At Least Gantz Didn’t Spew Hatred

The most refreshing part of Gantz's speech is what it was missing: the incitement

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Benny Gantz launches his party's campaign in Tel Aviv, January 29, 2019.
Benny Gantz launches his party's campaign in Tel Aviv, January 29, 2019.Credit: \ AMIR COHEN/ REUTERS
Odeh Bisharat
Odeh Bisharat

After returning from a vacation overseas, where he went to compose some literary texts – to no avail – author Emile Habibi was asked why he didn’t manage to write anything. They say that this is what he replied: “I missed the conflict.” In the maiden speech of Benny Gantz, the leading challenger to Benjamin Netanyahu for the post of prime minister, what was missing for me was the incitement. Where the hell did the incitement go?

Regarding the rest of his speech, particularly when dealing with political issues, I could picture Netanyahu standing there: continued rule over millions of Palestinians; Jerusalem forever under Israel’s control; the Golan is already our forefathers’ lot and in the Jordan Valley, settlers will continue to make life miserable for Palestinians. We, the Arabs in Israel, were mentioned only twice. Once as “non-Jews” – that’s how we’re termed by someone who doesn’t want to sully his speech. The second time, for the sake of variation, he referred to us as “those.” The second time we were actually called by name, but dividing us in the process. This was when Gantz said that he would deepen partnership with the ultra-Orthodox, the Arabs and the Druze.

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After dividing us into Arabs and Druze, Gantz found it fitting to use the opportunity to remind us that he would establish “a framework of civic service for everyone, for the benefit of all.” That’s the mantra in this country: you mention Arabs in a somewhat positive context, of partnership for example, and right away you attach something negative, so you understand that the speaker isn’t some softie, God forbid. I believe that civic service should be discussed with Arab leaders, just as it’s discussed with ultra-Orthodox leaders.

Don’t worry, I won’t be a spoilsport with trivia such as the threat to continue with targeted assassinations against Hamas leaders, or threats against Iran, or threats against Palestinians so they don’t disrupt the demographic balance of the white race. I won’t say a word about his peace plan, which is more reminiscent of a declaration of war against the Palestinians and the enlightened world. I’ll hide all that in order to highlight the sweetest part of his speech, which is what was lacking in it: the incitement.

Incitement against Arabs as a fifth column, against Palestinians who teach their children only hatred, against the police which dares investigate, against state attorneys, the courts, journalists, human rights organizations and citizens, against friends who are fed up with him. Almost the entire world, except his ally, the knight of good governance, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

Therefore, even though the speech was made in the spirit of Netanyahu, there is nevertheless something new here, a new current, lacking incitement, hatred, calls for revenge and attacks. It’s true that this is only a poor man’s consolation, but it is something to be happy about, and not to be disdained. At the head of the pyramid here, according to the correct assessment of Haaretz columnist Alon Idan, we have an evil man, or, more precisely, evil dressed up as a person. Thus, any step which distances us from this person’s path is a step forward, at least for public hygiene.

It’s true we still have a problem, not an easy one – how will we manage our lives in the absence of incitement, without cries of “they are a-f-r-a-i-d” and without “The Arabs are going in droves to the polling stations.” But at least, if we remember Habibi, we’ll have the conflict. A leader comes and a leader goes and the conflict remains as is, covering us, and if, God forbid, we didn’t have the conflict, we wouldn’t recognize ourselves in the mirror.

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