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Fuming Over Comparison Between Rape and 1948, Leftist Leader Does Damage

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The former head of the Meretz party, Zehava Galon, in Tel Aviv in 2019.
The former head of the Meretz party, Zehava Galon, in Tel Aviv in 2019.Credit: Moti Milrod

There was something overly theatrical in Zehava Galon’s response to the rhetorical use of rape imagery by TV host Kalman Liebskind when he interviewed her on his daily program on Kan public broadcaster.

“You’re making a shameful and shocking parallel between the rape of women and what happened here in 1948,” she fumed. “The comparison to rape is unacceptable under any circumstances” she cried, then got up and left the studio. But is Galon actually saying that these issuess cannot be compared?

While watching her I thought that perhaps in the heat of the moment she had adopted a position more extreme than she had intended. Then when I read an article she subsequently had published in Haaretz I realized that she had dug in and created a feminist bastion.

“We must internalize the fact that adopting the rape metaphor normalizes its usage”, she wrote. She implied that one should not fall into the trap of discussing such comparisons, but ouright rebuff them. Using the rape metaphor should be banished from legitimate discourse, she argued.

As one of the leaders of a camp which does not eschew images, metaphors and historical comparisons, it’s unclear what yardstick Galon uses in determining that the rape metaphor is out of bounds. Are comparisons to fascism, Nazism, apartheid, ethnic and cleansing allowed but comparison to rape and blaming the victim forbidden, as far as she’s concerned?

Furthermore, it’s not so difficult to dismiss such a comparison. Liebskind’s attempt to present Jews as (rape) victims of the Palestinians and the criticism of Israel as an attempt to blame the victim is playing innocent and sanctimonious at best, and impudent, demagogic and mendacious at worst.

One can and should ridicule such an effort. He prepared the ground for her, and it would have been great had she responded with a decent intellectual slap in the face. Galon even boasts in her article that she could have easily taken down the comparison but refused to play into his hands or affirm “the format of interviewer and interviewee in its present form, where men can say anything while women can only go tsk-tsk and preach, until the next female interviewee comes along.”

But all that Galon did was go tsk-tsk and preach but not about the topic she had been invited to talk about. I really don’t know the political flavor of the banner Galon is waving. The bottom line is that Galon walked out on a debate about the important issue of opposing annexation, using important air time to turn herself into a victim, ostensibly of sexual violence. But she only did harm to the campaign against such violence, since Liebskind had not humiliated her, at least not sexually. She and the left-wing views she represented in the debate came out looking bad, and in a setting of such a low-level style, as employed by Liebskind who “raped” the meaning of the term rape. This was truly a missed opportunity.

According to Galon, when she realized that the discussion was not to the point, “and that I was only a means for Liebskind to employ his usual method of humiliating female interviewees,” she cut the interview short. She claimed that this did the job better than anything she could have said. “The fact is that it was written up in the papers.” But the only one who was not to the point was Galon. And therein lies the problem: instead of the paper reporting on a debate about annexation, it talked about Galon.

The damage wrought by her conduct lies not only in deflecting the debate away from the real victims (the Palestinians) to an imaginary victim (herself). The new target she marked in her feminist campaign is without merit, and Galon emerges as a caricature of the left, a run-of-the-mill censor, a puny thought policewoman dealing with trivia such as privilege, mobility and wealth. As she is one of the leaders of the left, people might think that the entire left is like that, and that its approach to the occupation is also tainted with the same blindness.