The Israeli Left Imagines It's Lennon

Just like the average Israeli leftist, Beatles icon John Lennon cooperated with occupation while musing about a world without borders.

Rogel Alpher
Rogel Alpher
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John Lennon
John LennonCredit: AP
Rogel Alpher
Rogel Alpher

There's a strong link between the impotence of the Israeli left and its Beatlemania. You can assume relatively confidently that any Israeli who speaks of yearning for peace would be happy to lie down on the famous crosswalk on Abbey Road, listen to the weekly Beatles hour on the radio, go to a lecture series about the “Fab Four” (I hate that nickname) and take their children to Beatles cover shows (there are lots of them). It’s a safe bet that such a person, despite loving Ringo, Paul and George, will always be most loyal to John.

Among the Fab Four (drives you crazy, no?), John Lennon is the real problem. Lennon fought for peace, with his repulsive song “Imagine” (what a terrible song, really, let’s pretend it doesn’t exist), and his silly declarations, “Give peace a chance,” “All you need is love” and “We all live in a yellow submarine.” “Imagine” is truly the timeless Israeli anthem. And although Lennon the millionaire, humming to himself in the Dakota building in Manhattan, imagined that there’s no property, he was actually just like the average Israeli leftist: cooperating with occupation in some way or another, all while imagining a world without states (though we don’t need to imagine a world without a Palestinian state — it already exists).

Everyone here loves “Imagine,” and Lennon as well. Even Finance Minister Yair Lapid, who likes to quote Lennon, showed up at his victory party wearing a shirt that said “Working Class Hero,” and sang the Beatles’ hit “With a Little Help from My Friends” for the crowd (apparently yes, both Lapid and Haaretz writer Uri Misgav are crazy about Lennon). Even leftists who hate Lapid see “With a Little Help from My Friends” as a kind of platform for an economic plan full of social justice. Not long ago, I interviewed Dani Dayan, former chairman of the Yesha Council of settlements on the radio, and he asked to hear a song by Lennon, his favorite singer. When I asked if he thought Lennon would have held him in contempt, he didn’t understand what I was getting at. Is that because the settlers "imagine" everything is always in harmony?

Give Israeli singer and Beatles fan Danny Robas a guitar, put him on a hilltop in Samaria and ask him to sing “All You Need is Love” — and there you have it, the Israeli peace plan. The Israel Defense Forces even has its own "yellow submarine" (so what if its nuclear?). Yoav Kutner's show on Army Radio turned the Beatles into part of IDF tradition. And this summer, amidst this pathetic Beatlemania (which is of course related to the Israeli left's nostalgia for the Kaveret Israeli rock songs from their childhood — “a small state running away from its troubles”), Rolling Stones frontman Mick Jagger is set to land in Israel. And unlike Kaveret and Ringo (if he had proposed playing a drum solo in the park on a steamy summer night), Mick and the Stones are having a hard time selling tickets.

The only thing that Jagger — the greedy, apolitical, selfish, idealess, minor-screwing cynic with the fake Mississippi accent — cares about is a good accountant. The Israeli left never really liked the Stones, preferring to move like Jagger but imagine being Lennon.

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