With Eternal Enemies Like These: A Brief History of Israelis' Most-hated List

Yossi Klein
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Yossi Klein

We’ll always have Paris, Humphrey Bogart told Ingrid Bergman and looked deep into her eyes. We will always have the Haredim, Yair Lapid told friends who really annoyed him with their whining about the taxes.

It’s always good to have someone to hate. Good − but that isn’t enough: You have to get the someone up and running, quick. If they yell at you because of taxes, don’t wait for even a moment. At once, even before you escape abroad, shout loudly: Haredim! Equal burden! The plan − the plan! That way you buy a little time.

You are not an idiot after all, you know that this is just talk. You know that nobody can tell the difference between the Ya’alon plan and the Perry plan and nobody cares either. But you shout because what else is left for you to do? They are demanding of you something you are incapable of doing. They are demanding of you equality in sharing the burden with the rich, not with the Haredim, and you don’t have a clue how to do that. The Haredim will always be there for us, my friend the political consultant explains to me, you can always rely on them, they won’t be going anywhere.

We aren’t the ones who invented the eternal enemy, the consultant humbly admits. I mean, George Orwell already wrote about him. But we, the Israelis, he says, have managed to manufacture a quality Amalekites-chain that has never been broken. All were my enemies: “the Nile ruler,” “the man with hair on his face” [as Menachem Begin referred to Yasser Arafat], “the butcher from Baghdad” ‏(Turkey’s prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan was also a candidate‏), and now “the Syrian-Iranian threat.”

They accompany us throughout our life and life isn’t simple, the consultant sighs; prices go up and people tend to forget the enemies. Sara is worried, too, the consultant adds with the requisite discretion. On more than one occasion, the consultant has seen the prime minister lean toward her and look deep into her eyes. Sara, he has heard him say to her, it’s going to be fine, after all, we’ll always have Iran.

We did not always have Iran, the consultant says, and asks whether I still remember “global terror.” I’d already forgotten, I reply frankly, and the consultant shakes his head in disappointment. I figured as much, he says, how quickly you forget.

It’s always good for us to have someone to hate, the consultant says. Someone who will be constantly available and constantly scary. Whenever we become stressed, he’ll show up. He shows up when the Americans exert pressure, and he shows up when there are defense cutbacks. Once there are protests here he will show up as a combo: the Syrian threat combined with the Iranian.

I actually feel bad about the Syrians, the political consultant says candidly. We always got along with the Assads, we got along with Mubarak and we get along with Abdullah. Assad we even liked. He sat quietly and played with his toys. Suddenly they go wild over there and he gets stressed out. We like neighbors who don’t get stressed out, neighbors who hold their people on a tight leash, the consultant says, because then we won’t stir their pots and won’t ask how democracy is doing over there.

At this point the political consultant interrupts the conversation and asks that I do him a favor and stop rolling my eyes heavenward in such exasperating self-righteousness.

We don’t have on us a single spare ounce of sentimentality, the consultant goes on, once I’ve apologized; we are not bleeding hearts, but nor are we dummies. Ultimately we condemn. Do you remember apartheid? Do you think we cared about it? Aboveboard we condemned and under the table we sold them arms.

We are practical, we know the hypocritical world loves to be shocked. If we are shocked strongly enough maybe they’ll let us settle matters with the Palestinians and the refugees our own special way. The world wants to be shocked? Be our guests, we will telephone Shimon Peres right away. Peres is our special envoy for shock affairs − he is really good at it. They ask him to be shocked at what is happening in Syria and he is shocked like nobody’s business, his heart is wrenched. Peres is off being shocked and we think about poor Assad’s great mistake.

You didn’t hear this from me, the consultant warns, but there is talk among us about Assad’s mistake: the fact that he didn’t finish off 30,000 to 40,000 in the first two days. We expected from him a bit more grit. We were indeed properly shocked, but between ourselves we said: Yalla, let ‘em kill each other. That’s what we said about the Egyptians and that is what we’re saying about the Turks. If he had been a bit tougher in the first few days we could, us and him, sit on his land till the end of time. We would go on making wine there and he would go on playing on the Internet. But now? Now we will be downright offended if anyone suggests that we talk to Assad. Talk to that cruel man?

Eventually we may have to separate him from the Iranian threat, the political consultant says. The Iranian threat is too important an asset to waste on Assad. And Assad? He’ll be made to pay for the taxes, the VAT, and the child allowances. I’ve got a feeling we will yet find something there − perhaps missiles, perhaps chemical weapons, we haven’t decided yet. The Syrian threat, at any rate, is not forgotten so quickly.

Syrian forces retake Qusair. Credit: Reuters

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