OPINION: The only abomination is Smotrich’s words and agenda

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OPINION: The only abomination is Smotrich’s words and agenda

Calling out Israeli far-right politician Bezalel Smotrich upon his visit to the UK is not 'cancel culture'. It's accountability for anti-LGBT, anti-progressive, anti-Palestinian views, writes Hen Mazzig

Hen Mazzig

Hen Mazzig is a former lieutenant in the Coordination of Government Activities in the Terrorities. He shares his story with campuses and Jewish communities around the world.

Bezalel Smotrich (Wikipedia/איתן פולד)
Bezalel Smotrich (Wikipedia/איתן פולד)

I moved to London just over a year ago from Israel to live with my partner. He is British and we plan to stay in the UK for a few years and then move back to Israel to start a family someday. We are both strong Zionists and I love my country and my people with all my heart. I served for 5 years in the Israel Defence Forces as a commander and still serve as Captain in reserves.

Yet, the Israeli leader of the far-right wing Religious Zionism party, MK Bezalel Smotrich has compared my partner and I to animals, blamed us for the outbreak of COVID19 and stated that us raising children is unnatural.

This is why when Smotrich arrived in the UK this week (during UK’s LGBT History Month) I was appalled.

Not only does he hold repugnant views of the LGBTQ+ community, he has made some abhorrent statements about Arabs and Palestinians.

Hen Mazzig

This hate mongering demagogue is responsible for some of the worst rhetoric that was ever expressed in Israeli politics. Just a few years ago, he claimed that his wife had outright refused to give birth alongside an Arab mother due to the “mental gap” between Arabs and Jews.

To say that he is not welcome as an official Israeli representative in the UK is an enormous understatement.

In fact, he is not even a part of the government as he sits on the opposition, so why arrive on an official visit at all?

I was so happy to see so many British Jewish voices coming out against him and his visit. I was especially happy to see the Board of Deputies of British Jews, saying that this far-right wing MK is not even welcome in the country whatsoever.

“We reject the abominable views and the hate-provoking ideology of Bezalel Smotrich,” the organisation tweeted yesterday, “and we call on all members of the British Jewish community to show him the door… Get back on the plane, Bezalel, and be remembered as a disgrace forever.”

In other words, the reason that this visit is so contentious is that Smotrich has spewed hatred against communities and peoples who still live in fear because of his statements. I know many young LGBTQ+ Jews who already experience bigoted hatred and seeing a politician like him arriving to meet with Jewish leaders in their community will cause nothing but further distress to them. Furthermore, his diabolical ideas about Arabs create more division and could insite more hatred against Jews in this country and everywhere else.

The criticism voiced by many British Jews is applaudable because it reminds LGBTQ+ Jews that they are not alone and that hatred against any of us will not be tolerated by our leaders. It also sends a clear message that we will not accept any form of racism or bigotry, even if the propagator is an Israeli politician. As an Israeli Jew, living in the UK, this outcry made me feel a lot safer and I am certain that many others would agree.

Jews are people, we are not a monolith. That has been the fundamental statement of my work over the last decade. We are a beautiful community, a diverse one and an embracing one.

But like any other people and communities, we too have members who go far beyond any acceptable norms of criticism and speech.

This is not “cancel culture”, it is accountability. We don’t roll out a red carpet for bigots who have never shown even a modicum of remorse, let alone think twice about making the lives of millions much harder and much more frightening. This is why I am so proud of our people today and you should be too.

  • Hen Mazzig is a writer, speaker and a Senior Fellow at the Tel Aviv Institute (TLVi.org). Follow him: @henmazzig

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