Donald Trump has a considerable following in Israel, media reports tell us. If those followers go looking for a leader, they could rally round the conservative, homophobic author Irit Linur, who's well on her way to being proclaimed Israel's very own Trumpkin.
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Linur wasn't always like that. She started out as a cutting edge feminist-leftist columnist in the Hadashot and Haaretz newspapers. But sometime in the 1990s she performed an astonishing flip-flop and became a reactionary pro-establishment mouthpiece. So reactionary, in fact, that soon her views started to sound prejudiced and parochial even compared to the Israeli establishment, which itself is slowly moving along with the times.
Linur is a mirror image of Trump. Like him, she can trot out views opposite to those she once espoused without a blink. He can deride Mexicans, refugees, immigrants, women and even Jews (indirectly, with a wink and a nudge). She thinks “political correctness” is a disease and has no problem mocking – or having others mock – Arab culture. She actually denied its existence on her Army Radio talk show. She called foreign peace activists "a bunch of anti-Semites who came to be righteous at our expense” and on the beating by an Israeli army officer one such activist received: "you get a few blows, no big deal." She scorns Mizrahis, Ashkenazis, leftists and gays and sees nothing wrong with the exclusion of women from certain events in a recent Haaretz interview (in Hebrew).
She was always a publicity hound. When she loudly canceled her subscription to Haaretz in 2002 in protest at its opposition to the settlements and its critical tone towards the Israeli government, Linur wrote a letter to publisher Amos Schocken that appeared in most of Israel’s newspapers and media outlets. Dozens of subscribers reportedly canceled their subscriptions in support of her. Nonetheless, she continued to read the paper daily in print and online, in her café, as she noted in that Haaretz interview.
So, a la Trump, she likes to eat her cake and have it too. He talks contemptuously about women and their private parts, while publicly declaring “great respect for women.” He says how much he respects Jews, while using anti-Semitic themes and phrases in his campaigning like a dog whistle that pricks up the ears of anti-Semites around him. He took his own sweet time rejecting an endorsement of his candidature from the Ku Klux Klan, another tweet on the dog whistle.
Linur expressed her admiration for the GOP candidate on Facebook this February, cementing her position as an unelected leader of Israel's Trumpists. She wrote, in the same spirit of the Trump populism flooding large sectors of America:
“My blazing love for Donald Trump isn't based on superficial trifles like external appearance (although I do admire the chubby, unruly ginger cat that has settled on his head) or his legendary wealth. Heaven forbid... What have I to do with billionaires?) Also I don't swoon over everything he says I worship the fact that he stands in front of microphones and TV cameras, in the midst of a presidential campaign in the most politically-correct-poisoned empire ... and says what he thinks. Impolitely, untidily and unfiltered by eight different media advisers it's so refreshing.”
In the recent Haaretz interview, Linur churned out conservative positions with the ease she once rolled out feminist views. Sadly, not as convincingly, because one who argues just as strongly for one thing as for its opposite, will always sound unsure of their convictions.
And this is precisely what Linur lacks – the passion of moral conviction. Her opinions – whether past femi-nist or present reactionary – are served up derisively, with a shot of sarcasm and a twist of disdain, as if their real purpose is to annoy. Like Trump, she always manages to insult some person or some group, as if inadvertently, then turns around and accuses them of being insulted.
An example. Linur recently attacked both Michelle Obama and MK Ahmad Tibi, accusing them of hypocrisy, following the former's astounding speech in support of Hillary Clinton and the latter' comments on the Temple Mount following UNESCO's resolution. [Tibi said on Israel Radio's Reshet Bet that according to Islam "al Aqsa wasn't a place of worship of any other religion but only of the Muslims...the attempts to establish the Temple Mount there we call it al Aqsa, not the Temple Mount."]
Linur wrote on Facebook:
“The two come up against a fact that isn't supposed to raise even an iota of emotion in a mentally balanced person, then manufacture a shitload of feeling toward it that you know straight off there's no feeling there at all, only faking. Of what? Let's say faking everything. Tibi fainted from the fact that the Temple Mount had a Jewish history Michelle Obama gave a speech – what a speech, lower lip trembling from shock over Trump's vulgar private conversations. As if she never read Jay Z's lyrics, [even though he's] one of the White House's honorable guests.”
And so on. Linur, who expresses herself with a condescending, cold contempt, has the impertinence to blast others for being passionate, even consistent about their cause. Michelle Obama and MK Tibi can arouse her hostility for their sincere opinions, while for Trump she has nothing but admiration. Perhaps what irks her is their ability to sway and inspire the public, the way only people with courage and true con-viction can.
It's not clear why Linur abandoned the worldview that catapulted her to celebrity status in Israel. Her feminist views in the 1980s were hardly original and echoed Ms magazines from the previous decades, but in a fossilized Israeli society they were a breath of fresh air. Was it opportunism that made her swivel 180 degrees? Would Linur's position on a popular Israel’s Army Radio talk show had survived and thrived without the titillation of that wild flip flop and started trashing feminists and leftists? Or perhaps it was simply ideological emptiness, or a burning need for attention, or just to be liked.
Of course, it could have been a bona fide change of heart. But to trash Michelle Obama, one of the most impressive, successful and intelligent women in the world and who, unlike Linur, hasn't sold out her femi-nist views but continues to advocate them and inspire millions of women around the world, smacks of more than ideological differences. It reeks of intellectual dishonesty. Another box to tick in the compatibility chart between Linur and Donald Trump.
Note: A previous version of this article included a wrongly-attributed quote from Irit Linur.