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Me too!" (Or: "Me-tooism")
translated from unabridged version of article published 02/Feb/99
According to a story,
Ze'ev Jabotinsky was giving a speech in a
Jewish town in Poland when someone heckled him: "What
happened yesterday in Petach-Tikvah?" Jabotinsky had no idea what
had happened in Petach-Tikvah. But without missing a beat, he shot
back: "Yes, but what happened the day before yesterday in
Rosh-Pinah?" In truth, nothing had happened in Rosh-Pinah, but the
heckler was silenced and Jabotinsky went on with his speech.
This illustrates a cardinal rule
in political propaganda: Never go
on the defensive. Never justify yourself. Always attack.
Ehud Barak is well-versed in the history of warfare. He knows the
maxim: "Defense is stronger than offense." In
other words, the side trying to breach a fortified line requires many
more soldiers than the side defending it. However, in the political
arena, the opposite holds true: The offensive is strong, while the
defensive is simply non-existent. Those who go on the defensive
For this reason, one mustn't allow the opponent to choose the
battlefield. He who succeeds in determining the battlefield, thus
forcing his adversary to wage the battle there, is halfway to victory.
After all, each candidate tries to make his pet subject the centerpiece
of an election, the very subject which put his opponent at the most
In this respect, the posters of Ehud Barak evoke pity. Poor guy.
For example: "Ehud Barak -- the leader who will safeguard Jerusalem."
What is this about Jerusalem? Isn't it Binyamin Netanyahu who happens
want to make Jerusalem the focus of his agenda, since that his where his
power lies, where he has a mayor, where he is poised to wreak a horrible
explosion with "Har Homa" or with Ras Al-Amud, to demolish homes and
cause Palestinian riots, which will show how patriotic and strong he
is? It was with the slogan "Peres will divide Jerusalem" that he won
the last election.
Barak's slogan, "Barak will safeguard Jerusalem," is a total capitulation
to Netanyahu. It reeks unpleasantly of defensiveness and
self-justification. Netanyahu watches over Jerusalem? I will
too! I am
no worse than Netanyahu! I will do exactly as he does!
Or the slogan: "Ehud Barak -- the leader to fight terrorism!" -- a dumb
slogan in its very nature. Does anyone suspect that Ehud Barak will
fight terror? But since Netanyahu accuses the "Left" of having brought
on terrorism, Barak feels the need to defend and justify himself,
promising to be just like Netanyahu. Me too! Me too!
And even when Barak attempts to be different, he does so half-heartedly.
"Ehud Barak -- education before settlements!" It may be in the right
direction but it sounds so weak. "Before settlements?" Why not
of settlements?" Barak won't gain a single vote from the settlers.
His supporters view the settlers as mostly dangerous fanatics and
parasites. So why not take a forceful and aggressive line?
Remember the Barak who had proposed the draft of all the tens
of thousands Yeshiva students? That Barak is gone now. Now the
poster says: "Ehud Barak -- money for neighborhoods and not for
fictitious organizations." What fictitious organizations? A
delicate hint: It means religious organizations. So why not say so?
And what about those not-so-fictitious religious organizations which
suck the state coffers dry? What about the thousands of Yeshiva
scholars who live at the expense of the working public?
This poster, as do all the other ones, gives an impression of a lack of
self-confidence, a lack of decisiveness and boldness. They have been
penned by a clever copywriter, who, obviously, has no understanding
whatsoever of the mechanism of an election. And if he is American,
than he has no concept of Israeli reality.
Netanyahu, on the other hand, does not falter for one moment. He
He sets the agenda. He exudes decisiveness, power and self-assurance.
He has an enemy: The "Left." The "Left" is to be blamed for all the
disasters. The "Left" will sell the country. All it takes is to
the name tag "Leftist" on, for instance, Yitzhak Mordechai or on Amnon
Lipkin-Shahak, in order to achieve a knockout.
Barak is running from this frightening name tag. He is no leftist.
forbid. In fact, the Labor Party is actually the true Center.
This is how to lose an election, big time. No force can free the Labor
Party of the Leftist moniker. Which is why it would be better to pick
the gauntlet. Left means progress. The Left is what built the
The Left created the IDF. The heart is on the left side. "Only
can!" (remember "Black is beautiful?")
Barak's propaganda of weakness is dangerous on many levels. First of
it can lead to the loss of Arab citizens' votes, without whom he can't
win. The power of this voting bloc is nearing that of the religious
bloc and exceeds that of the Russian immigrant vote. A leader who
to say anything significant on the Palestinian topic, and who stammers
when it comes to all the topics of importance to this segment of the
public, is courting defeat.
But there is an even bigger danger: That the vast camp expected to vote
against Netanyahu will lose all hope. A debilitating spirit of despair
seems to be pervading this segment of the Israeli public. Sentiments
as: "They are all the same, there is no difference between Netanyahu,
Barak and Mordechai," or "It's over, Netanyahu can't be defeated," or
"Netanyahu is a genius when it comes to running an election campaign" --
can lead to disaster. Those who feel this way may stay home on
day, or go on a trip abroad. In
Jerusalem's municipal elections, we
already witnessed the phenomenon of every single person of the
religious public going to the polls (dead and alive alike...), while
the secular public, which is still a majority, votes only in part.
On election day, one religious individual equals two secular
In order to win, a political leader must instill in his camp a sense of
confidence in its strength. He must have a very clear, sharp and
unequivocal message. The individual who takes his adversary's slogans
cries: "Me too! Me too!" gives himself a knockout punch. Of all the
"isms," "me-tooism" is the worst.
Uri Avnery, Maariv,
haGalil onLine - Montag