(January 15, 2023 / JNS) In a lengthy screed on Thursday in the Hebrew daily Haaretz, Israeli opposition leader Yair Lapid impressed upon like-minded members of the public the imperative to “translate our unbridled rage into effective political action.”
His use of the first-person plural pronoun in the piece—titled “They wanted absolute victory, void of doubts, and to hell with the truth”—wasn’t an oversight. On the contrary, it was a rhetorical device that the Yesh Atid Party chairman employed to emphasize the divide between the superior “us” and the inferior “them,” the latter being the nation’s right-wing majority.
Still, it wasn’t merely the ploy of a sore loser whose brief interim premiership was cut even shorter by the recent electoral victory of his nemesis, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Nor was it simply a stab at uniting an otherwise disparate camp around a shared sense of despair in the face of a ruling coalition with an ideologically conservative agenda.
No, Lapid’s diatribe went way deeper, revealing a post-Zionist mindset that’s become increasingly fashionable in chattering-class circles.
“If this government doesn’t fall, Israel will cease being a liberal democracy, its constitutional structure will be beyond rehabilitation, causing the inevitable quiet exit of the economic and technological elites,” he wrote. “After all, it only takes a plane ticket, a bank transfer and instructions to a realtor for the sale of one’s home.”
Never mind that he had the gall, in this context, to invoke Venezuela—of all places—whose elites, he said, saw their country imploding and headed for greener pastures in Florida.
Leave aside his claim that “cultural-artistic elites still speak fondly of…Berlin, a bit like the way that veteran communists would talk about…Paris, but [those Israelis with] money and technological talent are already checking out Miami, [where] the sun feels familiar; the food is great; [and] they like Governor Ron DeSantis.”
The laughable thinking that Israelis who reject Netanyahu would be fond of DeSantis is an example of why even Lapid’s supporters have grown accustomed to his ignorance of history and current events.
But such a reductive portrait of Israelis’ connection to the Jewish state, emanating from the head of the second-largest party in the Knesset, is beyond the pale. It also illustrates that members of the right were justified all along to question the depth of his Zionism.
Thankfully, he’s no longer bothering with the pretense. What he hasn’t abandoned, however, is the left’s playbook, particularly its chapters on mendacity, hypocrisy and projection.
Take, for instance, the pervasive falsehoods about and mass rallies against judicial reform. Though restoring power stolen from the legislature by the courts was a key campaign promise of every right-wing/religious party, detractors are accusing Justice Minister Yariv Levin of having ulterior motives (i.e. canceling Netanyahu’s trial) for fulfilling it.
That Levin has been working on and pushing the plan for two decades makes no difference to his naysayers. But then, these are the same “civil rights” champions who continue to call Bibi a criminal—with a flagrant disregard for the presumption of his innocence—despite the daily emergence of evidence refuting the prosecution’s case.
Nevertheless, according to the self-anointed Israeli “aristocracy,” it’s the voters who aren’t smart enough to understand any of the above, or sufficiently sophisticated to anticipate the consequences of their poor ballot-casting.
In his article, Lapid took this condescension a step further. Ignoring that the “intoxicated” victors were the people’s choice, he decried their having “taken over something much greater than the government or the [Knesset’s] Constitution, Law and Justice Committee: the truth.”
He then attacked the press for abetting (!) Netanyahu. You couldn’t make this stuff up if you tried.
Yes, Lapid, a former journalist himself who, during his stint as premier, tried unsuccessfully to shut down Israel’s lone right-wing network—averred that due to the popularity of Channel 14’s “second-rate intellectuals,” the other broadcasters were forced to provide a wider range of opinions in their talk shows.
“Once, a long time ago, the role of the media was to seek the truth,” he wrote. “Today, [it] has lost its self-confidence as the … arbiter between truth and lies. Instead, it shifted to a model of ‘balance,’ whereby every journalist on a panel is now paired with a loud-mouthed Netanyahu supporter. … [And] each [controversial] revelation elicits a long rebuttal. The viewers are presented with all versions of the truth and are invited to choose which one appeals to them. There’s only one problem with this model: the truth has no versions. There’s no such thing as truth on the left or truth on the right. There’s only one truth, and the rest is a lie.”
Does this mean that Lapid—who, incidentally, didn’t turn his own “unbridled rage into political action” on Saturday night—finally grasps the root of the left’s failure on Nov. 1? Not a chance.
“If the voter goes to the polls without knowing the facts, his selection is worthless,” he stated, adding that “if the mainstream media are too frightened to be truly critical, the entire democratic process is flawed.”
Ruthie Blum is an Israel-based journalist and author of “To Hell in a Handbasket: Carter, Obama, and the ‘Arab Spring.’ ”
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