(photo credit: Courtesy/Regavim)
As if in the weeks before Passover we needed yet another reminder that we were once strangers in a strange land, along comes a parliamentarian to show us how outdated such a moral concept is.
Ironically, the incident that aroused the nation over the past week was a report of racism in Israel’s hospitals, amplified into a threat that alien babies in maternity wards would grow up into an enemy from within – not unlike Pharaoh’s plan for eliminating the threat of Jewish babies.
This threat perceived and publicized by Bayit Yehudi MK Bezalel Smotrich is, however, not limited to mixed maternity wards, but reflects an escalating extremism of views. He set off a firestorm of condemnation of his remarks and interviews last week, in which he supported segregating maternity wards to keep Jewish mothers from suffering the allegedly raucous behavior of Arab families.
But it soon became clear that he considers such segregation necessary to protect Israel’s Jews from terrorism – which he defines as being perpetrated by Arabs against Jews, and not vice versa.
For example, Smotrich has proclaimed that “the murder in the village of Duma, with all its gravity, was not a terrorist attack. Period.” The arson murders of three members of the Dawabsha family, allegedly by convicted Jewish terrorists in July 2015, could not have been perpetrated by Jews, by Smotrich’s definition: “Terrorism is only defined as violence enacted by an enemy in the framework of war against us.”
Unfortunately, Smotrich’s racism is not confined to the maternity ward. Nearly three decades after the activities of the Jewish Terrorist Underground, the 2015 arson murders at Duma and the kidnapping and burning to death of Arab teen Muhammad Abu Khdeir by Jewish terrorists in 2014 demonstrate that lethal racism persists among some Jews.
According to the Bayit Yehudi MK, “Every Arab is a potential terrorist, and at minimum, [they] are not legitimate members of Israeli society.”
That being his warped worldview, his various tweets in response to criticism followed logically: “It is natural that my wife would not want to lie down next to someone who just gave birth to a baby who might want to murder her baby in another 20 years.”
Smotrich said that the alleged hostility of Jewish women who give birth toward Arab women is natural and understandable, because of what he termed the blood feud between the two peoples. This is because, he told Israel Radio, the Arabs of Israel, although they have equal rights, traitorously support our enemies.
Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon, speaking at the Bar Association Conference in Eilat last week, said he rejects Smotrich’s remarks. “This is just a symptom of increasing hostility to minorities. This has been going on for many years. We are in a bad place regarding racism and hatred of the other,” he said.
However, Rabbi Elyakim Levanon, a prominent rabbi in Samaria, said on Galei Israel, a regional West Bank radio station, that “MK Smotrich expressed the opinion of most of the public, and the media do not reflect the majority.”
The Health Ministry denied the Israel Radio report of “segregation” of Jewish and Arab mothers in a number of hospitals, asserting that it “prohibits all separation as a result of discrimination.”
Ministry director-general Moshe Bar Siman Tov told The Jerusalem Post he will invite hospital heads to discuss reports of systematic separation of Jewish and Arab new mothers in maternity wards.
Despite ongoing terrorist attacks, hospitals have managed to remain islands of sanity and calm. Anyone who has spent time in an Israeli hospital knows that they manifest the vibrant, defiant and – yes – sometimes noisy voice of democracy.
With Arab doctors treating Jewish patients and vice versa, the focus is on healing. And as the Post’s Ben Hartman wrote late last week after a visit to the maternity ward at Wolfson Medical Center in Holon, most patients are far more concerned with their newborn than with their roommates and their visitors.
As Hartman wrote, to put an end to the validity of Smotrich’s divisive statements, “There’s no ethnic component that determines whether someone is inconsiderate or a pain in the neck – it’s an equal opportunity gene that affects members of all the Abrahamic religions.”