Tame the tongue

The Jerusalem Post - - FRONTLINES -

As Is­rael’s par­lia­ment, the Knes­set is sup­posed to be a model for how so­ci­ety is meant to con­duct it­self. It is sup­posed to at­tract the best-of-the-best, the most tal­ented, the bright­est, the most dili­gent. The peo­ple elected to sit in the Knes­set are en­trusted with the wel­fare of the state, fix­ing its prob­lems and leg­is­lat­ing laws that are sup­posed to en­sure it con­tin­ues to ad­vance de­spite Is­rael’s eco­nomic and se­cu­rity chal­lenges.

How is it then, that in 2018, a mem­ber of the Knes­set can stand up and de­ride an­other mem­ber of Knes­set who is of the op­po­site sex, and cast as­per­sions be­cause of her fem­i­nin­ity? How is it that an­other MK can call one of his dis­abled col­leagues “half a man”? What role mod­els can th­ese mem­bers of Knes­set serve our chil­dren, who should be look­ing up to the par­lia­ment as an in­sti­tu­tion of ex­cel­lence and suc­cess?

This week we wit­nessed two pub­lic dis­plays of un­ac­cept­able be­hav­ior. On Mon­day, Elazar Stern, No. 10 on the Yesh Atid list, called out Cul­ture Min­is­ter Miri Regev, No. 5 on the Likud list, claim­ing in the plenum that he “knows how she ad­vanced in the army” – in­ti­mat­ing clearly that Regev traded sex­ual fa­vors for ad­vance­ment in her mil­i­tary ca­reer. Stern de­nied that he was re­fer­ring to sex­ual fa­vors but rather to the way Regev cov­ered up the fail­ures of her bosses and said what­ever needed to be said as the IDF spokesper­son to ad­vance her per­sonal ca­reer.

Regev re­sponded to Stern’s re­marks, tweet­ing: “His words are con­temp­tu­ous and dis­gust­ing. He joined the men who slan­der women, strip and dis­par­age them.” She ended with a new hash­tag – #YouToo – for Stern hav­ing now “joined the ranks of men who slan­der women.” Regev also called on Yesh Atid head Yair Lapid to “sus­pend Stern im­me­di­ately,” say­ing “there is no room” for some­one who makes “sex­ist sug­ges­tions.”

Lapid – the self-styled Mr. Clean who touts the high num­ber of fe­male rep­re­sen­ta­tives on his party’s list – de­fended Stern, say­ing: “I be­lieve that any­one who at­trib­uted wrong in­ten­tions to a re­spected for­mer IDF ma­jor gen­eral who has pos­i­tively in­flu­enced gen­er­a­tions of fight­ers does not know Stern. I be­lieve Stern and his in­ten­tions. Those who at­tribute such in­ten­tions to a high-rank­ing cham­pion, the com­man­der of Ba­had 1 who raised gen­er­a­tions of fight­ers, sim­ply does not know Stern. The low dis­course that Miri Regev leads to is not at all on Stern’s scale of val­ues.”

On Wed­nes­day – a day af­ter hid­ing be­hind a state­ment say­ing he didn’t mean what peo­ple thought he meant – Stern is­sued an apol­ogy. Sort of. “I am aware of what goes on in so­cial net­works,” he said in a state­ment, “and there are women who have been hurt by what I said. I apol­o­gize to th­ese women, but Miri Regev is not one of them.”

Even if Stern did not mean what ev­ery­one thought he meant, he should have been more aware of what his re­marks would sound like. An all-in­clu­sive apol­ogy would have been bet­ter. And civil.

Then there is MK Oren Hazan, who has prac­ti­cally built an in­dus­try out of act­ing as a boor­ish, coarse, rude per­son.

To his long list of degra­da­tions, in­sults, and em­bar­rass­ments comes an in­ci­dent this week in which Hazan said to dis­abled MK Ilan Gilon: “You are half a man” – af­ter Gilon called Hazan “the Golem of Prague.”

Does it get more un­re­fined?

Credit to those many MKs from the Left and Right who con­demned Stern and Hazan’s state­ments this week, who stood up to this dis­course seek­ing to change it.

Prime Min­is­ter Ben­jamin Ne­tanyahu wrote on Twit­ter that “re­cent state­ments heard in the Knes­set are un­fit and have no place in Is­raeli dis­course. I am in fa­vor of ar­gu­ments and from time to time even com­ments that sting – as long as they are han­dled re­spect­fully and pro­fes­sion­ally and not per­son­ally,” he said. “I am against harm­ful and chau­vin­ist dis­course that does not bring re­spect to the Knes­set or to our pub­lic ser­vants.”

So are we all. As a democ­racy, Is­rael has no prob­lem em­brac­ing dis­agree­ments and de­bates as long as they re­main civil and fo­cused on the bet­ter­ment of so­ci­ety and the state.

What is hap­pen­ing in the Knes­set is an em­bar­rass­ment. Is­rael de­serves bet­ter.

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