Opinion

Calling Arab MKs 'Traitors', Israel's Tourism Minister Betrays His Job

Minister Yariv Levin lent a hand to the exclusion of a quarter of the country’s population, which he is supposed to serve no less than he is supposed to serve the rest of the population

Israeli Tourism Minister Yariv Levin in Tel Aviv, February 2018
\ Moti Milrod

In an interview with Army Radio, Tourism Minister Yariv Levin called the Arab MKs traitors, because they dared to complain to the world that the Jewish nation-state is turning them into second-class citizens by legislating the nation-state law.

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Minister Levin should know that besmirching public representatives by calling them “traitors” – people who should receive the death penalty or at least a long prison sentence – is in itself cause for turning to the United Nations for protection. After all, talk about “treason” means only one thing, that our blood is cheap. We have already seen the poisonous fruits of the Nation-State Law in brutal attacks against Arabs, including members of the Arab Druze community, and against Jewish left-wing activists from Taayush (a Jewish-Arab anti-occupation organization).

We can assume that Minister Levin has yet to internalize the idea that abuse within the family is not a matter that should stay within the family. It is the duty of the victim, and of anyone privy to information about abuse, to turn immediately to the authorities. Therefore, if the Arab representatives don’t warn of the abuse, before the world as well, we have to complain about them.

On the other hand, one could say (and I won’t use the diabolical word “traitor” here), that the person who betrayed his job, twice over, is Minister Levin himself. First, he lent a hand to the exclusion of a quarter of the country’s population, which he is supposed to serve no less than he is supposed to serve the rest of the population. The second time came when he opposed the elementary right of a victim to complain to the authorities, in our case the United Nations, and even incited against it.

For anyone who is interested, it was the UN that granted legitimacy for Israel’s establishment, and determined the conditions for this legitimacy – first and foremost that it guarantee full equality. According to this logic, if the Arabs have complaints they should turn to the abusive parents. Their options include Levin, the one who besmirched their leaders by calling them traitors; Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked, who treats the Arabs in Israel like subjects rather than citizens, and wished only the Druze Arabs a happy Id al-Adha (Festival of the Sacrifice) while ignoring 1.5 million Muslim Arabs, in the best colonialist tradition of divide and conquer; or Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman, who promised to chop off with an axe the heads of the Arab leaders who oppose him.

If there was nothing wrong with this law, I would expect Minister Levin, a proud nationalist, to pick up the gauntlet and defend it among, and even to sell it to the nations. Usually an abusive parent is distanced from his home. I see no reason not to impose this sanction against Minister Levin; the man is a public menace.

Meanwhile, the chairman of the Zionist Union, Avi Gabbay, is condemning as expected the Arab leaders for their international protest. In doing so, he is only serving the right, which is taking advantage of the opposition leaders’ defeatism to push the claim that we mustn’t criticize the nation-state law because the Arabs are protesting it, and therefore any of its critics will be siding with the enemy.

>> What we can learn from the nation-state law | Opinion >>

In other words, the right’s logic goes like this: I can shit in the middle of our neighbor’s living room, and if you condemn that act then you are an ally of that same neighbor-enemy, you defeatist! That line of reasoning works very well in Israel.

I’ll go along with Gabbay for a moment and say to him, in the spirit of his opinion, although I don’t accept it, the following: “I’m opposed to turning to international institutions, but that’s a direct result of what you, the members of the extreme right, cooked up, when you excluded about two million Arabs. You shattered the principle of equality that is sacred to every democratic society, and turned us into lepers among the nations.”

What’s wrong with you, Mr. Gabbay? Are you waiting to retire in order to turn into Ehud Barak, who incessantly, repeatedly and harshly attacks Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu? So disappointing! Politicians in Israel become heroes only upon retirement. When they’re in power, or in the opposition, they aren’t worthy of being called leaders.