Iconic Palmach songwriter and Israel Prize laureate (1983) Haim Hefer celebrated hate (only partly tongue-in-cheek) as a downright pleasurable and invigorating force. In his poem Zehubim (Yellows) he muses (my translation) that
Love and amity
Are signs of immaturity.
Mercy and all the rest
Are worthless relicts of the past.
One thing hasn’t lost its attraction:
That strange penchant for abomination…
Nothing here is smart or dumb,
Or logical, my chum –
So just hate wholeheartedly
So utterly impulsively.
Hefer’s insights into the compulsive nature of hate are remarkably borne out by the unbridled offensive of Peace Now Secretary-General Yariv Oppenheimer on Bank Leumi’s “Two Million Good Reasons” campaign. It set out to aid a broad variety of nonprofit organizations. The idea was for the public to vote online for its favorite among the 139 vying outfits – among them, alas, Im Tirtzu.
The top 10 were to receive bigger shares of the NIS 2 million set aside for grants, while lesser gifts would go to the next 50 contestants. To Oppenheimer’s consternation, it emerged that Im Tirtzu was a top contender. Im Tirtzu, it cannot be stressed enough, is an absolute anathema to the leftist Peace Now.
In its own words, Im Tirtzu is “an extra-parliamentary movement that works to strengthen and advance the values of Zionism in Israel… Im Tirtzu’s main objectives focus on working towards a renewal of the Zionist discourse… A major portion of Im Tirtzu’s efforts is devoted to combating the campaign of delegitimization against the State of Israel and to providing responses to Post-Zionist and Anti-Zionist phenomena.”
Im Tirtzu is Hebrew for “if you will.” These are the first words in Zionist visionary Theodor Herzl’s motto “If you will it, it is no fable.”
This NGO appeared likely to win second slot in the Bank Leumi competition. It’s a moot point whether what offended Oppenheimer more was proof of Im Tirtzu’s popularity or the apprehension that it might emerge marginally enriched (by anyhow paltry sums in comparison to the largesse lavished on the Israeli Left by EU governments with an eye to skew this country’s democratic processes).
Whatever it was, in the spirit of characteristic left-wing liberality, Oppenheimer set out to ban Im Tirtzu from the running.
He charged that Im Tirtzu was political (though it’s not affiliated with or funded by any party), that it was pushing a legislative agenda (just like an assortment of civic, women’s and animal protection groups in the race) and that Bank Leumi should have never allowed its participation.
To back his contentions Oppenheimer threatened to close down his account at the bank. In no time, more Peace Now adherents followed suit in phenomenally “spontaneous” uniformity and Bank Leumi was besieged with abusive e-mails, rife with expletives (as befit the enlightened ones), to say nothing of adjectives like “fascists” and “racists.”
The end was a foregone conclusion. Bank Leumi caved in and abrogated its philanthropic scheme. Im Tirtzu wasn’t the only victim. All sorts of worthy – and cash-strapped – NGOs lost out. Emboldened and unremorseful, Oppenheimer crowed. “We proved,” he boasted on Facebook, “that with determination and enormous public support it’s possible to launch moves and win.”
But this was no isolated angry crusade for Oppenheimer. He’s a hardened politician and a professional warrior. As preparations for disengagement were kicked into high gear in 2005, Oppenheimer shouted his blusterous battle cry: “We are ready for civil war.” He did so in rallies mounted by what presumptuously and pretentiously passed itself off as the “Majority Coalition,” and in front of numerous microphones and cameras.
No doubt, had the very same words been screamed out at a right-wing assembly it would have generated outraged indignation among Oppenheimer’s righteous sort and swiftly resulted in a great clamoring that the law be harshly laid down against the entire collective defamed as confrontation-mongering settler-insurrectionists.
But obviously different standards apply to Oppenheimer. Israeli justice cheats, peeks though its blindfold and allows the Oppenheimers in our midst to promote conflict with impunity.
When the Left goes on the warpath it’s always for peace, morality and virtue. Its self-proclaimed high-mindedness inevitably justifies any means. The few among us with historical memories still know about the Hapoel Squads that violently attacked new olim as they disembarked from their boats in Haifa Port throughout the 1930s. Those newcomers were Beitar sympathizers and therefore undesirable.
During World War II’s ominous prologue, when Europe’s desperate Jews frantically sought immigration visas (“certificates”) into Eretz Yisrael, the Left, which controlled the Jewish Agency, made sure that political rivals wouldn’t be granted legal aliya permits. And when these rivals attempted to get here in quasi-legal ways (like exploiting tourist and student visas or resorting to fictional marriages), leftist guardians of legality turned them in, often raiding buses and cafes to find folks without proper papers. At the time this gained infamy as “the hunt.”
It was a hunt in which yesteryear’s Left-led Yishuv establishment spared no hyperbole to denounce “illegals” because, being of the wrong political orientation and/or social class, they allegedly jeopardized the entire Zionist endeavor. The vituperative vocabulary the Left then unleashed on “unlicensed refugees” unmistakably calls to mind its anti-settler invective today.
As the “hunters” stalked their prey, the more militant Left, under the aegis of the Communist Peh-Kah-Peh (the Yiddish acronym for the Palestinisheh Kommunistisheh Partai) took the war for “justice and legality” a step further. It too wasn’t afraid of getting down and dirty. Immediately following the bloody Arab pogroms of April 1936, the PKP plastered local streets with posters demanding “the repeal of the Balfour Declaration and an end to Jewish immigration.” It opposed the construction of Tel Aviv harbor and repudiated each batch of new certificates issued.
Indeed, as Arab terror escalated, proof mounted of PKP collusion (in incidents such as the bombing of Haifa’s Beit Hapoalim and Tel Aviv’s Fairgrounds). When Arab leaders themselves announced a short-lived truce in the autumn of 1936, the PKP rejected any cease-fire on the grounds that “Zionism drags Jews to hell… Zionists and imperialists alone are to blame for these days of atrocity” – just as today’s settlers are likewise blamed.
The more things change the more they stay the same. In the name of unity and upholding the law, yesteryear’s Left delivered Revisionist underground fighters to hostile British hands in what came to be known as the “Saison” – the open hunting season. Alternatively, kibbutzniks captured Jewish opponents, imprisoning and even torturing them in the name of decency.
Oppenheimer, darn it, can’t duplicate such escapades, but he can snitch on settler caravans in the wilderness and paint Im Tirtzu as the foe, heaping more scorn on domestic political adversaries than on external genocidal enemies. In Hefer’s words, Oppenheimer can “hate wholeheartedly, so utterly impulsively.”
Hefer incidentally knew whereof he spoke. Back in the day, he vehemently railed against discontinuing the Saison. The claim that the Revisionists had been defeated, Hefer impassionedly warned, is premature:
Suddenly the scourge will arise
And spread like the plague…
Bring the Saison back,
Crush, beat, obliterate
To the last eradicate!