Democratic Union attempts to deplatform Otzma

Benny Gantz: I’m not prime minister of Twitter, I talk to everyone; Itamar Ben-Gvir: The Left fears us.

Itamar Ben Gvir (photo credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH 90)
Itamar Ben Gvir
(photo credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH 90)
The Democratic Union called on Blue and White leader Benny Gantz to drop out of speaking at a conference on Monday because Otzma Yehudit chairman Itamar Ben-Gvir also participated, joining a growing trend of deplatforming.
Gantz did not heed their call, and while it’s clear the Democratic Union would not have any success getting Ben-Gvir booted from Monday’s conference hosted by Srugim, a right-leaning religious-Zionist website, their message was that Otzma should not be given space to make his views heard.
At an early morning protest outside Gantz’s house – which he said he missed – Democratic Union activists held banners that read: “Not at a conference, not in the government. Do not sit with Kahanists.”
The protests came after the Supreme Court allowed the party to run in the upcoming election, but banned two senior members from running – in addition to Michael Ben-Ari, who was banned before the last election in April – on grounds of racist incitement.
According to the Merriam-Webster website, “deplatforming” is a relatively new word, which “generally refers to the attempt to boycott a group or individual through removing the platforms (such as speaking venues or websites) used to share information or ideas.”
The tactic has been used in recent years by major online platforms like YouTube and Twitter against extremists and conspiracy theorists associated with the Alt-Right or white supremacists in the US. But it has also been popular at universities in the UK and US to try to prevent figures on the Right – including some who are not fringe figures, like former secretary of state Condoleezza Rice – from speaking on campuses. This has sparked debates about the appropriate limits to free speech, or whether there should be such limits at all.
Deplatforming was also used against Rabbi Meir Kahane, the ideological forebear of Otzma, as a politician in Israel in the 1980s, although the term came into popular use more recently. In a speech shortly after his Kach Party was banned from running for the Knesset in 1988 due to racism, Kahane said in English: “It’s a mind-boggling thing for people to speak of democracy, knowing what they did to us for four years. A member of Knesset was barred from appearing on even one radio or television program on state radio or state TV. What an outrage that is.”
Kahane argued that his ban from the Knesset and from most of the few media outlets in Israel at that time was based on fear.
Ben-Gvir – who has no such problem making himself heard in the media – made similar statements on Monday.
“The Left’s so-called pluralists are, as we see, the biggest censors,” he argued. “There is one reason they want to hurt us. They are trembling in fear from the possibility that Otzma will enter the Knesset and there will be a real right-wing government.”
Asked about whether the party is attempting to engage in censorship, Democratic Union’s spokeswoman sent a video of candidate Noa Rothman, granddaughter of former prime minister Yitzhak Rabin, saying how she will never forget the image of Ben-Gvir holding a Cadillac emblem that he had swiped off of Rabin’s car, shortly before her grandfather was assassinated.
“There are moments, Gantz, in which you have to stop and say that’s it. Racism is not an opinion. It has a price that is paid in blood,” Rothman said in the video, which was posted to the Democratic Union’s Facebook page. “Whoever cooperates with these people, Gantz, are not on my side, do not represent me and certainly do not care about my children. We can’t legitimize these people. We don’t have another democracy.”
Gantz took the middle ground. He spoke at the Srugim conference, but he added: “I am not happy that Itamar Ben-Gvir appears at religious-Zionist conferences. It’s unfortunate that religious Zionism did not stay in the zone that is loyal to the state.”
He added that he would not want to sit in a government with Transportation Minister Bezalel Smotrich either, because he “promotes racist opinions.”
Gantz added: “I want to be the whole public’s prime minister and not prime minister of Twitter. I don’t plan to talk to only one slice of the public, and therefore, I am here to talk to all of you. And I have a lot in common with most of religious Zionism.”