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It looks at the recent death of a Shinui politician as a paradigm for the Israeli center-left party and Likud's former coalition partner, itself.
I generally agree one should refrain from speaking ill about the dead, but in this case one can learn an important lesson. Israel's former environment minister, Yehudit Naot, passed away recently (at only 60 years old) in her Haifa home from throat cancer, caused by her own cigarette smoking self-pollution.

In response to news of her death, MK Yosef Lapid (leader of Naot's center-left Shinui Party) said, "She was an exemplary figure. With her total integrity, she always said exactly what she thought and did not make the compromises that most politicians make."

What a joke, I'll explain why...

Naot last spring, before stepping down from her position, spoke to the Jerusalem Post and expressed unrepentant voiceless (after vocal cord surgery) support for cigarette smoking. She was a devoted chain-smoker for decades and upset many people after her cancer became public knowledge, by refusing to condemn smoking and bragging that her husband still smokes. She wouldn't even acknowledge that her cancer came from smoking although as a biologist she should have known better (that her type of cancer is almost exclusively from smoking). So where exactly was her intellectual honesty and integrity?

Although, by legislation, smoking was banned from government ministry buildings (as in other public places) several years ago, Naot defiantly displayed a sticker on the door of her Knesset office that read, "Here, we smoke." She publicly flouted the law against smoking in public buildings. While charged with protecting Israel's air purity and protecting citizens from the health dangers of pollution, she contributed to that very same pollution in the Knesset itself.

Yet, if all you smokers are ready to give her a standing ovation for her determined stubbornness, in an interview with Yediot Aharonot one month before she died, she changed her tune and acknowledged that smoking caused her cancer and advised smokers to quit.

So you see, Lapid's quip about her "total integrity" falls on deaf ears here.

I do acknowledge that she was the first environmental minister (considered a low level ministry) who actually wanted the job, and except for her biased position vis-à-vis cigarette smoke pollution, tried to enforce environmental protection laws.

But MK Lapid's "laundering" routine on Naot, along with Shinui's blackmail scandal a few months ago, which ultimately forced MK Yosef Paritzky to flee the party (he tried to blackmail a party colleague), combined with their classical racist incitement against Hareidi (so-called ultra-orthodox) Jews, does little to prove Shinui's claim to be Israel's liberal, lily-pure anti-corruption party on the straight and narrow.

Imagine, Naot, a professor of biology at the Technion and minister of environment, self-polluted to death. Makes you kind of wonder just how smart those Shinui politicos are, huh?

Ariel Natan Pasko is an independent analyst & consultant. He has a Master's Degree in International Relations & Policy Analysis. His articles appear regularly on numerous news/views and think-tank websites, in newspapers, and can be read at:

(c) 2004/5765 Pasko


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