Strange Role Models

Yariv Oppenheimer | Ma’ariv

Im Tirzu’s new campaign entitled “Arab Apartheid Week” managed to offend even me. I was offended by Im Tirzu’s attempt to compare Israel to countries such as Syria and Iran, I was offended by Im Tirzu’s attempt to draw a parallel between Israel’s actions in the territories and the way some of the leaders of the Arab rule treat their people. The fact that in countries such as Iran homosexuality is against the law and women’s rights are trampled does not comfort me or make me feel any better about the growing trend of ultra-orthodoxy in Israeli society; the fact that Assad is committing genocide, an even worse crime than apartheid, does not make me feel any better when I see another settlement being built deep in the territories. The Israeli occupation is illegal, undemocratic, immoral and antithetical to Zionism, regardless of the atrocities taking place in Homs, Tripoli or Tehran.

How naïve of me. As a proud Israeli and Zionist, I still believe Israel should be compared to countries in Western Europe and North America and not to totalitarian countries like Syria or Iran.

The desperate attempt by the Israeli right to excuse and legitimize the occupation of the territories by a comparison to other countries in the region does not help Israel’s public relations, to the contrary. The very comparison with Uganda, Iran or Syria only makes Israel look bad and throws it into one basket with abominable countries and leaders.

But beyond questions of public relations and image, regardless of what is happening in Syria or Iran, Israeli society must continue to clarify to itself how Israel should look concerning minority rights, the relationship between church and state and the existence of a free, liberal society. Im Tirzu is right that in some Muslim countries citizens accused of engaging in homo-lesbian relations are hanged. But should we be comparing Israel to Iran? Why not to San Francisco, where same-sex marriages are recognized by the state?

We cannot ignore the fact that in the past decade Israel has become more extreme, more violent and less tolerant, and the Zionist movement’s liberal and secular character is changing. The answer to that will not come from fallacious comparisons with Hezbollah, Hamas or Assad, which are no comfort at all.

Furthermore, Im Tirzu’s campaign also shows the world a dark and racist side of Israeli society. The campaign presents partial and slanted data, does not distinguish between countries, ignores different trends in the Arab world and uses sweeping generalizations, some without basis in reality. Im Tirzu should try to look a little deeper even when it makes an advertising campaign. It should know, for example, that Iran is not one of the Arab countries and its people are not defined as Arabs but as Persians. In the Palestinian Authority, for example, International Women’s Day is a public holiday. The Palestinian government has five women ministers, 20 women judges and two female mayors and district heads. But Im Tirzu cannot be bothered with that. For them, an Arab is an Arab, a violent, potential murderer, and a serial violator of human rights. The Im Tirzu racists can be confused by facts.