When It Comes to Human Rights, I Rather Be a Purist Than a Hypocrite

Gideon Levy
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The Tel Aviv city hall building lit up in the colors of the Lebanese flag, August 5, 2020.
The Tel Aviv city hall building lit up in the colors of the Lebanese flag, August 5, 2020.Credit: Moti Milrod
Gideon Levy

Imagine a cow screened on the facade of the Dabah slaughterhouse in Deir al-Assad. The owner, Dabah Salah & Sons, explains that it was meant as a show of solidarity with the slaughtered cows. “These cows were caught up in a terrible tragedy. The company’s act was a spontaneous expression of humanity,” the columnists of the sacred center will write. “It’s hypocritical. Dabah can’t absolve itself. It’s responsible for the slaughter!” the purist leftists will write. “Cows are inferior creatures that are meant for human consumption. Why are you championing them?” the carnivores on the right will write.

Bingo. Symmetry between the right and the left. The purists of the world have united. The pious center will condemn them both.

That’s what Netta Ahituv did. She created a symmetry between right and left and condemned the purists. We aren’t talking about cows, however, but rather about human beings, and not about a slaughterhouse, but about a scarred and battered land that Israel has assaulted repeatedly with its terrible destructive force, and whose infrastructures Israel had threatened to destroy just two or three days before last week’s disaster.

Ahituv, a staunch defender of animal rights and the environment, would naturally have been shocked by Dabah’s hypocrisy, and would have vehemently, and justifiably, objected to it. But when it comes to Lebanon, her stance gets reversed. She’s against purism and for expressing solidarity on the facade of Tel Aviv’s city hall. She also found symmetry between those whose sick and evil hearts rejoiced at the site of the bloodshed in Lebanon and those who objected to Israel’s hypocrisy and sanctimoniousness. Both are purists.

That wouldn’t have happened to Ahituv in the case of cows, and that’s a good thing. By the way, she also twisted what I wrote last week. She claimed that I argued that because there’s an occupation and the city hall was never lit up with the Palestinian flag, we mustn’t display the Lebanese flag. Only someone who did not read my words could accuse me of such nonsense, but never mind.

Claiming symmetry is the refuge of hypocrites. The purists are the enemies of the centrists, who want to salve their conscience and to attach the deprecating label of “purists” on those whose conscience bothers them. The purism claim is meant to erase the injustice that using the symmetry label creates.

Symmetry is a game of lies. It began, of course, in the early days of Zionism, when a false symmetry was drawn between the Jewish immigrants who came here and the Palestinians who already lived here; 100 years of asymmetry presented as symmetry. The occupier and the occupied, the dispossessor and the dispossessed, the attacker and the defender himself, the strong and the weak; they are all the same color, one big shepherds’ brawl. Of course this is a misleading picture that serves Zionism and Israel. There is no symmetry between the Palestinians and Israel, not in their power, nor in their rights, their status or the justification for their struggle today. Creating symmetry between the two sides is like claiming symmetry between the rapist and his victim. Are they both guilty?

From there the claim of symmetry moved to the left and right in Israel. Both are violent, both are guilty, the truth be damned. Of course, the facts tell the opposite story – violence comes solely from the right – but the fake symmetry has secured a foothold. The next stage is comparing the extremists of both camps – Moshe Feiglin, who dances on the blood and the property of hundreds of thousands of Lebanese, is symmetrical to those who claim Israel is being hypocritical. Do you get this? Sick schadenfreude and a demand for basic morality are symmetrical. Both are “purist” according to Ahituv.

If arguing that Israel has no moral right to shed crocodile tears for Lebanon is purism, then I’m a proud purist. If the notion that there is no symmetry between the occupied Palestinian people and tyrannical Israel is purism, then I will shout with pride: I’m a purist. And if someone thinks it’s reasonable to compare the bloodthirsty people on the extreme right to the seekers of justice on the radical left, then I’m afraid that there simply are no words.