Justice Melcer, Don’t Give in to Kahane

Ballot box in Kafr Qasem, April 9, 2019.
Moti Milrod

In Itamar Ben-Gvir’s living room hangs a picture of Baruch Goldstein, who in 1994 massacred 29 Arab worshipers at a mosque in Hebron’s Tomb of the Patriarchs. The explanation given by the head of the far-right Otzma Yehudit party was that Goldstein was “a physician who saved the lives of Jews.” By chance Ben-Gvir found a doctor to adorn his wall, by chance a mass murderer, and by chance the picture includes a quote praising the zealotry of the biblical figure Phinehas and an image of the minaret of the mosque at the Tomb of the Patriarchs falling.

I recalled this barefaced lie in light of another dissembling sham, on which the Central Elections Committee is to rule Wednesday: the placement of hidden cameras in polling stations in Arab communities “for the sake of fair elections,” Likud explained. How could you think otherwise?

One may wonder how Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s natural coalition partners would respond had Likud chosen to put cameras at polling stations in ultra-Orthodox communities, justifying this by old stories about dead people resurrected to vote and 120 percent voter turnout.

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One may wonder what those cameras would reveal that the parties’ election monitors did not, and why Netanyahu remembered to see to the fairness of the election in secret, like a thief in the night, on Election Day itself and not during his decade as prime minister. As if fair elections concern only Likud and not all Israelis.

Raising these unnecessary arguments only helps create the impression that this is a technical debate over the reliability of various methods of ensuring fair elections. The cameras at the Arab polling stations have nothing to do with voter fraud. The PR firm behind this racist operation boasted, the day after the April election, that it was responsible for the decline of Arab voter turnout to “its lowest in years.” It’s all out in the open. No one even bothers to pretend. So why should we?

If the Central Elections Committee, headed by Supreme Court Justice Hanan Melcer, approves this action, he will be giving a judicial stamp of approval to racism. If they’re so worried about a fair election, they should use the remaining time before September 17 to find a solution that doesn’t portray a minority group as cheats and liars.

That is the hidden argument here, and one doesn’t even have to dig very far to find it. We’ve wasted too much time on false discussions. We’ve talked about “Arabs streaming to the polls” as a dirty election trick and we’ve pretended that the prime minister did not depict one-fifth of Israel’s population as a threat, and we’ve talked about how permitting Ben-Gvir to run for election exacerbates the situation, while in fact the daylight between him and the prime minister has become so minimal as to be invisible. Netanyahu might not be promoting a population transfer, but he’s promoting the basic tenets of transfer with all his might, using the full power of his bully pulpit.

Netanyahu hummed these racist tunes back in the 1990s. After a decade as prime minister, it seems that many people can’t see what is right in front of them in all its ugliness. More eloquent than Ben-Gvir, less religious than Bezalel Smotrich, but Meir Kahane can rest easy in his grave. The head of the Ku Klux Klan government. Netanyahu has already decided what side of history he wants to be on. On Wednesday the Central Elections Committee will face the same question. We can only hope that the committee, as opposed to Netanyahu, will not surrender to Kahane. He has more than enough servants in Israel.