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Sunday, February 25, 2007
Gideon Levy column shows mireads significance of Peretz's binoculars incident

[Dr. Aaron Lerner - IMRA: The significance of the incident last week in
which DM Amir Peretz went through the motions of appearing to follow a
briefing of a large military exercise with field glasses - when he actually
could not see since there were caps on the binoculars, is that he apparently
lacked the self confidence to tell anyone that there was a problem.

If Peretz was too embarrassed to tell someone that the binoculars weren't
working what else has he been too embarrassed to say anything about? Does
this make him a DM who can be easily snowballed? How effective can a DM be
if he is too embarrassed to tell the people on his team when he can't see
what is going on?]


Peretz's binoculars
By Gideon Levy Haaretz 25 February 2007

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 binoculars.

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 from them.

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 labor leader.

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

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