During the past two weeks a process of delegitimization of Israeli artists has been going on, which is reminiscent of the bad times in the 1950s in the United States, when Senator Joseph McCarthy launched a witch hunt against cultural icons whom he suspected were endangering the ideology of the administration. Although Israel's behavior is a far cry from McCarthy's aggressiveness, there is a disturbing similarity between the cases. The government, which is having difficulty dealing with a phenomenon it has described as dangerous - although its true dimensions are quite negligible - is setting a goal that will have absolutely no chance of affecting the relevant processes, but which will provide it with maximum publicity and will give rise to a consensus among laymen.

The problem of people avoiding service in the Israel Defense Forces should disturb our society, but it is not clear why such a numerically negligible group has been marked as a stumbling block that must be removed right away. Instead of the army authorities examining why they found it proper to release some of said artists from their duties, they choose to present them as a factor that could destroy other people's willingness to undertake the obligation of doing their service.

It's true that cultural icons are widely admired and become well known, but for the most part that happens thanks to their creative or cultural activity, not because they boasted of something related to their military service. Whether through education or due to the use of sanctions, the State of Israel has succeeded in getting the public to see exemption from service as a mark of Cain. But now it finds itself facing a critical and ethical society, which dares to cast doubts on some of the goals of the army, and on the genuine contribution that one individual or another can bring to the largest organization in the country.

The easiest solution is to sic society on the artists who avoid service. They earn quite a good salary, are photographed at glamorous events and often dare to level harsh criticism against the government. Even the ambivalence with which the state treats them arouses suspicion about the true purposes of targeting these artists.

Model Bar Refaeli, for example, did not serve in the Israel Defense Forces because of a quickie fictitious marriage, but that did not prevent Isaac Herzog, who was tourism minister at the time, from using her to promote tourism to our beautiful country. Ivri Lider, who has recently been asked to sign a declaration of appreciation for the army as a precondition for performing in front of soldiers, is one of the most popular artists among people doing military service, and his greatest contribution to Israeli society is that he wasn't afraid to come out of the closet. It is hard to see how service in a military entertainment troupe, for example, could contribute more to the development of society.

A country that has recognized Torah study as a reason for a wholesale exemption from military service for the ultra-Orthodox, a larger group than the artists, must overcome what looks like cheap opportunism and find genuine solutions to the increase in the number of those avoiding service. No artist is admired only because he didn't serve in the army, and none of them constitutes a clear and present danger.

There is also something insulting and worrisome in the foolish attempt by the government to rouse the public against this group. Insulting because it seems that this demagoguery will succeed quite easily. Worrisome because the public is already embracing the sanctions being proposed every other day against artists who didn't serve in the army.

The effect of the political lobby of Israeli artists can be expected to be negligible and quite predictable (including the efforts of a handful of representatives of the left in the Knesset); the political situation will certainly not make things easy for them; and the wizards of legislation in the Knesset and their representatives in the local councils will make the situation intolerable long before anyone succeeds to claim that this is a marginal phenomenon - almost natural in a democratic country.

It's hard to find a difference between the state's opportunistic attack on its artists and its opportunistic artists, who have avoided military service with one excuse or another, except when it comes to the disturbing numbers involved: a country and its bureaucracy vs. a tiny number of freeloaders. Someone will probably write a song about this spin. Maybe he will also boast of having a discharge notice from the IDF.