Since joining politics, and essentially a few years before that, Yesh Atid Chairman Yair Lapid has taken a steady line of attack against recreational drug use. On a number of occasions, he repeated his opposition to legalizing marijuana. In one of his last columns in the “Seven Days” Friday supplement of Yedioth Ahronoth, well into the election campaign, he railed against the hypocrisy of Israelis who support the rule of law but smoke a joint at home in the evening.
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Naturally, this kind of stance raised curiosity about Lapid’s experience with the drug. During the election campaign, when he was asked on his Facebook page if he had ever smoked marijuana, Lapid refused to answer and blocked the user’s access to the page.
Lapid eventually agreed to answer a similar question submitted to the heads of the various political parties on the final weekend before the election. He declared that he never used drugs. He also left no doubt about the matter in an interview on the Walla! website. It happened just before the end of the interview, a little after Lapid stated that he clearly understood from the moment he entered politics that his life was an open book.
After denying he ever smoked a joint, he said, “You can ask anyone who went to school with me in the Gymnasia Herzliya. There was one person in this whole crazy gang who went around, ‘Look – I’m seriously going to call the police if you don’t stop. Don’t smoke next to me.’ Go and check with anyone who went to school with me.”
Well, I checked.
But before that, a clarification: A person’s personal smoking habits do not interest me from the journalistic perspective. Personally, I believe there should be no problem with a responsible adult smoking a joint on occasion. I do it myself here and there. In my opinion, there is no significant difference between using recreational drugs and consuming alcohol, save for the legal status of the act. On principle, I tend to support legalization, though I can understand opponents’ arguments, including the problem of "drug tourism" that Lapid expanded upon in his Walla! interview. At the very least, I believe in minimizing the level of law enforcement by the police and courts against people who smoke cannabis.
Either way, Lapid’s declaration made me skeptical, and I was not the only one. Statistically, the chances are low that a secular Israeli who grew up here in the 1980s never took a drag. When it comes to someone from Tel Aviv who rubbed elbows with Bohemian artists (he played in movies, appeared on television and wrote songs), the chance is even lower.
So, I guessed that Lapid tried recreational drugs as an adult, at least when he was younger. Based on this working assumption, I was surprised that he denied this so outright. I believed that if the matter raises any political or familial discomfort, better that he refuse to answer. A politician avoiding a question of course is not ideal for voters and journalists, but it is definitely better than lying. Personally, I would of course hope for speaking the truth. It’s hard for me to understand why Barack Obama, who will visit here soon as the President of the United States of America, can admit to smoking marijuana in his past and even to cocaine use while the subject remains taboo in Israeli politics.
Lapid was known in past for smoking cigars of all things, and not the cheap kind, either. He also wrote about his hobby in various magazines. Now comes the smoking gun, or to be more exact the smoking joint. It’s his complete right at a certain stage of his life to stop smoking. It’s also his right to suddenly oppose others using recreational drugs and even to oppose legalization, but to wage a campaign against smoking cannabis and to deny ever smoking cannabis when the truth is substantially different - that’s crossing the line into self-righteousness and hypocrisy. To preach a new style of politics at every opportunity and then to lie to the public without batting an eyelash is also self-righteousness and hypocrisy. When you choose to follow this line, you expose yourself to humiliation. The life of a politician is indeed an open book.
And so, I received testimonies of people who smoked marijuana with Yair Lapid – much more than just once. According to certain eyewitness accounts, these incidents happened a long time ago - about 20 years back - but not so long ago for Lapid to forget the events (Cannabis does have a reputation for causing memory loss, but only in cases of methodical and extensive use over a long period of time).
The personal identities of these witnesses remain a secret to this blog because I see no point in revealing them at this stage. They are not the point. Neither is smoking marijuana by a responsible adult the point. Rather, the only point is speaking the truth and avoiding self-righteousness and hypocrisy.
On the day I established this blog, I declared that the absence of truth from the Israeli political discourse is an ongoing evil. I hope the present post will constitute another small step on the way to higher norms in this field. I also make no claim that this post teaches anything about Lapid’s possible abilities in the coalition or as a minister. He is not critical. However, it is sad to discover that at such a preliminary stage of his political career, Yair Lapid is not loyal to the truth.
One witness, who is a business-owner, told me: “I arrived at Lapid’s one evening with a musician friend, who was a childhood friend of his from the Gymnasia [Herzliya]. We explicitly came to him to ‘get organized’ (to obtain drugs, U.M.). It was at the beginning of the 1990s, when he started becoming a mini-celebrity, but he was still mainly considered the "son of" [Tommy Lapid]. Despite this, the atmosphere was such that you had to make a pilgrimage to him, that he was the host and boss, and that you had to flatter him a little. He had this kind of Yuppie, bourgeois apartment, in the vicinity of Hayarkon Street. I was surprised that a guy of his age already owned this kind of apartment, and that he was already married with a child. He made a big deal of having a little child, who wandered around us during the visit. He had an American style, jeans and boots with orange fringes. He was the one who took out the stuff. He was the one who rolled the joint. We smoked together. We had a conversation about the quality of the stuff. And in the end we left the apartment with a bag of marijuana."
Another witness, a talented professional admired in his field, also discussed smoking marijuana with Lapid in the early 1990s. “It was much more than once,” he said. “He lived then on Shenkin Street. I remember he had heavy weights on his balcony that I couldn’t move. This is a man who threatened me once during an argument that he would beat me up. I loved smoking with him because he immediately became nicer.”
In light of the information I had, I submitted on Saturday the following questions to Yair Lapid:
1. Do you stick by your version that you never smoked marijuana?
2. Why did you say on a number of occasions that you never smoked drugs, while the reality is completely different?
3. Were there other occurrences in which you smoked recreational drugs, or did you use other drugs?
4. Is speaking the truth not a part of the new politics you have often preached?
5. President Obama, who will soon visit Israel, admitted he used marijuana and cocaine in past. Why did you not prefer to adopt his norm - in which a politician is not embarrassed by his past as a youth and doesn’t lie about it?
Regretfully, Lapid refused to answer.
Apropos to a politician’s life being an open book: until when does the education minister of Israel’s children, Gideon Saar, intend to ignore the ongoing witch-hunt going on around him? Does he not intend to inform the public in a proper manner his response to the series of stories and rumors about him?