Opinion

Who Is the Israeli 'Opposition' Defending?

Wringing one's hands at the booing of Likud's Tsachi Hangebi, a key inciter against Rabin, and a sexist remark aimed at Likud's Miri Regev, a racist, destructive minister, is not the way to build a resistance

Regional Cooperation Minister Tzachi Hanegbi speaking at the 23rd memorial marking the assassination of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, Tel Aviv, November 3, 2018
Tomer Applebaum

Miri Regev doesn’t deserve any defense from the left. Tzachi Hanegbi deserves all the boos he got at Rabin Square. The center-left camp’s loss of direction has led it to lose its order of priorities, and made it unable to distinguish the wheat from the chaff. Flawed remarks made to a benighted, racist minister, one who does nothing but destroy, is considered an inexcusable violation, equal to all the damage done by the minister. A loud protest against a government minister is considered an unforgiveable sin, no less than the crimes his government is responsible for.

The center-left wallows in its righteousness. That’s not how you behave, its virtuous, upright people cry out. If an MK insults a right-wing populist politician, God forbid, then we will go out of our way to defend that worst of ministers. If one of the former right-wing rioters speaks at the square, the audience is requested to remain at attention and not utter a word. After all, we on the left eat with a fork and knife, chew with our mouths closed, don’t put our elbows on the table and don’t talk while we eat.

How polite we are, and how politically correct. This is not how to build a resistance; this is not how to build an alternative.

>> The rise of the Israeli center reflects the fall of the Israeli left | Analysis ■ Tzachi Hanegbi Square | Opinion 

MK Elazar Stern indeed didn’t speak nicely to the culture minister. So what? Regev deserves much harsher insults than that. Someone for whom insulting entire groups is her first language and wild incitement against them is her usual jargon is unworthy of any defense when she is offended by an inappropriate remark. The minister who declared war on Israeli art, who maliciously incited against African asylum seekers and doesn’t stop inciting against Israeli Arabs, Palestinians and leftists was insulted by a sexist remark? Let her be insulted. Let her be insulted to the depths of her soul.

The minister who demands national loyalty from artists and seeks to destroy theater and film could do with feeling even a bit of what’s been felt by those hurt by her and her policies. Let her deal with the insult on her own. Let her much-admired heroine, Sara Netanyahu, come to her defense, not Shelly Yacimovich. Yacimovich must not defend her; Regev doesn’t deserve her defense. Stern’s chauvinistic insult is as white as snow compared to Regev’s many offensive, racist and ignorant statements. She doesn’t deserve any defense from the center-left.

Hanegbi, meanwhile, deserves all the scorn aimed at him at Rabin’s memorial event last Saturday night, and more. It’s ridiculous that the Zionist left, which had awakened for a moment after a prolonged hibernation, startled itself and immediately sank back into its usual sanctimoniousness. It’s not nice to yell at a minister. It’s not nice to offend him. One after the other, his spokesmen confessed to how “ashamed” they had been that evening in the square. What were they ashamed of exactly? That for a moment they were fulfilling their role?

When this camp finally issues a few weak calls of resistance and tries to fulfill its role as an opposition, the pure ones get up and say: That’s not nice. That’s not how we behave. Hanegbi does not deserve to be treated so impolitely. Excuse me? A member of the government that’s choking Gaza to death, supports the crimes of the settlements, is undermining the last chances for a peace agreement and is destroying the remnants of democracy and liberalism is not worthy of contempt? And if not contempt, what does he deserve from her majesty’s opposition? More endless silence? Applause, perhaps?

The people in the square were confused, as were those offended on Regev’s behalf. Not only is it permissible to come out harshly against them, it’s an obligation.

But the flaccid behavior of the camp that is meant to stand up to them reinforces the suspicion that they aren’t such bitter rivals; that the gap between the camps is not deep, if it exists at all, that they have a greater common denominator than it seems. It’s disgusting to heckle a minister in the square; it’s gross to make chauvinistic remarks to a minister. Let our camp remain pure – pure and spineless.