You know something’s dreadfully wrong when a well-known Israeli professor says to a peace activist the equivalent of “up against the wall, mother-fucker.”
A week ago Peace Now director Yariv Oppenheim was slapped in the face before the airing of a TV interview which was supposed to include an Israeli right-wing activist, Dr. Mohr Altschuler. According to Peace Now and Al Jazeera, the attack was unprovoked and before slapping him she accused him of sending left-wing activists to interview her at her home a number of years earlier. Oppenheim refused to enter the TV studio until police were summoned. The authorities took witness statements from station personnel and Altshuler did not go on air.
However, another panel participant, a Likud MK accused Peace Now of participating in “an international campaign to generate delegitimization of Israel” by sharing with the U.S. embassy its reports about settlement activity in the Territories.
Apparently unsatisfied that Oppenheimer was only slapped and not punished severely enough, a far-right Bar Ilan professor, Moti Keidar, has called for Oppenheimer’s execution. Among the jewels contained in the letter of support he wrote to Altshuler:
I learned with great satisfaction of your slapping Yariv Oppenheimer. Good for you! The time has come for someone with initiative to do what should be done to this dirty weakling squealer [against Israel], the least of which can be said about him that he is a traitor. In any normal nation he would’ve long ago been stood against a wall [and shot].
Imagine that Kedar views Israel as an abnormal nation because no one has the guts to kill Yariv Oppenheim. What kind of sick souls does Bar Ilan and the entire Orthodox nationalist community nurture that they think its “normal” to execute those with whom you diagree?
In a subsequent TV interview Kedar told the reporter he was “proud” of what he wrote:
He had it coming and has it coming. He has no idea what I see in the world. You have no idea what troubles we find ourselves in as a nation because of what he [Oppenheim] does, characterized largely by genuine lies.
A spokesperson for Bar Ilan had the decency to say that Kedar did not reflect the University’s views in this matter (though I doubt you’ll find the president or board of trustees taking the good professor to task, because he likely reflects their views). Oppenheimer responded by challenging Bar Ilan to fire Kedar. Good luck with that.
If Kedar was a lone ranting lunatic it would be one thing. But aside from his prestigious academic position, he really represents the views of a large minority of Israelis. Every major opinion poll of Israelis confirms a decided willingness to limit free speech and the activities of NGOs which might endanger the State. It is far too short a walk from that to seeing such figures as traitors who deserve physical punishment and even death for their activities.
I’ve already written in this blog about a Yeshiva University senior administrator who told students in Israel that they should hang the prime minister (at the time) if he gave up one inch of Jerusalem. His punishment? The University sent him back home on the next plane to avoid further embarrassment. But as far as I know he wasn’t disciplined, again likely because he expressed precisely the views of many other senior leaders of the University.
Not to mention Yitzhak Rabin’s 1995 assassination at the hands of another far-right settler thug, Yigal Amir.
There is a strong undercurrent of violence among far-right Orthodox nationalists represented by the good rabbi and Professor Kedar. And truth be told, this group is in the political ascendancy in Israel. It may be only a short interval before some Jack Teitel nutcase actually does kill a peace activist like Oppenheimer. After all, it was Teitel himself who injured distinguished Hebrew University professor Zeev Sternhell with a poorly placed bomb outside his apartment front door.
What I wonder is–when such violence finally does happen, what will be the response? What will be learned? Which views will be renounced? Which groups, if any, will be tarnished by such violence? My guess is that no one who should pay a price, will; that Israel is incapable of learning any real lesson from such threats of violence or actual violence. Professor Kedar will continue opining to the world media and not be seen for the accomplice to murder that he really is. This is why my current views of the political situation inside Israel are so dreary and downcast.