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‘I am against a state of all its citizens’ — Netanyahu’s ‘liberal’ challenger declares

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The Israeli Blue-White opposition co-chair Yair Lapid ventured into dangerous territory on Twitter last week, where he argued for “equality” and a “state of all its citizens”. This brought backlash not least from the Foreign Minister for being “anti-Semitic” and for using the “slogan of the enemy.” And Lapid quickly retracted. 

Let’s start with the series of tweets that came from Lapid on June 21. At 11:05, the avowedly secular former finance minister took on a religious rightwing rival over army service: 

Bezalel [Smotrich], for heaven’s sake, at least check the facts. The growth in the rate of (ultra-orthodox) drafting was because I had passed the draft law. What you people refuse to understand is that our kids are not any less important or of lesser value, they are just not willing to be suckers anymore.

At the same minute, he added:

If a secular youth has to enlist in the army, then also an ultra-orthodox one has to. One can make adjustments, but the principle that all have to serve the country and that all are equal before the law is sacred.

Then the bombshell:

And another thing, Smotrich. Israel has to be a state of all its citizens.

This last tweet was before 11:24, and Lapid has removed it since – apparently since t he didn’t want a bombshell on his record for eternity.

Lapid was responding to an interview with Smotrich, the new Transportation Minister, in the Sheldon Adelson-funded daily tabloid Israel Hayom. In that interview, the far-right cabinet minister, who elsewhere said that he “works for God”, spoke about the insistence of people such as Avigdor Lieberman to get the ultra-orthodox drafted, an insistence that was the reason for Netanyahu’s failure to compose a government following the April elections, resulting in new elections set for September.

Smotrich advocated for a softer approach and criticized the hard line taken by Lieberman and Lapid about this issue. Smotrich also chided Lapid for “populism”:

A combination of the populism of Lapid with the stupidity of the Supreme Court and the irresponsibility of Lieberman have only set the situation further back. They do not bring us further ahead.  

To say a “state of all its citizens” in a normal liberal democracy is obvious. But in Israel, which is not a normal democracy and arguably not a democracy at all, when you say a “state of all its citizens”, all hell breaks loose.

And so at 11:24, Smotrich linked to Lapid’s tweet, with the comment:

A state of all its citizens?! What happened to a Jewish and democratic state?! Yair my friend, you have lost your way.  

At 11:41 Smotrich continued to squeeze the lemon:

Yair Lapid, candidate of Blue White for Prime Minister: “Israel needs to be a state of all its citizens”. Thank you Yair, that this finally came out of you. Any additional word is superfluous.

This was a major debacle for Lapid. He had to do major damage control. At 11:59 he tweeted:

Someone really, but really, didn’t understand what he’s reading. I am against a state of all its citizens, completely and throughout my whole life. Israel is a Jewish and democratic state and will remain such. What I wrote regarded the rights of the LGBT.

Lapid was thus claiming to be rebuffing Smotrich’s homophobia – Smotrich had also talked in his interview about the “perverse flags” of the LGBT and their “degenerate values”.

Lapid was apparently not satisfied with his unequivocal rejection of the “state of all its citizens”, so at 4:23 PM, he added another tweet to the series. It was supposed to make it better, but it only made it worse:

Here are two notions concerning the “state of all its citizens”:

1)     I’m against.

2)     Not tweeting from the shower ever again before drying myself off with a towel

Foreign Minister Israel Katz chimed in, calling Lapid’s “state of all its citizens” remark a “seriously outrageous anti-Semitic remark … the slogan of the enemy”.

This is all partially hilarious, but it’s also very serious. Since Lapid was pressed, we have his unequivocal position concerning a “state of all its citizens” – he is against it. And this is the supposedly liberal alternative to Netanyahu. The discussion about whether Israel is, or can be, a state of all its citizens, has been a central one.

A few months ago, Israeli TV presenter Rotem Sela challenged Netanayhu and asked:

When will anyone in this government tell the public that this is a state of all its citizens, and all people are born equal. The Arabs are also human beings. And also the Druze, and the gays, and the lesbians and… gasp… leftists.

That was wishful thinking, where reality is quite different, and Netanyahu responded to Sela’s claim in no uncertain terms:

Dear Rotem, an important correction: Israel is not a state of all its citizens. According to the Nation-State Law that we passed, Israel is the nation-state of the Jewish people – and its alone. As you wrote, there is no problem with the Arab Israeli citizens – they have equal rights like everybody and the Likud government has invested in the Arab sector more than any other government.

Netanayhu was right in the first part. The Nation State law codifies the discrimination that has always been inherent in Israel, regarding its citizens (not to mention its occupied subjects and the Palestinians it has expelled). Non-Jewish people, mostly Palestinians, are simply not afforded the same rights as Jews – they are second-class citizens. Israel likes to boast of them as “equal”, but they are not.

Those who truly call for a state of all its citizens are considered beyond the political pale, because they seek to equate the rights of Palestinians, which would mean relinquishing Jewish ‘national’ superiority, and thus open the door to a dismantling of the “Jewish state”, which is built upon this discrimination. This is why Smotrich insists upon “Jewish and democratic”. It’s not the “democratic” that is of interest for him, that’s just a whitewash term to get by (he has recently advocated for a state based upon Jewish biblical law). It is the “Jewish” that interests him. That “Jewish” is in the racial sense, and that’s what keeps the Zionist Jewish State going – not the democracy, but the Jewish superiority. The “democracy” is a convenient veil to prevent Israel from becoming a pariah amongst Western liberal democracies.  

Israel Katz’s remarks about the notion of “state of all its citizens” being “anti-Semitic”, shows that Israel basically cannot see any other way to maintain itself but through Apartheid, and any suggestion of weakening it in any way is tantamount to “anti-Semitism”. If you even suggest equality, you are using “a slogan of the enemy”.

And Lapid, the liberal whose “principle” is “maximum Jews on maximum land with maximum security and with minimum Palestinians”, he cannot fight it. Oh, sure, he can fight against the homophobic Smotrich, for the rights of LGBT (providing they are Jewish of course). He can fight for drafting ultra-orthodox Jews to the army. But he can’t oppose Israeli Apartheid. No Zionist leader can actually do that, because Zionism is Apartheid, and worse

And that’s why, in the long run, it is the Smotriches who win these spats with the liberal hypocrites like Lapid. They can simply say it like it is, while the Lapids run to damage control their liberal shower-tweets which went over the Zionist edge.

Jonathan Ofir

Israeli musician, conductor and blogger / writer based in Denmark.

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14 Responses

  1. JLewisDickerson on July 1, 2019, 2:26 pm

    RE: This is why Smotrich insists upon “Jewish and democratic”. It’s not the “democratic” that is of interest for him, that’s just a whitewash term to get by (he has recently advocated for a state based upon Jewish biblical law). ~ Ofir

    SEE: “Smotrich says he wants to be justice minister so Israel can follow Torah law” | | June 3, 2019
    • Country should go back to ‘days of King David,’ because religious law is ‘far superior’ to the current legal system, URWP co-leader claims
    LINK –

  2. eljay on July 1, 2019, 3:27 pm

    Lapid must be very thankful that a “strong fighting Jew” like Smotrich was willing and able to taunt him back to the dark side.

    || … Foreign Minister Israel Katz chimed in, calling Lapid’s “state of all its citizens” remark a “seriously outrageous anti-Semitic remark … ” ||

    Equality is anti-Semitic. Huh. With “friends” like Zionists, Jews don’t need enemies.

    • LiberatePalestine on July 1, 2019, 7:29 pm

      The parallels with the settler-colonial régime that maintained apartheid in Azania grow stronger every day. It’s no accident that the Zionist entity was a close ally of the white-supremacist régime occupying Azania when most other states in the world kept their distance.

      Jews in particular should be appalled that mainstream opinion within the settler-colonial population occupying Palestine extols supremacism as «Jewish» and condemns equality as «anti-Semitic».

  3. annie on July 1, 2019, 4:07 pm

    Lapid tweeting wet and naked in the shower?

    • Jonathan Ofir on July 1, 2019, 4:17 pm

      Yep Annie, we have Lapid’s word for it. He was in the shower and tweeting. But he said he would never do it again. I think he will also never say “state of all its citizens” again. It’s one thing ruining your phone with water and steam – it’s another thing to ruin your credibility as a Zionist.

      • annie on July 1, 2019, 4:19 pm

        hysterical excuse!

      • LiberatePalestine on July 1, 2019, 7:47 pm

        In all of the times when I have taken a shower, I have never once felt the urge to reach for a telephone or a computer with my shampoo-covered hands.

        Lapid had to come up with some such excuse for the monstrous crime of suggesting that a state treat its citizens equally. His ineptness underscores the mainstream settler-colonial dedication to inequality.

        No doubt his defence of queer people also applies only to Jewish ones.

      • RoHa on July 1, 2019, 10:33 pm

        What kind of shower gel is he using?

      • LiberatePalestine on July 2, 2019, 12:40 am

        Warning: The surgeon general has determined that bathing may be hazardous to your hasbara.

  4. JWalters on July 1, 2019, 6:47 pm

    “This is all partially hilarious, but it’s also very serious.”

    What a Mel Brooks could do with this! I can see a Zero Mostel in there somewhere. It could be a historical comedy, looking back, from sometime after Palestine has become a democratic nation of all its citizens, after Zionism has joined Naziism in the dustbin of history.

  5. RoHa on July 1, 2019, 10:31 pm

    “When will anyone in this government tell the public that this is a state of all its citizens, and all people are born equal. The Arabs are also human beings. And also the Druze, and the gays, and the lesbians and… gasp… leftists.”

    Oh, c’mon! Leftists? That’s taking it too far.

  6. brent on July 2, 2019, 2:05 am

    Could it be more obvious Israel’s Palestinian citizens should get serious asap with a campaign for civil rights? Equality or independence!

    • Mooser on July 3, 2019, 7:16 pm

      ” Israel’s Palestinian citizens should get serious asap with a campaign for civil rights?”

      You figure Israel was just fooling around when they passed the “Jewish Nation-State Law”?

  7. Misterioso on July 2, 2019, 10:58 am

    How much longer are Jews going to allow these Zionist creeps to drag their religion through the mud? Thankfully, however, more and more Jews everywhere, especially youth, are waking up:

    “Progressive Jewish Group Demands End to Israel’s Brutal Occupation” by Jake Johnson, July 1/19, Truthout.

    “In an effort to pressure Democratic presidential candidates to take a stand against Israel’s treatment of Palestinians, the youth-led progressive Jewish advocacy group IfNotNow has launched a new campaign arm with the goal of bringing Israel’s brutal occupation ‘to the forefront of the 2020 elections.’

    “As Politico reported on Saturday, IfNotNow is ‘training organizers in the early primary state of New Hampshire’ and ‘plans to ‘bird-dog’ presidential candidates at public events to create viral moments and prod the Democratic Party leftward on the issue of Israel.’

    “’In addition to pushing the candidates to adopt more progressive positions on Israel,’ according to Politico, ‘the group said it is hoping to draw public attention to the Democratic Party’s changing attitudes on the topic and clarify candidates’ stances on particular issues.’

    “Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) appears to have been the first 2020 presidential candidate confronted by IfNotNow members in New Hampshire. The group said the senator expressed support for their campaign.

    “IfNotNow believes that the time is ripe to put Israel at the center of the primary debate,’ Politico reported. ‘Only 26 percent of Democrats view the government of Israel favorably, according to a 2019 survey by the Pew Research Center.’

    “In a series of tweets explaining the motivation behind the new campaign, IfNotNow organizer Emily Mayer said the group, ‘a generation of young Jews are horrified watching what is being done in our name. The movement is there. It just needs to be activated. So let’s go.’

    “Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.), the first Palestinian-American ever elected to Congress, celebrated IfNotNow’s new pressure campaign in a statement to Politico.

    “’It is about time we realize the status quo is not working to bring peace to the region,’ said Tlaib, who is planning to lead a congressional delegation to the occupied West Bank in August. ‘IfNotNow is one of the organizations that gives me hope that we are making progress towards a just and lasting peace.'”


    “IfNotNow Officially Pushing 2020 Democrats to Speak Out Against Israeli Occupation
    By Allison Kaplan Sommer, June 30/19, Haaretz.

    “The group, now tax-exempt and permitted to engage in political activities, plans to ‘prod the Democratic Party leftward on the issue of Israel,’ report says.

    “The progressive group IfNotNow has announced that it is expanding its mission beyond the Jewish community and will now officially lobby political leaders to speak out against the occupation and the policies of Israel…”

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