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As I Detest Donald
Trump and Trumpism, I Dislike Miri Regev and her Culture
By Uri Avnery
Al-Jazeerah, CCUN, October
|Israeli culture minister Miri
The Israeli Trumpess Miri Regev
Donald Trump do if he loses the elections in a week and a half from now, as
most polls indicate?
He has already declared that he will recognize
the results – but only if he wins.
That sounds like a joke. But it
is far from being a joke.
Trump has already announced that the
election is rigged. The dead are voting (and all the dead vote for Hillary
Clinton). The polling station committees are corrupt. The polling machines
forge the results.
No, that is not a joke. Not at all.
IS not a joke, because Trump represents tens of millions of Americans, who
belong to the lower strata of the white population, which the white elite
used to call "white trash". In more polite language they are called "blue
collar workers", meaning manual workers, unlike the "white collar workers"
who occupy the offices.
If the tens of millions of blue collar
voters refuse to recognize the election results, American democracy will be
in danger. The United States may become a banana republic, like some of its
southern neighbors, which have never enjoyed a stable democracy.
This problem exists in all modern nation-states with a sizable national
minority. The lowest strata of the ruling people hates the minority. Members
of the minority push them out of the lower jobs. And more importantly: the
lower strata of the ruling majority have nothing to be proud of except for
their belonging to the ruling people.
The German unemployed voted
for Adolf Hitler, who promoted them to the "Herrenvolk" (master people) and
the Aryan race. They gave him power, and Germany was razed to the ground.
THE ONE and only Winston Churchill famously said that
democracy is a bad system, but that all the other systems tried were worse.
As far as democracy is concerned, the United States was a model for the
world. Already in its early days it attracted freedom-lovers everywhere.
Almost 200 years ago, the French thinker, Alexis de Tocqueville, wrote a
glowing report about the "Democratie en Amerique".
grew up in admiration of American democracy. We saw European democracy
breaking down and sinking into the morass of fascism. We admired this young
America, which saved Europe in two world wars, out of sheer idealism. The
democratic America vanquished German Nazism and Japanese militarism, and
later Soviet Bolshevism.
Our childish attitude gave way to a more
mature view. We learned about the genocide of the native Americans and about
slavery. We saw how America is seized from time to time by an attack of
craziness, such as the witch hunt of Salem and the era of Joe McCarthy, who
discovered a Communist under every bed.
But we also saw Martin
Luther King, we saw the first black President, and now we are probably about
to see the first female President. All because of this miracle: American
And here come this man, Donald Trump, and tries to rip
apart the delicate ties that bind American society together. He incites men
against women, whites against blacks and hispanics, the rich against the
destitute. He sows mutual hatred everywhere.
Perhaps the American
people will get rid of this plague and send Trump back where he came from –
television. Perhaps Trump will disappear like a bad dream, as did McCarthy
and his spiritual forefathers.
Let's hope. But there is also the
opposite possibility: that Trump will cause a disaster never seen before:
the downfall of democracy, the destruction of national cohesion, the
breaking up into a thousand splinters.
CAN THIS happen in
Israel? Do we have an Israel a phenomenon that can be compared to the ascent
of the American Trump? Is there an Israeli Trump?
Indeed, there is.
But the Israeli Trump is a Trumpess.
She is called Miri Regev.
She resembles the original Trump in many ways. She challenges the Tel Aviv
"old elites" as Trump incites against Washington. She incites Jewish
citizens against Arab citizens. Orientals of eastern descent against
Ashkenazis of European descent. The uncultured against the cultured. The
poor against all others. She tears apart the delicate ties of Israeli
She is not the only one of her kind, of course. But she
overshadows all the others.
After the elections for the 20th
Knesset, in March 2015, and the setting-up of the new government, Israel was
overrun by a band of far-right politicians, like a pack of hungry wolves.
Men and women without charm, without dignity, possessed by a ravenous hunger
for power, for conspicuousness at any price, people out for their own
personal interest and for nothing else. They compete with each other in the
hunt for headlines and provocative actions.
AT the starting
line they were all equal – ambitious, unlikable, uninhibited. But gradually,
Miri Regev overtakes all the others. All they can do, she can do better. For
every headline grabbed by another, she can grab five. For every condemnation
of another in the media, she gets ten.
Benyamin Netanyahu is a
dwarf, but compared to this bunch he is a giant. In order to remain so, he
appointed each of them to the job he or she is most unsuited for. Miri Regev,
a rude, vulgar, primitive person became Minister of Culture and Sports.
Regev, 51, is a good-looking woman, daughter of immigrants from Morocco. She
was born as Miri Siboni in Kiryat-Gat, a place for which I have deep
feelings, because it was there that I was wounded in 1948. Then it was still
an Arab village called Irak-al-Nabshiyeh, and my life was saved by four
soldiers, one of whom was called Siboni (no connection).
years, Regev served in the army as a public relations officer, rising to the
rank of Colonel. Seems that one day she decided to do public relations for
herself, rather than for others.
Since her first day as Minister of
Culture, she has supplied the media with a steady stream of scandals and
provocations. Thus she gradually overtakes all her competitors in the Likud
leadership. They just cannot compete with her energy and inventiveness.
She declared proudly that she sees her job as the elimination of all
anti-Likud people from the cultural arena – after all, "that's what the
Likud was elected for."
All over the world, governments subsidize
cultural institutions and creative people, convinced that culture is a vital
national asset. When Charles de Gaulle was the President of France, he was
once approached by his police chiefs with the request to issue an arrest
warrant for the philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre, because of his support for the
Algerian freedom fighters. De Gaulle refused and said: "Sartre too is
Well, Regev is no de Gaulle. She threatens to withdraw
government subsidies from any institution that publicly opposes the policy
of the right-wing government. She demanded the cancelation of the program of
an Arab rapper who read from the works of Mahmoud Darwish, the adored
national poet of the Arab citizens and of the entire Arab world. She
demanded that all theaters and orchestras perform in the settlements in the
occupied territories, if they want to keep their subsidies.
week she won a resounding victory when Habima, the "national theater",
agreed to perform in Kiryat-Arba, a nest of the most fanatical fascist
settlers. Indeed, no day passes without news of some new exploit by Regev.
Her colleagues explode with jealousy.
THE BASIS of Israeli
Trumpism and of Miri Regev's career is the deep resentment of the Oriental –
or Mizrahi – community. It is directed against the Ashkenazim, the Israelis
of European descent. They are accused of treating the Orientals with
disdain, calling them "the second Israel".
Since those recruits of
Moroccan descent saved my life near the birthplace of Miri Regev, I have
written many words about the tragedy of Mizrahi immigration, a tragedy of
which I was an eye-witness from the first moment. Many injustices were
committed by the established Jewish population against the new immigrants,
mostly without bad intentions. But the greatest sin of all is rarely
Every community need a sense of pride, based on its past
achievements. The pride was taken away from the Mizrahim, who arrived in the
country after the 1948 war. They were treated as people devoid of culture,
without a past, "cave-dwellers from the Atlas mountains".
attitude was a part of the contempt for Arab culture, a contempt deeply
embedded in the Zionist movement. Vladimir (Ze'ev) Jabotinsky, the
right-wing Zionist leader and forefather of the Likud party, wrote in his
time an article entitled "The East", in which he expressed his disdain for
Oriental culture, Jewish and Arab alike, because of its religiosity and
inability to separate between state and religion – a barrier to any human
progress, according to him. This article is rarely mentioned nowadays.
The Oriental immigrants came to a country that was predominantly "secular",
non-religious and Western. It was also very anti-Arab and anti-Muslim. The
new immigrants understood quickly that, in order to be accepted in Israeli
society, they must get rid of their traditional-religious culture. They
learned to distance themselves from everything Arab, such as their accent
and their songs. Otherwise it would be difficult to become part of the
country's new society.
Before the birth of Zionism – a very
European movement – there was no enmity between Jews and Muslims. Quite the
contrary. When the Jews were expeled from Catholic Spain, many centuries
ago, only a minority immigrated to anti-Semitic, Christian Europe. The vast
majority went to Muslim lands and was received with open arms all over the
Before that, in Muslim Spain, the Jews achieved
their crowning glory, the "Golden Age". They were integrated in all spheres
of society and government and spoke Arabic. Many of their men of letters
wrote Arabic and were admired by Muslims as well as Jews. Maimonides,
perhaps the greatest of Sephardic Jews, wrote Arabic and was the personal
physician of Saladin, the Muslim warrior who vanquished the Crusaders. The
ancestors of these Crusaders had slaughtered Jew and Muslim alike when they
conquered Jerusalem. Another great Mizrahi Jew, Saadia Gaon, translated the
Torah into Arabic. And so on.
It would have been natural for
Oriental Jews to take pride in this glorious past, as German Jews take pride
in Heinrich Heine and French Jews in Marcel Proust. But the cultural climate
in Israel compelled them to give up their heritage and pretend to admire
solely the culture of the West. (Eastern singers were an exception – first
as wedding performers and now as media stars. They became popular as
If Miri Regev were a cultured person, and
not merely a Minister of Culture, she would have devoted her considerable
energy to the revitalization of this culture and giving back pride to her
community. But this does not really interest her. And there is another
This Mizrahi culture is totally bound up with the
Arab-Muslim culture. It cannot be mentioned without noticing the close
relationship between the two for many centuries, during which Muslims and
Jews worked together for the advancement of mankind, long before the world
heard of Shakespeare or Goethe.
I have always believed that
restoring pride was the duty of a new generation of peace-lovers that will
arise from among the Mizrahi society. Lately, men and women from this
community have reached key positions in the peace camp. I have high hopes.
They will have to fight the present culture minister – a minister who
has nothing in common with culture, and a Mizrahi woman who has no Mizrahi
I HOPE for a Jewish-Mizrahi revival in this country
because it can advance Israeli-Arab peace and because it can strengthen
again the loosened ties between the different communities in our state.
As a non-religious person I prefer the Mizrahi religiosity, which has always
been moderate and tolerant, to the fanatical Zionist-religious camp that is
predominantly Ashkenazi. I have always preferred Rabbi Ovadia Josef to the
Rabbis Kook, father and son. I prefer Arie Der'I to Naftali Bennett.
I detest Donald Trump and Trumpism. I
dislike Miri Regev and her culture.
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