Let the Israeli Left Squirm

Those same people who trample on freedom of expression know very well that those authors and artists they so enjoy condemning are the secret of Israel’s power

The Im Tirtzu banner against left-wing "moles" on display above Tel Aviv's Rothschild Boulevard, December 2015.
Moti Milrod

In private conversations they admit the attacks on the left are ridiculous. Nudity at the theater, some lyrics by Mahmoud Darwish, a flag stuck up someone’s rear end and the persecution of a small organization – even many right-wingers are embarrassed.

This is what obsessively preoccupies our leadership? After all it’s been years since the left was in power, and the elites, certainly the ones with the big money, are generally right-wing. So what’s the issue?

The issue is that it works. The demonization, the focus on the unimportant, dumbing down the discussion, and the lies, the blatant lies that emerge from the corridors of government, are what keep the right in power.

Today everyone in Israel knows on which side his bread is buttered. Every child, certainly if he studies in the Israeli school system, knows if it’s better to be left or right. Essentially, to be a leftist isn’t an option. Just ask high school students or soldiers what they think of leftists.

That’s why there are almost no right-wingers objecting to the pursuit of demonstrators and the silencing of university lecturers. Even those who express discomfort at what this divisive government is doing admit that in the end they enjoy it.

As MK Yehudah Glick tweeted recently, “I’m not thrilled by all these ‘codes of ethics,’ bans on demonstrations and other laws that restrict freedom of speech but it’s hard to shake off the schadenfreude at seeing the left squirm.”

Mr. Glick, that’s not the left that’s squirming; it’s Israeli society at whose downfall you’re rejoicing. People like you preach “unity of the people” while legitimizing conflict and divisiveness. You are the ones who create the gloom and doom; you search for the next artist or publicist with a microscope, create chaos around him, and turn him into an enemy of the people to frighten others. Pressure the leftists and generate confrontations – that’s your program for governing.

But this is duplicitous, because the right knows perfectly well that there’s no Israel without the left. Take the shallow remarks about “the state of Tel Aviv,” a synonym for leftists, secularists, liberals and all the “Sodom and Gomorrah” of a free Israel, as it is for those looking down at it from the hills to the east.

But like religious people who speak about a halakhic state but don’t really want one because they know exactly what it would be like, which is why they prefer to live in a democracy, so it is with Tel Aviv – they pour buckets of hatred on it, but they can’t live without it.

Indeed, could one even imagine Israel without Tel Aviv? Not just as a physical space, but for its refreshing spirit of culture and media, business and higher education, and yes, alongside the clubs and restaurants, protest and political agitation. What would Israel be without this intense metropolis? It’s clear that young people are yearning to live in Tel Aviv, because it’s the engine of the country.

Even the LGBT community, which is discriminated against by the regime, and the Pride events that evoke such disgust among the Smotriches, are used in the government’s promotional activities and public diplomacy.

Oh, the hypocrisy; how many times have I seen official government representatives, first among them our prime minister, who are blocking all legislation that would assure LGBTs equal rights, pull out the LGBT card abroad to show the world how progressive Israel is – certainly compared to Arab countries, which is essentially the reason the gay community is embraced as it is, to whitewash the occupation and prove that there’s no partner.

Those same people who trample on freedom of expression travel the world and boast of Israel being “the only democracy in the Middle East.” Because they know very well that those authors and artists they so enjoy condemning are the secret of Israel’s power.

How much further can this go? A bit more, apparently, but it can’t go on forever. Culture Minister Miri Regev is already starting to bore news editors. Even the hard right among the settler community is becoming increasingly fed up by Prime Minister Netanyahu’s trick of beating on the left and the Arabs to evade responsibility for his government’s failures.

“Stop lying and learn how to govern, you crybabies,” Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked told the Likud ministers. That was a year ago. Since then it’s only gotten worse. Enough, no more excuses; the lying and whining will boomerang. If the right-wingers cannot govern, let them give back the keys.