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Who said Israel’s far-left were liberals?

By Jonathan Hunter
5/14/2014, 5:05 PM

Trawling through publications such as Haaretz and +972 Magazine, the list of derogatory epithets levelled against the mainstream Zionist political parties can be endless.’ Livni is a ‘war criminal,’ Lapid is a ‘racist’ and Lieberman is a ‘gangster.’ 

In addition to such eloquent language, the term ‘fascist’ features highly – an insult which came to the fore in a court case pitting zealous keyboard warriors against the equally controversial Im Tirzu movement. Yossi Sarid is also a big fan of the word ‘fascist’ – his most entertaining articles never fail to omit this label.

When your opponents resort to name-calling rather than rational argument, they lose all credibility. Any self-respecting journalist recognises this. Nevertheless, the world’s media swoops upon the semi-literate tabloid-esque rants which tend to fill Haaretz’s opinion section.

The term ‘fascist’ thus becomes a legitimate term for foreign journalists – they need only cite their ‘respected’ Israeli colleagues to defend their shamelessly biased agenda.

It is particularly ironic that Israel’s post-Zionist far-left intelligentsia accuse its opponents of fascism. Stoking a culture of intimidation and demonization is the preferred tactic of Europe’s far-right.

But to play devil’s advocate, surely it was the right who pushed through the anti-democratic ‘Boycott Law’? Isn't it Yariv Levin who wants to subvert Israel’s independent judiciary? To outline Haaretz’s arguments, it is activists with politics akin to Likud’s Central Committee who are responsible for Israel’s anti-democratic tendencies.

It is a convincing position - but then you need only read this piece by Sefi Rachlevski, supporting Eitan Cabel’s newest anti-free speech legislation. The hypocrisy and contradictions within this article are incredible. The author claims to stand for a free press, and then subsequently calls for the closure of a rival newspaper. Using the language of real fascists in painting Sheldon Adelson as the stereotypical evil media baron, Rachlevski demands that the newspaper Yisrael Hayom be shut down.

He tellingly adds at the bottom, 'there is room for right-wing journalists' - as if he is the one to decide who has a right to free expression, and that the press is naturally the exclusive territory of Haaretz journalists.

This is one of those occasions where I agree with the notorious Gideon Levy - and applaud him for taking a bold stance against his colleagues. We ALL have a right to an opinion. Just as Levy is 'infuriated' by some of the articles in Yedioth, I tend to be annoyed with certain pieces in Haaretz. But even if Haaretz may offend me, I don’t call for its closure - just as Levy doesn't advocate the silencing of Yedioth, even if reading it leaves him ‘with a sense of disgust.’

The existence of Haaretz is testament to the vibrant nature of Israel’s democracy. The ability for far-left journalists to bandy about the term fascist so freely is something we should all be proud of.

I read Haaretz in print every Friday. Unlike the paper’s editorial staff, I’m not afraid to have my opinions challenged. What I have in common with Gideon Levy, as far apart as our politics may be, is that we both stand for certain liberal principles.

Gideon Levy would surely recognise that it is supposed ‘fascists’ such as Ruby Rivlin and Benny Begin, men unashamedly of the right, who most ardently defend Israeli democracy.

In contrast to this, calling for the closure of a specific publication based on political affiliation is the first step in the road towards totalitarianism. And despite Haaretz's protestations, it is ironically the far-left which seem to be walking down that path.