When Jews commit ideological murder it’s man bites dog. The rarity and shock then serve as just about the most expedient excuse for settling internal political scores.
It was only to be expected that two unrelated homicidal attacks would instigate the current blame-fest against the majority of the nation lumped collectively (and contemptuously) into the so-called right-wing. It always was so. History buffs can point to the Arlozoroff assassination but no need to delve that far. Suffice it to say, that local prejudices don’t evaporate. They just conveniently transmute.
Nonetheless, one premise remains unalterable – the Left is presumed righteous and the Right can do no right.
I got these basic political insights at a very young age from two friends of my parents’. They used to drop by on occasion and I could never tell them apart. They were identical twins – incredibly identical. They looked the same, spoke the same and behaved the same. The only difference between them was in their politics – about which each was as intense as the other.
So passionate was their ideological commitment that they used to be known around our house not by their proper names but as Mapainik and Herutnik. (Mapai was the forerunner of Labor and Herut in time became the chief component of the Likud).
The twins’ party affiliations directly impacted on their livelihood. For Mapainik this proved to be very fortunate. His political connections helped win him an appointment to a promising civil service position and he kept rising in the ranks.
Despite coming to the job market with the same upbringing, education and temperament as his brother, Herutnik’s politics effectively rendered him persona non grata in the civil service and beyond during Israel’s early years. He struggled and whatever sporadic employment came his way was considerably below his qualifications. Quite against the odds, he finally landed a humble slot in a far-from-prestigious department – but it paid the rent.
Not for long, though. The Histadrut got wind of it and a great howl of protest ensued. The fact that Herutnik was at all hired was branded politicization. Mapainik’s success was the natural way of the world – all as it should be and as it’s expected to be.
Herutnik’s impudent foot-in-the-door of the establishment was an outrage. It even made headlines in the Histadrut dailyDavar back in the day. A regretful boss had to explain to Herutnik that while there is nothing wrong with his work, he can’t be kept on – he’s too “controversial.”
This episode is seminal for understanding the skewing of our public discourse and not only in the context of the raging the blame-fest. The orchestrated hysteria by our “arts community” against culture minister Miri Regev was cast in precisely the same mold. It’s the same phenomenon in a different guise.
The point of departure for our ever-voluble media propagandists is predictably uniform. The Left is robotically presumed righteous while the Right can do no right.
Thus, in the prevailing one-dimensional scheme of things, bashing millions of fellow Israelis for crimes to which they have no conceivable connection is as inherently legitimate as is hyping the most stridently Israel-bashing films and theatrical productions. Moreover, any anti-Zionist bashing unquestionably deserves to be bankrolled by the much-maligned taxpayers in the hallowed name of journalistic/artistic freedom.
Yet the hallowed protection of our freedoms doesn’t apply to pronouncements/productions that could be remotely deprecated as Zionist. Any fare deemed rightist would raise the roof with indignant shrieks about the attempted contamination and politicization of our otherwise unadulterated editorial platforms and arts scene.
The leftist monopoly is, after all, the natural way of the world – all as it should be and as it’s expected to be. Any non-Left incursion is an outrage against the natural way of the world.
The plain fact of the matter is that decades of left-wing hegemony had affected the ideological demographics of our journalistic milieu and so-called arts community. Right-wingers are scarce and when they dare speak their mind they’re ostracized.
Always approved followers of leftist fads are encouraged to view themselves as superior to the commoners whom actor/director Oded Kotler recently likened to “a herd of behemoth who lick up straw and dung.”
Anyone obtuse enough not to acknowledge the innate preeminence of our single-mold talking heads and artistes is stereotyped as a bookless intellectually-deficient lout, incapable of delving into the profundity of the great gifted omniscients.
Not only are such specious stereotypes a source of psychological comfort to those who need to rationalize the consistent failure of the citizenry to be swayed by transcendent leftist outlooks, but these stereotypes are inter alia programmed to burgeon into self-fulfilling prophesies. They steer upwardly mobile aspirants away from particular “undesirable” political affiliations lest they be denigrated as members of the oafish rabble.
In time, once these stereotypes take hold and begin to be perceived as axiomatic, they inescapably mess with the minds of individuals who fall for the prevailing untruths. They discourage any niggling doubts among groupies and media-junkies as well. The distortion becomes an unassailable socio-cultural premise.
Many Knesset campaigns ago, when the Jerusalem Post’s now defunct Tel Aviv bureau was still vibrant, our newsroom had just received a batch of press photos from two of the major parties’ election rallies. One of my colleagues picked up the Labor glossies and commented in all earnestness: “Isn’t it amazing how much more beautiful our people are? No wonder all the intellectual, creative, high-caliber minds are with us.”
A few years later I was treated to a personal demonstration of how it was that so many of the beautiful people – with the “intellectual, creative, high-caliber minds” – meandered exclusively to one political direction only.
A then very powerful Labor politician – the boss of the party’s Tel Aviv bastion, often described as its behind-the-scenes string-puller – phoned me out of the blue on one workday afternoon with an offer he assumed I couldn’t and wouldn’t refuse.
He had reliably heard, he told me, that I painted. No sooner did I confirm the rumor, then he announced that “it was decided” to award me a generous financial grant (from the Histadrut, then not yet bankrupt) – a one-year stipend (far exceeding my annual salary) that would enable me to spend as much time as I wished filling my canvases.
I curtly turned him down, before actually taking a moment to mull over the opportunity and its ramifications. Instead, I inquired somewhat testily how he knew my paintings were even of any merit. Had he ever seen any of my output? Did he have any inkling about my art, medium or genre?
My genuinely personable interlocutor was surprised and said he has never encountered a reaction like mine, meaning that his stipends were granted to others before. As to my question, he assured me that the quality of my work is no issue. “We will organize exhibitions and publicity for you,” he pledged very matter-of-factly, “and you will get very good reviews.”
Flabbergasted, I declined and said something along the lines of “I’m not for sale.” Colleagues who were in the know were furious with me and called me a prime fool. It transpired that this was a dream deal occasionally dangled before practitioners of assorted arts in whom “The Party” was interested. They took me to task for having rejected not only a stipend but potentially a glowing career.
These colleagues in-the-know revealed that chosen creative sorts enjoy “friendly help.” In time I discovered that they are also ushered into cliques, where a certain political slant is trendy and where failure to kowtow can mean banishment. The implied bottom line is that if you are with us, we will stand by you all the way. But if you are not with us, you are against us.
Non-adherence to the conventional wisdom chic and self-evident in these cliques, could be insalubrious to one’s prospects.
Today’s goings-on are clearly more circumspect but yesteryear’s core leftist cadre keeps replicating itself. Israel has a rife “friend-brings-a-friend” tradition and this process of recruiting and cultivating like-minded comrades breeds cumulative radicalization.
Hence Regev’s decision to withhold state subsidies from a theatrical production based on the writings of terrorist Walid Dakka could be portrayed as a grievous attack on freedom. Dakka had abducted, sadistically tortured and then murdered 19-year-old soldier Moshe Tamam in 1984.
When Tamam’s niece, Ortal, attempted to appeal to the conscience of performers at their anti-Regev rally, the articulate medical student was loudly heckled and booed by the purported champions of freedom of expression. Some self-appointed guardians of our liberties even shouted outright: “Shut up! Get off the podium.” Ortal finally did, in tears. She wasn’t allowed to say her piece.
Naomi Shemer, the late first lady of Israeli song and poetry, called our artistic and media cliques “the thought-police.”
In our last conversation, a few months before Shemer’s death in 2004, she confessed that the cliques intimidated her. She noted how they ostracized author Moshe Shamir when his political orientation changed. She felt the same happened to her and that for years the “thought-police” boycotted some of her songs.
Hence she never wrote music for her lyrics praising Elon Moreh settlers (“strange people, I wish I were amongst you”) or for her allegory about a sardine straining implausibly to make peace with a shark. She figured they wouldn’t be broadcast and would only earn her abuse.
She described herself as having “remained too Zionist for the preeminent post-Zionist oligarchy” and she unambiguously admitted her reluctance to confront this “strangulating oligarchy.”
“Let’s face it,” Shemer explained, “I didn’t go where the thought-police assumed I would, where it ordained that I should. Those who claim to be non-conformists insist on absolute conformity to their diktats. Any deviation from what is judged to be the natural way of the world is bound to bring unfavorable consequences. The oligarchy is merciless.”
She quoted from a then-two-year-old piece by Yediot Aharonot’s Nahum Barnea, in which he advised his readers to head for the other side of the street when they see her coming.
She took great offense but never answered Barnea. Her one consolation, she told me in that last conversation, was that “so far I haven’t seen anyone rush across the road to avoid me. My sin is Love of Israel. Hopefully I can be forgiven for it, at least by Israel’s silenced majority – the good wise people whom the preeminent post-Zionist oligarchy scorns.”