Knesset holds conference on battling racism in Israel

MK Yoel Hasson (Zionist Union) called on his fellow public representatives, not only to be an example for the people and avoid making racist comments, but also to actively and publicly defy racism.

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March 21, 2017 19:00
2 minute read.
Knesset committee panel on racism

Knesset committee panel on racism. (photo credit: UDI SHAHAM)

A conference to raise awareness of racism and battle that particular form of prejudice in Israel was held on Tuesday and attended by MKs, officials from the education system, the police and NGOs.

The gathering was organized by the head of the Knesset Committee on the Status of Women and Gender Equality MK Aida Aida Touma-Sliman (Joint List); chairman of the Knesset Caucus of Promotion of Coexistence Between Arabs and Jews MK Yousef Jabareen (Joint List); and chairwoman of the Knesset Caucus to Combat Racism MK Michal Biran (Zionist Union).

Tel Aviv anti-racism protest Touma-Sliman opened the conference by expressing her worry about the rising tide of racism.

“There are more and more acts of racism in Israel,” she said. “Not only against Arabs. It does not matter what is your nationality or skin color – this phenomenon that splits apart our society is getting out of hand.”

MK Yoel Hasson (Zionist Union) called on his fellow public representatives, not only to be an example for the people and avoid making racist comments, but also to actively and publicly defy racism.

“I don’t know how effective it is to act against racism by legislation,” said Hasson. “But you can always talk about it, raise awareness and be straightforward in your remarks against racist people. We should show them that you cannot win through racism.

“It is one of the most prominent plagues on in the world. I believe that no one is born racist,” he said, implying that racism is not a irreversible state of mind.

Jabareen suggested that the Israeli educational system should play a key role in solving the problem, but stressed that now he thinks that schools contribute to it.

“The system does educate to values like equality, tolerance and mutual understating,” said Jabareen. “In a diverse society like Israel, the education system must take a lead role in combating racism and advancing reforms so we can eliminate racism.”

He then blamed senior leaders for nurturing a racist atmosphere in Israeli society. He quoted Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu who said in 2015 that “Balad leaders are trailed by ISIS flags,” and Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman who last week suggested a two-state scenario that would require swapping populations.

“How do these remarks contribute to our effort of combating racism?” asked Jabareen. “These kinds of statements are influencing the common Israeli and shaping the public consciousness,” he said.

Coalition Against Racism director Nidal Othman presented a comprehensive report that showed the level of racism in Israel according to polls, and recommendations to the government authorities about ways to combat the phenomenon.


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