In response to positive comments made by two prominent right-wing Israeli activists about the late U.S. Senator Joseph McCarthy, who in the 1950s conducted an official witch hunt against communists in the United States, left-wing Meretz party leader Zehava Galon has posted a lengthy Facebook post purporting to set the record straight.
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Galon was reacting to comments on the Twitter social network by Ronen Shoval, a founder of the right-wing Im Tirtzu organization and by Israel Channel 20 editor Avishai Ivri. "[I'm] not familiar with the exact historical details regarding Joseph McCarthy, but you see who is coming out against him currently and you can't help but be in his favor," Ivri said in a tweet in Hebrew. For his part, Shoval, who was on the Habayit Hayehudi slate in last year's Knesset election, but was not elected to parliament, commented in Hebrew: "The historical details revealed that in most cases, he was correct."
The online debate comes against the backdrop of controversy over Im Tirtzu's recent video in which it singled out individuals associated with human rights groups in Israel that receive funding from foreign governments as foreign "moles." There was also controversy recently over a decision by the Education Ministry to limit the teaching in public high schools of "Borderlife," a novel by Dorit Rabinyan about a romantic relationship between a Palestinian man and an Israeli Jewish woman. Education Minister Naftali Bennett of Habayit Hayehudi also ousted the head of the ministry’s pedagogical secretariat, Dr. Nir Michaeli, and the deputy chairwoman of the Council for Higher Education, Prof. Hagit Messer-Yaron, steps that sparked controversy. And just within the past week, there has also been disagreement over a rewrite of a school civics textbook that critics charge distorts aspects of Israeli history; while Culture and Sports Minister Miri Regev made headlines this week over her efforts to ensure that artists who
lack allegiance to Israel be deprived of funding from her ministry.
"It's hard to decide whether to laugh or to cry," Galon wrote in her response to Shoval and Ivri on Wednesday, and went on to deliver what she called a "short history lesson" about McCarthy and about McCarthyism, a term that has become synonymous in American political parlance with the use of indiscriminate allegations against individuals that the accuser deems subversive. McCarthy "persecuted and ruined the lives of many hundreds of Americans, a large portion of whom were Jewish, with false allegations of support for Communism," as well as homosexuals through Congressional hearings that he held, Galon noted. He initially focused on alleged "traitors" among artists, broadcasters and film industry figures, she wrote, and then moved on the government employees and members of the armed forces.
Shoval and Ivri don't need to know "the exact historical details," Galon wrote sarcastically, "because in the Israel of the present, we are getting a rerun of that history courtesy of their patrons in the government." She then attempted to draw parallels between the McCarthy era in the United States and the current period in Israel: "Dismissal of civil servants on allegations of subversion? Check. Persecution of artists? Check. Spreading hatred of people who support human rights and social justice? Check. Censoring and editing of books that promote equality and coexistence? Check."
McCarthy, Galon wrote, ended his political career an isolated figure whose allegations against Communists and Jews and homosexuals were only in his head. The lesson, the Meretz legislator concluded, is "to be proud of our values and to continue to fight to turn our State of Israel into a place that reflects these values and not the fantasies of people of the likes of Ivri and Shoval here." Galon concluded by writing that any claim that the two may assert to a monopoly over love of Israel are a "transparent cover for hatred of most Israelis."