Opinion

Cannabis Legalization Buzz Is a Smokescreen Masking Apartheid’s Legitimization

In an election that is making fair game of the blood of one-fifth of the citizens of this country, people are occupied with the question of their freedom to openly hold a joint

Zehut party campaign materials, including a pro-legalization sticker, seen at a party event in Be'er Sheva, March 2019.
Eliyahu Hershkovitz

All of a sudden legalizing cannabis is on everyone’s lips. Maybe because of Moshe Feiglin –  who may or may not stand a real chance, as the election polls will show us – until they fade away like smoke rings before new ones are puffed. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu talked about cannabis, the finance minister suddenly addressed the issue of weed as well, as have, of course, all the representatives of the opposition, who declared that they were the first to identify and plant it in their platforms.

And this, prima facie, is a sign of total inanity, the utter breakdown of any pretensions to dealing with important issues. To whom, in fact, is legalization all that important? Anyone who wants to smoke now is already smoking, even if the police might hassle him a bit. This also represents an infantile retreat from discussion of other issues, the centrality of which doesn’t necessarily derive from their importance, like LGTBQ rights or separation of church and state. These issues at least have some effect on certain people’s basic life routines.

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The sudden buzz around cannabis is not just plain stupidity. It is intentional inanity, just as getting high is an intentional action the aim of which is to mask reality. When is intentional inanity needed? When is masking needed? When mucky, gloomy, even scary slime is seething beneath the crust of normality.

This election is, of course, another round in the clash between those faithful to the old order – the next generation of the historic Labor Party Mapai –  and the mishap of Netanyahu and his troops. But the issue in their hearts is revealing itself as a disaster. This is an election based on people’s race. Yes, yes, like in the history lessons about those periods in those countries. Listen to the legitimate talk shows on the leading channels. “Will you or won’t you sit in a government with Arabs?” – ambitious moderators are quizzing perplexed Kahol Lavan candidates. This isn’t an interview on South African television in the apartheid years. It’s our very own “Meet the Press.”

I heard a spokesman explain in all seriousness that the issue of cannabis is indeed an important issue of liberty and individual rights. There is no need to take the trouble to find a metaphor for this idiocy. It writes itself. In an election that is making fair game of the blood of one-fifth of the citizens of this country – people are busy with the question of their freedom to openly hold a joint.

It is said that Netanyahu has a cynical strategy of inciting against Arabs in order to rake in a victory. Netanyahu knows a thing or two about marketing and convincing the public but in his case it’s not a strategy. It is an ideology. This week Netanyahu said that “the Arab citizens have another 22 nation-states around.” He was not referring to the Arabs in the West Bank or the Gaza Strip, who are demanding a state. He was referring to Israel’s Arab citizens, our Arabs. “The Arabs are going to the polls in droves” – the saying he so famously uttered in the last election – was no glitch but rather a manipulation.

An excellent embodiment of this ideology is his son, Yair Netanyahu, who is very active in this election on the social networks. Netanyahu junior is an emissary of his father’s mind. He writes consistently and bluntly what the prime minister is apparently thinking but is restraining himself, usually, from actually saying with such blunt simplicity. In response to a provocative tweet that compared this statement of Netanyahu’s to Hitler’s plan to expel the Jews from Germany, Netanyahu junior wrote: “Clearly Germany was surrounded by 22 Jewish states that wanted to destroy it, with a Jewish minority of 20 percent that was connected to those states, committing terror attacks, murdering Germans and demanding a state for the Jews instead of Germany.” This is how he sees the Arabs. This is how most of the rightist camp sees them.

Kahol Lavan will lose this election because, like children, they are insisting on closing their eyes in the hope of making reality disappear. They are insisting on walking around in circles where direct pipes leading to the lowest levels of consciousness have already been laid. They are insisting on being judicious while the other side no longer obeys the rules. A bit like the liberals, who are lighting a joint while far-rightists MK Bezalel Smotrich and candidate Itamar Ben-Gvir are raking in the whole pot.