Savir's Corner: The Price Tag

If we want to remain a Jewish and democratic country, we have to fight Jewish racism. It is a matter of our very soul, character, strength and morality.

October 13, 2011 21:49
Price tag vandalism (illustrative)

price tag 311. (photo credit: Tovah Lazaroff)

On Yom Kippur, Muslim and Christian graves in Jaffa were vandalized, and graffiti were left on gravestones calling for “death to the Arabs” and “tag mehir” (“price tag”).

There could be no greater desecration on the holiest of Jewish holidays.

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Only a week before, Jews set fire to a mosque in the Beduin village of Tuba Zanghariya. The zealots and their many allies set fire not just to a Muslim holy place, but risk setting fire fire to the Zionist cause that was, and still is, based on fundamental Jewish and humanitarian values.

The atrocity of burning a sacred structure and scriptures has not prompted the outrage it should have. Yes, President Shimon Peres, the chief rabbis and political leaders came to condemn the act and identify with the victims in the Beduin village.

Everyone and his brother emphasized the loyalty of the Beduin to Israel. As if it is a matter of good Muslims or bad Muslims. Others condemned the act as dangerous to Jews, as it could deteriorate into a cycle of violence, thus overlooking the moral atrocity of burning a holy site.

Indeed it’s not a matter of bad or good Muslims, it is a matter of bad Jews, those who committed these “price tag” acts are from a moral standpoint not Jews at all – although they are backed tacitly and even openly by radical rabbis, mostly in the West Bank. The Tuba Zanghariya terror was not an isolated incident, “price tag” attacks on Arab property are almost routine in the West Bank – burning fields, uprooting olive trees, vandalizing houses, burning mosques.

We must call this phenomena by name if we want to fight it – this is plainly put: Jewish fascism. If this cancer spreads it will endanger the Jewish-democratic nature of Israel. It is a danger greater than Hamas and Iran put together, as dangers from within always are, as racism always is more dangerous to the racist than to its victims.

The Jewish people are the first to know this, and as historical victims of racism, creating Israel in defiance of it, we should be most sensitive to racist expressions from within our own society, and we must eradicate this danger.

This plague exists on three levels: among the general population, among the extreme Right and perhaps most dangerously among the silent, complacent majority, including our government that is hesitant to fight it head on.

Among Israelis in general we hear far too often parochial talk, pejorative definitions of Arabs such as “Arabushism” and demands for “Hebrew labor”; on soccer fields, the chants of “Deaths to Arabs,” led by the choir of Beitar Jerusalem; and 46 percent of Israelis admit in polls that they would not rent to Arabs, and many refuse to hire Arabs.

A racist ideology is preached by the extreme Right, those who are the ideological cohorts of the settler who was arrested on suspicion of setting the fire in Tuba Zanghariya. It was the first time that “price tag” struck within the Green Line – it has a glorious record in the West Bank. Such was the case in 2010, after the announcement of the settlement freeze, a mosque in Kafr Yussuf was put on fire, and writing left on its wall: “We shall burn you all – wait for price tag.”

We waited and it came in abundance, sometimes on a daily basis.

These atrocities are sometimes led by ideologues. According to Ma’ariv’s wellplaced journalist Nadav Shragai, “price tag” is inspired by the teaching of Rabbis David Dudkavich, Yitzhak Ginzburg and Yitzhak Shapira, heads of the Od Yosef Chai yeshiva in Yitzhar, the same ideological publishing house of the racist book Torat Hamelech that calls for the killing of “goyim.”

These religious elements go hand in hand with those religious groups that call tacitly or even openly for a halachic state. Haredi leaders who call to obey the laws of the Bible, rather than the laws of the land, those who constantly criticize our courts and attack our High Court of Justice.

These stands and rhetoric are followed by racist legislation generally initiated by Avigdor Lieberman’s disciples in Israel Beiteinu. Such are the variety of laws that demand from Arabs to take a loyalty oath to a Jewish state, or lose their right to vote. The same goes for legislation designed to oust all Arab members of Knesset on accusations of treason. The Arab MKs are not exactly the greatest lovers of Zion, and identify sometimes exceedingly with their brethren beyond the Green Line. Yet the existence of a free Arab Israeli vote and their elected lawmakers is one of the cornerstones of our democracy. A democracy we cannot afford to betray.

Much of this stems from the occupation of the West Bank – where we dominate the daily lives of more than two million Palestinians. Where almostactivity, requires Israeli permission.

It is enough to watch the checkpoints on the way from Bethlehem to Jerusalem where many hundreds stand in line for hours, inside cages, like cattle, to wait to be checked and allowed into Israel.

The Palestinians suffer from it, and our young soldiers who do this for security reasons, are not less affected in their young minds and souls.

The ongoing occupation of the West Bank also endangers our Jewish, democratic nature in another way. If an independent Palestinian state, alongside Israel, will not be established, we will loose our majority between the sea and the river and therefore stop being a Jewish state. As the creation of the state of Palestine is not foreseeable, especially in the days of Netanyahu’s government, and as we will not in all likelihood grant equal rights to Palestinians, we will also lose our state’s democratic nature. The writing is on the wall, on the wall of the mosque in Tuba Zanghariya – ”price tag,” only the price may very well be ours to pay.

Probably is most dangerous thing is the complacent reaction of the political leadership to this moral deterioration. For reasons of expediency our leaders and our government are generally indifferent in face of this danger.

If we want to remain a Jewish and democratic country, we have to fight Jewish racism – this should take the form of education, leadership, legislation and accommodation with the Palestinians.

Prime Minister Netanyahu constantly demands that the Palestinians recognize Israel as a Jewish state. The time has come for him, for us, to do just that. It is a matter of our very soul, character, strength and morality.

The writer is the president of the Peres Center for Peace and served as Israel’s chief negotiator for the Oslo Accords.

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