells us more or less everything we need to know about Eliasi. There are though a number of Likud politicians, such as Begin, who believe Eliasi does not belong in the party due to the rapper’s unpleasantly extreme views.
These include calls to harvest the organs, on the spot, of dead Palestinian terrorists and donate them to the National Transplant Center; to castrate dead terrorists so as to end any dreams they may have had of 72 virgins waiting for them in the afterlife, or Eliasi’s incitement against the lsraeli Left. During Operation Protective Edge in Gaza in 2014, on learning about an anti-war demonstration in Tel Aviv, he called on his supporters to mount a counter-demonstration against “the real enemy among us: the radical Left.” This ended with the anti-war demonstrators being attacked with clubs, and some hospitalized.
Of course others might argue that Eliasi is now the true face of the Likud; if Miri Regev can be minister of culture, the Likud has moved irreparably beyond its liberal, democratic roots, the argument goes – but that is a topic for another article. What should concern us more than a failed rapper joining the Likud (The Shadow’s music career has long been in decline) is the failure of leadership shown by Netanyahu following Eliasi’s attack on MK Begin’s family.
Unlike Netanyahu, Begin has shielded his family from the press. His wife, Ruti, can walk down the street in total anonymity, while his five living children have never been wheeled out at campaign rallies. Like Netanyahu, Begin has also been struck by tragedy – his son Yonatan was killed while piloting an F16 jet – but Begin has never used his position as a bereaved father to bolster his political status or strengthen an argument.
This makes Eliasi’s intensely personal and totally false attacks on two of Begin’s children utterly beyond the pale. It is at moments like this that political leaders need to rise above narrow political considerations of how the 226,000 Facebook followers of The Shadow will react, and issue a clear statement condemning the rapper’s slurs that one of Begin’s daughters had converted to Islam – hardly a crime – and that Begin’s son was a Buddhist who had hurled rocks at IDF soldiers.
But Netanyahu chose to say nothing. And that silence tells us all we need to know about our prime minister’s lack of a clear moral compass and personal integrity.The writer is a former editor-in-chief of The Jerusalem Post.