Yair Lapid, newly appointed PM

Israel’s Lapid: The Unbearable Stench of Apartheid

By Orly Noy (Translated by Sol Salbe)

So in the end I cracked and listened to Yair Lapid’s debut speech as prime minister which appears in Shani Littman’s excellent column in Haaretz this morning, I admit it, I’m human. Littman beautifully illustrated Lapid’s character as Israeli politics’ answer to musician Sholomo Artzi — a man/person for all seasons. I read it and I sank into mournful reflections on the kind of desolation that makes this ultra-nationalist, kitschy, hollow chatterbox a shining star in our vacuous political skies. The man may be worthier than his opponents, and might even be capable of drawing lessons from a learning curve. But if this speech is what the best candidate here can come up with, then truly God save us.

What a despairing mishmash of nationalism, ignorance, naturally the Holocaust, certainly Iran, of course kitsch, and a little extra dose of Jewish nationalism. The man “respects differences of opinion” and also promises, what else, to be the prime minister of everyyyyone, but his collective self is embarrassingly blind to large segments of society. And even suppose that his collective self is restricted to the Jewish community only, even then he leaves whole segments out. But how stupid do you have to be to say that the State of Israel “was here before us and will be here long after us”? Who preceded the state, Lapid? Maybe instead of acting as a crude wheeler and dealer when engaging with Arab Knesset members, will you ever take an interest in their roots and learn something about who was before whom and where? Maybe you could have learned something about the Palestinian exile as well, and then you would have understood just how loaded is the phrase “the state belongs not only to us but also to those who dreamt of it in the Diaspora.”

I understand that people really went overboard over this speech, probably because of sentences like the one he fired left, right and centre: “Every citizen in a democracy has the right to change government and determine the course of their life.” What a sentence! But in every election campaign in this glorious democracy, the powers-that-be try to disqualify those parties that actually do want to bring about change on the path to a meaningful democracy. And the Knesset itself refuses to even bring a bill for the purpose of making Israel “a state of all its citizens” to a debate. This is the notion in whose Balad has been running in elections since its inception. Yes, the very same “Zoabis” that Lapid dismissed with contempt, but what a speech.

At its dramatic peak, Lapid told of his grandmother who called his father one day in the Budapest ghetto and told him it was his bar mitzvah, that she could not do much for him, but there was one thing that she could do. Then she took out a tiny Chanel No 5 bottle, broke it and said: “at least it won’t stink at my son’s bar mitzvah.”

And this is exactly what Lapid did in this speech: this mediocre man, who supports every injustice that this country inflicts and lordly berates those who fight against it, drops beautiful words like democracy, unity and mutual respect like some sort of a Chanel No 5, like he was saying “Yes, we do have Apartheid, Occupation, oppression and discrimination here, but by God, it will not stink on my watch! “

Translated from Hebrew by Sol Salbe, Middle East News Service

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