Opinion

Yair Lapid, Israel’s Serial Protest Thief

The leader of the centrist Yesh Atid party, the prince of kitsch, had the gall to don a yellow vest as if he were a struggling Frenchman battling unfair taxes

Yesh Atid Chairman Yair Lapid speaking at a conference in Tel Aviv, September 2018.
Moti Milrod

A recent picture that Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid posted on Instagram could be sold as a kind of political aphrodisiac. The more you look at it, the more the political arousal – in his opponents.

“No,” you mumble to yourself when you see it, and you instinctively look away. You look again in disbelief, to check if you really saw what you think you saw. Because it’s impossible. He already stole one political protest, the 2011 social justice protest, but at least that one took place in Israel.

This is too much even for this political plagiarist. It can’t be that he really had himself photographed in north Tel Aviv’s Ramat Aviv Gimel neighborhood – that is, against the background of urban villas – with an iPhone in his hand. He was wearing a yellow vest, a glowing Danny the Yellow.

“No,” you mumble again, first in a whisper and then in a louder and louder voice. “No, no, no. He didn’t really do it.” Your cheeks get red and a few moments later you’re ready to tear your hair out. There’s something in Lapid’s class chutzpah, his aesthetic; that is, his ethical vulgarity. To steal just like that, in your face, the symbol of another country’s courageous struggle, only because it’s cool, draws your eyes back to the picture.

“How dare he?” you shout. Where does he get the chutzpah to appropriate a revolution that isn’t his just because he feels like it? To appropriate a struggle without any justification or affinity, whether biographical, genetic, socioeconomic, cultural, linguistic or historical?

In not one facet of reality are Lapid and the Yellow Vest protest partners. This is such a blatant deception even by this serial copycat that there are no words to describe it. That picture is like a light-reflecting strip in the dark. Your eyes can’t escape it; it’s impossible to look away from the prince of kitsch and Israeli provincialism.

Maybe this is the reason he posted it. As far as I can remember, his genius idiocy hasn’t received attention for a long time. He must have learned from Benjamin Netanyahu and Donald Trump. The more they raise their opponents’ ire, the greater their supporters’ sympathy. The more they’re derided, the more seats their side wins in the Knesset or Congress.

This is actually the simplest explanation for the picture. Lapid wants to be accosted with a flood of invective. “If only this government took care of the people the way it takes care of itself,” he wrote under the picture. “It’s expensive here.”

Yes, he’s right. It’s expensive. But not for him. And not for his friends. It’s highly doubtful whether it’s expensive for most of his voters. But popular protest is cool, and you can’t buy that with money. His voters also want a cool vest like that, they want to feel the vitality of people who are really fighting for their lives, not merely pretending to.