Opinion

Attack on State Prosecutor Appointment Exposes the Real Fear of Israel's 'Old Elite'

Gideon Levy
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Justice Minister Amir Ohana and newly-appointed acting State Prosecutor Orly Ginsberg Ben-Ari.
Gideon Levy

In the end, the names say something: Mendelblit, Hershkowitz, Kremnitzer, Nitzan, Lemberger and Zilber vs. Ohana, Bitan and Amsalem. A kind of coincidence. But all the denials won’t help.

This isn’t an exaggerated interpretation. The names speak like a thousand witnesses. A bystander sees Ashkenazim blocking Mizrahim – all wrapped in purely legal, democratic and professional arguments – and he concludes what we cannot avoid concluding: Alongside all the other struggles, there is a bitter, bloody and devastating ethnic struggle here that refuses to die, that is far from being resolved.

The opposition to the appointment of Orly Ginsberg Ben-Ari to the position of acting state prosecutor has reached the dimensions of public hysteria. The not entirely unreasonable appointment of a not entirely unadmired attorney by a minister who isn’t entirely incompetent has turned into a target of wild, violent attacks. A “coup,” a “knife in the back,” “throwing a grenade inside the tank” and “black flag” are just some of the insane denunciations of an appointment that could have been expected to cause some controversy among professionals, but not become a casus belli.

The ferocity of the opposition is indicative of distress and of the ground burning beneath the feet of the opponents. Such verbal violence proves exactly what the detractors of the prosecution and the legal system want to prove – that there’s a clique, a closed club, that strangers are forbidden to enter. That we are all from the same village, and woe to those from another village who try to join.

Justice Minister Amir Ohana comes from a different village. He has been targeted by insults that ministers far worse, more corrupt, and more dangerous than he have ever received: “Floor rag,” “the slave is king,” “a criminal spectacle,” “a ruthless thug,” and all of it smells of racism.

Another justice minister at a different time would have been forgiven Ben-Ari’s appointment; he might even have been praised for thinking out of the box, for being unpredictable, for being a gay minister who chose a woman for a senior position.

But now suddenly Avichai Mendelblit, Shai Nitzan and Daniel Hershkowitz are the fearless gatekeepers of democracy, a rare, Israeli-style combination of Andrei Sakharov, Martin Luther King, Jr. and Rene Cassin, the Just-Not-Netanyahu camp’s heroes of the hour.

Nitzan, who arrogantly permitted so many war crimes without blinking, is now the hero of the left. Can you believe this? That’s how it is when everything is infected with malignant Bibi-phobia; even a reasonable appointment of an attorney from within the prosecution is the end of the world.

Ben-Ari is actually quite representative of the prosecution, both in terms of professional ability and the blind automatic protection of the defense establishment in which she so excelled. No legal giant ever stood up to her.

The ethnic aspect will of course be hidden and repressed. It’s not politically correct in either camp to talk about it. But there is still an ethnic struggle here. The whitewashed code name is the “new elites” vs. the “old elites.”

The fact that Benjamin Netanyahu, the Ashkenazi from Rehavia, is, like Menachem Begin, the hero of these new elites is no contradiction; everything possible has already been said about his talent for portraying himself as a victim of the old elites.

Ohana is the new elite. There has never been a justice minister named Ohana. This was always a job reserved for “our kind” – from Pinhas Rosen, Dov Yosef, Yaakov Shimshon Shapira, Haim Zadok and Haim Cohen, through Dan Meridor, Yossi Beilin, Yosef Lapid, Yaakov Neeman, Haim Ramon, Daniel Friedmann and Tzipi Livni. Of the country’s 21 justice ministers, only four had any Mizrahi origins and only two were identified as Mizrahim. But who’s counting?

Here’s who’s counting: Those who feel excluded and discriminated against. Those who hear Mendelblit and Hershkowitz coming out against Ohana.

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