I was among the many thousands who crowded Tel Aviv’s Rabin Square last night. My decision to join the pre-election right-wing rally was not to identify with any of the parties, but rather to protest against incitement and an attempt to use the law to muzzle this very rally.
The incitement came in the form of a Twitter post by Igal Sarna, a columnist for the left-leaning Haaretz newspaper.
Last week, at the left-wing rally held in this same square, artist Yair Garbuz demeaned Israel’s Right by calling them “mezuza-kissers.” Yesterday, Sarna tweeted that those planning to attend the right-wing rally were “scum bags.”
“When you will have a Bennet Square,” he sneered, “you could do there your mass demonstration against the incitement of the left. But in Rabin Square? Scum bags.”
I almost never go to political events, but this time decided to confront Sarna’s contempt by showing up at the rally of the scum bags.
On the morning of the rally, the extreme left Meretz Party appealed to the chairman of Israel’s Central Election Committee, Salim Jubran, to demand the right-wing affair be prohibited on the pretense of improper use of public funds. This shameful attempt to silence the majority is what sent me to the square.
Though Jubran eventually rejected the appeal, he nevertheless forbade popular singer Amir Benayoun from performing at the rally. In an act of defiance, during his speech Naftali Bennett, head of Jewish Home party, took a guitar and sang “Jerusalem of Gold” to the delight of the tens of thousands who had gathered.
As I was waiting for the speeches to commence in the overly crowded square, a journalist from Holland asked the reason for my being there. “I have been all over the political map,” I told him, “but what’s at stake now is not left or right, but the future of the Jewish state.”
It was then that I realized that I changed gears from protest to support. I had never attended a right-wing event before, but found myself right at home among the thousands who danced, sang and waved Israeli flags. I felt good when one speaker after another reassured me that the Jewish people can’t be occupiers in their own land. I felt encouraged by a resolute Jewish mass unabashedly standing on their right to live in a Jewish state.
Crowded as it was, I felt perfectly safe. Not because of the presence of so many policemen, but because the atmosphere was peaceful. There were no inciters defaming the Left, the Arabs or anyone else. There were no offensive signs and not a single provocation could be detected.
People were there for one thing – to express their love and commitment to Israel, and thereby challenge all those who portray their state as a colonialist monster. In his speech, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu repeated the phrase “pinitem asitem” to refer to the obsession of far too many Israelis with the idea of handing over land to the Palestinians.
This catchy rhyme means that as far as “Bupi” (the new name attached to Isaac “Buji” Herzog and Tsipi Livni in a play on Netanyahu’s own nickname of “Bibi”) is concerned, the only criteria on which to differentiate a good government from a bad one is by its willingness to transfer Jews out of the West Bank.
Now, I am not a Bibi fan, never was. I didn’t decide to attend this rally to support him or anyone else. However, there’s no question that after this rally I will vote only for a party that is absolutely committed to Israel, to its people and inheritance.