|“Did you know? Jeremy Bird, the American strategist, who came to help the left oust Bibi comes from anti-Israeli circles that argue that Gaza is the only place in the world in which soldiers [IDF] kill kids for sport.”(My Israel: Doing Zionism)|
A couple of weeks ago, Labor MK Stav Shaffir’s impromptu Knesset speech went viral. Social media called it “Who is a Zionist?” Shaffir attacked Habayt Hayehudi’s MKs for pretending they are “more Zionist than Ben-Gurion,” while taking public money and giving it to their friends in the Yesha Council. “Real Zionism,” she said “means dividing the budget equally among all the citizens of the country. Real Zionism is taking care of the weak. Real Zionism is solidarity, not only in battle but in everyday life.”
Shaffir was responding to Naftali Bennett and Binyamin Netanyahu’s attack on the Zionist camp for being “Anti-Zionist.” Both Bennett and Netanyahu picked a list of candidates on Labor’s list and labeled them anti-Zionist:
- MK Merav Michaeli once said Israeli mothers should not send their sons to the army;
- MK Stav Shaffir, according to a book on the 2011 social protests, called “Hatikva” a racist song;
- Prof. Yossi Yona said he does not connect to the concept of Zionism;
- Zouheir Bahloul said his Palestinian identity is stronger than his Israeli identity.
Bennett called on former President Yitzhak Navon not to join the Zionist Camp list in the honorary last place (120). “This is not a ‘Zionist Camp’, nor is it Zionism,” Bennett declared. “Do not place your name on a list that opposes Zionism.” Netanyahu, in turn, announced that he will not form a coalition with the Zionist Camp which is “left-wing and extremist.” And Ronen Shoval, a Habayit Yehudi candidate, went so far as to submit a complaint to the Central Election Committee, which states that Labor-Hatnua’s Hebrew name, “Zionist Camp,” is misleading.
This has been a topic of much debate in the Israeli press. Articles titled “Is Stav Shaffir really Zionist?” or “What is your grade in Zionism?” have been appearing daily. Some argue that this is a real argument about the meaning of Zionism. Others think this is merely a ploy to win an election. Former Labor MK Uzi Bar’am, for example, wrote in Haaretz that:
American and Israeli consultants got together, studied the situation and concluded that the only solution is to resort to the old, time-worn weapon that excels at scattering venom. Maybe that could stop the slide. Well aware of the fact that “the left” is a brand name detested by large sections of the public, these experts advised Netanyahu to start using terms such as “extreme left” and “anti-Zionist.”
Netanyahu, says Bar’am, is a master inciter. He recalls that in 1999, just before his defeat at the polls, Benjamin Netanyahu was overheard whispering in the ears of the kabbalist Rabbi Kaduri that “the left has forgotten what it means to be Jewish.” Then the “right identity” was Jewish, now the “right identity” is Zionist.
While Bar’am is making a good point, this tactic dangerously smells of old Soviet rhetoric. When Stalin wanted to rid the Party of his enemies, he labeled them Trotskyists, Bukharinists, Left and Right deviationists or simply Japanese spies. In recent years, Putin has been using “fifth columnists” to tag oppositionists as agents of the US State Department.
The method of labeling people as enemies and excluding them from the body politic of the nation brings to memory the most frightening regimes. Often violence follows the identification of “enemies.” I argue that this is the context in which we should understand violence on leftist demonstrators during the Gaza war last summer. For if leftists are anti-Zionists and enemies of the people, violence against them–particularly in time of war–is not merely acceptable, it is required.
Sometimes it is important to mention that the “enemies” come from outside. In a recent campaign poster against Get-Out-the-Vote, group V15 (see image above), for example, Jeremy Bird is named as the “American political adviser who came to advise the Left how to oust Bibi.” This is the idea of the foreign agent sent to undermine national sovereignty. Never mind that Netanyahu has used U.S. political consultants in the past and is using them for this upcoming election.
In fact, one does not have to be a foreigner or hire foreigners to be labeled an enemy of the people. Habayt Hayehudi is waging a nasty campaign against Labor candidate Yossi Yonah, a philosophy professor from Ben-Gurion University, who rushed to volunteer for the tank corps during the 1973 Yom Kippur War. As I write these lines, Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein rejected the complaint the Zionist Camp filed against Habayt Hayehudi regarding a video clip targeting Yonah. The video simulates Hamas propaganda videos presenting Palestinian demonstrations, images of the Holocaust and the evacuation of Gush Katif and in between quotations in broken Hebrew: “There is no difference between the Jewish Holocaust Day and Nakba Day”; “Way to go soldiers who refuse to serve in the occupied territories!”; “I pray for more [settler] evacuations”; “As long as there is occupation, there will be terrorism.”A slide appears at the end of the video explaining to viewers: “This is not Hamas, this is Yossi Yonah, Labor Party candidate.”