Laughter really is the best medicine. Caroline Glick, deputy managing editor of the Jerusalem Post and senior fellow for Middle Eastern Affairs at the Center for Security Policy in Washington, has found humor and satire to be valuable tools in making the case for a strong Israel. Her latest venture to that end is Latma, the Hebrew-language media satire website Glick created and edits.
The non-profit Latma is Glick’s newest platform for her staunchly nationalistic defense of Israel, promoted in her biweekly syndicated columns for the Jerusalem Post and in articles in The Jewish Press, The Wall Street Journal, National Review and Moment magazine, among others. Glick also is a frequent guest on Fox News, MSNBC and Israeli television.
Glick is currently in the U.S. to raise awareness of Latma.
The Jewish Press: How effective has Latma been since you started it?
Glick: I think Latma has been extremely effective since we started it about three years ago. Our goal was to use television and Internet in a new way. We want to break the leftist monopoly on public discourse in Israel. We are using groundbreaking new images through satire and humor to make the non-leftist worldview and the classical Zionist worldview about Israel’s place in the world socially acceptable. It’s been working very, very well – beyond our expectations. Right now we’re negotiating a contract with Channel One on Israel Television to produce our program as a regular prime-time series. If that occurs it will represent a revolutionary change.
Have you detected any tangible effect on public opinion since Latma’s appearance?
Public opinion in Israel is very strange, in the sense that polling data shows the overwhelming majority of Jews in Israel are right-wing, but the policies that government after government enacts are left-wing. The public tends to be quiescent in the face of this, largely because of the media, which makes it seem as though right-wing, nationalist positions are extremist.
The only way to stop this situation is to discredit the left. Subjecting Israel’s icons to ridicule has the effect of empowering the public to speak its mind. I believe the fastest and most effective means is through satire, because the thing about humor is that when you laugh at something, it’s no longer intimidating.
The left’s ability to frighten people into accepting the left’s arguments is diminishing. When Netanyahu went to the United States in May and Obama used the trip to try to force Netanyahu to accept the 1949 armistice lines, there was a very big pushback from the public. The media tried very hard to portray Netanyahu in the wrong, but the public embraced Netanyahu rather than the media’s version of events. At the time, I spoke at a very large demonstration outside the U.S. embassy in Tel Aviv and several hundred people flocked to me afterward thanking me for Latma, telling me they never were activists before watching it.
Do you think the recent public embrace of Netanyahu will empower him to move more to the right?
No. Just look at how he capitulated with the Shalit deal. It was [an emotional experience] to see Gilad Shalit, emaciated and traumatized, finally come home. But the deal Netanyahu agreed to is signed with the blood of the past and future victims of the terrorists he let go. The truth is that politicians, wherever they are, are beholden to the elite forces in a society. The elite are generally the media, academia, and whatever version of Hollywood exists in that country, and their beliefs tend to dictate the terms of reference for any politician. The positions of the voters are shunted aside because while they’re known at the ballot box, on a daily basis they’re not heard from.
The people who are heard from are those with the microphone, and in Israel, like in America and Europe, the people with the microphone tend to be on the left.
What we’re trying to do [with Latma] is enact a revolutionary change in Israel as opposed to a gradual change, to replace one elite with another.
Will that goal be thwarted by leftists in Israel who routinely accuse dissenters of having crossed a red line?
There is always the question of where the red line is. The left tries to paint the line very close to the left as opposed to where it should be, which is on the margins of both sides’ spectrums. We do have a problem with expression of free speech. The people who are being silenced, I think completely unacceptably and in an anti-democratic manner, have been demonized.
That’s the problem. The discourse in Israel is so limited that it’s shocking. It’s completely distorted because the only side that really gets to decide what’s going to be discussed is the radical left. So you then have a counterpart which is called the radical right. But the vast majority of Israel is neither radical left nor radical right. The vast majority love the country, want to defend it, don’t want to surrender, don’t want to establish a Palestinian state that’s going to be the death of the country, and don’t want to be beholden to foreign powers, but this view is never expressed.
One of the reasons we have a situation where we are going back time and time again, beating our heads against the wall with this false paradigm of peace on the basis of the establishment of a Palestinian state, is because the left has discounted any alternative policy. Every time we say it doesn’t work, the left always comes back and says, “What’s your alternative?”
Well, the alternative of course is to annex Judea and Samaria, but we haven’t had any discussion of that possible alternative for the past thirty years. It’s been discredited by the left because they don’t want to discuss it. So most Israelis, because we never talk about it, just assume it’s not a possibility. And the reason we end up having these situations where a right-wing government implements left-wing policies is because there is an absence of right-wing policies.
Do you believe a stronger leader than Netanyahu is needed for such a change to occur?
A big problem throughout the Western world, not only in Israel, is that due in large part to the intellectual terror of the left there is a huge leadership crisis. People who actually have the strength of their convictions, the character and moral fiber to stand up for their country, are being marginalized. As a result, the people who end up getting through the vetting process of the elite tend to be without strong convictions. This is the real problem. And the answer I found is that the way to have strong leaders is to have strong people. We have to do the hard work the public demands of leadership and then I believe the leaders we need will emerge or the leaders we have will be strengthened.
Do you think it will take a crisis for that shift to occur more rapidly?
Since 1993, when we allowed the PLO to decamp to the outskirts of Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, we’ve been in continuous crisis. The public has been energized by that and has opened its eyes to the perils of the left-wing agenda, but it hasn’t been sufficient to change the way leaders act once they’re in office. The reason is that while the left’s policy paradigms have been discredited, the leftist elite has not. So you have the same radicals running the court system, running the law enforcement arms of the government; the same sort of homogenization of anyone who wants to rise in the ranks of Israel’s media and entertainment industries. That has to be changed. And I think the way to change that is to discredit those who’ve been immune from criticism – the leftist elite.
The latest Latma song is an optimistic one. Does that reflect your personal opinion or are you more pessimistic about Israel’s current situation?
I really believe Israel will win and that justice is on our side. I have a deep and abiding faith in the Jewish people to stand up for ourselves. We didn’t come to Israel in order to see this country destroyed. We are so close to victory. We have everything going in our favor. Our people are extraordinary, our economy is doing well, our soldiers are brave and trained well. Our enemies are falling apart in front of our faces; their economies are falling apart.
We just have to stand tough and stand up for our rights. Once we do that it’s not going to bring peace forever and ever, but when did the Jewish people ever have such a thing? It could bring peace and security and prosperity for a generation. We have been told for the past generation that we have no right to defend ourselves, that if we stand up for our rights then people are going to hate us, when the exact opposite is true.
We’ve been brainwashed by a left that produces demoralizing pictures of what we can expect from our region and our world, which isn’t based on anything but their own fantasies. We need to expose that. Once we do that, I don’t think there’s anything we can’t accomplish. So I am very optimistic, but I understand the obstacles we have to surmount in order to get to that place are formidable and we will have to use our greatest talents in order to get past them.