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What Has Gone Wrong with Israel's Right? VIEWPOINT What Has Gone Wrong with Israel's Right? by Lewis Glinert Department of Middle Eastern Cultures School of Oriental and African Studies University of London 83 It was clear to me that there was something strangely wrong with Israel's Right on the night of the first mass protest against the Israel-PLO accord. One hundred thousand people, perhaps two, were jammed into the roads around the Knesset in Jerusalem, that night in September 1993, still stunned by news that the government of Israel was treating with the Arch Murderer, as governments of Israel had been accustomed to call him. For hours, as I watched, the strapping men with their moustaches and their trim kippot, the mothers in head-scarves wheeling their strollers, the black-hatted Yeshiva students, and masses ofthe less categorizable strained for that moment when some words, some notes, some voice might embody their fears and the fears of millions in Israel and the Diaspora that weren't there. But the magical moment never came. Nor did any of those figures who have come to express the ties between present-day, business-like Israel and its distant past-a songwriter like Naomi Shemer ("Jerusalem the Golden"), a novelist like Moshe Shamir ("King of Flesh' and Blood"). Maybe they were sick, maybe they were abroad. But we never heard their music or their voice. Instead, the politicians came. That September night was the night ofthe Right. Binyamin Netanyahu, Arik Sharon, Benny Begin, Rehavam Zeevi, Hanan Porat talked and talked. They damned the Left; they sloganized their audience that the Right was right. When they took a short pause, a couple of rabbis were permitted to say a few spiritual thoughts. Occasionally, too, the piped music started up, 'but always the same song, Mashiach, Mashiach, Mashiach, Ay-ay-ay-ay-ay, the catchy jingle of the Lubavitch movement calling in New York Hebrew for the prompt advent of the Messiah. Those who wanted to hear the sort of words or the kind 84 SHOFAR Summer 1995 Vol. 13, No~ 4 of sounds that might evoke One Nation or One Jewish People were disappointed. That old Shelomo Carlebach number Am Yisrael Hai, "the Jewish People lives," that had spoken to an entire generation of Soviet refuseniks, was not heard. Gradually, the crowds began to drift away. They had sperid the best part of the evening chatting with friends or purchasing stickers and diet cokes. What was not achieved that night in September 93 has not been achieved until now. The Israeli protest movement against the Oslo Accord has failed to harness ~he dull disquiet felt by a majority of the Jewish population about the Palestinian state that is inexorably emerging around them. The essential reason has less to do with the issues than with the protest movement itself: it is culturally bankrupt. Let me first cite a further incident. Seven months on, following the killings at the Hebron mosque, the Rabin government was talking of forcibly removing all Jews from the city. Again they organized an urgent rally, this time on a much smaller scale, almost entirely National Religious "settlers" (though many of these significantly preferred to spend the day elsewhere at a children's funfair). I watched the rally, at Kiryat Arba near Hebron. An American Religious Zionist friend of mine summed it up drily: "We used to get more turned on marching for civil rights." The three-mile march passed off in total silence, aside from a detachment of Betarniks, a youth group whose old-time right-wing Zionist marching songs could have come from another planet. There were no guitars or flutes or even just plain singing. The final rally was a frenzy of speeches-but no antics or street theatre, nor anything in the slightest creative. What would the prophets Jeremiah and Ezekiel have made of it all, I found myself asking-the point being that the very stuff of Biblical prophets was to create·great symbolic· scenes: "Take great stones in thy hand ... ," "Son of man, take a sharp knife and pass it over thy head ... ," "Son of man, propound a riddle to the House of...


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