Rattling the Cage: A guide to campaign terminology

What our politicians say, and what it really means.

likud faction 298 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
likud faction 298
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
Here are the real meanings of some terms you will be hearing again and again in the election campaign. In fact, you hear them all the time already, but they tend to be uttered with even more than the usual urgency and solemnity when the race for political power is on. Warning: Some of these terms are abused by all politicians, while others are the sole property of the Right. Let no one be misled into thinking that I'm trying to be objective. The media- Best uttered with a grimace and a dismissive wave of the hand, as if the speaker is saying "bah!" Often modified by the adjective "biased," "lying," "leftist," or "elitist." The media is that thing every right-winger distrusts absolutely - except when it reports a news item in which Arabs, Europeans or Democrats come off bad, and/or Israel or Republicans come off good. In such cases, the media becomes that thing every right-winger believes with perfect faith. The polls - Often expressed with the same tone and gestures used for "the media," but a term popular among leftists, too. No politician will say he believes in the polls or even pays any attention to them. No serious newspaper reader will say so, either. But if all the politicians and newspaper readers were as indifferent to polls as they say, then public opinion pollsters would all be lining up at the soup kitchens - and they're not, are they? Economic reforms - Revising and rationalizing economic policies to bring them more in line with the 19th century. Authentic - Refers to a politician's socioeconomic background. Many Mizrahi politicians who grew up poor take credit for being "authentic," especially those who spent a considerable part of their adult lives screwing the same kind of people they grew up with. Representative - A Knesset slate of candidates that isn't all white guys, even if it is mostly white guys. Peace - A term that features prominently in Ariel Sharon's campaigns for prime minister. Previously he used the slogan, "Only Sharon will bring peace." Now he uses, "Sharon - a strong leader for peace." Other than in his campaign slogans, "peace" is a word Sharon cannot stand to use, at least not in Hebrew. Instead, he restricts himself to the words "security" and "quiet." But in an election campaign, when he is selling an image of himself to the voters, the word "peace" works very nicely. It softens Sharon. It makes him seem less intimidating. And in his current campaign slogan, the word "peace" neutralizes the fascist associations connected to the term "strong leader," which is helpful. Values - Worthy principles held by worthy candidates and worthy voters. Values are what differentiate worthy Israelis from all the others, those with the rings in their belly buttons. Since they are held only by select people, values are themselves select. To be precise, there are only two values worthy of being called values: 1) Orthodox Judaism; 2) Settlements. Populism - Interchangeable with "election economics." This is when a politician promises to raise the minimum wage, bring jobs to development towns, increase welfare payments to the aged, single mothers and large families, and do other fiscally irresponsible things, all of which are transparent, shameless attempts to pander to the poor for their votes. Courageous leadership - This is when a politician promises the non-poor majority of voters to cut their taxes. Culture of debate - The civilized standard that statesman Cohen demonstrates respect for by sitting quietly and politely while his opponent Levy is advancing his argument, until Cohen senses that Levy is about to make his point, at which juncture Cohen starts squawking and honking and drowns Levy out. When Levy implores Cohen for the fifth time to allow him to finish his train of thought, Cohen suddenly falls quiet, smiles graciously and says, "By all means." By now Levy has to start his shpiel all over again, and when he approaches the same point he tried unsuccessfully to make before, Cohen shouts him down again. This demonstration of respect for civilized standards can be demonstrated over and over, indefinitely, until the beleaguered "moderator" thanks his guests and his audience and announces that they've run out of time. Every Israeli statesman who's ever gotten anywhere is well-versed in the culture of debate, but my impression is that Likud's Danny Naveh and Kadima's (formerly Labor's) Haim Ramon are the masters. Judicial activism - A term rapidly being replaced by the term "judicial tyranny." This is the ideology enforced by the Supreme Court when, after due deliberation, it rules that ethnic and religious minorities in Israel are entitled to almost the same legal rights that minorities in the West have had for generations. Democracy - A once-inspiring term that has been gang-raped by fascists, Stalinists, theocrats, mafiosi, terrorists, bigots and every other slew of sleazebags for so long that an honest person can't say it anymore without choking. Apology - A rare moment of humanity and humility in a bruising political battle. It usually goes something like this: "I certainly meant no insult to my opponent, whom I respect, when I characterized him as an 'incorrigible, predatory child-molester,' but if he took some offense at my remark, as he claims, well, then, I apologize."