Netanyahu May Have Lost on Script on Being 'Liberal'

Netanyahu can spare himself the anguish. There is no prospect that we will be more liberal than Europe, despite the fact that it is becoming more and more fascist, anti-Semitic and xenophobic.

"Many people are complaining about the noise coming from the mosques. Our proposal is therefore designed to give residents a bit of quiet at home, which includes the elderly, children, the sick and children doing homework."

This isn't some explanation that MK Anastassia Michaeli (Yisrael Beiteinu ) included in the bill she introduced to ban the use of loudspeakers at mosques. These are the comments of the Egyptian minister for religious endowments, Mahmoud Hamdi Zakzouk, who as far back as 2005 proposed that the call to prayer from all the mosques in Cairo be consolidated into one amplification network through which one muezzin would issue the call to prayer in a "pleasant voice."

That was not the only time Muslim religious scholars have expressed themselves on the subject of loudspeakers in mosques. They have also been called upon in Morocco, Turkey and Saudi Arabia to address the issue of the "noise" coming five times a day from mosques calling the faithful to prayer. In Bahrain, the government totally banned the use of the loudspeakers. It turns out the Muslim ear is no less sensitive to noise than the Jewish ear, and even in countries like Israel, Egypt and Saudi Arabia, in which there is no separation of religion and state, noise is a nuisance.

But Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who is an ardent supporter of Michaeli's bill, actually preferred to rely on secular countries like Belgium and France to justify the legislation. "The same problem exists in all European countries, and they know how to deal with it. It's legitimate in Belgium; it's legitimate in France. Why isn't it legitimate here? We don't need to be more liberal than Europe," he explained at a meeting of ministers from his Likud party.

So what is there in this bill that set even real liberals like Dan Meridor and Michael Eitan from Likud and a somewhat less liberal minister like Limor Livnat against it? What is so horrible about it? In a country were mosques are burned and the perpetrators are not apprehended, where Knesset members propose stripping Arabic of its status as an official language and the government demands that Muslims also declare that they recognize the Jewishness of the state, one might suspect that the bill to outlaw the use of loudspeakers at mosques is not designed to improve the neighbors' quality of life.

And the source of the bill, the Yisrael Beiteinu party, is not exactly one that can demonstrate its innocent intentions. Just as similar legislation proposed by Marine Le Pen, the leader of France's right-wing fascist National Front leader, or Geert Wilders, the extreme right-wing Dutch politician, would not have convinced a soul that they were designed to guard against noise pollution.

These, however, are the representatives of European liberalism who serve as an example for Netanyahu. It's an example that even his (liberal ) colleagues in Likud steer clear of this like the plague.

Unlike the "liberals" from Yisrael Beiteinu and the "liberal" who is prime minister, European "liberals" don't hide behind the pretense of the environment. Le Pen has the copyright on legislation banning Muslim prayer on the street "to preserve France's character," while Wilders is demanding that distribution of the Koran be banned in the Netherlands, along with the construction of mosques and Muslim immigration to Europe.

These are the guardians of "liberal" Europe, genuine haters of Islam who don't have to mince words, whom Netanyahu so envies. These are the people who "know how to deal with it," as Netanyahu put it. It is a matter of dealing with the same Islamic plague that threatens to poison both Europe and Israel. In prior iterations, it was that same "liberal" Europe that knew how to cleanse itself of Jews, Gypsies or blacks.

Netanyahu can spare himself the anguish. There is no prospect that we will be more liberal than Europe, despite the fact that it is becoming more and more fascist, anti-Semitic and xenophobic. A country in which women cannot sit next to men on gender-segregated buses and where mosques are a threat to its identity cannot be more liberal than Europe.

On the other hand, we have raised hypocrisy to a level that Europe can only envy. Now we are trapped to the point of suffocation in that hypocrisy, to the point where we are not even allowed to turn down the volume of the mosque loudspeakers out on concern for our "liberal" image. If we were Egypt or Bahrain and not "Europe," our situation would be a lot better.

Read this article in Hebrew.