Doron Rosenblum, one of Israel’s leading satirists, recently wrote on his Facebook page: “I got it. They (members of the ruling coalition) are defeating criticism and satire through using satire’s own power, as judokas do, by taking themselves beyond the absurd. Today, no satirist can outdo the insanity of” Benjamin Netanyahu’s government.
Indeed, Israel’s leading television satire show, Eretz Nehederet (What a Wonderful Country), recently ran a humorous quiz on its web site, in which participants were asked to guess whether quotes attributed to Likud Knesset Member Oren Hazan were true or false. I took the quiz and failed miserably. Hazan’s real quotes were much more outlandish than the made-up ones.
Hazan, last in Likud’s 30 MKs’ slate, is now a member of the influential Finance Committee, as well as Deputy Chairman of the Knesset, no less. Shortly after he was sworn in as an MK, Israel TV Chanel 2 published an expose, alleging that before he ran for Knesset, Hazan trafficked in prostitutes and supplied illegal drugs to Israelis at a hotel in Bulgaria, which he helped run. Some Likud Knesset members distanced themselves from Hazan. (Netanyahu, by the way, did not.) But when Hazan showed up for a Likud gathering recently, he received a hero’s welcome and talked about a “media conspiracy” to destroy him.
Hazan is not the only one to outdo the satirists. Take Knesset member Bezalel Smotrich of the Jewish Home, who earlier this month introduced legislation that would compel members of Israeli organizations that receive funding from foreign governments to wear a special badge, “visibly, on their clothing,” when they are in the Knesset. Was he unaware of the connotations, of the irony? Does he care?
Or take Prime Minister Netanyahu, the Israeli leader who on Election Day scared his right-wing voters by releasing a panicked video, just hours before the polls closed, warning that “the Arabs are flocking in droves to the polling stations,” sending Arab voters, citizens of Israel, a message of rejection and exclusion. That same Netanyahu last week issued another videotaped statement, this time congratulating Israel’s Muslim citizens on the holy month of Ramadan. This time around, after juxtaposing the chaotic Muslim world with Israel as “an island of security and stability,” without flinching, Netanyahu tells Israel’s Muslim citizens, “You are an inseparable part of Israeli society.”
Want more? Take Israel’s new top diplomat, Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotoveli. In the absence of a foreign minister, she’s officially Israel’s face to the world. Upon taking office, Hotoveli spoke to members of the Foreign Service, and urged them to persuade the world of Israel’s just cause by reminding the world that God has given the Land of Israel – all of it — to the Jews. If we just believe in the justness of our cause, she said, we will prevail.
Hotoveli’s Foreign Ministry, in preparation for the UN report on the Gaza War, circulated a viral video on social networks, ridiculing foreign correspondents for their allegedly clueless coverage of the war. Justifiably outraged, Israel’s Foreign Press Association issued a statement slamming the government.
Other senior Israelis seem to be competing in this national sport of offending allies. Former Ambassador to the US and current Knesset Member Michael Oren, in a series of recent articles to promote his tell-all book, is assailing American Jewish journalists, American Jewish senior administration officials, and, of course, President Obama, whom he had the audacity to psycho-analyze. (Not a word from Netanyahu, by the way, to distance himself from Oren’s attacks.) And then comes Judy Shalom-Nir-Mozes, the wife of Israel’s Interior Minister, a particularly vulgar media personality in her own right, with a racist anti-Obama Twitter joke, humiliating the leader of Israel’s chief ally.
Should I mention Miri Regev, the Minister of Culture’s attack on Israel’s cultural establishment, the establishment that she’s supposed to support and advance? (Regev recently called Israeli artists a bunch of “tight-assed, thankless hypocrites.”)
Who needs satire, right?
Ridiculous, over-the-top and hysterical as this government may be, its damage to Israel’s public life and to Israel’s international relations is immeasurable. Not a laughing matter, really. And it’s been just a month since its swearing in.