The question of whether Bar-Ilan University allowed Yair Lapid to study for his master's degree without a B.A., or to go for his Ph.D. without his master's, is trivial. Why does anyone care whether a university brings in people with informal education, whose presence, the multi-degreed faculty believes, will enrich the academic environment and endow it with a healthy dose of rating?
It is accepted practice among universities to grant a title of professor to authors and experts teaching in various departments; Lapid never boasted about having any degree at all nor did he claim that an academic degree gave him any points in his favor on the road to politics.
So far, Lapid has created the impression of being an honest person who means what he says. Precisely for this reason we should relate seriously to what he wrote last week on his Facebook page about the chairwoman of Labor, Shelly Yachimovich. The attack on Yachimovich can hardly be called a mistake. Lapid seems to have thought hard about what he should say about her. Putting the cart way before the horse, he claimed he would not join the Labor Party (certainly dreaming of the morning after his sweeping victory ) because its chairwoman is politically and economically "radical left." Lapid cannot possibly have forgotten how Yachimovich came under an attack that few other politicians have had to endure, because she told Gidi Weitz in Haaretz, that settlements, created by the historic Labor Movement, were not a crime, and that she refused to blame all settlers for the social-economic injustice - against which she is leading the fight.
This writer and her colleagues did not spare her our fury and disappointment, and many Labor voters objected to her position and heaped obstacles on the path of her campaign against the other contenders for party leadership, Amir Peretz and Isaac Herzog. Radical left? If there is something Yachimovich faithfully represents, it is the clear stance of the Labor Party over the generations, without the Labor Movement's leftist Mapam and with its right-wing Ahdut Haavoda.
But if Lapid defined Yachimovich's diplomatic stance in a twisted way, he branded her economic and social stances with a badge of shame. According to Lapid, the social-democratic platform, accepted in the Western world as a completely legitimate political movement, to which leaders of large parties and even illustrious heads of state ascribe, is "radical left." Yachimovich takes care to describe herself as a social democrat and not a "socialist." But even plain old "socialists" are accepted in Europe as a very legitimate alternative, to which the economic crisis has given a tailwind. Millions of French, British, German, Swedish, Norwegian and other socialists would roll on the floor laughing to hear themselves described as "radical left."
But, as noted, Lapid did not simply make a mistake. He knows what he is doing. With his smile and his likeability he stimulates the gland his father was an expert at stimulating, and uses the right's most proven tool: incitement and fear-mongering. Falsely depicting Yachimovich as a radical leftist was intended to plant the fear - the same fear used by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman and many of their colleagues on the right, to sow panic: the Red Scare.
The Red Scare is an old-new method that relies solely on delegitimization of one's opponent through demonization. Lapid still has something to learn from Netanyahu and Lieberman and their friends on the extreme right, but there is no doubt that the use of the Red Scare indicates the direction he has chosen.
Instead of focusing on his own agenda, he defines himself by attaching a demonic image to his opponent; instead of proposing his own social economic alternative, he chooses to market to the satiated classes a pledge to continue the neo-liberal frenzy that benefits them so greatly.
If he continues down this path, Lapid, who started out as the great savior of the sane Israeli mainstream, might, like his father before him, eat away at the left and moderate center, weakening them and serving up their broken fragments to Netanyahu on a silver platter. His journey, which began with such promise, might very well end with a crash landing.
Want to enjoy 'Zen' reading - with no ads and just the article? Subscribe todaySubscribe now