Martin Sherman

INTO THE FRAY: Au Contraire

“It would be so nice if something would make sense for a change” – Alice in Wonderland

Fama, malum qua non aliud velocius ullum. [There is no evil faster than rumor]—Virgil, Roman poet (70 BCE-19 BCE), in “Aeneid“.

Falsehood flies, and truth comes limping after it, so that when men come to be undeceived, it is too late…–Jonathan Swift, Tory writer, The Examiner, November 9, 1710.

A lie gets halfway around the world before the truth puts on its boots—Attributed to Winston Churchill, among others.

One of the most depressing and galling aspects of the political arena in Israel is that nearly all the accusations hurled at Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his supporters are frequently not only utterly untrue, but are far more valid for his detractors than they are for their intended targets. Indeed, more often than not, they reflect the behavior of the anti-Netanyahu critics far more than they do that of Bibi himself—or the so-called “Bibi-ists”

What value the truth? 

Thus, for example, one of the “urban legends” that is so widely spread that it has acquired an aura of truth is that it was Netanyahu, who reneged on his 2020 pledge to hand over the premiership to “alternative prime minister”, Benny Gantz. While it might be an open question as to whether he would, in fact, have honored his pledge, it was Gantz and his Blue & White faction that rendered it moot. For, in December 2020, well before he was supposed to assume the role of Prime Minister (in October 2021), Gantz and his Blue & White faction joined forces with the opposition parties and supported a proposal to disband the Knesset, thus perversely precipitating precisely the situation they accused Netanyahu of plotting!!!

Indeed, as Netanyahu stated immediately prior to the dispersal of the Knesset: “I did not want elections and we voted repeatedly against them…We are against elections, [but] that is the decision of Blue &White. They are forcing elections on us.” 

But what value do the truth and the facts have in the toxic, no-holds-barred assault on the Israeli “Right” and the man who leads it?

Lapid: The most obnoxious of all?

Another manifestation of the mendacious maligning of Netanyahu—and by association, the badly besmirched Bibi-philes—is the claim that he, and his uncouth supporters, regularly denigrate political rivals in abusive language designed to demean and delegitimize them.

However, in reality, it is Netanyahu’s adversaries who frequently use foul and caustic terms to demean and debase him and his supporters.  Indeed, it is difficult to think of any elected politician who has been vilified as Netanyahu has been—so intensely, so fiercely, so vulgarly.

Arguably, the most obnoxious of all has been Yair Lapid, who on a prime-time discussion panel, days prior to the 2020 elections, explicitly referred to his political opponents as “sh*ts“. In the same interview—echoing Hilary Clinton’s epithet of “deplorables”—Lapid went on to label his rivals as “repulsive“.

Of course, one can imagine the furor a remark even remotely resembling such a coarse slur would have aroused if made by Netanyahu or any of his political associates.

This however was not the only example of Lapid’s crude characterization of his political rivals. Indeed, at the occasion of Naftali Bennett’s resignation as prime minister, Lapid seized the occasion to designate his opponents as “the forces of darkness“—in a speech allegedly intended to promote “unity” and “love”!!!

Reminiscent of Nazi terminology

Not to be outdone by Lapid, was radical Left wing, Yair Golan, a former IDF general, who once implied that processes reminiscent of those that led to the Nazi regime in Germany, also afflict Israeli society today. Golan, in a tone itself reminiscent of Nazi overtones, referred to the Jewish settlers in Judea-Samaria as “sub-humans” and “a corrupted [i.e. deformed] version of the Jewish people.”

Then of course, there was the brutish Avigdor Liberman, who with his customary delicacy and decorum, called to load Netanyahu—together with the Ultra-Orthodox—on a wheelbarrow and haul them off to the nearest garbage dump.

Liberman’s party colleague, MK Yulia Malinovsky, on the Knesset podium, waxed both decidedly offensive and downright racist, in an egregious attempt to dismiss Netanyahu supporters as mindless minions, incapable of any independent thought.  In a crude, coarse, and contemptuous characterization of supporters of Israel’s longest-serving prime minister as primitive pawns, hailing from the Maghreb, she railed “On the second floor here [in the Knesset] there sits a dictator, and you are his servants. Why did you bother to come here from Morocco? To exchange one king for another?”

Brandishing phallic symbols

Last May, vehement anti-Netanyahu radio-host, Natan Zahavi, expressed the wish that the Right-leaning Channel 14 would burn down—together with everybody associated with it.

Just a few months later, unchastened by the suspension that his appalling comment brought on, Zahavi was at it once again.  With a barb that would make the most hateful anti-Semite proud, he labeled Haredi Jews dreckes i.e. “filth” and the Yiddish equivalent of “sh*ts” (see Lapid above), recommending that the Haredi Jews hang themselves by their tefillin.

The courteous chivalry of the Bibi-phobic mob protesting in favor of perpetuating judicial tyranny (under the guise of defending democracy) was most recently on display in Tel Aviv, when they laid siege to Sara Netanyahu who, heaven forfend, had the temerity to have her hair done. This act of brazen hooliganism was accompanied by vulgar verbal abuse hurled at her. This, however,  was not the first time that Sara Netanyahu was the target of vicious invective from anti-Netanyahu demonstrators. Indeed, during his previous term as prime minister, Netanyahu’s official residence was besieged by hostile protesters whose support for law and order and enlightened values expressed itself in threats of sexual violence against his wife, underscored by the brandishing of giant inflatable phallic symbols.  Classy!

Why is the Left apoplectic?

All of this begs the question of what it is that has brought out the almost bestial rancor in the Left, which the recent reform initiative by the current coalition to end over two decades of judicial tyranny has elicited.  The professed motivation for the protests—protection of democratic governance and concern for the future of the nation—have a distinctly hollow ring to them.  After all, as many have pointed out before (for example, see here & here), their demands that a minority, who just lost a recent parliamentary election, should compel the majority, who won the said elections, to abandon policies it pledged to implement, is not only inconsistent with the tenets of democratic rule—but diametrically contrary to them.

Likewise, their professed concern for the fate of the nation cannot be reconciled with the threats to undermine its economy and security by divesting from Israel or refraining from military service.  After all, making Israel more vulnerable serves only to endanger that which they allegedly cherish.

Significantly, their concern for democracy was not voiced when, in contradiction to election promises, the Rabin government, under the Oslo Accords, allowed armed militias, with seamless connection to terror organizations, to deploy well within mortar range of the nation’s parliament and government ministries—which resulted in thousands of Israelis being murdered or maimed. Nor was any such concern for the fate of democracy and the future of the country invoked, when, in 2005 in stark contradiction to election pledges, the Sharon government abandoned the Gaza Strip, laid waste to over a score of flourishing settlements, expelled thousands of industrious taxpaying citizens and disinterred Jewish graves of infants and the elderly alike—allowing the murderous terror organization, Hamas, to transform Gaza from a security nuisance to a security nightmare.

Therein lies the rub…

How then are we to account for the incandescent opposition to measures that even those, who now oppose them, once embraced? After all, the alleged “excess power” that the reform supposedly generates for the ruling executive would accrue to current opponents of these reforms if they/their representatives win a future election.  They would thus be able to balance out/correct any “abuses” made by their predecessors. Indeed, the reforms are “sector neutral” and are not designed to favor—or disadvantage—any a-priori partisan group (Left or Right) in the Israeli polity.

So, to paraphrase Shakespeare’s Hamlet, therein lies the rub…

For there is little to no chance that the current opposition will ever regain power and certainly not without coopting the dominantly Arab anti-Zionist parties.

Indeed, until the judicial reforms appeared on the horizon, the Left of Center faction did not need to win widespread electoral support, as long as the left-leaning judiciary was empowered to help implement their political credo.  But, if this tyrannical overreach is to be curtailed, the last vestige of their power will be largely eroded—a prospect they view with a mixture of horror and disbelief.

That is the source of the white-hot fury with which they react to the judicial reforms currently proposed.

Dr. Martin Sherman spent seven years in operational capacities in the Israeli defense establishment. He is the founder of the Israel Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS), a member of the Habithonistim-Israel Defense & Security Forum (IDSF) research team, and a participant in the Israel Victory Project

About the Author
Dr. Martin Sherman is founder and executive director of the Israel Institute for Strategic Studies a member of the research team of the Israel Defense & Security Forum (IDSF)-Habithonistim, and a participant in the Israel Victory Project. . He served for seven years in operational capacities in the Israeli Defense establishment, and was a ministerial adviser to Yitzhak Shamir's government. Sherman also lectured for 20 years at Tel Aviv University in Political Science, International Relations and Strategic Studies. He holds several university degrees: a B.Sc. (Physics and Geology), an MBA (Finance), and a PhD in political science and international relations. He was the first academic director of the internationally renowned Herzliya Conference and is the author of two books, as well as numerous articles and policy papers on a wide range of political, diplomatic and security issues. Sherman was born in South Africa and has lived in Israel since 1971.