A Clear and Present Danger

Last week I saw an interesting interview on TV. It was Avri Gilad hosting Rabbi Dov Wolpe, an extreme right winger. Wolpe heads The Task Force to Save the Nation and the Land, who basically give money to soldiers who refuse to evacuate settlements.

The interview itself wasn’t that interesting, we’ve heard extreme right views a zillion times before, and even more extreme than Wolpe. But I thought the whole package was kind of unique in itself. This is semi-prime-time television, where people like Wolpe are rarely seen. They’re rarely given the spotlight. And if they are, it’s usually on the regular politics shows, not the family talk shows with fairly high ratings.

Gilad, an intelligent man but not the best of interviewers, took a different approach here as well: let’s listen to the guy, and hear what he has to say. No attacks, just a tad of being the devil’s advocate here and there, no more.

What you get is a quiet interview with a very dangerous man, with almost Hannibal Lecter-ish attributes. He’s cool and calm. He even gets the crowd to cheer once (of course, when he talks about how other nations push us around) – and notice how this crowd, as usual in Israeli talk shows, is made up mainly of soldiers. (I never knew why that was… guess they can’t sell all the tickets.)

It’s good insight into someone who really pulls strings in the Wild East. These are the kind of people behind the occupation, the settler movement.  You read about them once in a while in the papers, but never really put the face to the name.

Also, yesterday I saw a link to a Forward story about him (thank you, Lisa Goldman), claiming his organization might be in violation of U.S. tax laws. Again, another reason for my fellow Half & Half readers in the States to be angry, very angry.

So, that’s why I decided to spend a few hours translating this.

(Note: after you press play, if you don’t see the subtitles – press on the arrow button on the bottom right corner of the youtube frame, and make sure the “cc” button is on. Also, if your computer is a bit slow, like mine, sometimes it takes 10-15 seconds for the captions to actually show up. In that case, when they do – just rewind and go back to the beginning. And if anyone can recommend some good subtitle programs other than the youtube one itself – please tell!)

19 Responses to “A Clear and Present Danger”

  1. December 18, 2009 at 13:42

    Ami, that interview scared the shit out of me. Also made me very glad that I don’t have cable anymore. Thank you for taking the time to subtitle the clip; I know how frustrating and time-consuming a job that must’ve been.

    • 2 shmookty
      December 18, 2009 at 13:59

      Thanks Lisa, I appreciate that – it really took me a while! First time I ever did subtitling, and the YouTube site wasn’t very user-friendly… But yeah – he’s a scary guy, huh?

  2. 3 Sub
    December 18, 2009 at 13:43

    DivXLand Media Subtitler is the easiest way to sync subtitles.

  3. 4 Shelly
    December 18, 2009 at 14:01

    After reading your post I couldn’t help being struck by the similarities: the payment to soldiers for refusing to evacuate settlements is somewhat akin to “other side’s” lifetime financial support for the families of suicide bombers. I stress somewhat akin. As for Rabbi Wolpe, he is definitely a “present danger” here in the Wild East. But let’s not forget the very “present dangers” over there in the Wild West. Let’s not forget the ultra-orthodox neighborhoods tucked away in rural New York where the cars sport bumper stickers reading “Yesha ze Kan” and spiritual leaders may very well be preaching the same kind of fanaticism as certain Imams in London (or Londonstan?).
    Yes, the danger is present, but much of it, and support for it, comes from afar.

    • 5 shmookty
      December 18, 2009 at 16:38

      Yup, very true. Fundamentalism looks pretty much the same on both sides. And I’ve written before about how the occupation is enabled from afar…

  4. 8 Goy
    December 18, 2009 at 20:10

    Firstly, thanks for subtitling and posting this.
    A couple of thoughts: Firstly, I think you are a little unfair on Gilad. I’m not a big fan, but I think he did his job – to draw out Wolpe’s position, quite explicitly. Better one knows exactly what the guy believes in – a ‘greater’ Israel, in short – than to have someone wittering about in code about ‘security’ and demographics’ and the like.

    Beyond that, Wolpe – no matter how repulsive his views are – is entitled to a public hearing. So far as he does not advocate violence, or racial hatred, or break any other law of public conduct, he is entitled to his say in public. That’s the way democracy works (incidentally, I think that he could be done for both incitement to racial hatred and incitement to violence on the basis of that interview alone, but that’s just my thought.)

    The crowd applauded – it sounded like a small section, but I may be wrong – when he whined about the pressure that Obama is putting on Israel (as if – my use of the word whine may betray my opinion about this). It’s an interesting manoeuvre: conflating the (legitimate? who knows…who can tell, anymore) fears that many Israelis seem to share about not being understood by the rest of the world with a much more insidious desire – to secure Hebron etc, preferably Arab free, or at the very least with a compliant, subservient population. Now that’s the kind of sleight of hand that people need to watch out for…

    Out of curiosity: Wolpe equates the actions of the soldiers that he supports with those whom declined to serve in the Territories during the second Intifada and, before that, in Lebanon (Right to Refuse, etc). How would you distinguish one from the other? I do have an answer in my head: but whenever I ask people this, they either become absolutely apoplectic with rage, or fluff the answer..

    Again, thanks for the post.

    • 9 shmookty
      December 18, 2009 at 22:43

      Hi Goy!
      Thanks for your comment. Let me start from the end: I wouldn’t distinguish one from the other. Although I would admire wholeheartedly the reason left wingers would refuse to serve in the occupied territories, I can’t say I condone that route. As you said, that would mean no difference between them and Wolpe’s soldiers. And also, I do believe the sovereign power should be respected, otherwise the country will go down the drain. A good read on that would be Noam’s Sheizaf’s posts on his miluim service in the WB:
      As for the applause – whether it was 20 people or 50 – it doesn’t matter to me. I think you’ll agree that one pair of hands clapping for this guy is one too many. (and what if soldiers were clapping? hmmm…)
      I totally agree with you about letting him be heard.
      And as for Avri – I think I did a bad job with that paragraph. I actually meant to give kudos to the way he handled the interview. I’m a fan of Avri and Erez Tal, I grew up on them when they were young disc jockies on Army Radio, especially thru the cult “HaOlam HaErev” on the pilot programming of Channel 2 and more. Unfortunately, they’ve both kind of sold out lately, especially Erez. I had high hopes for this show of Gilad, but have to say I’m a bit dissapointed with his interviewing skills on the whole.
      And what could be better than a bit of nostalgia, the “Water, water” skit from HaOlam HaErev – so appropriate with all the Festigals of Hannukah around

      • December 20, 2009 at 12:04


        I’ve always assumed that Gilad is over-exposed more than anything else. But I see what you mean. The last time I “watched” (My Hebrew isn’t great, so I get distracted very easily) his show was when he interviewed Ada Yonath, and he certainly seemed out of his depth. And I certainly had no idea that he was once ‘cult’.

        And thanks for the “Promised Land” blogpost.

  5. 11 Ricky
    December 20, 2009 at 00:06

    Hi Ami,

    If you ever want a co-translator to save time, shoot me an e-mail, I’d be happy to help.

  6. December 20, 2009 at 05:41

    Very interesting, many thanks for translating this!
    Indeed. Scary guy – very intelligent, I must say, I was most impressed with his answers in the early part of the interview (the “respond in one word” bit…). I think he represents the return to the raw values of Zionism – the land with no people… – where, rather than bother to negotiate or find a middle ground – either with the Palestinians, or with the Israeli government – he’ll either deny their existence altogether, or deny their sovereignty altogether. (the “democracy to a certain limit” comment was very telling of his mentality).

    The guy is indeed quite Hannibal Lecter-ish. Has anyone checked the contents of his fridge?

    As for the journalist, well I don’t know about him but it seems to me that, well, giving the podium to a guy who’s generally cast aside for a good reason – advocating both ethnic cleansing and military insubordination strikes me as a good one – appears to be closer to opportunistic journalism than anything else.

    • 14 shmookty
      December 20, 2009 at 09:28

      Hey Mo,

      I think more than anything else he represents the return to the raw values of hatred. The most telling part is when he says “They can’t be trusted!”.

      As for Gilad, well, it’s a bit strange to call him a journalist. After all, most of his time is spent hosting game shows, morning talk shows and now this evening one. At times, the Israeli host is forced to act as a journalist without ever really being one. Kind of like Leno interviewing Obama.

      I have to admit, my knee jerk reaction when I first saw it, was: How the hell does Avri give the podium to this guy??? And after a while, I think that at the end of the day, watching this guy has been a service to all of us. It’s getting to know the enemy.

  7. December 21, 2009 at 07:47

    Hey, um… what’s the deal with the comparison of disobeying a commanding officer’s order to eat bread on passover to disobeying a commanding officer’s order to evacuate a settlement?

    How the hell did they get into that vortex?

    I’m not understanding this analogy. Do I have to be Israeli or something?

    The rabbi has “crazy eyes” though. Be careful.

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