Gideon Levy
Haaretz (Opinion)
June 13, 2012 - 11:00pm
http://www.haaretz.com/opinion/the-affable-face-of-evil.premium-1.436291


Israeli evil wears many faces these days. There are the rude, the crude and the thuggish, who still manage to generate some heat: When MK Miri Regev goes off on one of her jingoist, gutter-talk rampages - "the 'infiltrators' are a cancer" - some people are still shocked. The same goes for her partner in base incitement, MK Danny Danon, known for spouting his own swinish pearls of wisdom, or Interior Minister Eli Yishai, no piker when it comes to bandying about inflammatory language about crime or about spreading disease.

That is what benighted elected officials look like. That is how, as children, we imagined the bad people: with horns, coarse language and the face of a monster. But there are also the pleasant, polished, eloquent politicians. Wrapped in shiny cellophane, their evil is even more despicable and diabolical, and it barely registers a protest.

Take, for example, MK Ofir Akunis. He comes across well, with his soft voice and obvious attention to his clothes and hair. On a celebrity suck-up television program aired last weekend, he looked like the guy you'd choose as your next-door neighbor. A devoted father, who even enjoys doing music shows on the radio. But the programs he plays in the Knesset are monstrous. Last week, for example, the cabinet approved a bill he is sponsoring that would impose a five-year prison term and a half-million shekel fine on anyone who dares to assist, shelter or employ migrants without authorization.

Few legislative initiatives in Israel can match this one in vileness. Few countries would dare to pass it. You aided some poor migrant, put him up for a night, gave him a lift (! )? Go directly to jail. Regev's evil pales in comparison, Danon's wickedness and his ultra-nationalism shrivel up into nothing. And we won't say a word about the historical associations of such a law.

When Akunis was asked whether he knew what repatriated Eritreans could expect to find after returning to their country, he said he had no idea. Why should he care, after all? And why should those of his ilk, in other places and other times, care? Politicians who don't care what happens to people who are expelled from their homeland - we've been there before. For Akunis' information, on the other end of his proposal is death. Not for everyone, but perhaps for some.

And MK Aryeh Eldad, too. Educated, intelligent, affable, with a sense of humor. A physician with an international reputation as a burn specialist, he had an idea: Anyone who crosses the border into Israel illegally should be shot. There was even a bit of humor to his proposal: "a tourist from Sweden, a Sudanese from Eritrea, an Eritrean from Sudan, a Gazan from Sinai - anyone who approaches the border will be shot." Amused and amusing, that Eldad, the son of an ideologue [Israel Eldad], and when the world is so funny, you laugh.

Almost no one protested against these monstrous words, all of which were of course accompanied, like a lovely echo, by euphemism, as soft as Akunis' floppy bangs: "Ir Amim" (city of nations ), for example. Tens of thousands of migrants will be housed for years in roasting-hot retrofitted shipping containers in the Negev - the "city of nations." Thousands hide at home in terror - "Campaign Going Home." Hundreds are forced to leave - "voluntary repatriation." Even the members of the unit that hunts them down are not monsters: I rode along with them in Eilat for a week - Koby, Miki and their workmates are all great guys, the kind you can spend a pleasant summer evening with.

In the background, of course, is always the chorus of silence, perhaps the worst chorus of all, like a dull echo. A gang of politicians who see themselves as enlightened and who don't utter a word. Labor MK Shelly Yacimovich, who as a party leader now travels with a pack of bodyguards, could, for example, pay a solidarity visit to the headquarters of an immigrant aid organization. Even some of the social-protest leaders are silent in the face of what is being done in their own neighborhood. We won't even mention that great social protester MK Shaul Mofaz.

All is well in our tiny, pleasant land. Vans hunt down people according to the color of their skin, MKs are in competition to submit the most horrific bills, whose sole purpose is to placate the whipped-up, frightened masses, and on it goes. There is just one thought that should disturb this masked ball: What if we were in their place?




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