Yesterday, Naftali Bennett’s Bayit Yehudi Party held a festive celebration in support of its election campaign. Recently, a number of candidates on its Knesset list have made disparaging comments about gays, specifically denouncing gay marriage, which is still prohibited in Israel (where the Orthodox rabbinate largely controls matters related to marriage and divorce).
In response, Israel gay activists have begun shadowing Bennett and his Party events to raise awareness of both gay rights and Bayit Yehudi’s rejection of them. At last night’s rally, when activists began shouting slogans in favor of gay marriage and displayed a rainbow flag, Party thugs attacked them viciously. You can see part of the assault in the video. What you don’t see is Lilach Ben David being punched in the face and all over her body in an effort to muzzle her.
That wasn’t terribly surprising given the extraordinary level of violence in Israeli political discourse (including a number of assassinations over the decades). What was surprising was Bayit Yehudi’s response to the assault. Instead of acknowledging what happened and the role Party members played in the attack, it spun a tale of a leftist cabal conniving to assassinate Bennett. Though the protesters were entirely non-violent, the Party accused them of fomenting violence:
Habayit Hayehudi responded that it was the left that was responsible for the violence at the event. “We call on the leaders of the left to denounce the violence of their activists before it is too late and the violence of the left causes irreversible damage.”
The party said that its leader, Bennett, is currently the country’s only politician who is being advised by security officials not to attend events where left-wing activists are present. “The left has not learned a thing from the murder of [Yitzhak] Rabin and the incitement that it is carrying out at the moment will have harsh consequences while Bougie and Tzipi [Zionist Union leaders Isaac Herzog and Tzipi Livni] are silent.”
The claim that “security officials” advised them of a leftist plot to assassinate him is beyond preposterous. Further, the idea that a right-wing extremist Party would school gay activists about the lessons of the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin is a schandeh. Even worse, Bayit Yehudi officials are claiming that the “incitement” of last night’s protest is what will spur a crazy leftist to murder Bennett himself.
If you read Hebrew, Bennett’s wife has taken to Facebook to warn the Israeli public of “well-financed Israeli leftist extremists” who are gunning for her husband. But let’s call a spade a spade: there is no history of leftist violence in Israel (with the possible exception of the murder of Jacob De Haan in the 1910s which was approved by Israel’s future first President, Yitzhak Ben Zvi). There have been no killings or even assaults by leftists on rightists. On the contrary, there have been many vicious assaults and assassinations of leftist politicians and activists by the far-right over the decades. I’ve documented many of them here. This is yet another way the violent, histrionic far-right engages in historical revisionism.
Let’s call this what it is: naked aggrandizement and hysteria. It’s meant to arouse the wrath of the Party faithful by making them believe there is a genuine leftist threat to Bennett. It’s yet another form of political warfare that currently reigns in Israeli politics. Bibi and Likud are bad enough. But Bennett is the wave of the future. He’s Meir Kahane in a suit and tie.
If any readers have phone numbers for either Party HQ or a Party press representative, let me know.