Of Bad Taste and Dictatorship

This week, two demonstrations (one pro-Bibi, and one anti-Bibi) made the news, even though demonstrations have become almost a routine and the media (depending on their political inclination) have settled into de facto reporting without too much passion.

The pro-Bibi demonstration took place in Caesarea, where die-hard likudniks with Orly Lev in the forefront, gathered near the house of the Farkash family, whose property is adjacent to (but still quite far removed from) the private residence of the Netanyahu family. Anat Farkash, the lady of the house, has in recent weeks allowed demonstrators to gather onto the roof of her house and “talk” to Netanyahu. In all instances, only a very limited number of people was invited to the roof, and the speakers did not degrade themselves by name-calling or slogan shouting, but brought up topics that are painfully serious in today’s Israel and for which Netanyahu is responsible. (Ms. Farkash requested that the speakers would remain positive and not lower themselves to personal attacks on Netanyahu).

Orly Lev and her fellow-demonstrators came to protest against the gatherings on the roof of the Farkash family.  But they resorted to the lowest possible means to make their case. The Farkash family lost their son Tom (a helicopter pilot) during the Lebanon war. In videos from the demonstration, Ms. Lev is heard screaming “the fact that you lost your son doesn’t give you the right to host anarchists”, while the most disturbing cry came from someone in the crowd: “God punished you once, I hope he will make you lose another child”.

 In Israel, “bereaved families” are looked upon in a special way, having sacrificed a child, husband, brother, father, in the wars of Israel, and outrage was expressed from both left and right, even though the Likud and Netanyahu issued statements that were far from what might have been expected, especially from Netanyahu who repeatedly uses the fact that he is a bereaved brother (his brother Yoni fell in the Entebbe raid).   

And then, only a day later, an anti-Bibi activist, Sadi Ben-Shitrit, was recorded comparing Netanyahu to Adolf Hitler.  While the comparison in itself is pretty crude, in Israel references to the Nazi era are considered unacceptable and the condemnations were fast and harsh. Of course, the Likud saw this also as a good opportunity to divert attention from Orly Lev and her scandalous behavior, with cries of criminal investigation and incarceration of Ben-Shitrit.

In both cases, no doubt bad taste, bad judgement and deteriorating moral standards resulted in the despicable behavior of these “demonstrators”, but there is an important, fundamental difference between the two events.

Ben-Shitrit expressed an opinion. Netanyahu is destroying democracy in Israel, dividing the country, using incitement and hatred to further his destructive goals. While the comparison with Hitler indicates bad taste and lack of proportion, the fact remains that he was saying what he believes and calling to put a stop to it. You may or may not agree, but we are (still) living in a country where you are allowed to say what you believe in, or not?  The outrage should be (and in many cases was) directed to the comparison he made, not to the opinion that he expressed.

The demonstration in Caesarea was very different. Orly Lev and her cohorts were not angry or upset about an opinion that the Farkash family expressed. They were angry and upset because the Farkash family would ALLOW and opinion to be expressed. An opinion that in their eyes of course cannot be allowed to be heard. In the world view of Orly Lev (and many of her friends in the Likud), if you do not agree with them, you are an anarchist, leftist, or worse. Netanyahu is the almighty leader and any disagreement with him or his views, or g-d forbid attacks on him cannot be condoned and any means is allowed to stop such disagreement.

The tastelessness expressed by both sides is worrisome and the moral deterioration something that must be dealt with.

But if Israel cannot make itself allow a different opinion to be heard and allow freedom of expression, it doesn’t really matter if bad taste gets the overhand.

Democracy can overcome bad taste. The loss of Freedom of Expression, will kill it.

I hope you found this article interesting and I welcome any comments you may have.

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