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Israel’s March of Benightedness

Haaretz Editorial
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An Israeli woman sits as the municipality building is illuminated with the Lebanese flag In Tel Aviv, August 5, 2020.
An Israeli woman sits as the municipality building is illuminated with the Lebanese flag In Tel Aviv, August 5, 2020. Credit: Sebastian Scheiner/AP
Haaretz Editorial

The Tel Aviv municipality’s decision to light up city hall in the colors of the Lebanese flag to show solidarity with Lebanon’s mourning over the explosion at the Beirut port is wholly praiseworthy. So are the condolence messages sent by President Reuven Rivlin and the aid offered by Defense Minister Benny Gantz and Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi. As Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai aptly put it, “humanity takes precedence over any conflict.”

But for some Israeli public figures, not only does humanity not take precedence over any conflict, but whenever any initiative is taken to try to reduce the intensity of the hate between Israel and its neighbors, they feel an uncontrollable urge to bare their primitive worldview.

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The identity of the people participating in this march of benightedness comes as no surprise. Alongside former lawmaker Moshe Feiglin, who described the blast as “a spectacular pyrotechnic display,” there was once again Bezalel Smotrich of Yamina, the poster boy for Jewish nationalism and racism.

He recruited rabbinical sources to remind us that “He who has mercy on the cruel will end up being cruel to the merciful.” What do the dozens of dead and thousands of wounded, some of them children, have to do with the “cruel” people Smotrich is complaining about? Rather than supplying a moral standard, Smotrich and Feiglin have exposed the dark, conflicted inner worlds that they represented as elected officials.

Another Jewish authority on morality, this time at the ministerial level, was Rafi Peretz (Yamina). He was kind enough to approve of “humanitarian aid,” but added that “flying the flag of an enemy country in the heart of Tel Aviv reflects moral confusion.” His colleague Ayelet Shaked, who shares this warped worldview, insisted that this inverts the natural order. “In a properly run country, Tel Aviv’s city hall would be colored orange this evening as a reminder of the expulsion from Gush Katif,” Shaked wrote, referring to Israel’s removal of all settlements from the Gaza Strip in August 2005. “Instead, we received the flag of an enemy country. I saw the world turned upside down.”

But the only thing that’s actually upside down is the fact that people like Peretz, Shaked, Feiglin and Smotrich served or are still serving as Israeli ministers and Knesset members – that their racist, benighted, nationalist views are deemed legitimate in Israel’s public conversation, whereas sane views that don’t consider Lebanese civilians to be enemies and want to help people in times of need are considered “the delusional left.” If this were really the “properly run country” Shaked dreams of, she and her “delusional” colleagues would be cast out in disgust.

The above article is Haaretz’s lead editorial, as published in the Hebrew and English newspapers in Israel.