Thursday, April 11, 2019

Blue and White’s polite incitement - Akiva Bigman

by Akiva Bigman

The Blue and White party raised the banner of unity, reconciliation and statesmanship in its election campaign. But there was another side to their purported purist rhetoric, one that spoke of the enemy, in other words, the Right.

Discussions over the results of Tuesday’s election will go on throughout the day and in the coming weeks. While we may not know the final results, we can still analyze the fundamental results. Every Israeli campaign is instinctive and emotional, as is fitting. But it seems that this time around, we were witness to innovative political rhetoric from the Left, which although it has not been afforded the necessary attention has serious consequences for the country.

The Blue and White party raised the banner of unity, reconciliation and statesmanship in its election campaign. These types of words were heard from the list’s spokespeople and in its official statements. But there was another side to the purported purist rhetoric in Blue and White’s talk of the enemy, the other camp, the Right, the group responsible for the lack of unity, reconciliation and statesmanship. On occasion, the target was mentioned specifically – with slogans like “Enough, Bibi” in reference to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. At other times, it was merely alluded to as “the current government” or in calls for a revolution. But it was always there. Netanyahu was consistently accused of the most serious allegations: of being unstatesmanlike, against reconciliation and preventing unity.

These are not the typical claims of political discourse, which despite the harsh language and sharp tones, primarily focuses on policy and worldview. But oddly enough, it was precisely on the issues where Blue and White remained vague. A Palestinian state? Disengagements? A Histadrut Labor federation economy? It looks like no one, including party members themselves, knows what Blue and White is planning. But on one issue they have been clear throughout the election campaign: The Right is bad. Netanyahu is guilty.

We have grown accustomed to the delegitimzation of the policies of the Right – settlements are an obstacle to peace, government funds should go to the neighborhoods and not the settlements – but the fundamental and thorough delegitimization of the camp itself is something new.

A recent tweet by Blue and White’s Yoaz Hendel serves to demonstrate this method perfectly.

Quoting from the Mishneh Torah, Hendel wrote: “In [the Hebrew month of] Nissan they were redeemed, and in Nissan they are destined to be redeemed.” Through the quote, Hendel drew a comparison between the Jewish people’s Exodus from Egypt that took place in Nissan and the coming of the Messiah, which according to tradition will take place in Nissan. But in Hendel’s distorted world, this expression can be applied to the rule of the Right and Netanyahu. Just as we were redeemed from the bondage of Egypt – where Pharoah ordered the killing of the first born and inflicted hard labor on the Jews, so too will we be saved from the rule of the Likud. The rhetoric is pleasant to the ears, it comes off as scholarly and knowledgeable, but the message is incitement.
Reconciliation, unity, statesmanship, they say.

Blue and White crossed many lines in its demonization of the Right. Party members called Netanyahu a traitor. They boycotted the funeral of IDF soldier Zachary Baumel, arguing it would serve as political “spin” for the Likud, and Gantz said he was convinced Netanyahu would physically harm him if he could. The “bot” campaign also crossed a line. Instead of directing their poisonous arrows at their political rivals, Blue and White stepped on the gas and targeted private individuals whose only sin was expressing their right-wing opinions online.

Reconciliation? Unity? Statesmanship? As long as it doesn’t involve all those crazy people from the lower classes who have a tendency to get in the way of hope.

Akiva Bigman


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