Devoid of issues, elections devolve into clash of personalities

Instead of discussing increasing violence against civilians, border skirmishes and the assassination of an Iranian general, Israeli politicians are busy putting out tasteless and tactless campaign videos attacking each other with name-calling.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. (photo:
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. (photo:

It’s not just the occupation and Israel’s violation of basic rights that are missing from this election season, but any reference at all to the daily violence that has become such a routine feature in the country.

In the last 10 days alone, two Israeli citizens from the Bedouin city of Rahat were killed by police, 77 Palestinians from East Jerusalem and the West Bank – many of them children –  were made homeless due to Israeli home demolitions, a nine-year old Palestinian from East Jerusalem was arrested by undercover Israeli police, and 12 Israelis were stabbed on a public bus in central Tel Aviv.

And this doesn’t even include the latest news from Tuesday, when two rockets fired from Syria exploded in the Golan Heights, nine days after an Israeli helicopter strike on the Syrian city of Quneitra killed five, including a Hezbollah commander and an Iranian general.

That is a lot of violence, and these are just the more prominent incidents of recent days.

You wouldn’t know that any of this was happening by watching Israel’s election campaign, now in full swing. Most of the Jewish, Zionist parties vying for Knesset seats have not mentioned these incidents at all, and for those that have, it hasn’t become part of their campaign in any way. Sure, words like “security” and “strength” are thrown around, but they are entirely devoid of content. Everyone wants security; the question is how it can be achieved. The only mention of some of the recent violence came from Israeli Arab politicians, who said that the situation in Rahat was another determining factor in the push to create a joint list of Arab parties.

Instead of discussing the violence and offering concrete proposals for coping with it, Israeli politicians are busy putting out shoddy, tasteless and tactless campaign videos, like the one below released yesterday by the Labor party. The content of the video is based solely on the fact that Isaac Herzog’s nickname, “Buji,” sounds like the word boogie from the 1977 popular song, “Yes Sir, I Can Boogie.” That’s the only reason it was made. In the video, Herzog is called a “mega-nerd” devoid of “muscles,” but is also described as the right man at the right time who can stop this “madness.”

The incumbent Likud party is busy slandering the Labor-Livni slate as “left-wing” (a derogatory term in Israeli politics) in their campaign materials, and Netanyahu is busy scheduling talks outside of the country. The Likud has made its slogan “it’s us or them,” in response to the Zionist Camp’s “It’s us or him” slogan released several days ago.

The two highest polling parties (as well as others) are making this election a battle of personalities, rather than a battle over the issues. Maybe that’s because there isn’t much of a difference between them anyway. Likud and Labor/Livni are all claiming to be the “real Zionists,” which is just a euphemism for, as Mike Schaeffer Omer-Man poignantly put it, “blind patriotism, support for the right-wing politics that have perpetuated the occupation, and the supremacy of Jewish identity over a civic, more inclusive and egalitarian Israeli identity.”

Just barely six months ago, most of Israel was under daily threat by missiles. This fact is entirely absent from the current election cycle. So is, of course, the daily suffering of Palestinians in Gaza, the West Bank and East Jerusalem – but I’m leaving them out for now since they don’t have a say in elections at all.

Israeli children’s summer break was marred by rockets fired from the Gaza, and now their winter looks to be ruined by rockets fired from  Syria. (The Hermon ski slopes in the occupied Golan Heights were shut down today immediately following the rocket fire). No politician is directly addressing these matters. In such an atmosphere, I can only experience the election campaign as insulting, offensive and enraging.

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Special Coverage: 2015 Elections