MK Merav Michaeli
MK Merav MichaeliIsrael news photo: Flash 90

MK Merav Michaeli (Labor) attacked the possible coalition between Likud, Bayit Yehudi and Yesh Atid Saturday as one composed of "three white men," days after making a comparison between women's struggle against what she sees as male dominance in Israel to the situation of Jews under the Nazis during the Holocaust.

Speaking at a public panel on Saturday, Michaeli said that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, Yair Lapid and Naftali Bennett are "three white men, capitalists, very rich, who see the world in the same way."

She explained that the description of Lapid's Yesh Atid as a centrist party is wrong – because by simple virtue of being a "white" and "capitalist" man, Lapid is a right winger and therefore belongs in Netanyahu's coalition.

"As a right-wing bloc, there is no reason why they shouldn't establish a government and carry out a right-wing policy," she stated. "And then, we will stop talking about this nonsense of a 'center bloc,' and we will see where a right-wing government really takes us."

Michaeli said that Labor will not join the government and that "the gaps are huge and Netanyahu will have to 'renounce his religion' in order to bridge the chasm between the two parties."

On Nazis and Jewish men 

In her maiden speech at the Knesset Wednesday, Michaeli indirectly but unmistakably compared Jewish men and their alleged power over women, to the Nazis and their power over the Jews during the Holocaust.

Michaeli opened the speech with a description of a meeting between her grandfather, Zionist politician Yisrael (Rudolf) Kastner, and Nazi official Adolf Eichmann, who was in charge of the "Final Solution," on July 3, 1944. Kastner "refused to be a victim" in that meeting, she said. When Eichmann taunted him for appearing nervous and asked him if he wanted to be sent to Auschwitz for some "relaxation," Kastner took out a cigarette and lit it, she said, in "a gesture of a person who sees himself as an equal among equals."

"If there is anything I learned from my grandfather's story," she said, "it is not to be a victim. Even in the place where the role of the ultimate victim was scripted for him, as a Jew facing the head destroyer of Jews, he managed not to be a victim and took his fate and that of his community into his own hands."

"So we, as feminist women, do not come as victims. We come as equals for all intents and purposes, to take our fate into our hands and shape the reality of our lives," she told the Knesset.

Michaeli's comparison of "male hegemony" to the Nazi regime reflects an old theme in "feminist" thinking. A chapter in Betty Friedan's seminal feminist bestseller, The Feminine Mystique (1963), is called "The Comfortable Concentration Camp." Friedan employed the phrase to describe the life of a middle class housewife in the United States, less than 20 years after the Holocaust.

While apologists for the excesses of gender warfare rhetoric often note that there are different streams in feminism, and that some are more moderate than others, it is important to note that Friedan founded the world's largest "feminist" group, the National Organization of Women, which boasts a membership of about 500,000.

Interestingly, MK Moshe Gafni (United Torah Judaism), whom Michaeli selected to give the customary follow-up speech by a veteran MK to her maiden speech, exuded praise for her speech and said he agreed with 95% of what she said.

Kastner's train

Michaeli's grandfather, Yisrael Kastner, negotiated with the Nazis in 1944 on behalf of the Zionist establishment and secured the release of about 1,700 Hungarian Jews from Nazi-controlled territory aboard a special train.

He returned to Israel and was later involved in a high profile libel lawsuit against a man named Malchiel Gruenwald, who accused him of selling out Hungarian Jews by failing to warn them of the fate that awaited them under the Nazis, in return for securing the release of a small number rich and well connected Jews on the "Kastner train." The trial was highly emotional and the court found that Kastner had "sold his soul to the devil." Kastner was assassinated by a group of Jews on March 4, 1957. The libel case was appealed and Kastner was posthumously exonerated of guilt regarding most of the accusations Gruenwald had made against him.

About 437,000 Hungarian Jews were deported to Auschwitz. Eichmann told an interviewer for LIFE magazine in 1960 that Kastner had "agreed to help keep the Jews from resisting deportation — and even keep order in the collection camps — if I would close my eyes and let a few hundred or a few thousand young Jews emigrate to Palestine. It was a good bargain."

credit: Kastner