Hemmungslose Hetze, Hass und Heuchelei
HERB KEINON Jerusalem Post
- Liat Collins contributed to this report
On the streets of Jerusalem, the capital's residents are asked
if they are buying the divisiveness - even hatred - the nation's
politicians are trying to sell.
Ha'Aretz - There were times in years past when watching
the nightly television campaign spots could, believe it or not, be an
uplifting experience. The parties would trot out the best-looking and the
brightest-eyed and - against a glorious background provided by the sun
setting over the Mediterranean - telegraph in a very rough fashion their
plans for the nation. The ads seemed a cross between Coke commercials and
Jewish Agency aliya promotional spots.
Not this year - This year, what is being peddled is not hope but
fear, not dreams but nightmares, not unity but divisiveness. In a
campaign already marked by its strident and bitter tone, this week could
aptly be labeled National Hate Week.
We were treated to Tiki Dayan's diatribe, Binyamin Netanyahu's
bitter rebuttal, a continuation of Tommy Lapid's anti-haredi venom, and
Shas clips proudly featuring an Or Yehuda man named Shalom Ya'acov
telling the cameraman that were he AshkeNazi, he would not even be
talking with him.
"The election campaign has been dragged into an alleyway of
hatred," Sever Plotzker commented on the front page of Wednesday's
Yediot Aharonot. "This is a particularly gloomy alley, without exit,
without promise, without light at the end, without any shadow of hope.
All shadows, it is an alley that leads nowhere, only to the destruction
of those who walk down it."
Watching the news and the campaign ads this week was akin to
staring into an abyss where everybody hates everybody else:
Ashkenazim-Sephardim, religious-secular, Right-Left, Russians-
Moroccans. Were one only to read the papers, listen to the radio
talk-shows and watch the advertising spots on television, one could be
excused for believing the country is high on the verge of civil war.
THE proverbial street, however, seems to be taking all this
"hate-speak" in stride - part of the election game,
something-to-be-expected, sound and fury that, although not exactly
signifying nothing, is far from the opening bell in the first round of a
"For power," says Benny Cohen, 49, owner of a store selling
upscale chocolate, coffee and tobacco on Jerusalem's Ben Yehuda mall,
"the politicians are willing to say and do almost anything." Including
billowing the flames of ethnic animosity. Cohen, who was born here and
calls himself a diehard Likudnik, says all election campaigns have been
"noisy." Having said that, he adds that he doesn't remember the hate
motif playing such a prominent role in campaigns of years past.
"The overall mood in the country is not good, so people just
start bringing everything up," he says. "If the economy were better, you
wouldn't have this. "I've been in this store for 26 years, and I don't
remember bussiness ever being so quiet. There is no tourism. Nothing is
moving." Cohen places part of the blame for the increased divisiveness
of the campaign at the media's doorstep. "They keep grinding and
grinding and grinding," he says. "They look for things to talk about,
report on the outrageous remarks that someone said - and then on the
outrageous responses to the outrageous remark. It keeps the issue alive
and gives them what to talk about."
After damning the media and the role the media plays as national
flame-fanner, Cohen then admits to being an avid consumer of just the
types of shows that stir up the passions, such as Nissim Mishal's
contentious TV program. "I never miss that show," he says.
ONE man who does miss Mishal's show, and - for that matter - all
television programs, is Shmuel, a 63-year-old man in haredi garb who,
when asked his last name, would only reply, "write that you met a
contented Jew." Shumel, reading the front page of Wednesday's
Ha'aretz through the window of Malin Advertising in the center of
Jerusalem, says he listens to the radio news at night and reads the
Agudat Yisrael daily haModi'a during the day. Lack of widespread
exposure to the media, he insists, is one of the reasons for his
continued optimism. Another reason may be his standard for judging
"I came from Hungary 50 years ago," he says. "There, when I
would walk in the street, people would throw rocks at me and call me 'Jidó.'
That is what I call hatred. Here nobody touches me, nobody calls me
anything. "I worked with the nonreligious Leftists for years and never
felt hatred. Intelligent people must learn to put things in proportion.
I don't feel hatred between people [here]."
Avinoam Ben-Ze'ev, editor of Sina (Hatred), a book
published last year that deals with the nature of hate, has a more
academic definition of the emotion. Hatred, says the lecturer in
philosophy at the Oranim College near Haifa, can be defined as
generalizing about a group of people and wanting to remove them from
one's midst. "If someone says there is a need to remove all left-wingers
from the government, that is a manifestation of hatred," he says. "If
someone says that all right-wingers are The Other, not a part of us,
that is a manifestation of hatred," he says.
Although manifestations of hatred are apparent in the campaign
ads, Ben-Ze'ev says he doesn't see that hatred in day-to-day relations
between people. "The society is much too intermingled for that," he
says. "In terms of hatred between Ashkenazim and edot hamizrach,
you don't have it on a personal level. "Look at the percentage of mixed
marriages - you can't speak of hatred there. You don't have it that much
between religious and secular either, at least where they live together.
Of course, there are some groups, not participating in the people's
daily life. They are able to hate, but they are a rather small group.
It's impossible to speak of hatred between Right and Left because those
divisions often exist in families, between brothers and sisters, husband
THE hatred apparent now, the hatred that has many daily readers
of newspapers feeling depressed, is the hatred used as a tool by
politicians to retain power, Ben-Ze'ev maintains.
"My two roommates are edot hamizrach," says Hebrew
University student Yael Shumer, 23, passing out literature for Ehud
Barak in the plaza in front of Jerusalem's haMashbir Lezarchan Wednesday
afternoon. "There is no hatred between us. "The hatred in the air now is
hatred being planted by politicians. Everyone knows that hatred is a
good tool to stay in power. Hatred and fear work."
Proof of this was provided by Likud MK Reuven (Ruby) Rivlin, who
said of the "gift" Tiki Dayan provided the Likud: "[This is] a sign that
G'd loves Bibi. Without any doubt, emotional subjects help our election
campaign. Every time there is a quiet campaign, it is not good for the
A Yediot Aharonot poll published Wednesday in the wake of
Dayan's remarks and Netanyahu's retort found that 2% of the population
responded affirmatively when asked whether they were influenced by the
"Of this 2%, 24% were personally offended by what Dayan said,
and 8% by Netanyahu's rebuttal. Although 98% of the 512 respondents who
were questioned said that the words had no influence on them, the fact
that 2% said the comments did have an impact could heavily influence a
ONE man who said that Dayan's remarks will have an impact on how
he votes is Moshe Levy, who runs a moving company in Jerusalem. The
bare-headed Levy, son of a Spanish-born mother and Kurdistan-born
father, intends to vote for Netanyahu and Shas. A few weeks later he
plans to fly to Ukraine and marry his girlfriend of eight months, a
49-year-old non-Jewish Ukranian woman living in Israel.
"There is hatred among people here," Levy says. "I don't hate
anybody, but they hate Mizrahim." The "they" in his equation are the
Ashkenazi elite, the same people who - he says - are responsible for the
disappearance of the Yemenite children, for spraying Moroccan immigrants
with DDT in the 1950s, and for persecuting Aryeh Deri now. Levy says
that up until two weeks ago he was unclear about who to vote for prime
minister. Dayan's statement persuaded him. "I will not let the Left come
to power," he says. "Look at what they think about us."
That explains why he will vote Netanyahu. But why vote for Shas,
whose Interior Ministry wants to keep out of the country the same type
of people Levy is marrying? "I want to strengthen them [Shas], so that
they hold the balance of power, and not Meretz or [Tommy] Lapid," he
says. Then, expressing a sentiment heard time and time again while
talking to a handful of people about the ugly turn the campaign has
taken, Levy says that despite all the hateful rhetoric, he believes that
in time of war people in this country would still unite.
"Without a doubt," he says emphatically, putting out a hand to
emphasize his point. "Look at my fingers, they are not all alike, but
they are part of one hand. The same with people here."
THERE is something in Levy's words that belies a misuse of the
word "hate." The word is thrown out with ease, perhaps because of a
paucity of words in day-to-day Hebrew to express a range of emotion. One
either loves someone (ohev) or hates (soneh) him. There
are words, such as mehavev, that mean "to like," but these words
are infrequently used in this land of extremes - of hot or cold,
religious or secular. In this land one either loves or hates. Few are
the words available to express a middle ground; parve - tellingly
enough - is a Yiddish word, not a Hebrew one.
"This is not a nation where people hate each other," says Natan
Mejirovsky, a 23-year-old immigrant from St. Petersburg who has been in
the country for three years and is trying to put all the hateful
campaign rhetoric into some kind of perspective. "It is a nation where
people don't understand each other, where they don't grasp the logic
behind what other people do."
Whatever it is called, hatred or misunderstanding, this is a
commodity increasingly being marketed in different forms by almost all
of the major parties during the late stages of the campaign.
The nation, if chance conversations on a Jerusalem street are
any indication, is not buying the product in overwhelming quantities.
But the peddlers, like persistent cigarette salesman, just keep on
selling - and let the future be damned.
haGalil onLine -