Candidly Speaking: On Israeli racism and democracy
Nothing makes us cringe more than screaming headlines reporting racist outbursts or hate crimes in our own country.
Graffiti reads: Price Tag Migron Photo: Reuters
Nothing makes us cringe more than screaming headlines reporting racist outbursts
or hate crimes in our own country. There were a number of such cases over the
past year, and earlier this month, a Jerusalem church was vandalized with foul
graffiti by unknown villains. There were also “price tag” incidents, allegedly
perpetrated by fringe groups of alienated young settlers unhinged by a
combination of the hatred radiating from the Arabs surrounding them and
bitterness over the Gaza disengagement.
There was also an appalling
incident recently in which a group of young Jewish hoodlums brutally attacked
four Arabs in the heart of downtown Jerusalem, severely injuring one of them.
Prior to that, a Palestinian taxi was firebombed in Gush Etzion, injuring an
entire family. There were also occasional reports of defilement of mosques
within and beyond the Green Line. We occasionally hear of hooligans despicably
chanting “death to Arabs” at football matches.
No matter how rare, such
acts not only shame us but encourage us to ask ourselves how such obscene
behavior could occur in the homeland of the Jewish people which itself endured
2,000 years of persecution and humiliation in the Diaspora. Have we failed to
inculcate in young Israelis those fundamental humanistic Jewish traits and
ethics that we imbibed from childhood? Regrettably, the fact is that one can
detect the emergence of strains among the younger generation of Israelis which
make them less sensitive to these issues. For many, the burning revulsion
against bigotry and racism which was seared into the consciousness of their
parents and grandparents has diminished with the fading memory of the
And more importantly, the unremitting, poisonous and vile
hatred directed against us by our adversaries – calls for our annihilation,
suicide bombings, missile attacks and the rabid anti-Semitism – has led to waves
of loathing and anger against Arabs.
Moreover, this prejudice was
intensified by radical Israeli-Arab politicians collaborating and aggressively
identifying with those who seek to murder us and are committed to ending Jewish
sovereignty in the region. It is highly unlikely that any other country would
tolerate the seditious outbursts repeatedly expressed by Arab MKs in the
The situation is further exacerbated by some of our less worldly
rabbis who tend to indulge in demagoguery and concentrate excessively on
preaching about Amalek – our first biblical genocidal adversary – and rather
less on the humanistic foundations of rabbinic Judaism.
Does this imply
that there is validity in accusations depicting us as a criminal and racist
society and comparing our behavior to that of Nazis? While we must stamp out any
manifestation of racism, it is absurd to beat our breasts and provide credence
to our enemies who depict us as a nation of monsters.
of racism and apartheid leveled against us – ironically mainly by outright
racists – one need only observe the variety of races, ranging from black
Ethiopians to blonde Russians, who comprise the core of the nation, to
appreciate that Israel could in fact serve as a role model for a genuine
IN THE context of a country surrounded by neighbors
seeking our destruction, we should also take pride in the fact that 20% of
Israeli citizens are Arabs who enjoy all the benefits of a democratic society,
despite the outrageous behavior of some of their extremist
One need only visit a hospital or shopping mall to
witness the extraordinary level of coexistence in everyday life which prevails
between Jews and Arabs.
Without detracting from their vile behavior, the
racist thugs who beat up Arabs are the lowest underclass of society and probably
victims of the drug culture. Those involved in the “price tag” offenses belong
to extremist fringes whose alienation from the broader settlement movement is
exemplified by their equally outrageous attacks on the property and equipment of
the IDF which protects them.
Every country has its percentage of
deviants, hooligans and racists. The litmus test of the ethical standing of a
society is the extent to which the leadership and community at large, rather
than silently standing by or distancing themselves from such outrages, condemn
the perpetrators and actively demand that they be punished with the full
severity of the law.
Here our position is crystal clear. Despite being a
country under siege, every mainstream Israeli political leader has sincerely and
passionately condemned these hate crimes. Not only because it brings us into
disrepute but more importantly because such behavior is considered dastardly and
contrary to all Jewish ethical values.
We flagellate and irresponsibly
besmirch ourselves if we concede that these actions of fringe elements are
comparable to the despicable behavior of our neighbors who indulge in street
celebrations and exult over the murder of innocent Israelis. Yes, there are a
few deviants who lionize the murderer Baruch Goldstein, but they are reviled by
the nation as a whole. We do not hold state ceremonies sanctifying mass
murderers or honoring them by naming squares, schools and football clubs after
Yet notwithstanding this, in the extraordinary tense and volatile
climate in which we live, with hatred and defamation continuing to be
relentlessly directed at us from both within and without the country, we must
intensify efforts to ensure that the poison from our neighbors does not impact
on our youngsters.
We have an obligation to ensure that our schools
inculcate those aspects of Jewish tradition and Jewish history which will
instinctively alienate us from all forms of racism and bigotry. Our humanistic
traditions should be emphasized and our children must be educated to appreciate
and respect every human being because God created us all b’tzelem Elokim – “in
At the leadership level, there is a need to introduce new
legislation to tighten the punitive laws dealing with hate crimes. This requires
the government to bite the bullet and act against the prevailing dogma of
unlimited freedom of expression which is being abused to foment racism and
treason. This includes the delusional leftists who promote hatred of Israel and
falsely defame the IDF, accusing it of engaging in war crimes and of Nazi-like
behavior. They share a major responsibility for polarizing of our society and
stimulating the emergence of extremism.
It is also time to curtail the
abuse of freedom of expression by those Israeli Arabs who incite hatred or
engage in treason by publicly embracing those seeking to kill us and destroy the
state. Israel is far from being a normal country.
But even normal
countries would not tolerate this level of subversion.
punitive legislation was introduced to restrict those promoting sedition as well
as the thuggish elements on both the extreme Right and the extreme Left who
abuse freedom of expression to foment hatred, bigotry and racism, it would
effectively enhance rather detract from our democracy and create a healthier and
more tolerant Israeli society.
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