Photo Credit: Miriam Alster/Flash90
Orna Barbivai with a friend, June 21, 2023.

Over the past few months, Israeli right-wing politicians who live in Tel Aviv have been stopped quite aggressively by protesters who told them they did not belong in the liberal and inclusive city of Tel Aviv. But until Tuesday morning, those oxymoronic statements belonged exclusively to individual morons who did not understand the meaning of the term “liberalism.”

The popular meaning of liberalism is the acceptance of a wide variety of individual views and defending the right of individuals to hold those views against government or social repression. One simply does not qualify as a liberal if one tries to prevent an individual from voicing views with which one disagree.


On Tuesday morning, a senior Israeli politician, Yesh Atid MK Orna Barbivai who is running for Mayor of Tel Aviv in late October, said the following on Army Radio: “We must ask every Tel Avivian how it happened that in the bastion of liberalism many gar’inim (group of religious Zionist individuals and families who settle in communities with low religious population to strengthen the community’s connection to religious Judaism, promote integration and bring about social change) that have taken root and come from the outside with agendas that determine who is Jewish. Anyone who does not meet the standards that I will set in a liberal city will not stay here.”

The ease with which Barbivai, a former IDF Major General and Minister of the Economy introduces both the antisemitic trope about Jewish “outsiders” and the bizarre notion that only a select group qualifies as “liberalism,” is disturbing, and more than one Twitter user has asked the candidate if she planned to use trains to remove those religious Jews from her liberal city.

On September 16, after Ben Gurion’s sculpture on the Tel Aviv beach was set on fire, Barbivai hastened to pin the arson on the right, stating: “They burned the statue, but they will not be able to destroy our democratic spirit and values.”

She did not delete the tweet even after the police announced the sculpture had been set on fire by a crazed homeless man. Yesh Atid MK Orna Barbivai is not easily confused by facts.


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