Straight Talk

A much-admired fashion has appeared on the scene, a new bon ton. It involves talking straight, pointedly, hurling insults and spewing hatred, depicting everything in black and white. No reasons are given and no data are produced – facts are for weaklings, ignorance is an advantage. The main thing is to speak from one’s gut.

“Be Trumps” one can hear these days in ministerial offices in Jerusalem, and this message percolates downward. It can be heard in places ranging from the White House to the presidential palace in Ankara, from the corridors of the Kremlin to North Korea. “Son of a whore,” the Philippines’ president called Barack Obama. Oh, if only we could be like that – free to express what we really feel about that annoying black person or other sanctimonious people of his ilk – the world would be a better place. Wouldn’t it?

Gideon Levy is full of admiration for Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked and people like her since they talk straight, “openly admitting their ultra-nationalism and racism.” Anyone who doesn’t openly preach racism is a hypocrite and a non-entity, a miserable worm that doesn’t truly own up to what he believes. After all, we all hate Arabs and wish to perpetrate another Nakba; we all love the settlements, but the Zionist left is afraid of admitting it, which is what makes it so pitiful.

The assumption that if you’re a moderate and reasonable person, willing to compromise, you are weak or worse than that – a liar who refuses to "go the whole way" – is an evil and particularly twisted concept.

Why was Yitzhak Rabin, one of the Zionist left’s loftiest leaders and a lauded military commander in 1948 and 1967, assassinated? Was it because he realized the need for peace and signed an agreement involving mutual recognition by Israel and the Palestinian people? Was it because he began a dramatic process of dividing the land? No way. He didn’t mean it since he was actually a mendacious Zionist leftist, a rightist in disguise. He was probably murdered for smoking cigarettes, or maybe for playing tennis.

Yossi Sarid, as minister of education, introduced the poems of Mahmoud Darwish to the curriculum. He was a Zionist. So was Shulamit Aloni, a great fighter against the despicable religious establishments. Both of them were honest people, Zionists who vehemently opposed the right – and, by the way, people who were able to say it like it is. Rabin was a straight talker, too. The problem is not with Zionism, I heard them say on many occasions, but with the right, which perpetuates the occupation and harms democracy – leading to a total distortion of Zionism.

Trumpism believes that deep down we all want to be thugs; that we all want to scream “death to Arabs.” Actually, not all of us do. We’ve been given another option: to talk “straight” from the opposite vantage point, or in other words, to depict the world in black and white from the opposite perspective: to preach against Zionism and its history while talking only about “a people that’s been suffering and oppressed for 100 years” – in the words of Levy. No mention of the part the Arabs have played in this conflict. Complexity is for hypocrites. The world is flat and there are two sides – you are either a racist (or a liar hiding his racism) or a “radical.”

The incessant scratching at the festering wound of 1948 by the “white” radical left or the flagellation of Mapai, the predecessor of Labor, by the radical Mizrahi left, or the adoration of the "butcher of Damascus" by the Arab radical left – what does all this have to do with the issue at hand?

First of all, life goes on here. Tens of thousands of people have to decide between buying food or purchasing medication; hundreds of thousands cannot start a family due to religious coercion; corruption is rife; and income gaps are insane. Dealing with these issues is not an escape for people who are afraid of talking about the occupation.

It’s hard to combat corrupt organizations and it’s no fun leading campaigns on behalf of workers’ rights or the environment, or for better housing and neighborhoods, or refugees. Are the disabled, low-income workers, victims of road accidents, people receiving inferior education, older people requiring nursing ־ are all of them less important than the jewel in the crown, “the conflict?”

Yes, there is a brutal and cruel occupation that one combats in parallel to involvement in other campaigns. They are even inter-related.

We don’t have the privilege of waving only one banner. That’s the difference between the Zionist left and all the others, between people who take responsibility for this place while trying to fix and make changes in many areas, and between someone who's beating only one drum and sees that harsh drumbeat as the be-all and end-all.

Published in "Ha'aretz".

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