Likud Extremists and Donald Trump: Jokers to the Right of Me

Israeli rapper The Shadow embodies all that's wrong nowadays with the party of Menachem Begin. The fact that the phenomenon is not unique to Israel doesn't make it any more palatable.

Ravit Hecht
Ravit Hecht
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Illustration showing The Shadow, the far-right extremist rapper who recently joined Likud.
Illustration showing The Shadow, the far-right extremist rapper who recently joined Likud.Credit: Amos Biderman
Ravit Hecht
Ravit Hecht

Israeli rapper Yoav Eliasi, better known as “The Shadow,” joined the Likud party on a very symbolic date: The anniversary of the death of the spiritual and historic leader of the movement, Ze’ev Jabotinsky. Eliasi was received with delight by the large group yearning for an end to the rule of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

This new low for Likud was viewed as an optimistic event in the eyes of both leftists and rightists, who regard the governing party with real fear.

In recent years, Likud has preferred people such as Miki Zohar, Yaron Mazuz, Oren Hazan, David Bitan, Nava Boker and – the one who embodies this trend above all else – Miri Regev, over the likes of Dan Meridor, Michael Eitan, Limor Livnat, Benny Begin, Moshe Ya’alon and David Levy. And now Likud is so drunk on success that it allows itself to present this rogues gallery without any sense of shame.

And this gallery now comprises the backbone of the party. Alongside low standards, vulgarity and a confrontational attitude to their historic or imaginary enemies, what this group shares is a complete lack of understanding for the principles of democracy – which they see simply as the rule of the majority, and nothing else.

“The Shadow” came to prominence through nationalistic Facebook posts, whose most prominent feature was the childish hatred of the demonic left-wing establishment that supposedly has super powers. His rise is the natural evolutionary link in the process by which Likud has turned itself into a circus.

There is a very good reason that his party patron is Hazan, who sometimes appears as if he himself cannot believe he really is a Knesset member. Both are managing to push people like Ya’alon and Livnat out of the ruling party, and turning the party itself into a caricature.

What kind of person would want such elected representatives? The logical answer to this question is no one. But reality tells a different story.

This story teaches us about the process by which a large part of the public gave up on the mediating services of those it sees as members of the elite, such as Meridor, Livnat and Eitan; or on moderates such as Kahlon and Levy. Instead, it seeks direct representation of its own crude inclinations.

Extremism, childish patriotism bordering on fascism and verbal aggression (“We’re sick and tired of the politically correct,” Hazan keeps repeating): These are supposedly desirable signs of strength against the “weakness” that is basically the principles of democracy (separation of powers, freedom of expression, media independence, etc).

In itself, a change in state representation – from those “princes” and barons from academia and the military to the “simple folk” – could have been a legitimate, historic and democratic correction to the arrogance and discrimination that did exist, both on the right and left. It could also have been an opening for the redivision of resources and social justice. But in its present form, as expressed in the ruling party, it is difficult to identify any real content in it except for the contentiousness, defiance and dissemination of hate.

Are these really the descendants of former Likud leader Menachem Begin’s revolution? An inarticulate young man from a casino, alongside a failing artist who makes up stories on Facebook, walks around with his baseball cap on backward and with companions he likes to call “the lions,” and seriously goes by the nickname “The Shadow”?

Not only does this process of radicalization do nothing to rectify social alienation – something Likud is responsible for to a great extent, because of its deepening social and economic inequality (mostly achieved during the reign of Netanyahu). But it also cements the feelings of inferiority among some sections of the population, who vote for such undisciplined clowns to represent them.

This phenomenon is not unique to Israel: Donald Trump represents the exact same process in the United States. And this could not have happened, by the way, without the cradling of the left in the name of identity politics, which sanctifies dismantling things over anything else, without any thought for what happens the day after.

In the United States, as in Israel, disaster awaits at the end of this trend. But what is particularly ironic about the local version is that Netanyahu – one of the supporters of the process that brought him to power time after time – could very well find himself becoming superfluous, thrown out by “The Shadow” for excessive “leftism” or a surfeit of political correctness.

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