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Red Rag Weekly Column: Natan Blanc, Yair Lapid, Ben-Dror Yemini
By: Gideon Spiro
8 February 2013 (English translation 12 February)


Natan Blanc

These days, while the press is breathlessly covering the inter-party negotiations for the creation of a new government, we can say with a great deal of certainty that no big changes will come with a Netanyahu government. Regarding all the existential issues: peace or war, Occupation or liberation, swinish capitalism or social equality and solidarity, the established order will remain. In any case it will be a right wing government with or without Lapid or Bennett or Shas, a war government that will spare no effort to perpetuate the Occupation and the settlements, with a “peace process” that will drag on and on without peace, and to exploit the middle class and the poor while coddling the tycoons who borrow from the public and don’t pay their debts, a Garden of Eden for swinish capitalism. A government that flees from hope and change.

Yet despite the pessimistic outlook, I do not lose hope. Relief and deliverance will come from youth with a humanistic vision like the 19 year old Natan Blanc who is now jailed in military Prison 6 at Atlit for his refusal to enlist in the Israeli Occupation Force. This is his fifth term of imprisonment, for a total of 80 days. The State of Israel is drenched in lust for war and the Occupation. Children from preschool up to the end of high school are brainwashed on the importance of military service and where the Holocaust itself is shamelessly pressed into service through misguided trips to the death camps. Yet despite this massive steamrolling, some beautiful blossoms grow, which emit the intoxicating aroma of love of life, to counter the stench of death that wafts from the Israeli war machine.

What a wonderful phenomenon is this young man of 19 who stands before the machine of destruction, and tells it, “I am not willing to participate in your war games; I am not willing to be a brute for the Occupation that rules over another people; I am not willing to shoot at women and children; I am not willing to guard settlers and settlements that are built on other people’s stolen land; I am not willing to break into homes in the middle of the night to sow fear and destruction, because that is not service to the society and the State, but service to the Masters of War.” And indeed, Natan Blanc is willing to do his duty in community service, not to destroy lives but to nurture them.
Natan’s family has an honourable tradition of promoting peace. His grandmother Judith is a veteran of the struggle against the Occupation and its crimes. At home he received the intellectual and psychological preparation to stand up to the nationalist and racist flood that is closing in on us on all sides.

I had the honour of being among his friends and supporters from the Yesh Gvul movement, who on Saturday (2 February 2013) went to the mountain that overlooks the prison to call out, “Congratulations, Natan!” and “Don’t despair, we’ll do away with this Occupation yet!”


The Right has not been defeated

The recent elections brought good news and bad news. The good news: the joint list of the Likud and Israel Our Home (Yisrael Beiteinu) lost strength. It lost 11 seats, but remains the largest faction. The bad news: the Right has not been defeated; it has only changed its face.

As the elections approached most pundits placed the “There Is a Future” (Yesh Atid) party led by the party dictator Yair Lapid in the Centre-Left; but there was no justification for that. Lapid, the surprise of the election who today leads the second largest faction in the Knesset, is a right-wing racist like his father, who was his teacher and rabbi, and about whom a few words must now be said: Lapid Senior founded a party which was also an electoral surprise in its time. After a few years it dissolved and its members disappeared from the political scene. Lapid Senior was a racist against Arabs, Jews from Arab countries and Haredim. (He called them “a bunch of extortionists”, “money-grubbers”, “villains and tyrants” [1] and suchlike epithets from the anti-Semitic school – Maariv 27 April 1990). He was a faithful servant of the tycoons, especially the British newspaper mogul Robert Maxwell, who bought Lapid’s newspaper Maariv and who later turned out to be a criminal and a con-man who stole his employees’ pensions and when it all came to light he perhaps committed suicide, perhaps accidentally drowned or was perhaps liquidated while cruising in his yacht on the Atlantic Ocean.

As Justice Minister, Lapid Senior gave full backing to the Occupation and the judicial system that served it. He also had moments of compassion. One time, when an old Arab woman who was left homeless after an Israeli army operation was shown on television, Lapid, himself a Holocaust survivor, responded that it reminded him of similar images from the Holocaust. But such moments of decency were few, because for the most part Lapid used the Holocaust as a permit to attack anyone who disagreed with him, especially non-Jews who criticized Israel. As Director-General of the Israel Broadcasting Authority (1979-1984) he acted as a tyrant, and as a journalist who participated in current-affairs programmes on television, some of them very popular, he excoriated his adversaries in particularly harsh and coarse language and suggested actions worthy of an international gangster. Victor Ostrovsky, who served for a while in the Mossad and later emigrated to Canada, wrote an unflattering book about the Mossad which included more than a few embarrassing revelations about the organization’s modus operandi. Yosef (“Tommy”) Lapid labelled him “the scum of the human race” and suggested in a live broadcast that the Mossad liquidate Ostrovsky by staging a traffic accident. In another broadcast he suggested that the army and the Israel Security Agency (ISA – Shin Bet) plant seven car-bombs in the teeming centres of seven Palestinian cities, which would cause the deaths of hundreds and injure thousands, as an Israeli response to the Intifada.

This is the role model Lapid Junior admires and in whose footsteps he is following. The fingerprints of the father are clearly discernible on the son. Thus when he presented his party’s platform, he did so in the urban settlement of Ariel in the Occupied Territories of all places, where, as in the other apartheid settlements, no Palestinian from a neighbouring village is permitted to live. There he outlined his political programme, according to which Ariel will remain in Israel’s possession, and of course there’s nothing to discuss regarding Jerusalem, because all of it is “ours”; but densely-populated Palestinian areas will become a kind of Bantustan under tight Israeli control, all for the purpose of “getting rid of the Arabs”. A few days later he announced that he would not be part of a parliamentary bloc to prevent Netanyahu from forming a government, for such a bloc would have to include the Arab Knesset Members, and he, Lapid, would not sit together with “those Zoabis”. He invokes the name of MK Haneen Zoabi, a woman who is hated by much of the Jewish public in Israel for her participation in the Mavi Marmara flotilla to Gaza, pluralizes her family name, and with a wave of his linguistic magic want all the Arabs become untouchable “Zoabis”. Racism straight from his father’s house. And the tycoons too are well- represented in his faction, by none other than former ISA head Yaakov Peri, who upgraded that agency’s torture methods. After his departure from the ISA he became a millionaire hundreds of times over, a tycoon in his own right thanks to a directorship in the banking sector, with its giant salaries and scandalous perks.

The main slogan of Lapid Jr. was “sharing the burden”. Behind the slogan stands the desire to see all the Haredim serve in the army. Yet again, the army as a symbol of Israeli society. It is a militaristic and populist slogan which took in many sophisticated voters who apparently think that if all the Haredim serve in the army, relief and deliverance will come to us. A rather closer look will show that this is a vain hope. Even if all the thousands of Haredim of military age who today enjoy exemptions from military service leave the yeshivas and join the army, the burden will still not be shared equally, neither in civilian society with all its inequalities nor within the army; for the light burden that was imposed on Yair Lapid, whose duty in the army was to write for the army publication Bamahane, a comfortable job that allowed him to return home every day, cannot be compared to the burden borne by a soldier who is sent to war and endangers his life. To limit the issue of equality to the issue of military service bespeaks a superficial approach, for there can be no equal sharing of the burden under the umbrella of swinish capitalism. You want equality an equally-shared burden? Then get a new regime or at least a new government that will turn its back on the undemocratic Jewish state and replace it with a democratic state that will provide equality for all who live within it – citizens, residents and asylum-seekers.

Where all the core issues of Israeli society are concerned, Yair Lapid is so far turning out to be a carbon-copy of his father, and that is not a good omen. This does not mean that he cannot change, in which case we shall judge him according to his new ways.

In conclusion, a fitting disclosure: I have confronted the father as well as the son. I sued the father 18 years ago, with the result that he deposited a few thousand shekels into my pocket (civil file 1239/95).


Buds of hope

The United Nations Human Rights Council set up a committee to investigate the settlements. The government of Israel did not cooperate with the committee and acted according to the underworld code of silence. However, the cooperation of the Israeli government is not really crucial. There is an abundance of information on the settlements, in Israel and outside it, so the committee could fulfill its mission without the government of Israel. The committee found that the settlements are illegal under the Geneva Convention. We have known that for a long time. The committee calls for the evacuation of the settlements, for they are all illegal. The two-state solution, if it is still feasible, requires the evacuation of the settlements and the return of the plundered land to its owners. The innovation here is that for the first time a UN committee is calling for the imposition of economic sanctions on Israel for the regime of Occupation and apartheid that it has established in the Occupied Territories. I do not know if this trend will grow or peter out. I hope that the isolation of racist and colonial Israel through the imposition of an economic and sports boycott like the one imposed on Apartheid South Africa will produce results and lift the curse of the Occupation. If an international force is created to remove the settlements from the Occupied Territories, many peace-loving Israelis will certainly join the mission.


The myth of the “leftist mafia”

Maariv was once the largest-circulation newspaper in Israel. In the 1950s and 1960s we used to call its editors the “Directors-General of the State” due to the newspaper’s power, and the doors in the corridors of power were open to the editors. Over time the newspaper lost influence, underwent crises and changed editors and owners until it went bankrupt. A few months ago the settler Shlomo Ben-Zvi acquired the newspaper, fired most of the journalists and left a small skeleton staff which he complemented with journalists he brought in from his other newspaper, Makor Rishon.

Maariv was never a left-wing newspaper. It always leaned Right, sometimes a little and sometimes a lot. Of the 12 editors who have presided at the newspaper since its inception in 1948, only two could be characterized as leftists: Ruti Yuval and Doron Galezer, who served as joint editors from 2007 to 2009; but they too failed to save the newspaper, and the big left turn that naïve people like me expected never materialized. Under the scepter of the new boss, the settler Ben-Zvi, the newspaper is undergoing another process of moving rightwards, towards the settler Right with its stances that sometimes border on fascism. The settlers now have several newspapers at their disposal: Makor Rishon, Maariv and the free newspaper Yisrael HaYom, financed by the casino billionaire Sheldon Adelson. That free paper is now the highest-circulation newspaper in Israel. It was founded in order to serve Netanyahu, but since Netanyahu supports the settlements, so does Yisrael HaYom.

Yedioth Ahronoth, which until not long ago was the highest-circulation newspaper in Israel and still has a substantial readership, also underwent a process of shifting to the Right which saw the dismissal of B. Michael, the newspaper’s best columnist: smart, talented, eloquent, astute and original. The terrorist settler Hagai Segal, a member of a murder-cell of the terrorist Jewish underground which attempted to assassinate the mayors of three Palestinian cities was hired as a columnist.

The Educational Television channel, which acts as an autonomous unit of the Ministry of Education, also had a right-wing turnaround and is now being taken over by the settlers. State television has reverted to a great extent to the time of Bolshevist media from the early days of the State, which functioned as a branch of the Prime Minister’s Office. It is the same with state radio.

The commercial channels concern themselves mainly with stupefying the masses with advertising and reality shows with cash prizes. And the few moments they devote to news and serious matters bear the imprint of the growing number of settlers who have colonized them. Despite the myth still declaimed by the settlers to the effect that the Israeli media are leftist, the truth is the opposite; the Israeli media today lie along the continuum between the Right and the extreme Right.


“The Nazification project”

That is the headline the right-wing journalist Dror Yemini gave to his column of Friday, 1 February 2013. Yemini is one of a handful of journalists at Maariv who were not dismissed by the new owner, the settler Ben-Zvi. Yemini, who sees his past as being stained with blots of leftism, is sparing no effort – again, as he sees it – to cleanse himself of those spots. He is doing so through a reckless campaign of incitement against the Left. He fits the new owner’s outlook like a glove. No wonder Ben-Zvi fell in love with him. Every week Yemini hammers away at left-wing and human rights organizations and leftists and liberals worldwide who criticize the Occupation and apartheid, attacks Israeli academic faculty members who criticize the Occupation and oppression, and like every good McCarthyist he calls them aiders of the enemy – that is, traitors who are contributing to an international leftist campaign to to slander Israel as a continuation of the Nazi regime. In his words, “a project of Nazifying Israel”.

What is to be done with the traitors in the universities that receive government funding? Yemini, having drawn the outline, leaves it to his readers to reach the obvious conclusion, in the hope that his readership includes people who are responsible for allocating government funds to universities and who will reach the required insights: those aiding the enemy must be dismissed and put on trial for aiding the enemy in time of war, for which the death penalty can be applied, and to house them in the detention camps that have been built in the Negev for asylum-seekers. There’s lots of room there.

With his weekly venomous writings against the Left, Yemini is contributing to legislation to silence criticism and therefore the denial of freedom of expression that he enjoyed under the editorship of Doron Galezer and Ruth Yuval, who struggled not to vomit whenever they saw his column. They acted like democratic leftists, and respected his freedom of expression.

Yemini is part of a group that is endeavouring to suppress the freedom of speech of those who criticize and condemn the policies of the Israeli government by tarring them with the brush of anti-Semitism. Recently he did that to a cartoon that was published in the Sunday Times of London, in which Netanyahu was depicted building a wall that was strangling the Palestinians. A legitimate cartoon, and also a correct one in my view, and I would gladly add my name to those of the 28 Jews in Britain who published a letter in the British newspaper Independent protesting against the effort to label the Sunday Times cartoon as anti-Semitic. This is a classic example of illegitimate use of the concept. Not only is the cartoon free of any whiff of anti-Semitism, they write; but it is a correct critique, and the timing of its publication, on the eve of International Holocaust Day, is appropriate, for Israel has not internalized even one essential lesson from the Holocaust, apart from the cult of military force.

But above all, Yemini’s accusations are unfounded, and the little truth that they contain is like the truth in the Protocols of the Elders of Zion. Leftists do not seek to Nazify Israel. It is Israel itself that is doing that, with the failure of the police to find those responsible for the burnings of mosques and Muslim holy books, with Beitar Jerusalem football fans displaying giant placards saying “Beitar – pure forever” after two Muslim players joined the team, with fabricated accusations that asylum-seekers from Africa are spreading disease, by sewing destruction and death among a civilian population – the list is long. The “guilt” of the Left is that it demands an end to these shameful phenomena so that Israel can become a civilized democratic state.


Translator’s note

1. The word translated here as “villain” – paritz also means a Polish nobleman. In Israel the term is associated with oppression and humiliation in the Eastern European Jewish Diaspora.

Translated from Hebrew for Occupation Magazine by George Malent

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