The Israeli poet Yehonatan Geffen caused great outrage in Israel when he posted a poem (on his Instagram) comparing Ahed Tamimi to iconic Jewish heroes during the Holocaust– Hanna Szenes and Anne Frank, alongside Joan of Arc–causing Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman to call for banning him completely from army radio, as well as all other media.
Now Geffen has recanted, saying he was “effectively under house arrest” since the poem was published. He had become so controversial that he feared to show his head: “I was under siege for a week, didn’t open the door, didn’t eat for a week”.
Geffen spoke at a cultural event in Petah Tikva Saturday night, on Holocaust Memorial day, per the Jerusalem Post:
“[I]t was really a mistake, and I apologize for it, in particular to all those who were personally offended.”
The Defense Minister showed his immediate compassion, with Jewish religious overtones:
“He who confesses and renounces [sins] finds mercy”, he said, quoting from Proverbs 28.
The Moldavian night-club-bouncer-cum-Defense Minister, and illegal settler, is apparently vying for other ministerial posts – Ministry of Religious Affairs, perhaps? It was Lieberman who was the main inciter against Geffen, even renouncing outright the state attorney opinion that as a Minister he should not interfere in army radio program decisions. True, Lieberman did not call for the decapitation of Geffen with an axe, or for his drowning in the Dead Sea, as he has suggested be done to Palestinians, but he “effectively” put Geffen under “house arrest”.
Geffen’s “house arrest” is nothing compared to the continued occupation of Ahed Tamimi’s Nabi Saleh, or compared to her continued incarceration – six weeks awaiting trial and counting – a girl of 16 in an Israeli prison, kept there until end of procedures because “she might slap again”.
Nor is Geffen’s “house arrest” anything near that of Dareen Tatour, the Palestinian-Israeli poet who wrote, “Resist them”. Tatour has been under arrest since October 2015. She is currently under house arrest, awaiting her next hearing, set for February 15th.
But Yehonatan Geffen is now a free man. After a few moments of actual solidarity with the oppressed, he tasted the wrath of Israeli society. He recanted, came back into the fold, and has now received the merciful benedictions of ‘rabbi Lieberman’.
But wait – Geffen does not give up so easily. He had to make another tongue-in-cheek crack about his error, to show he’s not totally lost his spirit, and that he has not completely capitulated to Israeli fascism. So what does he say?
“I could have, in that same line, compared her to Wonder Woman and Gal Gadot.”
Oh boy. That’s maybe provocative for Israelis in the sense that they don’t want their heroes compared to Ahed Tamimi at all, but that is provocative in a whole other, cynical sense: in which an oppressed individual is equated with her oppressor. Gal Gadot is not just an actor, and she’s not really a Wonder Woman. As Susan Abulhawa wrote in her piece “The wonder of imperial feminism” in Al Jazeera,
[Gadot] “is an avowed Zionist and cheerleader of war crimes. Gal Gadot, the actor in the lead role [of Wonder Woman], was an active soldier in the military when Israel invaded and carpet-bombed Southern Lebanon in 2006. In 2014, Gadot sent a message of support for Israeli soldiers as they were slaughtering more than 2,100 human beings imprisoned in a seaside enclave with no place to hide or escape. They bombed whole neighbourhoods, burying families in the rubble of their demolished homes. For 52 days, they rained death from sky, land, and sea on to defenseless civilians in the most densely populated place on earth.”
“What if Hollywood made this film in the 1980s and cast a militant apartheid supporter for the role of Wonder Woman? Would the US media focus on her acting talent and beauty instead of the fact that she openly and proudly asserts her right, as a white woman, to subjugate the natives of her country? What is even more bewildering is that Gadot is being touted as a feminist (per her own claim) and, remarkably, as a woman of colour. Queen Latifah fits that bill and would have made an excellent Wonder Woman, but I digress.”
Is that the character Geffen jokes that he could have compared Ahed to, seriously? Why? Because it would seem provocative for Israelis but still not be as egregious as comparing Ahed to Holocaust heroes? Is Geffen even aware of how cynical it would be to equate an oppressed with an oppressor? Probably not; these thoughts would probably hardly occur to any Israeli. The comparison to Gadot and Wonder Woman will be dismissed as silly, but not as criminal as the comparison to Szenes and Frank. Gadot’s many Zionist fans will no doubt be a bit offended, because how dare Geffen even suggest Ahed is a hero, because of course Gadot is a hero.
Yehonatan Geffen is now back to his normal ‘leftist’ life: the privileged Jewish-Israeli that he is, having succumbed to the fascist pressure to renounce his sinful comparisons. And the girl whom he once supported, has now been sacrificed on the altar of Jewish heroism and martyrdom, something which apparently cannot be compared to anything else, anywhere and eternally so.
Move on folks. Just another ripple in the chronicles of the ‘only democracy’.