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Time To Shut Up Print E-mail

By Sarah Honig
March 13, 2008

You can safely bet your bottom shekel that Binyamin ("Fuad") Ben-Eliezer's command of Yiddish is just about as extensive as his command of Latin. You can further take for granted the probability that he has no inkling about how "cogito ergo sum" originated, what "kibitz" means, how they are connected and why he himself is the link which annoyingly binds all the above together.

It's like this: back in the 17th century, French philosopher Rene Descartes wrote in Latin what is popularly translated as "I think, therefore I am." Two-and-a-half centuries later, the Yiddish verb kibitz entered the English lexicon and its current common dictionary definition is "to intrusively offer unwanted, meddlesome advice to others."

With kibitzers doubtless vastly outnumbering thinkers nowadays, many in the contemporary world of soundbites, catchphrases, buzzwords and 15-seconds-of-broadcast-fame believe they must constantly prattle to prove their existence. Had Descartes visited our 21st century, he'd probably amend his statement to "I kibitz, therefore I am." He'd certainly be tempted to do so, had he met Fuad.

In Israel's national infrastructure minister - as well as former Labor leader, defense minister and prime-ministerial wannabe - Descartes would have encountered the ultimate latter-day kibitzer. In Fuad Descartes would have spotted his own counterpart, every bit as obsessed as he once was with the need to convince himself of his own existence. For Descartes, cognitive intellectual processes provided the evidence. For Fuad it's the resonance of his voice on the airwaves. Intervals in which he isn't quoted breed insufferable angst. Fuad's dominant and recurrent preoccupation is to remind the country of his existence - something he frequently does by volunteering superfluous opinions.

He isn't the only one. Like fellow career-minded ex-generals, Fuad strikes the pose of a know-it-all macho-man. His swaggering claim to omniscience isn't just fuelled by personal ambition. It's invariably based on the facade of an altruistic mission to clue-in benighted masses to what's happening out there and - better yet - to what's going to happen. The underlying premise is that only by heeding the advice of big-headed ex-military clairvoyants (and inter alia paying homage to their vainglorious self-promotion) can we safeguard our future.

FUAD'S LATEST kibitzing includes the following pearls of wisdom: It's "important to negotiate with moderate Palestinians," hence he is ready to "talk about Jerusalem." Fuad "respects Abu-Mazen [PA President Mahmoud Abbas] and [PA Premier] Salaam Fayad" but regards them as "useless" interlocutors. "You can only close a deal with strong leaders." "The only strong leader," with whom Israel can close a deal, "now sits in an Israeli prison. He's Marwan Barghouti. It's imperative that we free him to have someone to talk to - the sooner the better."

Fuad is prepared to cede Judaism's bedrock and Israel's capital to moderates on condition they're also strongmen. Not only are these mutually exclusive prerequisites, but conferring the credentials of moderation on a convicted terrorist serving five life sentences for homicide evinces callous indifference to Barghouti's victims and gross contempt of Israel's courts.

It's a particularly bitter pill to swallow from a government minister, sworn to uphold the law. Yet Fuad agitates for the release of a killer put behind bars only after a prolonged public trial in which he was given every break and during which the international media avidly lapped up Barghouti's hijinks. Israel's scrupulous legal procedures don't prevent Fuad from condemning Barghouti's continued incarceration, boosting the murderer's morale and falsely characterizing him as a man of peace.

How facile - when lacking a peace partner, Fuad invents one. And, having sculpted his idol, he urges we worship it.

In effect, Fuad tells us that justice doesn't count - only pragmatism, as he interprets it. But can we rely on his perception? Fuad himself provided the answer on a previous irrepressible kibitzing spate in which he informed the populace that "Israel made a mistake when it implemented its unilateral disengagement and evacuated settlements."

Lest you forget, Fuad enthusiastically backed disengagement, and with arrogant braggadocio put down political opponents - who, amazingly, did manage to predict precisely what an unmitigated disaster disengagement would turn out to be.

In real time Fuad imperiously dismissed them all as pesky, no-account naysayers, a fact which doesn't now prevent him from tooting his own horn because he succeeded to "reach that conclusion" - about the folly of disengagement - "a few days after the settlements' removal and the IDF's withdrawal."  

WHAT BOTHERSOME right-wing nuisances figured out long before the dreadful deed that Fuad fully advocated, he was insightful enough to comprehend "already a few days after." Significantly our kibitzer doesn't blame himself for not protesting the looming catastrophe when his voice may have mattered. After all, he had no idea what he was talking about then, and he's no more trustworthy today. Having admitted that disengagement was a frightful flop, he now rushes to advance its sequel. The one difference is that it won't be unilateral. The surrendered terrain - directly atop Israel's jam-packed Coastal Plain - would be handed over to pacifist-terrorist Barghouti, as much a humanitarian as the yeshiva butcher.

Had Descartes been exposed to any Yiddish, he'd have realized that the inveterate kibitzer's most exasperating habit is throwing players off their game with his chatter precisely at the most crucial moment of greatest concentration. In the existential contest forced on Israel, the stakes are literally our lives. Compulsive kibitzers who insist on periodically impressing the imperiled citizenry with their peerless prescience are more than an infuriating distraction. Kibitzers aren't always comical, especially not in a danger-fraught fight for survival.

Fuad and fellow fixated kibitzers might from here on substantiate their existence by keeping quiet and perhaps trying out Descartes' philosophy of "I think, therefore I am." All that, of course, with the stipulation that they won't imperiously make the nation privy to the conclusions their thought processes yield.

Having already massively erred, the greatest favor unrepentant Fuad can bestow upon his country is to control his insatiable appetite for self-aggrandizement. Fuad's record indisputably confirms that his most generous patriotic contribution would be to deprive us of his unsolicited two cents' worth.

It's time to simply shut up.

 

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