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Che Lapid and Benny Guevara

Gideon Levy
Gideon Levy
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Benny Gantz and Yair Lapid at the Knesset, 2019.
Benny Gantz and Yair Lapid at the Knesset, 2019.Credit: RONEN ZVULUN / REUTERS
Gideon Levy
Gideon Levy

Complacent, sated, boastful and self-satisfied Israel is calling to take to the streets. The city squares are trembling in anticipation, the streets are beautifying themselves: The great protest is on the way. Benny Gantz is threatening to “cause the country to tremble,” as he once threatened Lebanon, Yair Lapid is threatening Benjamin Netanyahu: “You haven’t seen anything yet, we’ve just begun” (Haaretz, December 5). If that’s how Lapid is beginning, the end is clear: Ho, Che Lapid and Benny Guevara.

It’s good that civil society is awakening to action. Clearly there is nothing more legitimate. Even the accusations of the right that a rebellion is being organized are nonsense: organizing a civic rebellion is permitted, sometimes even obligatory. That’s how it is in a democracy, and in a dictatorship too: People try to rebel against what is unacceptable and infuriating. A call on the heads of the local authorities not to cooperate with the central government is exactly what must be done when you feel that the country is being led towards the edge of an abyss.

There’s only one little problem with this combative spirit that has seized the camp that lost the election: As always, it chooses the subjects of the protest solely in its comfort zones. There are never controversial issues within the camp itself, and they never require courage. Avi Maoz is an excellent example. Who’s in favor of Maoz? Of all the problems awaiting us, the camp has chosen the designated deputy minister as its next voodoo doll. Of course he is benighted, a fundamentalist and a racist, but is he the greatest threat from the new government?

In Israel protest is a rare commodity, and when it does erupt, it always focuses on the issues that personally threaten the protesters – the price of cottage cheese or apartments – never the threats to others, to those weaker than them.

The gentle souls of our children who study in a superlative liberal and high-quality school system will be harmed by the transfer of the department of external teaching and partnerships to Maoz. But the school system should have brought people into the streets long before Maoz: This is a system that creates intolerable levels of ignorance. Only recently Israel was ranked in 74th place in a world survey of English skills – far lower than Albania, Iran, Vietnam and Lebanon. What a disgrace. But Maoz is the problem.

More than enough has also been written about the ultranationalism and brainwashing in the school system, and nobody took to the streets because of them. Now Maoz will destroy everything. The camp’s protest is always over what it did not create, even when its years in power gave rise to so many issues worthy of protest.

Bezalel Smotrich will be in charge of the Civil Administration – the end of the world. An enlightened and liberal Civil Administration will now become benighted and racist. What a joke. There should have been a rebellion against the pre-Smotrich Civil Administration, a brutal and oppressive occupation administration, which should have been boycotted.

But now they’re coming because racism’s name is Smotrich. When it’s name was Gantz, everything was fine. For the past 20 years an Israeli sous-chef in a trendy Tel Aviv restaurant has been unable to meet with his mother, who lives an hour and half’s drive from his home, only because she lives in Gaza – long before Smotrich – and nobody protested.

A genuine protest comes from the grassroots, and is characterized by anger; it isn’t born in the offices of politicians. The frustration of Lapid and Gantz at their defeat in the election is not enough reason to start a protest. The country won’t tremble because a majority of the nation wanted Netanyahu, and those who didn’t want him are too spoiled and sated to be furious.

The country won’t tremble because it should have trembled long ago, from the time it established its apartheid regime. It never trembled because the regime didn’t have the slightest effect on any Israeli who is full of himself, who was told in the school system that he lives in the only democracy in the Middle East, and who believes that to this day. If we didn’t rebel against these things, we would do well not to rebel over Maoz even though he is a homophobe – for reasons of hypocrisy.

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