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Israel's Wolves of the Far-right Smell Weakness

Zehava Galon
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Likud MK Miri Regev in the Knesset, in Jerusalem, in August.
Likud MK Miri Regev in the Knesset, in Jerusalem, in August.Credit: Ohad Zwigenberg
Zehava Galon

Miri “The Sudanese Are A Cancer In Our Body” Regev caused a political storm when she called the chairman of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, Ram Ben Barak – a former deputy chief of the Mossad and bereaved brother – an “Israel hater.” We can only be outraged at her.

Let’s go back a week. A right-wing website revealed that Ben Barak’s parliamentary aide, attorney Linir Abu Hazaz, was photographed during a tour of Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa mosque with sheikhs who are not favorites of the Shin Bet security service and the Israel Police – and there was a terrible outcry. Nobody was interested in Abu Hazaz’s response, to the effect that she knew nothing about those suspicions, just as nobody else knew.

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It should be said to Ben Barak’s credit that he employs an Arab parliamentary aide and supports the integration of Arabs in the public sector. That’s not a matter of course in the centrist parties; to his detriment it should be said that from the moment he learned of the accusations he announced he was suspending her “pending clarification.”

Although Ben Barak declared afterwards that he was allowing her to return to work, the suspension itself marked him: He demonstrated weakness in the face of the wolves of the far right, and they smell the blood immediately. A week later Regev pounced on him like a steak and turned him into an “Israel hater.”

There is a crucial lesson here for our centrist-leftists: Any attempt to appease the far right, any attempt to wail, “Not in the head, please,” will be met by another assault.

When former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu waged a war against human rights organizations through organizations working on his behalf – Im Tirtzu is the most prominent example – and media outlets loyal to him, the political center decided to join this attack for its own opportunistic reasons.

The center badly wanted to demonstrate to its electorate that it is not one of those stinking leftists who dare to speak publicly about the occupation. Breaking the Silence, an organization composed of former soldiers, which interviews former soldiers about what they did and saw in the service of the occupation, was attacked the way Ben Barak is being attacked now: It was accused of hating Israel. The human rights organization B’Tselem has become the enemy of the people, an incendiary slander machine operated against the New Israel Fund and Peace Now members were branded foreign agents.

There is a crucial point that the center has yet to understand: Our right wing is not conservative – it is revolutionary. Its goal is to bring down Israeli democracy and replace it with a country for Jews only. And revolutionaries don’t stop at a red light: As far as they’re concerned, the center and the left are not their rivals, but enemies. They will exploit any expression of weakness to attack again.

A substantial part of the rightward movement of Israeli politics is the need for centrists to dance before the right-wing lord. When they join him for a hate campaign against human rights organizations, they fail to understand that they are giving a stamp of approval to the revolutionary right, as well as undermining themselves.

The correct reply to the right is simple: Listen you racist, homophobic, xenophobic, misogynist animal, which is trying to drag us into a Taliban-like regime – we’re not afraid of you. We have principles: equality, love of mankind, freedom, brotherhood. Now get out of here, before we treat you the way we treated the original fascists.

But for that you need civic courage, a backbone, and too many people in the center-left lack that. Perhaps now, when they have understood that even an outstanding man like a deputy head of the Mossad has become an “Israel hater,” they will learn to develop one. We can only hope.

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