Amir Peretz again was caught in
failure. Nimble media photographers managed to catch the
defense minister looking through binoculars whose cap
was still on. True, publishing the picture is a
legitimate journalistic act. But when the picture is
spread across the front page of the two most widely
circulated newspapers and is part of a long, systematic
campaign to portray him as ridiculous, one must ask:
Why? Does the defense minister deserve such heaps of
ridicule? Do we similarly disparage other leaders who
are no lesser failures - the prime minister, for
example? The main reason for the mockery - to be
distinguished from legitimate, deserved criticism - is
rooted in dark places: The problem is in our bigoted
Israeli Defense Minister Amir Peretz, right, gazes at a military
drill through binoculars, apparently
without realizing the lens caps were
left on. The army's chief of staff,
Lt. Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi is at left.
Peretz has failed as defense minister so far: He led the
Israel Defense Forces into the most unnecessary war in
Israel's history. He is not the only one to blame, and
certainly not the first. The prime minister and chief of
staff are more responsible, but no one ridicules them.
Peretz is also justifiably an object of unprecedented
disappointment for the left: Nothing remains of the
Peace Now man we knew. Since he was appointed, Peretz
has not done a thing to advance peace, uproot
settlements or even significantly ease the occupation.
But the left is not leading the mudslinging campaign
against him. Rather, it is coming from other circles -
his party, Kadima and the IDF. But they have nothing to
complain about. Unfortunately, Peretz is no different
Besides this futile war, it is hard to distinguish
errors Peretz has made, only a lack of bold decisions.
But, as noted, they are not attacking him for this. The
insecurity and inexperience that characterized him at
the beginning of his term are disappearing, and he
succeeded in appointing a chief of staff to his liking.
He is given no credit for being one of the only top
figures who is not under criminal investigation, or for
the fact that he lives in Sderot, far from the web of
capital and power. We still prefer the fluent macho with
the cigar, even if he is corrupt, to the inarticulate
The dirty campaign being waged against Peretz
originates from the prime minister's bureau, his party
colleagues and the IDF. At the end of the week, some in
the Labor Party were already warning that Peretz "is
stealing the party again." Stealing the party? In what
way did he sin? That he succeeded in signing up 25,000
members? Aren't these the rules of the game? But in
Peretz's case, it is permitted to call him a thief.
Would people be complaining like this about Ami Ayalon
or Ophir Pines-Paz if they had succeeded in recruiting a
similar number of people? The ridicule by the top IDF
brass is infuriating: Before slandering the defense
minister, the generals should first complete the reforms
needed in the IDF. He "does not understand security"?
And what about their ongoing failures? Peretz is
certainly not responsible for the army's situation,
which became apparent during the war and is evident
daily in the occupied territories.
Indeed, let's call a spade a spade: The mockery of
Peretz derives from racism. There is no other way to
explain the systematic ridicule of his character: his
English, his awkward pinning of ranks on the chief of
staff, and the covered binoculars. This could happen to
anyone, but we laugh at him. So let's remove the mask:
Unlike many Mizrahim, Peretz remains a Moroccan who did
not become Ashkenazi in his personality, mustache,
mannerisms, diction or place of residence.
Unfortunately, he discarded the mantle of the man of
peace from Sderot, but he never switched the mantle of
his ethnic origin. And he is paying for this now. The
problem does not lie in his binoculars, but rather in
our binoculars. The ethnic demon is still here, alive
and kicking, this time at Amir Peretz.