Opinion

In Israel, Political Success Comes Through Crushing Minorities

The path to power in Israel requires the hatred and exclusion of minorities. Yesterday it was the Arabs, today it’s the ultra-Orthodox, and tomorrow it will be the leftists or the settlers

Ultra-orthodox activists for United Torah Judaism call voters from the party's headquarters, September 17, 2019.
Emil Salman

No matter how this election turns out, with a Likud or a Kahol Lavan victory – there’s one loser for sure, the ultra-Orthodox community, which has become Israeli society’s punching bag in a campaign of unprecedented incitement.

The dissolution of the Knesset and the announcement of the first round of elections in 2019 were the result of a decision by Avigdor Lieberman to torpedo the military draft law in the form approved by the defense establishment. Luckily, though, public discourse revolved around the prime minister’s fitness to serve while under investigation for corruption. The theme of the campaign was Bibi yes, Bibi no.

The second round of elections in 2019 was ostensibly the result of that same strange intransigence by Lieberman, but this time it seemed that he bet on the right horse.

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At first he focused his campaign only on the issue of the increasing role of religion and the issue of a state based on Jewish law, but he quickly announced his personal boycott of the ultra-Orthodox community, making it clear he would not be part of a government with MK Yaakov Litzman, Interior Minister Arye Dery and MK Moshe Gafni.

Imagine what would happen if elected officials in Eastern Europe openly declared that they wanted to establish a government without Jews, or boycotted Jewish politicians only because of their origin. The whole world would express shock at the anti-Semitism and Jew-hatred and call on such a candidate to apologize, and rightfully so. But when it happens in Israel, not only does no one protest, but the rest of the parties are soon dragged along after him and adopt his doctrine.

Kahol Lavan co-chairman MK Yair Lapid’s incitement videos about ultra-Orthodox politicians’ money-grubbing and longing for budgets continued that same line of pure hatred of the ultra-Orthodox. Even Kahol Lavan co-chairman MK Benny Gantz – perceived as a gentleman who at the beginning of the campaign spoke grandly about unity among all people and his desire for a bond between religious and secular people – quickly followed his party colleagues and adopted the militant line of boycotting the ultra-Orthodox.

Because what does a declaration about the establishment of a secular unity government mean if not a call to exclude the ultra-Orthodox from a government he would head? What was the meaning of the tweet (for which he apologized) that compared the high voter turnout in the ultra-Orthodox community of Bnei Brak to that in other Arab cities, if not, “The ultra-Orthodox are streaming to the polls in droves.”

The truth is that the ultra-Orthodox public should admit it was wrong. The handwriting was on the wall.

Were we not wrong when Lieberman incited against the Arabs, and we were silent, did not protest and defended him? We should have known that as a talented politician, Lieberman has a keen sense of which minority is hated in Israel more at a certain time, and he rides the wave of hatred toward that community to the ballot box, picking up Knesset seats along the way.

Those who were silent in the face of Lieberman’s incitement against the Arabs in 2015 got a delegitimization campaign against the ultra-Orthodox in 2019.

What a pity it is that in Israel the way to success passes through hatred of others and crushing minorities underfoot while excluding them from the political arena. Yesterday it was the Arabs, today it’s the ultra-Orthodox, and tomorrow it will be the leftists or the settlers. We have to learn how to stop this incitement in time, and the sooner the better.