President-elect Reuven Rivlin said Thursday that the majority must speak out against racism or it is just as culpable as those who act on it. He was speaking while making a condolence call to the Shaer family, whose son Gil-Ad was killed by Hamas terrorists last month along with Naftali Fraenkel and Eyal Yifrah.
“When racist cheers came from the eastern mezzanine in Teddy [the Beitar Jerusalem stadium], I always thought that the western mezzanine is no less guilty. Being horrified is not enough,” he said, implying that those who are silent when facing racism are just as guilty.
According to Rivlin, the “continuing tragedy in the Land of Israel” has brought deterioration of the public’s behavior.
Rivlin’s comments came after anti-Arab protests in Jerusalem were followed by rioting in the east Jerusalem Arab neighborhood of Shuafat, after 17-year-old Muhammad Abu Khdeir’s burnt remains were in the Jerusalem Forest. Police have yet to determine the motive for the murder, nor who committed it.
“It seems that we can lose control and we have to return to sanity immediately,” he said. “The Jewish people was kept out of the Land of Israel for 2,000 years because of hatred. We loved the Land of Israel without having to define our love by hating others.
“We cannot deteriorate to tribal warfare. We’re a country, not a tribe,” Rivlin concluded.
Yesh Atid faction chairman Ofer Shelah called for police to solve Abu Khdeir’s murder as soon as possible and determine whether suspicions that it was a hate crime by Jews are true or not.
“Terrorism is dangerous, but no less dangerous than the atmosphere of incitement, the demand for unbridled revenge, and the political, cynical use of mourning and pain. A country that has to deal with cruel, soulless enemies needs to keep its cool and stand determinedly for morals and justice, which are the sources of our strength,” Shelah said.
“Jews and Arabs live and will live together here and whoever takes advantage of a terrorist attack to incite against Arabs is harming Israel’s existence,” he added.
Meanwhile, Economy Minister Naftali Bennett said complaints about extremism and those who demand a response to the kidnapping and murder of three Israeli teens last month are trying to silence the Right.
“In recent days and in the days to come you will read a lot about ‘extremism’ and ‘irresponsible people,’ ” he wrote on Facebook. “Some will use stronger terminology in response to our demands for a powerful response following the difficult events we experienced.
“Their goal: to silence my position,” he said. “It will not work. I will not be silenced, and I have no intention of apologizing.”
Bennett said the recent escalation in terrorism requires the government to bring back Israel’s deterrence. However, that deterrence should come only by the government, not by criminal acts of retaliation by citizens, the Bayit Yehudi leader added.
“The murder of the [Arab] boy is a terrible thing, whatever the motives were. I emphasize that we do not know yet what the background is for the murder. Nobody should take the law into his own hands, ever. We must not learn that from our enemies,” he added, referring to the teen’s family’s claim that “settlers” killed him in response to the kidnapping of the three teens.
In addition to his comments, Bennett posted a photo of a cartoon from Haaretz showing him holding a machine gun and standing on the security cabinet table, with the headline: “If the Arab boy was murdered for nationalist reasons, the blood is on Bennett’s hands.”
Later on Thursday, Housing Minister Uri Ariel said politicians are not to blame, in response to questions about possible incitement to violence against Arabs.
“No one has the right to take a teenage boy and murder him. I don’t care who it is. God avenges, not people. We have to follow the law,” Ariel told Army Radio. “If there’s someone who needs to be condemned, when we find out who it is, we’ll do it. Stop blaming politicians as if they called for this to happen.”
As for racism, the Bayit Yehudi minister said “everyone is created in God’s image” and that he does not approve of incitement against Arabs.