Opinion

Thus Haaretz Legitimized a Pro-apartheid Lawmaker

Where are the red lines of our camp? If even explicit calls for transfer and a tyrannical regime over the Palestinians are not a red line, then what is?

Habayit Hayehudi MK Bezalel Smotrich at Haaretz's Israel Conference on Peace, June 12, 2017.
Tomer Appelbaum

MK Bezalel Smotrich, the deputy speaker of the Knesset, is an avowed supporter of apartheid. He flirts with the idea of ethnic cleansing and now is also an alumnus of Haaretz’s Israel Conference on Peace.

Smotrich is only the last in a series of solutions the right offers for the conflict, which vary from the unrealistic to the monstrous. What began as Benajmin Netanyahu’s “conflict management,” which begat two operations in Gaza and one intifada, continued as Naftali Bennett’s version of Bosnia – annexing territories – and from there, in a leap of faith, to the patented “democracy without voting rights” and to Smotrich’s “victory plan.”

Smotrich is important because yesterday’s marker of extremism becomes, with the turning of a blind eye and legitimization, tomorrow’s center. Smotrich is supposed to be a screaming red line, but it seems even this line is no longer a given.

I do not know what the conference organizers were thinking when they invited a man who expressed support for apartheid and openly flirts with genocide. I won’t be surprised if next year we see the rabble-rousers “The Shadow” and Bentzi Gopstein at the conference. Fate laughed when Smotrich had to explain to his audience why he doesn’t boycott Haaretz. Haaretz is illegitimate, and Smotrich was simply doing it a favor, explaining “clearly and pleasantly” how you translate the Book of Joshua into the 21st century. Thanks so much.

Perhaps this newspaper doesn’t know how to set red lines, but the right puts red lines on everything that we believe in and everything we represent. Opposing the occupation is a red line. Human rights are a red line. Public transportation on Shabbat is a red line. Nudity on the stage is a red line. And yes, participating in the Haaretz conference is a red line.

Where are the red lines of our camp? If even explicit calls for transfer and a tyrannical regime over the Palestinians are not a red line, then what is? Perhaps we should recall that Smotrich’s plan deals with living, breathing human beings, who have ambitions and dreams and hopes about the future. It decrees tyranny and expulsion. When did we become so dull, that even flirting with ethnic cleansing became an issue for polite debate?

Haaretz is proud of its success in bringing right wingers to the conference. The right has no lack of educated, sharp and decent people. There is no lack of people of differing opinions who will be able to carry on a pointed, thorough argument about ending the conflict and about the future of this country.

Smotrich is bright and educated, but is certainly not decent. We must not pretend that his victory plan deserves anything more than scorn. Tolerance must stop in the face of such people. We must not legitimize racism. Meir Kahane was kicked out of the Knesset for the same plan. Today, Kahanism is invited through the front door.

Smotrich is the deputy Knesset speaker even though everyone knows his opinions. It is a stain on the Knesset. I weighed leaving Knesset debates he chaired after it was revealed that he was flirting with genocide, but because Smotrich is also chairing debates tied to my bills and those of the opposition, I do not intend on allowing his opinions to turn into another means of silencing the left. There is a limit to the power you can give this man.

In the 1860 Democratic Party convention, on the eve of the U.S. Civil War, William Yancey of Alabama demanded the delegates vote to protect slavery. George Pugh of Ohio replied, “Gentlemen of the South, you mistake us. You mistake us. We will not do it.” One hundred fifty-seven years have since passed. I would expect us to stand up for at least this moral minimum.