I saw the writing on the wall earlier this month. It wasn’t the written word; it was an extremely graphic painting, showing a wide-eyed black man plunging a knife into the neck of a skeletal white man, lying on the ground. As soon as I saw the mural, one of several for which the controversial Church of the Advocate in Philadelphia is famous, I realized that it could only be a matter of time before life imitates art.
The painting provided the backdrop to an interview by Channel 10’s Nadav Eyal with Pastor Renee McKenzie about the situation of African-Americans ahead of the US presidential elections.
In answer to a question, McKenzie told Eyal: “I think in terms of people who are oppressed and the oppressor.”
When I saw the broadcast, a few days before the attack that left five Dallas policemen dead, I saw incitement.
Not only beauty is in the eyes of the beholder.
The murals were painted in the 1970s to express a connection between the Black experience and the Bible. The image so full of rage that shocked me is meant to represent the verse in the New Testament “God has chosen the weak to confound the strong.” (I Corinthians 1:27) The suffering and anger are immediately apparent, which cannot be said of a message of hope and nonviolence.
Like many Israelis across the political spectrum, I am concerned about the massive amount of hate and incitement on the social media, particularly Facebook and YouTube.
I support efforts to get such material speedily removed and to alert the relevant security bodies, but I understand that the border between freedom of expression and hate speech is less defined than the political borders in the Middle East.
Defining incitement is hard. But as US Supreme Court justice Potter Stewart said about pornography: “I know it when I see it.”
You can probably also define it by results – but by then it’s too late.
Micah Avni’s father, Richard Lakin, was a longtime US civil rights activist and educator.
Lakin was one of three people in their seventies killed in an attack by two Palestinians on a Jerusalem bus in October. One terrorist shot Lakin in the head and the other stabbed his face and slashed his stomach. His murder compelled Avni to tackle social media giants to get them to take down material such as the instructional videos he found showing how to most effectively slice somebody open with a knife in the way that his father was slashed.
His response is a peaceful, meaningful action taken amid the pain and confusion.
But, as I have noted before, there is a limit to what can be pinned on Facebook. The real culprits are those who spread their message and manuals of hate, leading to murderous acts like the killing this month of 13-year-old Hallel Yaffa Ariel, stabbed to death as she slept in her bedroom in Kiryat Arba.
I WAS not surprised to see the report by The Jerusalem Post’s Jeremy Sharon that pro-Palestinian activists accused Israel of being responsible for the deaths of African-Americans at the hands of US police.
The New York University branch of Students for Justice in Palestine went as far as stating on Facebook that the “genocide” of African-Americans in the US was being perpetrated by those responsible for the “genocide” of Palestinians.
It’s not the first time such a link has been made, based on the fact that some US police and law-enforcement officials have received Israeli counterterrorism training.
“The parallels between white racism and Jewish supremacy flourish here and abroad,” wrote Jewish pro-Palestinian activist Alice Rothchild on the anti-Israel Mondoweiss website in an essay titled “Modern-day lynchings: An international view.”
Rothchild notes that she uses the word “international” because she had just read about Adalah, “the Israeli civil rights organization parallel to our NAACP,” petitioning the Israeli courts for documents relating to police live fire rules.
She expresses concern for “young Palestinian boys and their older brothers and sisters whose lives have been strangled by occupation...”
There is nothing about the victims of terrorism – and nothing “international” except for the Palestinian comparisons.
Sometimes I think that the pro-Palestinian (or anti-Israel) groups are on some mammoth Pokemon Go chase of the sort that hit the news this week: chasing phantom, mythical creatures in an augmented reality game at the expense of taking in what’s going on in the real world.
ISRAEL WAS predictably criticized for passing the NGO Transparency Law on July 11, which requires that NGOs that receive more than 50 percent of their income from foreign governments must clearly report this fact. Ban Ki-moon fears it “contributes to a climate in which the activities of human rights organizations are increasingly delegitimized.”
The European Commission worries that the law subverts Israel’s and the European Union’s shared democratic values. The US State Department has deep concerns “that this law can have a chilling effect on the activities that these worthwhile organizations are trying to do.”
Adalah, by the way, said the law “is intended to persecute and incite against human rights organizations, a practice which is characteristic of dark regimes both past and present.”
The law reminds me of America’s Foreign Agents Registration Act, whose self-stated purpose “is to insure that the US Government and the people of the United States are informed of the source of information (propaganda) and the identity of persons attempting to influence US public opinion, policy and laws.”
Of course the campaign against the bill and now against the legislation is itself funded by the EU, US and other foreign taxpayers via these groups. Ironically, it passed the day before a Senate subcommittee report found that the V15 campaign aimed at ousting Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in 2015 was indirectly funded by the US State Department.
All those governments against the NGO law declare that they do not want to interfere in domestic Israeli politics and legislation.
I guess they can’t help themselves, so they fund different groups to do the dirty work for them.
Of course some of the groups sometimes perform a real service in the field of civil rights. Life is not all black and white.
The key word in the legislation is “transparency” – something that could be extended to include the private donors who fund right-wing groups, rather than rescinded so we don’t have a clear picture of what government or body is paying for what Israeli (or anti-Israeli) campaign.
Imagine how Germany, for example, would react to an Israeli-funded campaign to increase (or reduce) the number of migrants it takes in.
We all interpret the writing on the wall in our own way. If it’s written in blood, it’s too late. The time to act is when it spells “danger,” because “All Lives Matter.”