A few years ago I read an opinion piece in Yedioth Ahronoth by Yoaz Hendel (now a Knesset member for Kahol Lavan), in which he wrote that his grandfather used to tell him about having cut off the ears of Arabs during the war. Hendel did not express any disgust, did not repudiate the act and did not even really look into whether it had actually happened or not. It was just another cool story about grandpa’s heroism.
Hendel wrote that his grandfather had reached the conclusion that “there’s us [the Jews], and there are those that hate us.” Thus, according to Hendel, the world is a cold place, a real jungle, with enemies all around waiting for the right moment to attack. If every nation would adopt this approach, we would be living in an endless Armageddon. Later, the man uttered a statement that echoed the horrible things that were voiced during Europe’s darkest times: “The Zionist interest is maximum territory with minimum Arabs.”
After he was elected to the Knesset, Hendel (along with his party colleague, Zvi Hauser) loudly boycotted the demonstration Kahol Lavan organized against the immunity bill, which aimed to help Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu avoid trial, because Joint List MK Ayman Odeh had been invited to address it.
Lately, Hendel has been his party’s primary proponent of annexing the Jordan Valley, forcing Kahol Lavan Chairman Benny Gantz to take up an issue that Likud has long championed. Later Hendel was the spearhead of the effort to disqualify Joint List MK Heba Yazbak from running again, a move that, had it succeeded (which the High Court of Justice decided not to allow), would likely have deteredr Arabs from voting, reducing Gantz’s chance of becoming prime minister.
On Friday, in an interview with Ravit Hecht in the Hebrew edition of Haaretz, Hendel doubled down and presented his race theory on Arabs. “I think the Arab culture surrounding us is a jungle,” he said. I was certain that anything he said would pass without any response from the Israeli public. I even told myself, Odeh, stop being shocked by every expression of racism here, because in Israel being in shock has become the norm, while tranquility is the exception.
But God is great! Only a few hours went by before the entire country was up in arms. But not about the jungle – about the darabukka, a goblet drum common in the Middle East and North Africa.
“People came here from all kinds of countries, some with the mentality of a concert in Vienna and some with the mentality of darabukkas,” he said, and without meaning to he drowned in his own racist poison. It was amazing to see how one darabukka did what a thousand racist utterances could not.
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First of all, let it be said that any remark about the inferiority of Arabs in effect also includes Mizrahim, who after all came from the jungle so detested by the grandson of the ear-slicer. It’s a pity that some Israeli Jews of Middle Eastern and North African origin or descent, including important leaders, think the racists aren’t targeting them when they insult Arabs.
Second, while from Western culture Hendel chose the concert, the embodiment of beauty in that culture, from Arab culture he chose the darabukka, which is not particularly central to Arab music. Where is the oud, the qanun, the heavenly singing of Mohammed Abdel Wahab, of Umm Kulthum, Fairuz or Farid al-Atrash? All of these are absent. The racist soul of this Western man can perceive only the pounding of the darabukka, which apparently overpowers those Western melodies by whose sounds European madmen murdered Jews and members of other nations.
Eventually, the leaders of Kahol Lavan woke up and asked Hendel to shut up. They did the right thing. They should have demanded long ago that he desist from his racist remarks. To be honest, I was beginning to think he was a Netanyahu mole in that party. One minute he’s offending Arabs, the next Mizrahi Jews. With a man like that, Kahol Lavan doesn’t need enemies.