Any Israeli politician who climbs onto the national stage from the right does not expect a honeymoon in front of the shapers of public opinion, but regarding Itamar Ben Gabir, all records were broken. He didn’t get even one second of grace. He stepped onto the national stage with a large label in the shape of a target circle attached to his back.
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According to Albert Einstein, in this column I am taking on an impossible task, referring to the task that Einstein defined as more difficult than nuclear fission – and that is removing stigma. Having known Itamar for many years, I want to start from the end: it is difficult to find in our public life a person who has such a large gap between his image and his character. Almost all the personal characteristics attributed to him are 180 degrees from a flesh-and-blood son.
For any of the few who are willing to let the facts confuse them, I suggest taking Sherlock Holmes’s immortal advice to his devoted assistant Watson: Please re-examine your assumptions. I have no real claim to the people of the left who have always seen Itamar Ben Gabir as a non-normative and inappropriate personality, a convicted terrorist, lacking skills, a racist who misses the image of Baruch Goldstein. They are in love with stigma, and the prospect of undermining their belief in it is similar to the prospect of convincing a sports fan to abandon his childhood team and root for his arch-rival.
But I have a claim to the exception of the center-left people who have crossed the Rubicon of consciousness and are well aware of the gap between Itamar Ben Gabir the boy, who grew up in the lap of a youth movement that was perceived as extremist, whose leader Meir Kahana was disqualified from serving in the Knesset, and the successful lawyer who was again confirmed as a legitimate candidate for the Knesset by the House The trial and which led to the establishment of a political movement that was portrayed as extremist and questionably legitimate. They know very well that the members of the justice system, judges and attorneys who came into professional contact with him, were amazed by his quick perception, his business, his fairness, his emotional intelligence – and above all by the gap between all of these and the monstrous demon figure he had in their eyes before they got to know him closely.
Unfortunately for Ben Gabir, he entered the national consciousness as a boy waving the symbol he removed from Yitzhak Rabin’s car, in the heat of a tumultuous demonstration against the Oslo Accords, saying: “Just as we reached the symbol, we can reach the man.” A statement that, following the murder, which no one raised seriously even in their dreams of expression, was repeated and broadcast countless times (although after the murder it took on a completely different meaning than it had at the time it was said). And so the mere repetition of this statement on the air, without drawing attention to the fact that when it was said it did not have the monstrous meaning that future events will give it, is no less than a knowingly wasteful act.
It is important to clarify this point with another example that is also based on the principle of the information gap between the present and the future: at the end of 1938, David Ben-Gurion referred to the evacuation of over ten thousand Jewish children from Germany to England after Kristallnacht – the “Kinder Transport”. Ben-Gurion said that if he had been given the choice between evacuating all of them to England or evacuating half of them to Israel and leaving the rest in Germany, he would have preferred the second option. Citing this statement today without emphasizing the fact that the words came out of Ben-Gurion’s mouth in 1938 is an act of scoundrel.
In 1938, this was a harsh statement, but admirable from a leader of a difficult national struggle, who knew how to be cruel in order to sharpen the order of national priorities. But it is clear that he uttered it under the assumption that it meant that the 5,000 children, who according to this theoretical alternative would remain in Germany, would have to live in misery under the discriminatory regime of the Nuremberg Laws in Germany. If he had known that it meant that these children would be sent to gas chambers, he would not have uttered this statement. But this is exactly the monstrous impression that may be created by those who read the words today, if the matter of the information gap between the contemporary reader and the one who said them in real time is not emphasized.
The same is true of Ben Gabir’s statement. When it was said, it was the inflammatory statement of a protester who got carried away in the heat of her attention and won the gimmick, something like a normal person swearing in street language at the referee in a football game. Only the events of the future known to the viewer in the video, but not known to be said in real time, made this statement so difficult in retrospect. But the truth is that this is exactly what those who came back and broadcast the segment want to establish in their minds, with a vile insinuation, regarding Ben Gabir, in order to use him as easy prey on the way to overthrowing the Netanyahu government.
Basketball coaches direct their players to attack the weak link in the opponent’s defense, to get easy baskets, or conversely, the strong link, to exhaust it with defensive effort so that it has no energy left to attack. Ben Gabir, in some ways, fulfills both functions. On the one hand, he is the most vulnerable link on which it is easiest to manipulate any plot and stick any blasphemy to him with the aim of undermining the coalition. On the other hand, in other ways, in the long term, he can actually be the strongest link. The steel skeleton of the government.
During the coalition negotiations, Ben Gabir behaved with fairness and modesty. Despite his excellent bargaining position, in the absence of an alternative to Netanyahu, with the exception of sixth elections, which at that stage did not really scare Ben Gabir, who was in the midst of a dizzying political momentum. While others demanded senior files, Ben Gabir focused on the file Problematic that there were no jumpers on it.
Ben Gvir believed that success in this impossible case would also prove his abilities to his critics – and he would succeed in shattering the stigma attached to him, as he was able to do with those who came into contact with him in his legal work. He did not understand that there is a huge gap between a left-wing judge or lawyer who marvels at the gap between the extreme demon assigned because of disgust that she expected to meet, and the charming professional and between the interest that popped up in front of her to her surprise – and the snakes infesting the political swamp who use his stigmatized image as a shovel to dig for political capital.
When Ben Gavir took upon himself with a certain degree of naivety a task which is on the verge of the impossible, he believed that he would be rewarded with a spirit of encouragement due to the importance of the task he undertook. It did not happen. On the contrary, he found himself swimming against a stream of ridicule and slander. The motto was: put a criminal in charge of the police. What they don’t bother to point out is that these are criminal convictions over 20 years ago, all of which are the result of banners and signs that were carried or distributed at demonstrations – and not even one of them is related to violence of any kind. According to the Ami Ashad index, much more serious offenses involving a demonstration do not even lead to an invitation to an investigation.
Ben Gabir’s conviction, which entitles him to the title of “convicted terrorist”, is for distributing leaflets praising Rabbi Kahana and a sign he carried at a demonstration on which it is written to expel the Arab enemy, and that “the Arab MKs are a fifth brother-in-law”. Formally, he was convicted of the crime of supporting a terrorist organization. In practice, those who define him as a convicted terrorist are distorting reality.
After all, according to the same formal justification, it is possible to define anyone convicted of crossing a road other than at a crosswalk – a criminal offender. I have no hard claim against those who repeat the definition in the media without checking what is behind it. I have a very difficult argument against those who are aware of the gap between Ben Gabir’s actions and the impression created by defining him as convicted of a terrorist offense – and yet repeats it. By the way, according to the laws of Aharon Barak regarding freedom of expression, Laban Gabir had 0 criminal convictions.
Finally, it is important to clarify. Ben Gvir is really not without mistakes. He has not yet realized that with his entry into the government and the cabinet, he no longer needs to reinvent himself every day to generate crumbs of attention that the media was forced to give him reluctantly. He has three and a half years to recalculate a course as he has done in the past with great success. Then it will be a real pleasure to see his critics stammer explanations, while eating the hat.
The writer is the president of the Likud court