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One of the great artifices of propaganda is to demonize one’s political, social and ideological opponents. It is a practice that is unfortunately universally practiced and often with very disastrous consequences to both the demonizers and the demonized.


Here in the Land of Israel, this tactic is used in wild abandon by all sections of the society to justify their positions and policies. There is a long history of this here. Anyone who remembers the Irgun – Hagana chapter in the 1930’s and 1940’s, the struggle between the Yishuv Hayashan and the secular labor pioneers of the 1920’s and later, the internal struggles within the religious community between the Mizrach, Agudat Yisrael, and those who opposed both movements equally and vociferously, and the fierce debates between the Left and the Right that so characterized Israeli politics since the beginning of the state, knows how the tactic of demonization works. One says outlandish untruths about one’s opponents and says them often and loud enough, and with the connivance or corruption of the media, in order to induce the general public to believe that the "other" is the greatest threat to the stability, integrity, prosperity and even existence of the state and its society.


This demonization was practiced by Ben Gurion against Begin, by Shinui against the Charedi community, by the extreme religious right against all non-observant Jews, by Rabin against those that opposed the Oslo Agreements and now it is apparently the official government policy against the "settlers."


The headlines last week shrieked: "Top Security Official States that the Settlers are the Greatest Threat to Israeli Security." Come on now! There must be a limit to hyperbole. The government throws people out of homes in places where it itself originally sent them to live, makes little or no proper provisions to allow these people to rebuild their lives and then when these unfortunates have the temerity to complain and protest they are immediately demonized. It is as though the society says: "If there only weren’t ‘settlers’ then all of our problems would somehow suddenly be capable of easy and instant solution." This is in essence what Shinui says about the Charedim. It is what the Communists said about the "reactionary" members of society. And it is what the Nazis said about Jews and what the current Moslem world, in the main, says about the State of Israel.


Demonization provides a quick and easy solution to complex problems. It spotlights the "fault" of the problem and prescribes the solution as being a simple one - the elimination of that "fault." Demonization is an insidious tactic that in the past has led to lethal and dreadful results. Responsible government, even in the times of political electioneering, should not encourage and propagate demonization of those who legitimately oppose its policies. To do so, is irresponsible in the extreme.


The language of the debates that go on in Israeli public life is pretty deplorable. Courtesies, niceties, restraint and subtlety are all entirely absent from the public arena of speech. The lack of a truly civilized manner of conducting public debate, abetted by a sensationalist tendency in the press to raise all issues to white heat, creates a climate that fosters and encourages demonization. The Torah emphasizes in all of its discussions and laws regarding speech, the necessity for restraint, courtesy, balanced judgment and great care.


The Torah does not allow for demonization of groups and sections of society. The tragic fact that many groups who claim to speak in the name of Torah values violate this principle in no way changes the true opinion of the Torah regarding such behavior and policy. The general society should demand greater probity from the media, the government and from all sections of the political spectrum. We should not allow ourselves to be dragged down into the pit of demonization of others. Making peace with demonization is to encourage its continuance as a norm in our political and social lives. A more civil discussion will do more to unite Israeli society, something which all of us living here in Israel undoubtedly should desire.


Berel Wein

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