Opinion

How Much Idiocy Can Israeli Society Take?

Life in Israel has become a kind of intellectual torture: Everyone talks nonsense and it’s impossible to disconnect

Ahed Tamimi stands for a hearing in the Israeli military court at Ofer military prison in the West Bank, January 15, 2018.
\ AMMAR AWAD/REUTERS

In the sea of stupidity into which Israeli society is slowly sinking, the response of Ahed Tamimi’s father to the secret discussion in the Knesset initiated two years ago by Deputy Minister Michael Oren was like a life preserver of wisdom. “How did such a fool get to be your ambassador to the United States?” Bassem Tamimi asked with mock concern. “How does the State of Israel allow such a thing?” Good question.

Out of respect for Oren, it’s best not to go into details. The entire discussion is ridiculous and it would be embarrassing to disclose the details. In his defense, it must be said that he’s not alone. In retrospect, it seems obvious that in a place where the Palestinian people is denied, the Palestinian family is also denied. Life in Israel has become a kind of intellectual torture: Everyone talks nonsense and it’s impossible to disconnect.

“Israel should not give a platform to a drunk who compares a girl who was murdered in the Holocaust and a heroine who battled the Nazi regime to Ahed Tamimi, a punk who assaulted a solider,” said Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman. Fuming over the comparison that author and songwriter Yehonatan Geffen made between Ahed Tamimi and Anne Frank and Hannah Szenes, Lieberman directed Army Radio to ban him and called on all media outlets to do the same.

As if in a ritual, the attorney general soon issued a statement to clean up the mess left by Lieberman’s slip of the tongue: the defense minister, he said, does not have the authority to interfere with the station’s content. How did such a rude, violent, ultranationalist get to be defense minister? How does Israel allow such a thing?

And in all that silly ruckus, no one stopped to ask whether it’s okay to compare Anne Frank with Hannah Szenes. What do they have in common? And we really should discuss the meager reservoir of metaphors being fostered by Israel’s intellectual elite. Tamimi struck home with this one: “If that’s your elite, I’m not sure how you manage to beat us.”

Because as admirable, hope-inspiring and just is the political awakening among the elite of opponents to the deportation of asylum seekers, it comes with a slight sense of discomfort at the fact that these protesters have been captivated by the comparison to the Holocaust. After all, if the asylum seekers are Jews persecuted by the Nazis, what do the signatories of the petitions think that makes them: Schindler? Janusz Korczak?

In response to the political persecution, Israeli entertainer Gidi Gov became irritated that a new immigrant with a Russian accent dared turn Geffen, the sabra scion of that dynasty of local nobility, the Dayans, into an enemy of Israel.

If the Law of Return frustrates Gov, we can only imagine the rage it evokes in native-born Arabs. Gov doesn’t need it explained to him that he was a bit racist, he himself prefaced his statement with a reservation and also apologized for it. In another country — Canada? Sweden? His words might have drawn a moralistic reprimand. But in Israel in 2018? In a week where the culture minister posts a clip on Facebook where she is embraced by fans of the Beitar soccer team singing “Let their village burn,” referring to the fans of the team from the Arab town of Sakhnin?

Does MK Yulia Malinovsky of Yisrael Beiteinu — an extreme right-wing party that calls for the boycott and transfer of 20 percent of Israel’s citizens — have any right to protest racism? And can the justice minister, who is promoting the apartheid revolution, defend the “Russian aliyah”? Who are they kidding? Who believes their lies? Enough already. You’re either thugs or crybabies.