Lucy Aharish, the Arab-Israeli television host, woke up. Her awakening came a bit late and was not exactly aimed at the right target, but that’s not the important thing. The important thing is that on Monday, the news anchor awoke from a long coma.
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The previous day, Benzi Gopstein – a merry Israeli trouper from Kiryat Arba in the West Bank – was a guest on the current-affairs program she hosts on Channel 2 (“Sihat Hayom” – “Talk of the Day”). Gopstein expounded his doctrine about Arabs’ place in Israeli society (according to him, they have none) and argued with the members of the panel, with the elephant standing right there in the room – in this case, the program host, an Arab woman, who sat there, doing a slow burn until she reached boiling point.
On Monday, Aharish began her program with a calm, well-considered monologue. When reality-show refugee Dan Manu tried to defend Gopstein’s appearance, Aharish pulled out all the stops, releasing the feelings she had kept inside for so long.
“Do you know what it’s like to be a minority in this country? I hope you never find out what it’s like to be a minority,” she told him, and shared some of the experiences of a person living between two societies and feeling like a hated stranger in each of them.
What triggered Aharish’s reaction? She who sits so politely during annoying and depressing programs, listening for months on end to the most stupid, simplistic and ugly opinions that Israeli panelists can express. Was it Gopstein who annoyed her? Gopstein, a follower of the late Rabbi Meir Kahane, is the head of Lehava, a nut-job organization that seeks to prevent assimilation. It is easy to dismiss him as an extremist; as one who is, in any case, acting illegally.
Fine – Gopstein is beyond the pale, a deviant. But what about all the serious and respected guests who sit in the studio and express Gopstein’s opinions, only with more refined language? What about MKs Danny Danon and Miri Regev (both Likud), and Naftali Bennett (Habayit Hayehudi)? Are they really so far from Gopstein?
Nobody condemns or dismisses them, and Aharish, who knows exactly what they think of her, sits there and welcomes them politely, according to the rules of the game. Her colleagues, the members of the panel – except for Daniel Ben Simon (the former Labor MK) – leaped to her defense with all sorts of assertions that dignify Gopstein’s basic assumptions. Dahlia Neumann described the messianic, hate-filled character of the discussion as “Benzi-style discourse.”
The truth is, many people who are deep inside the Israeli mainstream use “Benzi-style discourse.” They are hard to dismiss because they are less harsh than Gopstein, better dressed and hold impressive positions or ministerial portfolios. That does not make their worldview any less ugly.
Aharish kept on taking it until she could take it no more. It is likely that next week, propriety will return and the mess will have calmed down.
Lucy Aharish will calm down, too. She knows her place.
Video of the excerpt, in Hebrew: