MK Bezalel Smotrich has succeeded in branding himself as a great danger to the left and a leader of stature for the extreme right. An active legislator who fights to advance and finance the settlements, a deputy speaker of the Knesset who runs meetings very professionally, and in general a high-quality young man, whose voice is sometimes even piercing in its courageous liberalism.
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The fact that he termed a Gay Pride parade a “parade of beasts” has been forgotten; after all, as he says, he was “young and stupid” then. So has the fact that he collected cans of gasoline with which to do battle against the security forces during the 2005 disengagement from Gaza.
Overall, Smotrich hasn’t done a bad job of playing the game the settlement movement has been playing for the last 20 years. Be statesmanlike, eloquent and sane; get along well with others; and speak in the name of photogenic values like Zionism rather than hatred of Arabs, a master race or different laws for Jews and Arabs.
But on the racists’ bed, the blanket is always too short. One morning, Dr. Smotrich woke up late, and Mr. Bezalel grabbed the entire sheet for himself. “My wife isn’t a racist, but after giving birth, she wanted rest, not the mass haflot that are common among the families of Arab women who give birth,” Smotrich tweeted Tuesday, using an Arabic slang term for “parties” to voice support for separating Arab mothers from Jewish ones in obstetrics wards.
The tweet led to verbal diarrhea that ranged from pure Kahanism to a parody of Kahanism (“It’s natural that my wife wouldn’t want to lie next to someone who just gave birth to a baby who might want to murder her baby in another 20 years”; “Ethiopian immigrants are my brothers, and therefore, I adore their injera bread; Arabs are my enemy, and therefore, it’s no fun for me to be with them”; and so forth).
Oh Twitter, which exposes our nakedness. It turns out it’s neither a gifted nor a dangerous MK who stands before us, but just another weird, racist clown – something between Yoram Sheftel and Yosef Ba-Gad – who loses control and spews nonsense in abundance, without even being aware of the damage he is causing – inter alia, to his own faction, Habayit Hayehudi.
After all, party leader Naftali Bennett has for years been wearing out shoe leather in his effort to be statesmanlike and achieve the legitimacy he covets from Jewish Israelis in general and Mizrahim (Jews of Middle Eastern or North African descent) in particular. Without it, he won’t be able to break out of the settler niche and will remain stuck on the back seat of the bus to the outpost of Esh Kodesh, somewhere between Meir Ettinger and Daniella Weiss.
And then along comes Smotrich and, with a single tweet using the word haflot, reveals that the sea is the same sea and the settlers’ religious Zionism is the same ugly old lady: White to the roots, loathing Mizrahim, their culture and their lifestyle, just as it loathes Arabs (except that Mizrahim can serve as useful electoral idiots.)
Then he tried to fall back on the usual ploy of sowing division between Mizrahim and Arabs (“Bro, don’t do an injustice to our brothers from the east and don’t compare them to Arabs.”) But the Mizrahi public deserves more credit. More and more Mizrahim are fond and proud of their origins and their culture. They no longer need to close the windows when they listen to the music they want to hear, and they celebrate family occasions as they please. They don’t need Smotrich’s racist hierarchy, which places them somewhere in his hit parade.
It’s too bad Culture Minister Miri Regev – that great fighter for social and distributive justice, who’s willing to take any music editor on the Galgalatz radio station prisoner – didn’t see fit to say a word on this issue. She’s a Mizrahi leader? No, she’s someone who serves her Eurocentric masters, who currently rule her not from the benches of the Labor Party’s forerunner, Mapai, but from their pirate settlement outposts in the territories.