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The Israeli left’s violent rhetoric and phony ‘apologies’

It’s hard to believe that the anti-government propagandists could sink any lower, but they managed this week to outdo themselves.

A protester in Tel Aviv waves a placard comparing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to the late Colombian drug lord and narcoterrorist Pablo Escobar, Feb. 4, 2023. Photo by Gili Yaari /Flash90.
A protester in Tel Aviv waves a placard comparing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to the late Colombian drug lord and narcoterrorist Pablo Escobar, Feb. 4, 2023. Photo by Gili Yaari /Flash90.
Ruthie Blum. Photo by Ariel Jerozolomski.
Ruthie Blum
Ruthie Blum, former adviser at the office of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, is an award-winning columnist and senior contributing editor at JNS, as well as co-host, with Amb. Mark Regev, of "Israel Undiplomatic" on JNS-TV. She writes and lectures on Israeli politics and culture, and on U.S.-Israel relations. Originally from New York City, she moved to Israel in 1977 and is based in Tel Aviv.

Boy, has it ever been a busy several days for Israel’s anti-government propagandists. Though it’s hard to believe that they could have sunk any lower in their lies about the evils of Justice Minister Yariv Levin’s judicial-reform plans, they managed to outdo themselves.

Let’s start with opposition leader Yair Lapid. In a speech on Saturday night at a rally in Haifa, the Yesh Atid Party chairman declared that the protesters present, as well as those in Beersheva, Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, “came to say that they don’t want to live in a country where people who work are less important than people who don’t work, and where people who serve in the army are less important than people who don’t serve in the army, and that people who don’t abide by the law are more important than people who do abide by the law.”

Huh?

Describing the demonstrators as “people trying to save their country,” he assured the crowd that he and his supporters “won’t let that happen.” Talk about Freudian slips.

“We’ll fight here in the streets,” he said. “We’ll fight in the Knesset. We’ll fight in the courts. We’ll rescue our country, because we’re not willing to live in an undemocratic [one].”

Then there’s Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai, who took to the Kaplan Street podium in his city to warn the ruling coalition: “The more extreme you grow, the more liable you are to encounter extreme reactions that endanger the unity that we [the royal “we” that lost the Nov. 1 election] took great pains to build.”

No, he wasn’t kidding. Nor did his concluding threat sound empty.

“This is the opportunity to reach broad agreements, and if words end, actions will begin,” he shouted. “We won’t stop at public squares; we won’t be indifferent; we won’t respond by resigning ourselves to the situation.”

Those who might have considered this pronouncement too vague had only to hear comments made three days earlier by commercial lawyer David Hodak, recipient of the illustrious Medal of Courage for his conduct as a tank commander in the 1973 Yom Kippur War.

“I decided that I won’t live a single day in a dictatorship,” he said on Wednesday at the Israel Bar Association’s annual conference in Eilat. “And if it becomes necessary to go to war over that, I’ll go to war. People are prepared to take up arms … And I’m telling you: If it comes to that, I’ll do it. … There might be a civil war here, unfortunately.”

In a telephone interview the following night with Channel 13’s current-events program “Hazinor,” Hodak doubled down on his statements.

“If they impose a dictatorship on me, I’ll fight,” he said. “What’s not clear?”

Asked if he’d do so with weapons, he replied, “Even with weapons, if necessary.”

Prodded about whether this meant he would actually shoot people, he answered, “I will do anything necessary to prevent a dictatorship. … I hope the protest proves effective. If it doesn’t, we’ll proceed to engage in nonviolent civil disobedience.  If that doesn’t succeed, we’ll go for violent civil disobedience.”

For this, the State Attorney on Friday gave the green light to the Israel Police to investigate him for the criminal offense of “incitement to violence.”

No worries, though. Ze’ev Raz, a decorated pilot who participated in the 1981 bombing of the Iraqi reactor, rushed to express “amazement” at Hodak’s “moderate wording.”

A prominent presence in the previous “anybody but Bibi” protests at Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s residence on Balfour Street in Jerusalem, Raz thought that his fellow military hero hadn’t gone far enough.

“Only defense with weapons? Passive? [That’s like applying therapeutic] suction cups to a corpse,” he wrote on social media. “If the prime minister assumes dictatorial powers, he has to die, plain and simple, along with his ministers and followers. We, too, should have din rodef [a Jewish law authorizing the murder of someone who intends to harm or kill others].”

This was his way of calling for Netanyahu’s assassination, while taking a swipe at Orthodox Judaism, in case that wasn’t obvious.

After learning that a police probe was about to be launched against him, he offered the following non-apology on Facebook: “My post with the words ‘din rodef’ was a quote from a person who retracted it, and I deleted it. I don’t identify with that post and its spirit.”

Say what? Even in his native Hebrew, Raz was utterly incomprehensible.

At least Hodak’s mendacious backtracking was a bit more articulate. In a radio interview on Thursday, he told hosts Yinon Magal and Ben Caspit that the part about his willingness to use live fire was “inaccurate.” He claimed to have meant that “if the judicial reform passes, it will mean that the legal infrastructure for a dictatorial regime has been laid.”

In such an event, he explained, “if they come at me with an armed force to impose a dictatorship and open fire on me, I will fire back. That’s what I said.”

Never mind that there are recordings to prove otherwise. Unperturbed, he took the moral high ground, saying, “I think every citizen would say the same thing if he took a civics class. I’m not in favor of wars, and I’m certainly not in favor of civil war.”

He sure has a funny way of showing it. Ditto for former Prime Minister Ehud Barak, who on Friday performed a pretty outrageous two-fer, typically targeting Netanyahu, but including President Isaac Herzog in the mix.

Accompanying a Twitter rant, he posted two side-by-side pictures. One was Herzog’s head superimposed on a photo of Neville Chamberlain, the British prime minister who appeased Adolf Hitler through the 1938 Munich Agreement. The other was a shot of the Tel Aviv protests.

This was his jab at the president (like him, a former head of the Labor Party; but unlike him, still a relevant player on the Israeli stage) for attempting to negotiate with the government over the details of Levin’s plan.

The ensuing outcry caused Barak to delete the post and “apologize” to Herzog and “anyone else who was justifiably hurt” by the “grave error in the selection of the photo.” He couldn’t bring himself, however, to extend the same courtesy to Netanyahu, the Hitler character in his vile and false analogy.

The good news is that the bulk of the Israeli populace—you know, the majority who ushered in the new Netanyahu government three months ago at the ballot box—isn’t buying the hysteria. On the contrary, thanks to the unthinkable behavior of the left in the face of political defeat, the voters are reminded why they made their choice. It’s the kind of sweet vindication that no megaphone can drown out.

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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