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On Musmus, a Forgotten Pharaoh, and Political Violence

Love has its place, as does hate. Peace has its place, as does war. Mercy has its place, as do cruelty and revenge.—Rabbi Meir Kahane



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One week before the elections in Israel, the territory is covered with a dense fog. Polls cannot be trusted*; some report that the Left is improving; others, that the Right is invincible. Political violence rules. An unending string of studied provocations sets everything on political fire. Sabotage is a vital part of the Israeli feast of democracy; on January 15, Yedioth Aharonot reported that in Be'er Sheva, 200 Announcements to the Voter (an official letter specifying the address of the voting station) were found in a trash bin. Yet, from time to time, certain events manage to be obtrusive even in this violent reality, often disclosing the ignorance of their provokers. One such event took place on January 15, 2013, when two activists of "Power to Israel," Baruch Marzel and Itamar Ben Gvir, visited the Palestinian town of Musmus, unknowingly providing a powerful, but undesired, symbol to their own violence.

Baruch Marzel and Itamar Ben Gvir

Baruch Marzel (front) and Itamar Ben Gvir in Musmus
The Ideology of Kach

Musmus and Pharaoh Thutmose III

Highway 65

Highway 65 connects Hadera with Afula
Tales of the Wadi : Folktales from Wadi Ara.

Israel's Highway 65 is peculiar. It connects the Mediterranean coastal plains with the Jezreel Valley, bypassing Haifa. It achieves that by traveling along Wadi Ara ("wadi" is a narrow stream that remains dry except during the winter). Undecided in its politics, the road zigzags left and right among the low hills. Palestinian villages dot the roadsides. It doesn't take long to notice that most of them are not connected to the Israeli highway, or that they are connected in such a way that their denizens have a hard time accessing it. This area is known as The Triangle (Hebrew: HaMeshulash; Arabic: al-Muthallath) and is the largest concentration of Israeli Arab (Palestinian) towns. Umm al-Fahm is the largest among these. They occupy a strategic position; these towns can dissect Israel, by disconnecting Haifa and the Galilee from the rest of the country. Near its northern edge is Ma'ale Iron ("Upper Ara" in Hebrew), a small regional council that administrates various villages. One of them is named Musmus.

Musmus is the only village in the country named after a pharaoh; its name is a distortion of Thutmose. Pharaoh Thutmose III reigned from 1479 BC to 1425 BE; during this long period he conducted several military campaigns, including northwards, to Syria. On his way there, he fought the Battle of Megiddo, the largest in his campaigns. Instead of taking the easy paths available for reaching Megiddo, he crossed Wadi Ara; he called the area "Aruna." The pass was described by his scribes as wide enough for the army to pass "horse after horse and man after man." He won the battle, and an eon or two afterwards got a little village named after him. This village is so unfriendly to Israel that the country's police forces avoid entering it.

Demographic Situation in Israel 2011

Megiddo | "Har Megiddo" ("Mount Megiddo" in Hebrew) is the source of the Greek Armageddon


The Most Extreme Right

In USA Denies Visa to Jewish Knesset Member, I described the most extremist Right parties in Israel as they were about a year ago. Yet, this is the most active segment of the local political map and has changed considerably since then. What then was the "Eretz Yisrael Shelanu" (The Land of Israel is ours) and "HaTikva" (The Hope) factions of the National Union Party are running now as "Otzma LeYisrael" (Power to Israel). Member of the Knesset Michael Ben Ari is second in this new list; last year he was denied a visa to the USA due to his belonging to a terror organization.

His surprising achievement was the result of his having been a member of Kahane's Kah party. Rabbi Meir Kahane was an American-Israeli ultra-nationalist rabbi. Kahane founded both the Jewish Defense League (JDL) in the USA, and the Kach (roughly “This is the Way”), political party in Israel. In 1984, Kach gained one seat in parliamentary elections, and he became a member of the Knesset. In 1988, the Israeli government banned Kach as “racist” and “undemocratic” under the terms of an ad hoc law. In 1994, following the Cave of the Patriarchs massacre perpetrated by Baruch Goldstein, a Kahane follower, Kach was outlawed in Israel and the US State Department listed it as a terrorist organization. Kahane was assassinated in a Manhattan hotel by an Arab gunman in November 1990 after Kahane concluded a speech warning American Jews to emigrate to Israel before it was “too late.” Nowadays, Ben Ari is a member of the Knesset and is thus entitled to have aides. These are Baruch Marzel and Itamar Ben Gvir; their picture opens this article. Marzel was Kahane's spokesman for a decade; after his rabbi's assassination, he was elected to head the organization until it was declared a terror organization and disbanded. Nowadays he is in the third slot of "Power to Israel." Marzel and Ben Gvir live in the Israeli settlements of Hebron, home to the most extremist settlers.

Setting up an effective political fire

The political factions of what now is called the National Union Party are so extreme that even Benjamin Netanyahu doesn't consider them worthy partners for his coalitions. Invariably, they get few seats; the main reason for this is that they are unable to unify. Thus, they find it hard to pass the threshold (2% of the vote). The practical result of this is that during their campaigns they must be loud and provocative, in order to attract voters from their sister factions.

Mina Tzemah runs the polls for Yedioth Aharonot; hers are considered among the most reliable polls, though they are just guidelines* as she invariably explains while commenting on them. The latest poll was published on January 11. It awards just two seats to Power to Israel. They may not enter the next Knesset; Marzel is almost for sure out, convicted to another term as parliamentary aide. He needed a good gimmick. On January 15, he visited Musmus together with Ben Gvir. They went into the village with a trail of reporters and several hundred unwilling policemen. It had been a long time since the latter had ventured into this pharaonic bastion. Once there, Marzel's job was easy. "It cannot be that the State destroys houses built without a license in Shkhunat HaTikva (a poor neighborhood of Tel Aviv) while in Musmus they continue building without licenses," Marzel said while the reporters fought to place their microphones next to him. "The police is afraid. If we continue down this path we will lose the entire North," Marzel continued. Ben Gvir also got an opportunity to speak, "this village is a symbol of the inability to enforce law, we blame Netanyahu and Lieberman..."

Denizens didn't like the uncalled for visit; "they are racists," were their softest answers. They organized a large protest next to Marzel and Ben Gvir. A large contingent of policemen separated the two sides. Unknowingly, Marzel and Ben Gvir were playing a foreign pharaoh raping a foreign country. Their main ideologist, Rabbi Meir Kahane, had already said in 1972, "There is no greater anti-Semite than the Jewish one, and none hates the Jewish people more than the Jewish traitor and apostate."

*Israeli polls are infamous for their inexactitude since denizens purposely tamper with the results according to their political targets. "Let's weaken Likud in polls, so that people will pity Netanyahu and vote for him," is the typical attitude.

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