Ilana Dayan’s decision to stand before the camera for six minutes in one unbearably long shot as she read the wild invective hurled at her by Benjamin Netanyahu was a brilliant choice. Not just as a means of conveying chilling information to viewers, but as the ultimate proof to back up what was said in her report, illustrating the true nature of Netanyahu’s rule. What Dayan endured before the flabbergasted eyes of the television audience is what every Israeli citizen – regardless of political orientation – who dares to criticize the prime minister and his household can expect as well.
But above all, the main value of the PMO’s response being read in that manner is not about television or politics, but as a genuine presentation of a victim under attack. Of course the response attests first and foremost to its author. It accuses Dayan of lies and slander, and is packed with intolerable distortions, such as: “She refers to Jewish settlement in Judea and Samaria as land theft,” while in my interview with Dayan just a few days earlier, Dayan talked about the admiration she feels for the settlers’ passion, denounced the condemnations commonly directed at the settlements and called for the different risk-management equation employed by the right to be taken into account.
How is it possible for a woman who says such things to be called an “extreme leftist” – and that’s without even getting into the demonization carried by the term “leftist,” as if that were a wholly illegitimate position to begin with. Apparently it is possible, and painfully easy to do. In Netanyahu’s world of distorted mirrors, Dayan is the extreme left. Now all that’s left to do is pass it along to the public.
I listened to the interview Dayan gave on Army Radio, in which she continued to assert that she finds the prime minister a fascinating figure and that he is not her enemy. Even when she is attacked in an unprecedented manner, Dayan makes a point of sounding calm and rational. So do many other centrists who insist on finding (what they view as) a logical symmetry, who do not want to be marked as enemies of the regime, and who still try to reach out to someone who’s in another phase altogether by now.
In his fourth term as prime minister, and as could already be seen during the last election campaign, Netanyahu has shrugged off any kind of statesmanlike responsibility, and any shred of the ostensibly liberal outlook that, as she explained in our conversation, Dayan is sure that Netanyahu has at some level. The fire that has lapped at the “leftist” human rights organizations is quickly spreading to the heart of the consensus, and will eventually overtake rightists who decline to worship with the cult of Netanyahu.
Anyone who says that Netanyahu, with his soldiers in the Likud, is playing a fair and democratic political game, is tragically off the mark. They are being derelict in the duty to clearly say: He is no good. This man is no good. And it has nothing to do with left or right.
This criticism also applies to my free-thinking friends on the left, including my colleague Rogel Alpher, who made different, clever-sounding arguments in his television review (arguing that the broadcast of the PMO’s response basically helped Netanyahu, who is changing the rules of the game; along with other comments denouncing the discourse in leftist circles). Sometimes, there are truly awful things that should just compel us to stop and raise an outcry against them – without looking for an interesting angle, without trying to be clever about it and turning things inside-out. This is the only way to block this total evil from invading the arena, from infecting the Israeli DNA.
Dayan’s reading of the text that was written by Netanyahu or his water-carriers is the biggest journalistic truth she has ever brought to viewers. It showed better than any investigative report just who the Israeli prime minister is and what it means to live under his rule.
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