The Misery, Lies, Fraud and Aggression That Are Daily Fare in Israel

Niva Lanir
Niva Lanir
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A protester holds a sign that reads 'dictator of Israel,' Jerusalem, July 3, 2020
A protester holds a sign that reads 'dictator of Israel,' Jerusalem, July 3, 2020Credit: Emil Salman
Niva Lanir
Niva Lanir

A few days ago, I visited Alex Levac’s exhibition of photographs, “A Situation.” Levac, an Israel Prize laureate, appears to be the foremost of the active Israeli photographers who see photography as a journalistic medium.

The photos on display at this exhibition were an observation of the events and circumstances that led us to this point. They included the occupation (Palestinian bodies piled up in a truck), poverty in Israel (sorrow on children’s faces) and also one dramatic moment on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s path to power, on the eve of the 1988 election. These photos document the misery, lies, fraud and aggression that are our daily fare here; they show what coalition whip Miki Zohar (Likud) calls the “three kafs,” referring to the Hebrew letter that begins the Hebrew words for power, honor and money.

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Take a deep breath and an anti-nausea pill, which you’ll need to gaze at the heaps of garbage that Netanyahu and his angels of sabotage – the aides in charge of reprimanding the Knesset and the media on his behalf – have strewn around us. The first of them in recent years was Yariv Levin, who has been promoted to Knesset speaker. Then came Culture Minister Miri Regev. When she was moved to the Transportation Ministry, Zohar replaced her. His star dimmed, and Amir Ohana, the big-mouthed public security minister took over. Who will we get next? We’ll know in due course.

Last week, referring to the 1995 assassination of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, Ohana said, “What is called the incitement before Rabin’s murder pales before the [social media] posts against Netanyahu.” I read the full text of Ohana’s letter demanding that Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit investigate the incitement against Netanyahu (July 17); here is one of his stellar diagnoses: “The issue under discussion is, most literally, a matter of life and death,” he wrote. “In the already stormy public sphere, we are hearing explicit calls for murdering the prime minister and members of his family ... in contrast to what is called ‘the incitement that preceded Rabin’s murder. These are not fables or hints, but explicit threats against his life, sometimes graphic ones.”

The people Ohana cited as ostensibly threatening Netanyahu were Eitan Ido and Menashe Ofer. The minister also wrote, referring to the location of the prime minister’s official residence, that “just yesterday, a demonstrator on Balfour Street was recorded saying explicitly to a neighborhood resident whose children haven’t been able to sleep for a month now: ‘We don’t want him, Bibi. Can’t you assassinate him?’” Ohana then asked Mendelblit to explain “the source of the legal authority you have appropriated to yourself to decide when the police should open an investigation into incitement to violence. Can you point me to the articles of the law ... This unbridled incitement creates the impression that ‘there is neither law nor judge.’”

Here, in a nutshell, is everything Netanyahu has instilled in Israeli society in recent years – lies, fraud and aggression, which he and his envoys, like the public security minister, make use of.

We’ve already realized it’s useless discussing anything with Ohana. But with regard to the incitement against Rabin, it’s important to remember that the greatest inciter against him in 1995 was no unknown. It was the opposition leader, MK Benjamin Netanyahu, who stood in Jerusalem’s Zion Square – facing an inflamed crowd chanting “Rabin is a murderer, Rabin is a traitor” and a photograph of Rabin in a Nazi uniform in the center of the square – and led the biggest inflammatory demonstration in Israel’s history.

While some of the leading figures in Netanyahu’s Likud turned their backs on the audience and walked away from the balcony overlooking the square, Netanyahu continued to urge the crowd on. As is his wont, he incited while also seeking “to calm things down.” And thus, with incitement and calm, the country was plastered with posters reading “Rabin is a murderer, Rabin is a traitor.”

And who, if not Netanyahu, led the funeral procession at the “funeral for Zionism,” which included a coffin with the slogan “Rabin is killing Zionism?” The Likud chairman and opposition leader was the person who walked in front of the coffin at the Ra’anana/Kfar Sava junction and powered the wheels of incitement – he himself, not some unknown posting on social media.

Anyone who hopes Netanyahu will vanish from our sight must continue to protest and demonstrate. They must also urge anyone who could lead Israel after Netanyahu’s downfall and restore it to normalcy to step up to the plate.

Israel won’t recover without a new, credible and courageous leadership. Israel is waiting for you, Ron Huldai and Gadi Eisenkot.

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