When Israeli poet and lyricist, Yonatan Geffen wrote his poem comparing Ahed al Tamimi to Joan of Arc, Hannah Senesch and Anne Frank, I predicted what the impact would be:
Really, it’s a fairly innocuous song. But it raises the hackles of Israeli patriot-enforcers, who attempt to extract their pound of flesh from the poor victim. You cannot stray from the national consensus without paying a price. Solidarity is demanded. Deviance will be punished. Chances are Geffen will apologize and return to the straight and narrow Israeli path and never stray from it again.
It took a few days longer than I expected. But what I anticipated did indeed happen yesterday. Geffen, complaining about being labeled a drunk by a hard-drinking Russian defense minister and not being able to eat for a week, raised the white flag and surrendered (though not entirely):
“I merely wished to illustrate that just like our preoccupation with creating national heroes—from (Joseph) Trumpeldor to Moshe Dayan—the Palestinians are also entitled to create their own heroes,” Geffen added.
“My mistake was tacking Hannah and Anne, whom I profusely admire, onto the list. Bringing Anne Frank and Hannah Szenes into this story was a mistake, and I wholeheartedly apologize for it. I could have just as well have written Ahed Tamimi stood alongside Wonder Woman and Gal Gadot,” he elucidated.
…”I have been besieged for a week, I haven’t eaten anything in a week. I have no interest in opening up to the media, because they will always distort it, because they’re only looking for sensationalism and gossip,” he said.
“Once (Defense Minister Avigdor) Lieberman boycotted me, people called me an old drunkard, everybody boycotted me—there are two things to do. The first is bringing the occupation back to the headlines, because we’ve been occupying another people for the past fifty years, damn it. The second is bringing up our preoccupation with creating national heroes. The Palestinians are also allowed to create their own heroes,” Geffen said.
“Today, on International Holocaust Remembrance Day, I can tell you that it was a mistake, and I apologize for it, especially to those who were personally hurt (by the comparison),” he concluded.
To be clear, Geffen is no radical. He’s not an anti-Zionist. In fact, he’s a Zionist patriot though a dove of the “shooting and crying” variety. But this gives you a clear indication of the political suffocation in Israeli society. If you are a liberal Zionist who sticks his head slightly above the national consensus, the hammer will thunder down on you until you are the same height as everyone else.
Only a radical or true progressive whose principles couldn’t be upset by a few insults and communal ostracism would be able to withstand this assault and hold his head high. It’s why there are so few left inside Israel. It’s why so many of them leave. It’s why those outside are so much freer to reflect freely and independently on the true state of Israeli society. It’s why everyone in Israel goosesteps to the same marching tune. And yes, that was a deliberate echo of the rising tide of Nazism or Jewish fascism (whatever you wish to call it), which is where Israel is rapidly headed.
NOTE: A short note on the graphic art accompanying this post. My 16 year old artist son, Jonah, prepared this image for his high school studio art class. We are proud in so many ways!