Published in The Jerusalem Post on May 7, 2000
I concede that there is something admirable in Shulamit Aloni’s toughness and the consistency of her convictions. Credit her for championing women’s rights and human rights long before most Israelis knew the terms.
But never has the admirable been so fully wedded to the appalling. Never in Israeli political history has such tenacity and determination been marshaled to achieve so nefarious a prejudice: the de-humanization and demonization of religious Jews and Jewish religious traditions.
Aloni is the godmother of a breed of Israeli politicians that thrives on insult and conflict; the first to elevate religious-bashing (and the bashing of the right-wing) into a kind of political philosophy. She has given birth to many loyal successors – people like Tommy Lapid and Ronnie Milo. They flourish in a culture created by Mrs. Aloni where everything is a zero sum game; where my gain is your loss and everybody looks to take revenge.
Aloni, in fact, has much to do with the undercurrent of anger, condescension and contempt that has taken root in our polity. Rabbis, alas, have become the curse experts in today’s Israeli politics, but it was Aloni who pioneered the routine and established the norm. Every argument ends in a *shtoch* that offends; every dispute is cause for a humiliating zinger that dishonors the core beliefs of the other side.
An in-depth interview with the ex-politician ran recently in The Jerusalem Report. The interviewer reveals a pitiable Aloni in an advanced state of mental decomposition: interminably self-righteous and arrogant, blind to her own self-contradictions, as polemically pro-Palestinian and monotonously anti-haredi as ever, still full of invective.
Indeed, Aloni has developed a messiah complex. In discussion, she repeatedly wraps herself in the mantle of the Biblical Prophets, citing their emphasis on morality and justice as the anti-thesis to Ultra-Orthodox “racism and corruption”. Her sacred mission: to bring us all back to “Torah” a la Aloni. Really. Read the interview.
Somehow, the love for Jews, all Jews, that was integral to the Prophets flew right by Shulamit the messianic, leaving her quite untouched. She has a long list of those whom, she admits, she “hates”: “I hate nationalists, I hate people who hate foreigners, I don’t love rabbis who keep their followers ignorant…”, etc.
The images of Aloni vulgarities are so vivid. Haredim, she said, “nurse from the same dark, primal urges that fueled monstrous Nazi fascism”. Netanyahu reminds her of “Mussolini, an excellent student of Goebels”, and the NRP “isn’t much different than Joerg Haider’s Freedom Party”.
People who put up mezuzot are “idol-worshippers” according to Mrs. Aloni. Joshua the Prophet reminds her of Bogdan Chelminitzky. (Joshua is not one of Aloni’s favorite prophets, I guess). And Rachel’s Tomb isn’t much different, she said, from the tomb of Rahav the Prostitute. Over the years, Aloni variously called the religious establishment and rabbis “snake-like”, “evil and primitive”, “voo-doo-like”, “ignorant, empty-headed and corrupt”, and “unenlightened”.
Of course, Aloni speaks in the name of “enlightenment”. That’s why “snake-like” and “Goebels” is enlightened, acceptable talk. Rabbi Ovadia Yosef’s talk of politicians who are “evil, empty, blind, rabbit and pig eaters, Haman and Amalek” – well that is barbarian and constitutes incitement. If you ask me, I think they’re both uncouth, and both insufficiently enlightened.
The other day, a Meretz acquaintance of mine absurdly suggested that there ought to be an annual award for enlightened, courageous thinking named for Shulamit Aloni. He ways serious. I said sure! Along with an annual award for Zionism named for Ahmed Tibi; an award for Arab-Jewish coexistence named for Baruch Marzel; and an award for good government named for Arye Deri.
But I have an even better idea: On Yom Haatzmaut, why don’t we give Shulamit Aloni the prestigious Israel Prize for “lifetime achievement”?