Avi Shamir

“Oy, Gevalt!”

After all these years of independence in our historic homeland there are many among us who still see danger lurking behind every tree. That’s understandable, given the bad neighborhood we live in. Our most insistent scaremonger, who happens to be running the country, hasn’t kicked the Diaspora habit of whining “oy, gevalt!” – oh my God.” Okay, Bibi Netanyahu hasn’t actually uttered that Yiddish expression out loud, at least not publicly. But he sure implies it. In fact, his whole campaign strategy stirs up the very same Jewish paranoia that the State of Israel was supposed to have cured.

Bibi’s scare campaign focuses on three main threats. Their actual order of importance is a matter of interpretation.

Let’s start off with the external threat: Iran, or, more specifically, a nuclear Iran run by radical Islamic homicidal maniacs. Tons of material has been written about the Iranian threat, and Bibi Netanyahu has surely been the most outspoken alarmist on that front. It’s been so well documented that adding to it is past the point of overkill. This is the information age. Anyone who doesn’t know by now how Bibi feels about the prospect of nuclear weapons in the hands of the Ayatollas must be blissfully ignorant. Just the same, Bibi went ahead with his redundant and uncalled-for speech in front of the US Congress, demonstrating that he would do anything to score points two weeks before an election, even if it means alienating Israel’s strongest ally and supporter.

Moving on to the domestic threat: “Hamastan,” or, more specifically, an independent Palestinian state run by radical Islamic homicidal maniacs. Of all the self-fulfilling prophecies, this one is so obvious you have to be, well, blissfully ignorant not to see it coming. Old news: Hamastan was established in Gaza when the Sharon-led government pulled out of that hell hole unilaterally without closing the deal with the Palestinian Authority, leaving a power vacuum for Hamas to fill. Future shock: The same thing will happen on the West Bank if Bibi and his cohorts continue to frustrate all attempts to initiate a political process with the PA. But leave it to Bibi to shift the blame for Hamas and all of Israel’s problems to the other end of the political spectrum. Take the recently published Housing Report, for example. When the report cited Bibi’s failure to take action for affordable housing, the incumbent PM rebounded in true Likudnik fashion. I’ll paraphrase (it’s so easy to paraphrase stale politicians): “This (report) is just a smokescreen for those who want to see Hamastan right next door on the West Bank!” When everything starts falling apart on the domestic front, there is nothing like the old and proven scare tactic to distract the voters.

Which brings us to the most existential threat facing that devious doomsayer who will hopefully fall from power next Tuesday: On billboards all over Israel, Bibi’s sneering upper lip is crowned by the catchphrase: “It’s either us, or the Left.” Yes, the Israeli Left, the Zionist Camp that Bibi calls anti-Zionist, the challengers who can put an end to Bibi’s long and undistinguished terms in office. Just read between the lines; the words “oy, gevalt” jump right off the billboard.

Proponents of the Zionist Camp, along with many personages from the Israeli security establishment, lifelong Likud supporters now drifting towards the “center” and all those thoughtful swing voters who are not impressed by Bibi’s scare tactics, can join in unison: “We get it, Bibi. We know that a nuclear Iran is bad news. We know that Hamas is bad news. And guess what, Bibi: We know that you are bad news.” Because coming from you, Bibi, that same old tired “oy gevalt, the whole world is against us” pales against the real threat to Israel: That stagnating occupation of another native people that so strains our efforts to build a Jewish and democratic state.

About the Author
Avi Shamir is a freelance writer, editor, translator and the author of "Saving the Game," a novel about baseball. A Brooklyn College graduate with a BA in English, Avi has contributed to the Jerusalem Post, The Nation, Israel Scene, In English and The World Zionist Press Service.