Dictatorship Is in the Air, and Israel's 'Center-left' Is Still Apologizing

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Actor Oded Kotler, accused of calling Likud voters 'beasts,' which he denies.Credit: David Bachar

The tongue-cluckers are busy now. They must sharply condemn Oded Kotler for calling Likud voters “a herd of beasts,” and explain that there is no “real threat” to freedom of expression; after all, one can stage anything. They see themselves as center-left, but they also believe the state cannot fund plays and films about murderers, certainly not about Yigal Amir, and that we must also consider the feelings of the Tamam family, whose son was murdered by the terrorist who inspired the play “A Parallel Time.” They also believe that it’s forbidden to offend the Israel Defense Forces and that one must speak politely to the culture minister.

The tongue-clickers are sitting on the fence, as usual. They go along with all the distractions and illusions of the right; they are miserable collaborators who are sometimes worse than the nationalists.

This is no time to be fence-sitting; it’s time to take sides. Are you with us, or against us? This isn’t even the occupation, which remains far from the eye and can be blurred, somehow. Now you have to say yes or no – democracy or the coming dictatorship? – and act accordingly. There is no third option. Whoever remains silent supports that second choice.

The right is running rampant, unrestrained; it has taken off all the gloves, including the gloves of shame, and faced with this, the collaborators are stuttering: “How can Kotler say such things; how can they screen a film about a murderer, what about the Tamam family, and the IDF?” But what’s at stake is our country’s regime, its character, its substance. This is a fight for our home, and they are busy with manners and etiquette. They talk about dialogue with Culture Minister Miri Regev, as if there’s something to talk about or someone to talk to, instead of ostracizing and condemning her as she deserves.

We cannot stand on the sidelines and deal with trivialities like Kotler’s unnecessary remark. It’s not for nothing that he was attacked by Isaac Herzog, Shelly Yacimovich, Yair Lapid and Zehava Galon, while the knights of the left in the media are competing for who can say “ugh” more often. They know that this will absolve them from their real, combative role, which obligates them to stand up courageously to the strong and not be heroes at the weak’s expense.

Kotler, a worthy and principled person, has been marked as a public enemy by his colleagues no less that by the right, just like Yair Garbuz before him, and this huge distraction has succeeded again. That’s the way it is when the remnants of the left apologize and the center is no more than the right in disguise.

What’s at stake now is democracy, no less. There are no small words to describe the risk and there is no place for underestimating it. Whoever cancels funding to cultural institutions because of their political views is doing so because this is the most accessible weapon at the moment. But it’s liable to affect legislation as well. And when there’s a war on, to say “beasts” is not the issue and not the end of the world. The end of the world is the process being led by a power-crazed Miri Zhdanov to the jubilant cheers of the crowd, with the support of the government and the kowtowing center-left.

Regev is using boycotts and sanctions in a country that yells “gevalt!” about those who dare to boycott it from the outside, and is thus adding fuel to the fire, since a state that censors, just like one that subjugates, deserves a cultural boycott by the world.

Whoever is now “examining the funding sources” of Haifa’s Al-Midan Theater, which had been staging “A Parallel Time,” will do the same thing tomorrow to Haaretz. Whoever threatens a film festival because of a film to be screened there will soon force that festival to screen only films the government prefers. Whoever brings Norman Issa, who refused to perform over the Green Line, to his knees, will soon do the same to Jewish actors as well. Whoever says it’s forbidden to criticize the IDF is saying Israel is a censorship state.

And facing all this are the tongue-cluckers and the collaborators – Herzog, Lapid and their herd of supporters are the ones meant to contain the fire. Funny, isn’t it?

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