Knesset members must be more careful in the language they use to avoid legitimizing violence, Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein wrote in a letter to lawmakers on Monday, after speaking to the father of Muhammad Abu Khdeir, who police suspect was burnt alive in an act of Jewish terror.
Edelstein wrote that recent events brought “a record level of tension and anger between Jewish and Arab Israelis,” and that elected officials will be tested by their ability to calm the atmosphere.
“The eyes of all Israeli citizens are on us, the MKs. Their ears are listening to the mood in the legislature... We are under a magnifying glass. We MKs must prove that we can discuss the matters about which we feel passionately without deteriorating to incitement, violence, and violating the rules of debate and discussion in the Knesset, all the while not giving up the struggle for what is most important to us,” Edelstein wrote.
According to Edelstein, populist language can be understood as encouragement to act and could turn into revenge and destruction.
“We cannot live under the delusion that no one sees us and no one takes an example from us. Whether we are aware of it or not, we have an influence. When we use overly extreme language, people learn from us,” he added.
He called for MKs to use the platforms available to them to call for calm and moderation.
The Knesset Speaker wrote that the murder of young Jewish or Arab people should not stain all of Israeli society and that the people who perpetrated the act should be punished by the authorities.
Only the police can catch the criminals and put them on trial, only the courts can condemn them and only the security cabinet can decide what the worthy response to terror is, he said.
“I hope that we will know how to wake up and act together for the good of all of Israel’s citizens,” Edelstein concluded.
He spoke to Hussein Abu Khdeir, whose teenage son was found burnt alive last week. On Sunday, police arrested six Israeli Jews on suspicion of politically-motivated murder.
“Everyone in the Knesset is deeply shocked by the incident, which is difficult to digest,” Edelstein told the father. “There are no words to comfort parents who lost their child.”
Abu Khdeir asked Edelstein to ensure the murderers are brought to justice, and the Speaker promised he would do so.
“It will be a trial they and the country will never forget,” Edelstein said.
The Knesset Speaker also invited the Abu Khdeir family to visit his office.
Several MKs sent a letter to Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch on Monday, asking that he work to curb racist incitement.
“Physical and verbal violence become legitimate when there is no clear condemnation from decision- makers and the law is not enforced by police,” the letter by Labor MKs Stav Shaffir, Nachman Shai, Hilik Bar, Shelly Yacimovich and Erel Margalit, as well as MKs Itzik Cohen (Shas) and Moshe Gafni (UTJ), read.
The lawmakers wrote that they received dozens of complaints from Israeli Arabs about physical violence and incitement, and groups of young people loitering in central Jerusalem and demanding that Arabs passing by show Israeli identification.
“We ask that you act decisively to calm the atmosphere and that you efficiently and totally enforce the law before it is too late. There is no argument here, not political, religious nor nationalist, only a responsibility to stand together as those who care about rule of law,” they wrote.