Merav Michaeli and President Reuven Rivlin (Image credit: Mark Neyman/Government Press Office of Israel)
An uproar erupted this week in Israel, after Labor party Knesset Member (MK) Merav Michaeli’s statements – in which she called the nuclear family the most dangerous place for children, and said the state should be able to take kids from parents based on its own criteria – hit the public.
Michaeli’s remarks sparked a number of shocked responses on social media, which alternately poked fun at the leftist politician and struck a note of concern given her senior position in the Israeli parliament and potential ability to enact laws.
In her statements made during a televised debate on Australian TV with an Australian politician (pertinent segments of which can be viewed here), Michaeli called the nuclear family the “least safe place for children” to grow up in. Her patently false use of statistics in making her claim about abuse has already been thoroughly debunked.
As dumbfounded audience members looked on aghast, Michaeli also called to abolish the institution of marriage and replace it with a child custody agreement. She stated that children can have more than just their “biological parents,” and that “the person who takes responsibility for the child… needs to be obligated for certain criteria that the state should actually decide on.” In addition, she called for an agreement on the financial aspects of having a “shared household,” replacing the sanctity of matrimony with a business deal.
Ironically, her statements became public just under two weeks after she was named “Wonderwoman” of the month of October 2017 by TimeOut magazine.
“Finish Your Dinner or Michaeli Will Come For You”
So how did the Israeli public react to Michaeli’s outlining of her vision? Colorfully, to say the least.
TV host Amir Ivgi of Channel 20 tweeted: “In thousands of homes in Israel this evening, mothers and fathers are heard telling their children: ‘If you don’t finish dinner – the Knesset Member will come and take you away.’”
In his response to Michaeli’s statements, comic Yair Jacobi chose to play off the movie The Lion King:
“Scar: And here is my little secret… I killed Mustafa!
Merav Michaeli: Shut it Simba, be thankful you grew up without a patriarch.
Scar: Thanks sweetie.”
A more visual take on the affair came from illustrator Ronny Gordon of the Jerusalem Post, who depicted Michaeli riding on a scooter with a trash bin on the back and a symbol for children on it; children are seen peeking and reaching out from under the lid. “It’s coming from the Labor party and wants your children,” reads Gordon’s text accompanying his caricature.
In a clever tweet referencing the biblical account of Moses being saved from Pharaoh’s cruel decree to slaughter every male Hebrew baby, Assaf Leibovitz wrote: “Parents are starting to order reed baskets for their children from Ali Express (an online store –Ed.) #MeravMichaeli.”
“And the rest of the things that Merav Michaeli says seem logical to you?,” wrote Shai Cohen sarcastically.
A Somber Reminder of Historical Atrocities
While many responded with humor, others struck a somewhat darker tone in noting the implications of Michaeli’s vision – both in terms of her own life, and in terms of Israel's past.
Otzma Yehudit party chairman and former MK Michael Ben-Ari wrote: “MK [Michaeli of the] Anti-Family Union (a poke at her Zionist Union party comprised of Labor and Hatnua -Ed.): If I don’t have children, then no one will have children.”
“The only positive tweet that I can think of on the combination of the words ‘Merav Michaeli’ and ‘children’ is that I thank G-d that she doesn’t have any and will not have any,” wrote Daniel Ginat, in a similar theme to Ben-Ari’s tweet.
Former rapper turned nationalist activist Yoav “Hatzel” Eliasi ripped into Michaeli as follows:
“She lives in a separate apartment from her boyfriend.
She has no children, and she isn’t interested in having any either.
Her mother opposes waving Israeli flags at soccer games, and her grandfather helped eliminate Hungarian Jewry (refers to Nazi collaborator Rudolf Kasztner, see here –Ed.)
She opposes the memory of the Holocaust, adopts the memory of the Nakba (Arab “catastrophe” of modern Israel’s establishment –Ed.),
and she hopes for a change in the anthem and calls for [military] insubordination. She also hopes to be welfare minister.
And if all that twistedness isn’t enough for you, then she wants to determine for you what the appropriate familial norms are according to her world view, and whoever doesn’t conform to her – their children will be taken from them for re-education (a play on words, the “re” is composed of an amalgam of the name of the Arab communist Hadash party and ISIS –Ed.).”
Amnon Levy, a journalist for Channel 10, was among several who raised a parallel between Michaeli’s proposal and the atrocities of the Yemenite children affair in the early years of the state. In the affair, which The Jerusalem Herald has discussed in depth, thousands of mostly Yemenite children were abducted from their parents under the auspices of the state apparatus and given for adoption.
“I have a feeling that Merav Michaeli’s idea has already been tried once on the Yemenite children,” tweeted Levy.
His parallel is particularly apt, as it references her assertion that the state should be able to decide who is fit to raise their own children. In the Yemenite children affair, it appears the largely Ashkenazi, secular, and socialist elite decided that the “primitive” religious Mizrahi Jews were unsuitable to raise their own kids. The children were abducted, and most were given to Ashkenazi families on kibbutzim or in America for them to raise with a more “enlightened” upbringing.
Indeed, Michaeli’s comments elicited a wide range of response from the Israeli public.
It would be remiss not to include the most timeless response to her call to abolish marriage. That would of course be Frank Sinatra's classic song from the 1950s Love and Marriage, which succinctly and humorously summed up the need for both elements in establishing a family – which, when done correctly, is unquestionably the safest and most meaningful place for a child to grow up.