In the last few weeks, the Israeli Left has crossed all lines of reasonableness with its hypocrisy.
It all started with the “Israel as the Nation-State of the Jewish People” bill. The bill drew unprecedented criticism from the Left’s supporters, both within and outside of Israel.
One of the central arguments made by the legislation’s backers is that in 1992 Israel passed “Basic Law: Human Dignity and Liberty,” which entrenched the Jewish state’s liberal identity. Since then, the courts have pushed Israel further away from its Jewish identity, falsely claiming it was contradictory to those entrenched liberal values.
Now, we also need to entrench Israel’s Jewish identity in legislation, in order to bring back the delicate balance – which is at the core of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state.
One of the Left’s central arguments against the bill was that such central bills, which deal with Israel’s very nature, should only be passed with widespread approval. However, when looking at the results of the vote on the previous Basic Law: Human Dignity and Liberty, one quickly sees that agreement on that law was far from widespread.
Indeed, 32 MKs voted in favor of the law and 21 voted against, in a Knesset made up of 120 MKs.
This means the majority abstained from the vote.
Why is it acceptable for the Left to pass a divisive basic law, but the Right is not allowed to do the same? Amir Benayoun recently published a song on his Facebook page describing the story of an Israeli Arab who was friends with Jews, and one day decided to kill his friends in a terrorist attack.
The inspiration for the song was the latest terrorist attack in which Arabs worked in Jewish businesses before attacking.
Benayoun was severely criticized for his song, as many claimed it included racist motives that portrayed Arabs as backstabbing people. President Reuven Rivlin went so far as to revoke an invitation for Benayoun to sing at the President’s Residence.
While I am no fan of the song, the ruckus it caused in the media is completely unjustified – especially when we compare it to the lack of media attention to far worse and more violent songs from the Left.
Why is it that violent and inciteful songs from the Left do not get the same treatment? Why is it fine for singer Mook E to call on people to “break the bones of the settlers”? Why is it not a problem for artist Yigal Tumarkin to say that when he sees the ultra-Orthodox, he “understands the Nazis”? Is incitement only relevant when it comes from the Right? These two events, which occurred within the past few weeks, are only the latest occurrences of a constant double standard, which is applied to the actions of the Israeli Right as opposed to those same actions by the Israeli Left. This systematic and hypocritical perspective is not only at the heart of the media’s commentary on actions or policies pushed by the Right, but also influences the decisions of the courts and other decision-makers in Israel.
The court’s relation to the settlements
As part of the effort to thwart the Gaza disengagement plan, settlers petitioned the High Court of Justice claiming that the plan to expel Jews from their homes went against human rights.
In its decision, the court balanced two considerations: the right of people not to be expelled from their homes, and the right of the government to make decisions of diplomatic and security importance. The court’s decision was that it was legitimate for the government to expel Jews from their homes for diplomatic or security reasons, and that the court would not interfere in such matters.
However, in another case with the exact same considerations, the court opted for the opposite decision. The question was whether the State of Israel could displace Arab populations in order to build the West Bank security barrier, which was meant to stop terrorism.
The state claimed that the route it chose for the barrier maximized its effectiveness, and that any change in that route would hurt national security. However, the court decided that the comfort of the Arab population was more important than the security considerations presented by the state.
Since these two cases dealt with the exact same considerations, the most logical explanation for the complete opposite decision in each case is that the courts hold a double standard in decisions they make relating to settlers, and in decisions they make relating to Arabs.
In fact, in another famous case, the courts rejected the claims of the state that wanted Route 443 to be closed to Palestinians (while allowing Israeli Arabs). The state claimed it would be too hard to ensure the security of Israelis on the route if it was open to Palestinians.
The court explained that it was the responsibility of the state to allow Palestinians access to this highway, and to protect Israelis. It was not reasonable, according to the court, to use security concerns as an excuse to make Palestinians take a longer way home.
However, when looking at locales under Palestinian control (Areas A and B), there are several roads that are completely blocked to Jews. Yet the courts never forced the army to take the necessary security measures to allow Jews to take these roads.
In a recent conference about the role of the High Court of Justice in Israel, Dr. Ronen Shoval of the Im Tirtzu organization told a frightening story: In 2004, the state asked to destroy an illegal structure built by Arabs next to a road in Gush Katif, the Jewish settlements in Gaza that have since been destroyed. The courts refused to allow the destruction of this structure. Unfortunately, a few weeks later, Tali Hatuel, who was eight months pregnant, and her four daughters, aged two to 10, were killed on that road by terrorists who shot from that very building.
When contrasting this with the ease with which the court orders the destruction of illegal Jewish buildings in Judea and Samaria, Shoval tragically summed up the judicial decisions: “Yes to the destruction of the homes of Jewish settlers, no to the destruction of the homes of terrorists.”
These are just a few examples of the double standard adopted by the courts when dealing with settlers rather than Arabs. It seems the courts in the Jewish state care much more for the rights of the Arabs than they do for the same exact rights claimed by Jewish settlers.
Double standards in the public discourse
On October 22, Meretz MK Michal Roisin wrote a Facebook status condemning Jews who had bought apartments from Arab owners in east Jerusalem. Even though these apartments were legally purchased, Roisin claimed that the very fact that Jews bought apartments in Arab neighborhoods made it similar to a nighttime burglary.
The problem is that only 21 hours before, the same Roisin wrote a status criticizing Safed Chief Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu for calling on Jews not to rent houses to Arabs. Why are Jews not allowed to rent/buy in Arab areas, while Arabs should be allowed to do so in Jewish areas? Ram Cohen, the principal of a school in Herzliya, defended a teacher in his school, Adam Varta, who criticized some of the actions taken by the IDF. Cohen defended the right of Varta to hold his own political opinions. However, this same Ram Cohen admitted he would refrain from hiring a teacher who lives in Judea and Samaria, because he does not agree with Jewish presence in these areas.
If it is permissible for Varta to hold left-wing political views, why would it not be legitimate for a teacher from Judea and Samaria to hold right-wing views? Bringing back honesty to the political system
These examples outline the hypocrisy of Israel’s political system, which holds the Right to different standards.
Just as Israel is singled out and criticized among the nations for things other nations do, so too is the Israeli Right singled out and criticized for things the Left does all the time.
Things the Arabs are allowed to do are forbidden to the Jewish Right.
Fairness, integrity and honesty need to be brought back to the Israeli political system. The first step toward this is to stop the double standards against the Israeli Right, and start treating people of different ideologies equally. The writer is an attorney and a former legislative adviser to the Coalition Chairman in the Knesset. He previously served in a legal capacity at the Foreign Ministry. He is a graduate of McGill University Law School and Hebrew University’s master’s program in public policy.