Israel's Tale of Two Peoples Is a Sad One

B. Michael
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Kahol Lavan leader Benny Gantz arriving at a press conference, March 7, 2020.
B. Michael

I listened very attentively to the speeches by Benny Gantz and Benjamin Netanyahu on Saturday night, when the Kahol Lavan chief said “the majority wants an end to Netanyahu’s rule” and the prime minister said his rivals “are trying to steal the election.”

Netanyahu’s words filled my heart with schadenfreude but also nauseated me. Gantz’s words ignited a tiny spark of hope in my heart and a slight tremor of fear in my gut, because it’s clear that the pair of moles from the right who were invited around a year ago to join Kahol Lavan (despite the horrified warnings to avoid this) went out of their way to extinguish any iota of hope.

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But this time it’s not about that but about a word that Bibi and Gantz said over and over: “people.” As in “the people have decided,” “the people have determined,” “the people have had their say,” “the will of the people,” “a majority of the people,” “the people demand.” And so on, 127 “peoples” said by both Bibi and Gantz.

There’s no point in arguing with Bibi; what comes out of him is deliberately evil. But on Saturday night, Gantz kept talking about “a majority of the people,” “the people have shown,” “the people will receive,” “the people want.”

So it’s worth telling Gantz that “people” is a very problematic word, especially after Nazism based all its despicable philosophy on “the superiority of the German Volk.” So when the word “people” enters the political discourse in a democratic country, it adds something noxious and frightening. And in a country like Israel, which contains two peoples, to talk about a “people” is a surefire recipe for an eruption of ugly racism.

Bibi recently declared that “in a democracy it is the people who will decide.” He didn’t go on to explain which people. And if any dim-witted person didn’t immediately understand the identity of the people that will decide, and mainly, that of the people that won’t decide, Bibi’s speech Saturday night explained it as clearly as possible. When Bibi says “the people” he of course means the Jewish people and no other. There are no other peoples here.

An entire dictionary can be crafted on the words and phrases that Bibi has emasculated, distorted, twisted, poisoned and faked. The following is just a short list of words that have been murdered by the residents of the cuckoo’s nest: truth, lie, justice, law, democracy, victory, peace, process, friend, promise, Jew, left, security, traitor, terror, ethics, I didn’t know, I didn’t see, I didn’t hear, witch hunt.

And now the word “people” has been sullied and warped as well.

So now of all times, when Gantz is uttering hesitant sounds about a historic reconciliation with the second people that lives here with us, we should ask him to stop using this word in his speeches. There are much better, more precise, and especially more democratic words; for example, “Israeli citizens,” “the public” and “the voters.”

After all, in a democracy only the citizens decide; only the voters vote. Not a “people.” Certainly not a people most of whose members don’t live here, one that insists on being a religion as well, and whose entry key for joining has been handed to a benighted and gluttonous clique of fundamentalist merchants of holiness.

So please, Mr. Gantz, don’t call us a “people.” We are citizens. And in a democracy that’s far more important.

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