The latest hiring decision at the Prime Minister’s Office illustrates the hypocrisy of the right when it comes to objectionable and violent statements.
The Prime Minister’s Office recently reported (Hebrew) that it receives editing and translating services from Uri Elitzur, who is set to serve as a speechwriter for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Elitzur is a settler pundit, who in 1998, during Netanyahu’s first term, served as his bureau chief.
Elitzur is now the editor of the weekly supplement Makor Rishon, a newspaper that leans to the right. There’s something noble and very rare in Israeli political life for a person to accept a lower position in an office he once led; Elizur’s sense of duty overcame his ego, which is to be commended. In a phone conversation, Elizur tried to downplay this, and said he was merely a friend of Netanyahu’s who sometimes provided him with assistance. And yet.
Unfortunately, there is a problem with Elitzur being hired by the Prime Minister’s Office. In 2004, as the disengagement plan gathered steam, Elitzur called on settlers to defend themselves with force from soldiers coming to evict them, as long this does not include firearms. Then Attorney General, Menachem Mazuz, decided not to open an investigation into these comments (Hebrew). The prosecution said that there was “suspicion of a felony”, but the state prosecutor, Shai Nitzan decided, “due to the restrained policy of the prosecution in such matters,” not to investigate. Later that year, Elitzur signed a petition calling the IDF soldiers to disobey their orders to carry out the Disengagement.
Needless to say, whenever a leftist who is suspected of some questionable comments – Yishayahu Leibovitch and Ze’ev Sternhell come to mind – is offered a national prize or an office, the right wing’s incitement machine goes into high gear, and demands it be rescinded. In Leibovitch’s case, who famously said in the 1980s that Israel is becoming a “Judeo-Nazi” state, they managed to deprive him of his Israel Prize. This machine is employed against left-wing NGOs as well: When one of their employees is caught, God forbid, saying soldiers should refuse to serve in the occupied territories, or in labeling Israel is an apartheid state, or – most serious of heresies – that there is such a thing as legitimate Palestinian resistance to the occupation, the Im Tirzu brigade goes on the march. What would have happened to a left-wing NGO or party, who’d have dared to hire a person who called upon Palestinians to harm IDF soldiers? It’s reasonable to assume MK Danny Danon and Im Tirzu leader Ronen Shuval would have organized stormy protests against it, and would demand it be dissolved.
But when it is a right-winger who calls on soldiers to refuse orders, and said they should be harmed in fulfilling their duties, the prime minister invites him to write his speeches. So it goes.
(Full disclosure: Unlike Uri Elitzur, Shai Nitzan has decided to investigate the undersigned)