Mitzna Is Not the Man

Is someone who expresses such a deep fear of the public he is meant to lead is capable of leading?

A pity, a real pity about Amram Mitzna, the pale-skinned contender for the Labor Party leadership. Really, what's the big deal about saying to veteran party members in Givatayim that Shelly Yachimovich and Isaac Herzog offer "tremendous added value," while Amir Peretz and his supporters are from "a different planet?"

Didn't he already say that he didn't think the city of Yeruham was "ripe for a democratic process" of electing a mayor back in August 2008? And now, in a desperate attempt to explain himself, he adds that perhaps what he meant was that Peretz comes from "a different political culture."

Actually, Mitzna is rather quiet, polite, and sensitive. He didn't say, for example - as Herzog insists he also didn't say, despite the WikiLeaks reports - that Peretz is an aggressive Moroccan, ah, excuse me, is "portrayed as an aggressive Moroccan."

Nor did he say, as Gigi Peres said after Peretz defeated his brother, Shimon Peres, in the Labor primaries that "Like General Franco, Peretz drafted the Falangists from North Africa."

The beauty of these statements stems from the fact that those who uttered them don't understand what's so wrong with what they said. Holy simplicity!

Now everyone is obsessing over the question of whether Peretz was insulted and who will benefit and/or lose from this incident (not the two candidates with the tremendous added value, who Mitzna deigned to describe as his possible satellites - which certainly angered both of them, justifiably, and particularly Yachimovich, who sees him as a clueless neo-liberal ).

But it's more interesting to understand the remarks themselves.

Aside from the fascinating question of what leads cultured people to invoke figures from the West's darkest hours (Franco's fascism and the "other planet" of the Holocaust ), it's clear that on the surface, Mitzna believes that the conservative old boys club represents, and will continue to represent, the Labor Party.

If so, it would be better to let him know now that if he wins the leadership primary, the chances of his pulling Labor out of the mire are slim. In fact, chances are that he would lead the party into such a mortal defeat that it would make the public forget his panicked flight after the last defeat, and his vote for the 2003 budget when he was in the opposition.

On the sub-conscious level, his remarks expose a world of archaic concepts, haunted by fears.

The characterization "from another planet/culture" does not have real political substance. It derives from a worldview that gives primacy to a specific culture, one that is pretty vague but easily deciphered by the internal codes of its members who define themselves as enlightened, liberal and Western - that is, Ashkenazim of a high socio-economic status (who embraces Mitzna as "one of ours" ).

This worldview, which with consistent conservatism denies that anything has changed in its surroundings, entails the defensive and panicked withdrawal from everything that seems different from the tried and true, the demonizing of the "other," and the pathetic idealization of the old, even if its expiration date has long passed.

The trouble is that demonizing a political rival insults not him, but his supporters, proven or potential. Disparaging a rival who has demonstrated an impressive ability to attract votes from socio-political groups that had long viewed Labor as taboo is problematic enough. But describing Peretz as someone who succeeded in recruiting new party members through primitive, corrupt and fraudulent politics - a description that suffers the same non-reasoned, emotionally associative vagueness that afflicts the congenital enlightenment and incorruptibility of the camp Mitzna is identified with - is much more serious. It defines these new recruits as an irrational herd, easily manipulated, and even worse - illegitimate.

This position is also invalid when it comes to Likud voters, but it is especially contemptible when those being slandered are voters whom Mitzna himself will start courting after the first round of the primaries, if he succeeds in advancing, to ask for their support.

So the question isn't whether Mitzna insulted Peretz, or whether Yachimovich or Herzog can join forces with him after the patronizing prank he pulled on them. It's whether someone who expresses such deep fear of the public he is meant to lead is capable of leading. Mitzna has already proven that the answer is no.