I’m surprised it hasn’t been said sooner and has not been further exploited and disseminated in Israeli media: Daphni Leef – the woman who pitched the first tent that sparked the J14 tent protest movement and whose face is most identified with it – did not serve in the army (gasp!)
I first learned of this on Sunday, when Daphni Leef was interviewed on TV (Hebrew) following the low turnout for the social protests Saturday night. (Although I’m sure anyone interested could have found this out earlier by digging around, looking at comments on Facebook about her or even by reading an article that appeared a few weeks ago in Ynetnews that reported Wikipedia contributors and editors wanted to delete the page created about her on claims she is not worthy of it for a variety of reasons.)
It was clear watching the interview that the interviewer was on a mission to confront her about the army and generally challenge her character. He asked her highly personal questions and essentially disputed her legitimacy to be a leader of this movement on the basis of her personal background.
He highlighted her socioeconomic status, claiming that because “she earned a degree easily” in terms of finances, she was not cut out to lead the protests. He also claimed she and other leaders have not been seen around the tent camps lately, and asked her if she had actually been sleeping in the Rothschild tent camp. Leef responded that she had not slept there in the last week, adding that where she sleeps the night is not important. (I heard rumors after the first week of the protest that the leaders no longer could sleep there due to hostility from other tent protesters)
Finally, he brought up the fact that she did not serve in the army. How, he claimed, could she possibly lead a public movement in Israel about social justice and civil rights when she had not even fulfill her basic civic duty to serve in the army? I wish she had declined to answer any of these personal questions, as they are inappropriate and she is not under any obligation to justify them with a response.
But she did respond calmly and poignantly to all of them. On the issue of her not having performed military service, Daphni became defensive. She said that she suffers from epilepsy, which is why she did not serve, and that although she did not do national service, she has volunteered in several institutions throughout her life. She then went on to say that she doesn’t think her personal character should matter, as she is only a very minor part of this massive public movement, and before the interviewer could get another word in, she said she had to go and abruptly left the studio.
The interview was nasty and this segment had little journalistic value. But I must say, I am surprised the Israeli media has not come down on Leef harder and emphasized much more the fact that she did not serve, as this country is so military-centric and there is no such thing as privacy when it comes to your military service (or lack thereof).