The 'Enlightened' Israeli Public Is Anything But

Recent events, in particular the tragic murder at the Jerusalem Pride Parade, will make a lot more sense if we rid ourselves of a number of myths that people use to flatter themselves.

Headshot of Haaretz columnist and literary supplement editor Benny Ziffer, who is artistic director of the poetry festival to be held in Metula.
Benny Ziffer
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People take part in a rally to condemn an attack on the annual Gay Pride parade in Jerusalem August 1, 2015.Credit: Reuters
Headshot of Haaretz columnist and literary supplement editor Benny Ziffer, who is artistic director of the poetry festival to be held in Metula.
Benny Ziffer

Wherever you look, there are plenty of murderous crazies out there. The attempt to link their murderous craziness to worldviews that we oppose – religious, national, right-wing, left-wing – is simplistic and problematic, if not totally groundless.

The murderous crazy person who killed a girl who was taking part in the Pride Parade in Jerusalem, and the murderous crazies who burned a Palestinian family in its house belong to the category of wackos who can be found everywhere. When their passions assail them they will spray a school class with a machine gun, burn migrants’ dwellings and commit other hate crimes. We see it in the United States, in German, in Norway. And those properly run countries have efficient police forces and don’t have occupation, religious strife, Bibi or settlements. Nevertheless, such things happen there.

What’s the conclusion? Simple: that the world is becoming a more dangerous place than it was in terms of its insanity, and that before we purport to heal it we need to be careful and protect ourselves from it as much as we can. There’s not much more to be done.

The first rule in education for caution and self-defense in the face of this unexpected insanity is to shed one’s illusions. In other words, to try to slough off a number of lying myths that prevail among the so-called enlightened public. A few of those myths are discussed below.

According to lying myth No. 1, Jewish wackos who murder with a knife or burn a house with the occupants inside are monsters who perpetrate an unforgivable deed. But a Palestinian murderous crazy person who slaughters a family of settlers in cold blood, or blows himself up together with them, will be considered legitimate to a certain extent among the so-called enlightened public. The rationale here is that “the settlers should not be in the territories, and if they are murdered, it’s their fault entirely.”

Lying myth No. 2 derives from the fact that the same enlightened public who understand the importance that the Palestinians attach to their land and identify with their pain when its sacredness is trampled by the settlers, are absolutely unwilling to understand the importance that religious Jews attach to Jerusalem and its holiness, which is trampled by the Pride Parade. In other words, that event, which is basically aimed at expressing the need for tolerance, was born in sin: a complete lack of tolerance for the sensibilities of the ultra-Orthodox public. Which constitutes lying myth No. 3.

It’s a short way from here to the fourth lying myth that is prevalent among the enlightened public. It rests on the fantasy that if a persistent effort is made to irk the religious public by holding an annual Pride Parade in Jerusalem, the religious folk will eventually surrender and convert to the religion of LGBT, and Jerusalem will become an enlightened and sexually open city. As though people didn’t know beforehand that Judaism is a religion that does not bend when pressure is put on it, but the opposite: It grows more rigid. And as though people didn’t know that Jerusalem is a city replete with religious parades and processions, and adding a parade like this is one of the most off-the-wall, dangerous things possible.

The problem is that the struggle for lesbian-gay-bisexual-transgender rights is the last plank, or one of the last, that remains from the shipwreck called enlightenment. See for yourselves: What’s left for the enlightened people to unite around after the struggle to better the life of chickens ran its course a month ago, and now that the issue of sexual harassment is coming out of everyone’s ears? What’s left is LGBT.

Certainly there’s plenty of room for improvement in this area. Not necessarily in the demonstrative, showboat realm, but in day-to-day grass-roots activity and in parliamentary work. But the enlightened, or pseudo-enlightened, people in our midst have become completely addicted to demonstrations and parades and spectacles of protest – to whatever makes a big impression on television, even if its influence fades the next morning. And there is something most tragic, and infuriating, in the fact that for a happening like this, which aims mainly to create an impression and look good on TV, an innocent girl lost her life.

The French sociologist Jean Baudrillard maintained that in our time, television has completely replaced reality and that people judge reality according to what they take it to be through television’s distorting and shallow-making mirror. In the present case, television, through its coverage of the Jerusalem Pride Parade that ended in tragedy, created a completely distorted picture. Certainly in terms of the proportions between the incident and the far-reaching implications attributed to it, which included baseless comparisons to the Rabin assassination.

Indeed, because what’s shown on television is perceived as reality, and because the murder was presented as a war of the Sons of Light against the Sons of Darkness, it wasn’t long before two leading public figures – MK Itzik Shmuli (Zionist Union) and the journalist Keren Neubach – came out of the closet demonstratively in a kind of auto-da-fe rite, which recalled the ceremonies of conversion to Catholicism during the Spanish Inquisition.

How can one not laugh at such folly? My journalistic colleague Yaakov Ahimeir, who dared to post an amused comment about this public conversion rite on his Facebook page this week, was roundly slammed for it.

The vicious attack on Ahimeir, only because he dared remark on the tastelessness of the public conversion of the two aforementioned people, brings us to the final lying myth to date, which everyone with any sense in his head would do well to shun. It’s the myth that maintains that the enlightened public is indeed enlightened. Believe me: It’s not.