Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee chairman Ram Ben Barak, a member of Prime Minister Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid Party, did his constituents proud. At a “Shabbat Tarbut” current-events gathering in Beersheva on Saturday, the parliamentarian from the ridiculously named “Change Bloc” compared the rival camp’s potential victory on Nov. 1 to the establishment of the Third Reich.
Warning against the possibility that Benjamin Netanyahu will return to the premiership with a coalition that includes the Religious Zionist Party, Ben Barak said: “I’m not comparing this to anything, but Hitler rose to power through democratic elections.”
His bogus disclaimer was laughable. It was clear to anyone with two ears and half a brain that he was drawing a direct parallel.
The sense that he could get away with such an egregious accusation was due to the carry-on among the chattering classes about MK Itamar Ben-Gvir. Though the No. 2 candidate on the Religious Zionist list has renounced the behavior of his youth—as a follower of Rabbi Meir Kahane’s outlawed Kach Party—his current activism against Palestinian and Arab-Israeli terrorism, and battle on behalf of Jewish sovereignty in the land of Israel, has been sufficient to keep his reputation as an “extremist” intact.
The head of his party, MK Bezalel Smotrich, is similarly attacked. But, whereas the mudslinging against Smotrich—a former transportation minister, and a good one, to boot—used to be about such matters as his opposition to LBGTQ parades, his enemies have shifted their focus to his call for judiciary reform.
His platform on this issue is not only reasonable; it’s necessary in a country with one of the world’s most interventionist supreme courts. In fact, the entire justice system is problematic, as it regularly overrides the legislature, making a mockery of the separation of powers and trampling on the purview of the Knesset.
Ben Barak and his self-defined “enlightened” buddies don’t see it that way. To modify his inexcusable analogy, he clarified that he had meant to articulate the “fear that this could happen.”
“One of the first laws … that [Hitler] enacted was to abolish the Supreme Court,” he explained, adding that “we need to preserve our democracy.”
He went on: “This is why the connection between the anti-democratic, racist party of Ben-Gvir and Smotrich and the person [Netanyahu] we see who is ready to do almost anything to get out of his trial is dangerous.”
His reference to Smotrich’s intention to promote the “French Law,” which would block criminal proceedings against sitting Cabinet ministers, was disingenuous. Smotrich has reiterated that this would not be retroactive, and therefore would have no bearing on Netanyahu’s corruption trial.
“What I’m trying to say,” Ben Barak continued, “is that democracy isn’t built on going to the polls and voting. Democracy is a culture that is developed over the course of many, many years. But it’s very easy to destroy.”
With elitism oozing from every pore, he went on to criticize—heavens!—the Supreme Court for its decision to allow Ben-Gvir to run again for the Knesset. Still, he placed the blame for what he considers to be this nightmare scenario on his favorite culprit.
“The worst thing that Netanyahu did was to make Ben-Gvir kosher. It was he who brought him to the Israeli public.”
This is false. Ben-Gvir was elected to the Knesset in 2021. What Netanyahu did was tell floating voters that it was ok to opt for the Religious Zionists over his party, Likud, to bolster the right.
This isn’t the kind of democracy that Ben Barak has in mind, however. Nevertheless, he stressed magnanimously on Shabbat that he would honor the election results, even if they usher in a Netanyahu-led government with Smotrich and Ben-Gvir in the coalition.
“I am a democrat,” he announced. “[But] do I think that it wouldn’t be the beginning of the end? I’m convinced that it would be.”
No surprise there, coming from a prominent politician who recently described the right-left divide as a fight between the forces of darkness and light.
“They’re black and we’re white,” was how he put it. Talk about showing one’s true colors.
The hypocrisy of holding up Ben-Gvir as an example of a racist extremist, while boasting of the Lapid government’s efforts at healing societal rifts, would be stunning if it weren’t par for the course on that side of the political spectrum.
Indeed, this high-level official—who will retain his Knesset seat, regardless of the outcome of the election—last month ripped into the Religious Zionist Party by smearing its attitude towards and presenting its pernicious plans for Israel’s women.
“Soon, female TV anchors will be forced to cover their hair and won’t be able to serve in the army,” he asserted. “That’s where we’re headed.”
Let this sink in: According to the chairman of the Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, if the public on Tuesday grants a majority to Netanyahu—the longest-serving prime minister in Israel’s history—the country will morph into a combination of Nazi Germany and the Islamic Republic of Iran.
If any group deserves to be labeled as “extremist” and penalized at the ballot box, it’s the crew chanting Ben Barak’s mendacious mantra.
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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