“They built houses at the expense of the blood of our friends. They built swimming pools at the cost of the blood of murdered children. They built cemeteries because they did not care that others [would be killed] and then buried”.

ofer newman

Ofer Newman’s rant went viral quickly. Yet the true harshness of his words hardly made an impression in the English media. Times of Israel reported it as through a filter, softening the the verbal blows [compare TOI and Israel National News for their coverage]. Perhaps the Hebrew couldn’t be translated accurately to English. Perhaps.

Ofer Newman is, still , as of this moment more than a week later, the official spokesman for the Zionist Union and Head of the Opposition, Isaac Herzog’s official spokesman. Newman had little to worry about for Herzog wasn’t going to fire Newman for his little “blood” libel. At the most, Newman received a scolding and was told to clean up the more graphic parts of his post.

Yet Ofer Newman is not alone.

Last Saturday Tzippy Livni, number two on the Zionist Union’s list, proclaimed that

“Israeli government does whatever the Yesha Council wants; it is a minority that imposes its national agenda on the government.” Choice words that could easily come from David Duke when describing Jewish influence on any US government. Here in Israel, most of the English press sees Livni’s accusations as normative, even justified criticism of our elected government.

Evidently since self criticism, of the government and the country, (not of their own journalistic talents) is so highly enshrined in Israel’s media, politicians, from Dov Lipman of Yesh Atid to Zehava Gal-on in Meretz, use anti “settler”sentiments” to bolster their standing with the public and the press to get free publicity. Coverage improves with the vehemence and the decibels. In  The Zionist Union there even seems to be some sort of competition who can be the most anti-“settler”. Stav Shaffir, Merav Michaeli , Erel Margalit and about everyone on the Zionist Union’s list have denounced the “settlers’ and any and all measures to provide even minimal funding of essential infrastructures.

So that explains for the most part M.K. Itzik Shmuli’s (Zionist Union) opposition to the government’s decision to transfer NIS 82 million ($21 million) to the regional councils in Judea and Shomron for expenses incurred during the last year of terror incidents. The funds, which work out to be around NIS 300 a person are to be used for improving security, aiding small businesses and developing tourism. Shmuli called it “absurd” that while regional leaders from southern Israel were protesting the lack of investment in their communities, the government funneled funds into the settlements.

“Absurd”? What is absurd is that evidently the Zionist Union doesn’t recognize that “settlers” are actually Israeli citizens, citizens who serve in the army, work and pay their taxes and are entitled to government aid when necessary. Absurd is to forget that the last year has seen dozens killed and wounded in Judea and Shomron and those who live there have seen the “blood of our friends” spilled, and the freshly dug graves in our cemeteries. Absurd is to forget that just recently the same government approved a $4 billion five year plan to reduce gaps between the Arab sector and the rest of the country and then no one used the word “funnel” or “pump” for funding what the Arab minority deserves by right of they being citizens.

I suppose there should be no surprise that lawmakers from the Zionist Union regularly oppose any funding measure favoring the “settlers” or even measures that would give residents of Judea and Shomron equal protection under existing Israeli labor laws. Evidently the Zionist Union would like to see the entire “settlement” enterprise wither on the vine, leaving the heavy pruning and uprooting to our Arab enemies. Their “soft” language is meant to delegitimize those Israelis living in Judea and Shomron.

And it isn’t just the Zionist Union, Meretz and various petty politicians in the boss appointed “centrist” parties. After the terror attack at the Sarona Market in Tel Aviv, Mayor Ron Huldai blamed the murderous attack on the “occupation”. Not on the PA and not on Hamas, but rather Huldai blamed the “settlers” that choose to live in Judea and Shomron. Exaggeration? Perhaps go and see Shimon Dotan’s latest hit piece , “The Settlers”.

One of the victims of the Sarona Market attack was Michael Feige IY”D, a professor from Ben Gurion University in Beer Sheva. Among other subjects, Feige wrote a book based on his research as an anthropologist,”Settling in the Hearts: Jewish Fundamentalism in the Occupied Territories” Feige’s book recounts how the settler movement strove to redefine Zionism, Israel and Judaism through a reinterpretation of Jewish history, secular Zionist ideology, religious faith, and the Bible. Feige, like Dotan, was not very sympathetic to the idea of Jews returning to live in Judea and Shomron and observed that the “settler” movement was less than successful in promoting their narrative of “return and redemption” to the Land of Israel.

Wonder if Feige observed that it helps when spreading a narrative  to have some measure of  control of the media? Sympathetic faces on television, entire newspapers with a set agenda to defame a certain segment of the population can set the tone.  The “settlers’ narrative was never presented in a vacuum but rather as a competing narrative that was being pushed by an opposing camp. Just incidentally, that opposing camp was well connected in the media and is still so today.

Slowly but surely changes are happening in Israel’s media. Channel 20 and Yisrael Hayom show that other voices can  get heard.  Miri Regev might even make a dent in which narratives get funding to become films, although I doubt that there will ever be a documentary called “The Settlers” made by the “settlers” in order to present the “real settlers” . Perhaps Ezri Tov will get a chance to try the wide screen?

Soon Israeli citizens, residents of Judea and Shomron and others will be celebrating 50 years since Jerusalem, Judea and Shomron were liberated from their Jordanian occupation. Words, soft or otherwise are not going to make us disappear. Meanwhile recent polls show that if elections were held today the Zionist Union would lose a third of their mandates and shrink to 15 seats. Polls aside, if the last few elections are any indication, perhaps the Zionist Union is killing themselves softly with their own words?

TOI