JERUSALEM – Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s main challenger Benny Gantz on Saturday unveiled a new slogan for his Blue and White party bearing a striking resemblance to former president Barack Obama’s “Forward” campaign for his 2012 reelection.
Joel Benenson serves as a Blue and White strategist and also was a strategist for Obama’s reelection campaign that utilized the “Forward” slogan.
Blue and White’s Hebrew-language slogan reads, “We Must Move Forward,” – an apparent call to Israeli voters to move on from the current Netanyahu leadership.
In July, Breitbart News reported veteran American strategist and pollster Benenson had replaced Mark Mellman to begin consulting for Blue and White.
Benenson worked on both Obama campaigns and was also Hillary Clinton’s strategist in her 2016 presidential bid.
Benenson made headlines in Israel in 2016 when WikiLeaks released emails in which Benenson advised Clinton not to mention Israel at public events. Senior campaign staffers said she should only express support for Israel “when she’s with donors.”
Gantz’s new slogan also echoes that of since-dissolved Kadima party led by Tzipi Livni, who resigned from politics in February after failing to secure a center-left bloc. Kadima is the Hebrew word for “Forward.”
Obama’s “Forward” slogan was also the target of criticism when it was unveiled in the run-up to the 2012 elections.
Victor Morton of the Washington Times charged it with being reminiscent of communism. In an op-ed entitled, “New Obama slogan has long ties to Marxism, socialism,” Morton at the time wrote:
Many Communist and radical publications and entities throughout the 19th and 20th centuries had the name “Forward!” or its foreign cognates.
The slogan “Forward!” reflected the conviction of European Marxists and radicals that their movements reflected the march of history, which would move forward past capitalism and into socialism and communism.
There have been at least two radical-left publications named “Vorwaerts” (the German word for “Forward”). One was the daily newspaper of the Social Democratic Party of Germany whose writers included Friedrich Engels and Leon Trotsky. It still publishes as the organ of Germany’s SDP, though that party has changed considerably since World War II. Another was the 1844 biweekly reader of the Communist League. Karl Marx, Engels and Mikhail Bakunin are among the names associated with that publication.
As Morton and others have noted, there was even a Wikipedia page called “Forward (generic name of socialist publications)” which explored the socialist background of the term.
“The name Forward carries a special meaning in socialist political terminology. It has been frequently used as a name for socialist, communist and other left-wing newspapers and publications,” the online encyclopedia explains.
However, Obama’s slogan caused such a maelstrom that Wiki editors decided to delete the page entirely. In a New York Times article entitled, “Wikipedia Kills Page Linking Obama Slogan to Socialist Movement,” Noam Cohen noted another Wikipedia page, this time on the Obama-Biden slogan “Forward,” was also deleted after users tried to link articles that showed the slogan’s far-left connotation.
Netanyahu on his Facebook page mocked Gantz over his new slogan, quipping, “Moving Forward is Dangerous.”
The post was accompanied by a photo of Gantz sitting with MK Ahmad Tibi and MK Aymen Odeh of the Arab majority Joint List party, which Gantz will likely merge with to form a coalition.
The image had the phrases, “We Must Move Forward with The [Joint] List.”
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