Universal IDF Draft: Slogan of the Man's Man

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Fifteen settlers have been elected to the 19th Knesset. Four million Palestinians are not allowed to vote at all, and there is no sign that anyone might stop Israel. The horizons toward which the Palestinians have long been gazing hopefully – that is, Egypt and Syria – no longer exist as they once were, and the United States, the great armorer of our forces, has never managed to stop the colonization. The Jewish peace camp had always expected the Americans to help, but that camp has essentially disappeared. We are left with an occupation and no prospect of war. “You have no partner for war,” the Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish told me years ago.

All this is the source of the braggadocio demonstrated by Yesh Atid chairman Yair Lapid’s comment that he would not create a blocking majority with Balad MK Hanin Zuabi. It turns out the far-right extremist Baruch Marzel isn't the only one who speaks like that; so does the master who has come to rule on behalf of the powerful. Lapid's call for a universal draft ("Sharing the burden equally") is the slogan of the bourgeoisie, coming one step before the economic cutbacks that will deepen inequality. On an ideological plane, the slogan turns service in the military – which in any case is bloated and comes at the expense of the public weal – into a vexing test of citizenship. A solution will be found to avoid the unrestricted induction of ultra-Orthodox Jews, while the Arabs will be the victims of another slogan: "No obligations, no rights." There are many shades of black.

"Sharing the burden equally" is meaningless outside the mendacious role of political language. Every time Lapid roared his foolish proclamation about "the burden," he was really talking about "the heavy burden on the middle class." In a country in which the wage gaps are among the greatest in the West, this is what the outcome of the election means: The value of government bonds rose the next day. The bourgeoisie in Israel are truly ignorant and lacking culture, whether Jewish or Western – but they're not stupid. All that talk about sharing the burden equally is just a cynical ploy, the electoral equivalent of a wink.

If we add to all of this the fact that Likud managed to remove not only the relative liberals from positions of power within the party but, in a longer process, the Mizrahim from the country’s outlying areas, whom Menachem Begin cultivated, and a picture emerges of the great victory of the pure right in these elections. It’s the right-right. Don’t call it the center.

Meretz might end up taking part in the foolish hatred of the ultra-Orthodox (“Sharing the burden equally”) because of its tendency to adopt a false front of so-called radicalism and because of the social ranks from which its voters, like those who brought Lapid to power, come.

By the way, this social environment is not the one from which the Israel Defense Forces draws those soldiers who open fire in Bil’in or Gaza; new immigrants from Ethiopia or Russia are the ones sent there. The soldiers who grew up more comfortably by and large end up serving in cushier positions like Intelligence Corps Unit 8200 or at Army Radio. Lapid, who served in the unit that produces the army magazine Bamahane, is a kind of caricature of his own slogan, which is powerful because it touches on old-time anti-Semitic motifs: hostility to beards, to sidelocks, to black hats; it is accompanied by the whispered epithet “parasites.” The more "positive" side of the same coin is manifested in the philosophy of Habayit Hayehudi chairman Naftali Bennett: Study Maimonides and Yoni Netanyahu, and love our army.

This month our army killed six Palestinians. The media is once again taking up the jargon of the Shin Bet security service, which now calls the grassroots struggle in the West Bank “popular terror.” This neologism is doing its part in preparing the public for the suppression of the next popular uprising. How many members of the Knesset are there who will represent those who will identify with this uprising? There are the Arab parties and a sprinkling of Jewish voters, worth less than half a Knesset seat. And then there’s 19-year-old Natan Blank, who has been in military prison since November for refusing to serve in the IDF because he opposes the occupation.  Meretz has not said a word about him. Gay marriage ­– that’s all well and good. But even in 2013, refusal to serve in the army is still seen as going too far.

The settlers, along with Ashkenazi Jews, will be overrepresented in the 19th Knesset, while Mizrahi Jews will be underrepresented. Those who want to see female legislators like MK Tzipi Hotovely of Likud and incoming Knesset members like Habayit Hayehudi's Ayelet Shaked and Orit Strock as evidence of so-called women’s empowerment are welcome to do so. But what was more prominent in this election is the massive female vote that went to three quite macho figures: Lapid, Bennett and Benjamin Netanyahu.

What Labor Party leader Shelly Yacimovich failed to grasp in time is that the right wing is all about relying on the man's man. In other words, a nation that oppresses another nation cannot be free.

An IDF soldier voting in the Israeli election in January.Credit: Yaron Kaminsky

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