B’Tselem and Arab rapper: No such thing as bad publicity
Op-ed: While criticism against B'Tselem head Elad is completely justified, by vowing to bar national service volunteers from B’Tselem, Netanyahu only helped the organization increase its donations. Meanwhile, his ministers turned an unimportant rapper into a culture hero.
There is a national conflict in Israel over the land and the stories growing on it. Each clod of earth you touch has a history as well as arguments. With this, one can understand the political occupation with the B’Tselem director and the rapper who I didn’t even know existed until last week.
I first ran into B’Tselem Executive Director Hagai El-Ad in Australia, without him running into me. I arrived for a series of lectures, and in every place I spoke about Israel they asked me about what he had said in interviews. It was after another operation in Gaza, and El-Ad spoke about the war from the Palestinian angle. Clear and simple. It’s our fault, there were Israeli war crimes and there is no cause and no outcome. El-Ad’s Israel is no longer democratic, it is not liberal enough, and it is not repenting sufficiently.
The criticism against him is completely justified. Not because of his claims against Israeli policy – that’s his full right, even abroad – but because he intentionally lies when he transforms Israel into a monotonous state. Black without white. His ability to speak freely and my ability to demand that B’Tselem won’t receive a single national service volunteer from the state is proof of a democratic discourse, but that’s where it ends.
There is something strange about the fact that a prime minister has to deal with a national service volunteer in B’Tselem. Moreover, there is something unregulated in the governmental occupation with a small organization, which reached its peak in the recent years with the government's counterreaction. There are enough people in Israel who are well aware of the interests and the foreign funding in the organization, from my colleague Ben-Dror Yemini through NGO Monitor all the way to myself. This is not a prime minister’s mission.
Laws on the subsidization of non-governmental organizations, transparency, a basic law defining Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people, defining our vision in Judea and Samaria (when US President Barack Obama and Education Minister Naftali Bennett are not blamed for the lack of an outpost legalization bill) – these are all national missions. B’Tselem isn’t, and it doesn’t matter how convenient the battle against the organization is.
They say there is no such thing as bad publicity. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu only helped B’Tselem. The Americans intervened as if they were saving democracy, and donations increased. Some people in Israel may have been impressed by the ministers’ determination in their statements to the media, but they will be soon forgotten. In the meantime, B’Tselem gained, and that’s a shame.
Rapper Tamer Nafar learned a similar lesson. God is my witness that until several weeks ago I did not even know he existed. In the national dispute, there are numerous voices in the Arab society that have to be fought, through governmental budgets as well. Those who call for integration should be encouraged, and those who encourage Arab nationalism – be it through marking the Nakba, be it through a Palestinian storytelling festival – should be deprived of subsidization. Those who want film, plays and events about horrible Israel should do it at their own expense. It’s a free country, but there is no free subsidization.
The problem is that there are no rules and laws. There is no one to enforce national service in the Arab society, encourage integration and create a broad Israeli youth movement as an alternative to the Islamic Movement. There is no encouragement for Arab mayors who seek to get involved in Israel as an alternative to the Joint Arab List. Not even a single word from the government ministers.
Instead, they turned an unimportant rapper into a terrorist and a national symbol. He is being fought as if he were a culture hero and is being turned into one. This is a cause of real foolishness which conceals the fear of dealing with the governability failure and Arab nationalism that really jeopardizes the ability of Jews and Arabs to live here.