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Blaming Kahanist Leader Ben-Gvir Is Too Easy

Gideon Levy
Gideon Levy
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Itamar Ben-Gvir before the March 2020 election
Itamar Ben-Gvir before the March 2020 electionCredit: Emil Salman
Gideon Levy
Gideon Levy

I’m fond of Itamar Ben-Gvir. He’s an actor with soul. His soul is evil, racist and violent, but he gives his all with utmost devotion. He lives in the showcase of apartheid, Hebron, currently the most racist place in the world, yet he is preferable to the sanctimonious cynics, who are the majority. From the Uvda TV investigative program we’ve learned that his house in the Givat Avot (Hill of the Forefathers) neighborhood is actually the equivalent of the Shanti House, a shelter for at-risk teens, and that he’s the guardian of the hilltop youth. From there he incites these deranged marginal youths to carry out pogroms, subsequently concealing any incriminating evidence. Despite all this, I much prefer him to the clandestine ones.

The hands of Benny Gantz and Omer Bar-Lev, the ministers of defense and public security, respectively, are covered in much more blood of innocent Palestinians shed over the last year than are the hands of the hooligan from Hebron, whom everyone now loves to fear. One of the new pinnacles of the intimidation campaign of the “Just-not-Bibi” camp is the cry that Ben-Gvir will become the minister of public security. How scary. The end of the world. How typical: Intimidate by using the most extreme element while whitewashing all the rest. As if by not having Ben-Gvir serve as a minister, the situation would become tolerable. This is hypocrisy at its worst.

Ben-Gvir doesn’t sit well with the leftist-centrist camp. Even Yair Lapid came out against him. How convenient to assail Ben-Gvir and support Gantz and Bar-Lev. Ben-Gvir’s racism is indeed unbridled and unfiltered. He doesn’t want any Arabs here. Gantz and Bar-Lev may be willing to have Arabs here, but they’re the ones behind their awful abuse. That’s where Ben-Gvir comes in handy for the center-left. One can assail him and feel good: Here we are, fighting evil. Assailing Ben-Gvir doesn’t carry a price in this camp, as does attacking Gantz and Bar-Lev.

It’s hard to know what kind of minister Ben-Gvir will be, if he becomes one. He certainly won’t be much worse than the present one. Under Bar-Lev, policemen shoot to death innocent people, strike bereaved people with batons, tear down legitimate flags at funerals, kill children with special needs and act with unbelievable violence in Jerusalem, including the beating up of disabled people (last week). How much worse could it get? Will Ben-Gvir order the execution of hundreds of Palestinians? Dozens are being killed anyway, under the rule of the enlightened.

Gantz isn’t Ben-Gvir either. He’s one of us, secular and Ashkenazi, left-center, moderate, good-looking and enlightened. He meets Mahmoud Abbas and allows laborers from Gaza to work in Israel. The army, under his chief-of-staff Aviv Kochavi’s command, is more violent and brutal than ever in ostensibly calm times.

In Friday’s Haaretz we related the story of two students who were subjected to intense gunfire by soldiers lying in ambush, who claimed that the students had been throwing stones. One of them was hit by 10 bullets, the other by five. The first one lost a leg, and underwent operations all over his body. His friend is in a wheelchair. Last week, a Russian soldier in Ukraine was sentenced to life in prison for killing a civilian. In Israel there isn’t even an investigation. It’s Gantz, not Ben-Gvir, but there is no fear-mongering campaign directed at Gantz.

It’s convenient to display the remnants of one’s conscience against Ben-Gvir. It’s easy to present him as an outlier, whereas in fact, he’ s much less so than one imagines. Only his speech is different, being more direct, and thus more honest. Ben-Gvir says what Gantz and Bar-Lev are doing.

Gantz’s IDF and Bar-Lev’s Border Police enable all those insane processions to the Tomb of Joseph, to the outpost of Homesh, and this Sunday’s Flag March in Jerusalem. Ben-Gvir will go to the Temple Mount with their permission. And who will the fury be directed at? At Ben-Gvir, the provocateur. He elicits opposition, while Gantz and Bar-Lev don’t create a stir. They are “moderate.” But between them and Ben-Gvir, I prefer the latter. He, at least, is honest. He may also one day provoke active resistance. With Gantz and Bar-Lev, we’ll live with a pleasant feeling and a quiet conscience forever.

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