Opinion

Shame on You, Yoram Sheftel

Sheftel, the lawyer and radio broadcaster Israelis love to hate, shows us our dark side without masks and political correctness

Yoram Sheftel.
Tomer Appelbaum

I like listening to Yoram Sheftel’s radio show. He irritates me a lot less than the sanctimonious middle-of-the-road broadcasters, who wrap the same ideas with a cloak of respectability.

He talks dirty, and it’s not nice, but they launder their words and that’s less nice. He does it obscenely, they do it with cloying sweetness, but the chauvinist messages are similar. He says “the Muslimo-Jihado-shahido-Amaleko-Palestino-neo Nazi Fascist Arab rabble,” while they just call every desperate Palestinian 14-year-old girl with scissors a “terrorist.” That’s politically correct. Acceptable. Sheftel is the unacceptable one.

He calls the leader of the northern branch of Israel’s Islamic Movement, Sheik Ra’ad Salah, “a preacher for Israel’s destruction in the German sense of the word,” while they call everything Salah says incitement, regardless of him and his goals. The politically correct ones will call three armed Israelis who killed two armed Israelis on occupied Muslim territory “murderous terrorists,” and he will say “filthy scumbags from Umm al-Fahm, (a town) saturated with Israel-hatred from head to toe.” Find the differences. Like all cartoonists, Sheftel is an artist of exaggeration. Like every cartoon, he represents much more than meets the eye.

This loathsome man sparks holy rage in Israel. For shame, Sheftel, it’s not nice to talk like that. We like our racism and chauvinism wrapped in rustling cellophane, possibly also with pure olive oil. Let Yair Lapid talk chauvinism, he does it the way we like it, just not Sheftel. We hate Sheftel because he represents so many. We like hating him because he is our ugly face, without makeup, masks or inhibitions. Without political correctness or disguises. Sheftel is Israel’s dark side. He talks the way the majority thinks, but crudely.

Note: the main fury at him is aimed at the way he expresses himself, not the content. It’s really not nice to call the chief of staff fatso, but don’t many people think Gadi Eisenkot is a leftist, and a leftist means traitor? That’s what Sheftel had to demonstrate.

If he weren’t telling the truth, he wouldn’t be so annoying. If he weren’t expressing the prevalent opinion, Israel would ignore his existence. Why should anyone care about some wacky, insignificant lawyer, who hosts an obscure radio show in a local station, all of two hours a week, with listeners predominantly from the delusional margins of society? How is it that a grotesque personality can be so infuriating? After all, as an attorney he fulfilled his role in defending Elor Azaria. As far as incitement to kill Arabs goes, he did a lot less of that than did the prime minister, who telephoned the convicted killer’s father to support him, and called for a pardon for his son.

The golden Star of David he wears defiantly over his flamboyant suits is our Star of David, the one we all love. His hatred of minorities is the national sentiment, and his hatred of Arabs, even more so. His hatred of leftists and the media reflects widespread attitudes. It’s not pleasant to hear him talk of “a terrorist-media gang” and “al Ard,” an Arabic twist on “Haaretz,” the Hebraic Zionist newspaper you’re reading. But ask other Israelis what they think of the media.

Sheftel is the state’s attorney. The state we didn’t want to look like him, the state we don’t like seeing in his image, but the state that has set upon us, or should we say, the state we have set up. When Tzachi Hanegbi threatens the Palestinians with another Nakba, which means an ethnic purge – final, this time – nobody is shaken up. Hanegbi is a wanted guest in the broadcasting studios, the voice of wisdom in the government, and nobody is nauseated.

But when Sheftel says “we must see to it that the blood spilled among them is in such amounts that they climb down from their religious high horses,” many go tsk tsk.

Israelis look at Sheftel, see themselves and are aghast. What, is that what we look like? So racist? So bloodthirsty? So filled with hatred for Arabs and foreigners? It can’t be. That’s why they hate him so much. But Sheftelic fascism isn’t limited to a minority. It’s only the way he expresses himself that is unacceptable in Israel.