Sunday, November 25, 2007

Theater of the absurd

Only it's real.

SOS Israel's plan to post signs reading "Olmert is running from the police to Annapolis" on buses was shelved by Egged at the last minute, Ynet reported on Sunday.

A member of the right-wing organization said the campaign was meant to "emphasize the absurd situation whereby prime ministers who are under investigation try to escape their predicament by embarking on diplomatic adventures".

A previous example of this, according to the right-wing activist, was seen during former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's disengagement from Gaza and parts of the West Bank in the summer of 2005.

SOS Israel told Ynet that the signs were to be posted on some 1,000 buses, first in Jerusalem and then throughout the entire country.

The organization said that on Thursday night it was informed that Egged had refused to post the ads on its buses, adding that the cancellation cost the group tens of thousands of shekels. SOS Israel has threatened to sue the bus company.

Egged spokesman Ron Ratner told Ynet that the campaign was canceled on the grounds that it would "divide the nation".

So much for Egged's contribution to the mix. But who, exactly, is SOS Israel? Their website isn't very informative, but here's the English version. Ah! Here we go.

Rabbi Shalom Dov Wolpo, also Sholom Ber Wolpe[1], (born 1948) is a messianic Chabad-Lubavitch rabbi, religious author and political activist in Israel. He has written more than forty books in Hebrew, some of which deal with the position of Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, Lubavitcher Rebbe, as the Jewish messiah. He help set up the Chabad Yeshiva in Kiryat Gat. He has become associated in recent years with right-wing political causes, and has set up a campaign group - SOS Israel - an organisation that runs press and postering campaigns for shleimus ha'aretz.

Previous campaigns orchestrated by Rabbi Wolpo have included this one, in which he opined that Jews shouldn't celebrate Yom Atzma'ut and offered free copies of his book, "Between Light and Darkness", to anyone who would pledge to ignore the holiday. And this one, in which he and a few other rabbis invoked the wrath of God and Ariel Sharon's stroke in an attempt to dissuade PM Olmert from evicting Jews from Hebron two years ago. So, no, he's not one of those anti-Zionist rabbis, but he does sometimes seem to be playing one on TV. This is a dark and creepy side of the religious right-wing extremist movement in Israel that I admit I just don't get -- or want to.

So if I was an Egged spokesperson, I think I might have been able to come up with a better excuse than the posters would "divide the nation." Because, you know, it's not as if "the nation" could get much more divided than it already is. Plus, SOS Israel is no doubt correct that Olmert is hoping to drown his legal troubles in Annapolis hype.