Knowing who your real friends are

In a surprise statement today, Israeli police expressed their concern for the safety of those wanting to protest against the so-called “war” in Gaza.

Citing security concerns over continued rocket fire, Israeli police banned an antiwar protest in Tel Aviv, saying regulations prohibited large gatherings in areas at risk of attack.

It’s not often that we hear such concern expressed by the Israeli authorities, or by the population at large either, which supports the idea of bombing the Palestinians into dust and stains even more enthusiastically than Americans support the idea of Christmas.

I wonder if these regulations extend as far as Gaza, where there are even larger gatherings in areas at even greater risk of attack?

A cynic might think that the police were really more concerned with the idea getting out in public that mass murder is wrong no matter where it happens.

But that could hardly be true, because Israel has a strong tradition of supporting dissenting views on Palestine. Just ask the Haaretz columnist Gideon Levy, who is well acquainted with the Israeli spirit of tolerance for his views opposing the continued occupation and oppression of the Palestinians.

In the article “Against the war: the movement that dare not speak its name in Israel”, he speaks of being weary of all the adulation he gets from his adoring public – or something of the sort.

Not only is he spat on and ostracised, but he can’t go about in public now without bodyguards to protect him. And even they don’t like him much, so if I were Levy I’d be thinking about loading their handguns with blanks instead of real bullets, because you can never be too sure who your friends are until they express their true feelings in a way that allows no room for discussion.

But beyond that, it has now been suggested that – for the crime of expressing an unpopular view in the region’s “only true democracy” – he be put on trial for treason, which carries the death penalty. And this call comes not from some isolated deranged radical crank, which exist in every society, but from Yariv Levin, who was the chairman of the recently-dissolved Likud-Beytenu partnership, which was the dominant faction in the Knesset. So maybe it was a deranged radical crank, but certainly not an isolated one.

Those trying to follow the vagaries of Israeli politics will know that Likud has been the dominant political party there ever since Moses led the Israelites out of Egypt, and that’s saying a lot in a country which has more political parties than a stray dog has fleas.

In a classic case of understatement, the Wikipedia article describing Israeli politics says that:

Compared to other countries, the number of parties contesting the Israeli general elections is relatively high considering the population size.

That’s a pretty fair statement, considering that the number of parties there is roughly equal to the size of the population plus 1.

Anyway, the point is that, as chairman of the parliamentary partnership which brought together in government the extreme right-wing PM Netanyahu and the even more extreme right-wing Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman, it is fair to say that Yariv Lenin is anything but a fringe lunatic. He’s more a mainstream lunatic, and when you have someone like that baying for your blood, it’s hard to know where Gideon Levy should look for protection. He’d probably be safer in a UN shelter in Gaza, and that’s not saying a lot.