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Pride and prejudice

Election rhetoric doesn’t spare the faithful — or even the IDF widow

One columnist blames a widow’s politics for her husband’s combat death, while an artist worries that the religious are taking over

Israelis take part in a rally calling for a change in government on March 7, 2015 in Rabin Square in Tel Aviv. (AFP/JACK GUEZ)
Israelis take part in a rally calling for a change in government on March 7, 2015 in Rabin Square in Tel Aviv. (AFP/JACK GUEZ)

The rhetoric in an already strident election continued to deteriorate over the weekend as a prominent right-wing columnist accused the widow of a fallen soldier of “killing her husband” with her left-wing politics, while a left-wing artist lamented in a public address that “the kissers of amulets, idol-worshipers, and those who prostrate on the graves of the righteous” are now a majority.

Under the headline, “Kills her husband and cries that she’s a widow,” Israel National News military correspondent Hagai Hoverman slammed Michal Kastan Keidar for her Saturday night address to a left-wing rally in Tel Aviv.

Keidar’s husband, Lt. Col. Dolev Keidar, was killed in an engagement with Hamas fighters during last summer’s Operation Protective Edge.

In a speech before thousands of left-wing activists, Keidar urged more vigorous Israeli efforts toward a peace deal. “We can’t talk constantly about Iran and shut our eyes to the blood feud with the Palestinians, which costs us so much blood,” she said.

“Dear Michal Keidar,” responded Hoverman in a Sunday evening column, “you lost your husband, lost your hope for a different, better life, only because 10 years ago there were people who listened to opinions such as yours, listened to aging generals such as Meir Dagan, who stood by you on that stage.”

Had Israel not withdrawn from the Gaza Strip in the 2005 Disengagement, Hoverman argued, Keidar’s husband Dolev would not have been killed. “Your speech is a perfect example of someone who kills (even if indirectly) her husband and then whines that she’s a widow.”

Hoverman’s comments were panned in much of the Israeli press. Reached for comment, Keidar told the Walla news site that the comments “speak to the low level of the author.”

Responding to the criticism, Hoverman said that Keidar’s appearance at an election rally where she premised her pleas for political change on her loss made her experience a legitimate part of the public debate.

Meanwhile, another speech from that Saturday night rally drew a different reaction. The artist Yair Garbuz told demonstrators that the country had been taken over by “handfuls” of extremists.

“They told us, and wanted us to believe,” that right-wing extremists were merely a “handful,” Garbuz said, along with “the thieves and bribe-takers,” “the corrupt and hedonistic,” “the destroyers of democracy,” “those who think democracy is the tyranny of the majority,” and “the kissers of amulets, idol-worshipers, and those who prostrate on the graves of the righteous.”

“If all these are just a handful,” Garbuz continued, “how does this handful rule over us? How is it that without anyone noticing or interfering, this, the handful, became a majority?”

The speech drew condemnation from across the political spectrum, with accusations that Garbuz’s comments against the religious were “arrogant” and “racist.”

A statement from the center-left Zionist Union, who were meant to be the main beneficiaries of Saturday’s rally, noted that “The event and its speakers were not arranged by us, and we condemn the statements that attacked a community for its faith.”

One Likud Knesset candidate, Ofir Akunis, said Sunday that “Garbuz exposed the real face of the Israeli left: the arrogance, the disdain for the other, the disregard for any opinion that doesn’t match their worldview, which sanctifies withdrawals and concessions.”

Garbuz denied his comments reflected any racist sentiment, saying he didn’t specify a particular group, and was referring to a stream of Judaism he felt had contributed to a decline in the norms of government.

An estimated 40,000 demonstrators attended Saturday’s election rally in Tel Aviv’s Rabin Square calling for an end to Likud’s six years in power.

The plaza was filled with posters supporting the left-wing Meretz party and the center-left Zionist Union.

Former Mossad chief Meir Dagan headlined the speakers who took to the podium to address the teeming crowd. Having unleashed harsh criticism of the Netanyahu administration in an interview aired Friday, Dagan again attacked the prime minister, saying “we have a leader who fights only one campaign — the campaign for his own political survival.”

“In the name of this war, he is dragging us down to a bi-national state and to the end of the Zionist dream,” the former spy chief, 70, said of Netanyahu.

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