Israel’s Far-right Loons Look a Lot Like Netanyahu's Pals

Don’t believe the sophisticated definitions — it’s hard to distinguish Likud MKs Miri Regev, Danny Danon and Yariv Levin from the ‘hill-top youth’ and other racists.

A photo of Dr. Zvi Bar'el.
Zvi Bar'el
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Racist slogans painted on a wall at Jerusalem's bilingual school during a suspected anti-Arab arson attack, Nov.29, 2014.
Racist slogans painted on a wall at Jerusalem's bilingual school during a suspected anti-Arab arson attack, Nov.29, 2014. Credit: Tali Meir
A photo of Dr. Zvi Bar'el.
Zvi Bar'el

Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon has cast a warm ray of light our way, referring to Lehava, a far-right anti-Arab group.

“Lehava’s members are erroneously termed the extreme right,” Ya’alon wrote on Facebook. “For me they don’t represent any right wing, at least not the kind I’m familiar with. They only represent a dark and dangerous phenomenon that has no connection to the liberal, law-abiding and sane right.”

Ya’alon confirmed he’s considering declaring the organization illegal because “anyone who uses various methods to disseminate hatred of the Arab minority in particular, or of anyone different in general, is dangerous to Israel’s diverse society.” He said such people don't “reflect the Jewish values on which we were raised and in whose light it is our duty to lead the country.”

Wow. You have to read these heart-warming words again very slowly. Ya’alon distinguishes between Lehava and MKs Miri Regev, Danny Danon, Yariv Levin and a few other Likud stalwarts who came out of last week’s primary with a good chance of making it into the next Knesset.

Lehava, remember, strives to protect Jewish women from Arab men, while Regev has called foreign workers “a cancer,” and Danon has tried to rid the Knesset of Arab MK Haneen Zoabi, saying in an election video: “O Zoabi, shed a tear my dear now that Danny the true right-winger is here.” Levin, meanwhile, has framed a version of a bill designed to discriminate against Arabs, the nation-state bill.

Which of the above belongs to the “liberal, law-abiding and sane right” as defined by Ya’alon? Which isn’t disseminating hatred of “the Arab minority in particular, or of anyone different in general”?

The difference between these respectable people, members of Ya’alon’s party, the party of the “true right,” and Benzi Gopstein’s Lehava, suspected of setting fire to a bilingual school in Jerusalem, is that Knesset members enjoy parliamentary immunity. They can spout incitement any time they please, at the Knesset or on their Facebook pages. They can propose racist and discriminatory laws at will, with no risk of being defined as part of an illegal group.

All they do is manufacture the values upon which those groups are spawned, with their members torching mosques, chopping down trees, taking over property belonging to others, puncturing the tires of Israeli Arabs and demonstrating against the wedding of a Jew and an Arab.

What’s the difference between Gopstein and his call for supermarket chains not to employ “enemies” and employers and mayors who have gone this route of their own accord? What’s the difference between him and a municipal rabbi who calls on people not to rent apartments to Arabs?

Even if it sounds like a major step in the struggle against incitement and Jewish terror, the concept of “illegal organization” merely reduces an entire culture of racism to a single organization. In other words, if only Gopstein and his accomplices were brought to trial and their funding sources were traced, all incitement would cease in Israel.

Does anyone remember the phrase “hilltop youth”? That term also tried to reduce the war between the settlers and the Palestinians to a few “stray weeds.” Just like the hilltop youth, Lehava and the “price tag” groups create the illusion that these people are the margin of the margins, that they don’t amount to anything significant.

Therein lies the danger of creating restrictive definitions for a culture that spreads hate. Such definitions legitimize the “true right” because they create the misleading perception that a battle is being waged against a delusional phenomenon supported by only a few hooligans, and that all we needed to eradicate it was a legal definition.

Only when Ya’alon criticizes his Likud colleagues who provide the inspiration for these organizations can we start to take him seriously.

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