The tip of the iceberg

The racist 'muezzin bill' is representative of cracks in Israel's democracy.

Palestian worshippers at J'lem's Al-Aksa Mosque 521 (R) (photo credit: Reuters)
Palestian worshippers at J'lem's Al-Aksa Mosque 521 (R)
(photo credit: Reuters)
The so-called “Muezzin Bill ,” which would ban mosques from using loudspeaker systems for the call to prayer, is merely the tip of the iceberg of anti-democratic legislation that is overpowering the Knesset.
Recognizing that adopting an anti-Arab stance wins political dividends among the right-wing electorate, the initiator of the bill, MK Anastassia Michaeli of the Yisrael Beiteinu party, is competing with like-minded Members of Knesset for the dubious distinction of being the top initiator of racist bills.
Israeli leadership is very vocal when it to comes to the issue of freedom of worship for Jews in Jerusalem. This sharply contrasts with the crushing of freedom of worship when it comes to the ban on Palestinians, Muslim and Christians, from entering into their holy places in the Holy City.
This discrimination represents a dangerous deterioration in the state of democracy in Israel and expresses ideological extremism that tramples on the value of coexistence, cooperation and peace. Furthermore, this represents a tragic descent into narrow myopic concepts leading to hostile attitudes, not only to the immediate environment (Arab), but also toward the whole world.
In this context, one should note the unbridled denunciation by Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, leader of the party sponsoring the muezzin bill, and of the UK, France and Portugal, which recently criticized Israel’s settlement policy.
Avraham Burg, a former speaker of the Knesset and former chairman of the Jewish Agency for Israel, has written a fascinating book called “Defeating Hitler” [See The Jerusalem Report, August 6, 2007], in which he describes the phenomenon of the inability to shake off the perception of persecution and the ghetto. He asserts that in this sense Hitler defeated the Jews, who have imposed upon themselves isolationist behavior.
Any analogy to the awful Nazi experience is unnecessary and wrong; however this does not exempt the grandchildren of victims of racism, in its most terrible and monstrous form, from the duty to combat and warn against any form of racism. Moreover, that terrible suffering offers no guarantee that the heirs of the victims will not engage in some form of racism.
It was particularly difficult for me to accept the invitation of Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin to join the Knesset delegation that visited the Auschwitz extermination camp. The difficulty did not follow from the decision itself, since it coincided absolutely with my stand against all types of racism. Rather, my difficulty stemmed from the confrontation with representatives of the right wing who opposed my participation in the visit.
This opposition exemplified the moral nadir to which some of the right wing has fallen: Their anti-Arab racism triumphed over solidarity with the suffering of their own people who had been victims of racism.
The Palestinian people and its leadership wish to build their state alongside Israel on the basis of coexistence, integrity and peace. The main danger that threatens Israeli society does not originate from those called the enemy. The danger comes rather from those forces that are leading Israel towards a racist, apartheid regime and into confrontations with the region and the world. The answer to the “Arab danger” is to accept the Arab Peace Initiative that guarantees peace between Israel and all 57 Arab states in return for a withdrawal from the territories conquered by Israel in 1967.
Similarly, the answer to the Iranian danger is to set up a regional conference in order to sign a non-proliferation agreement regarding weapons of mass destruction. This would be binding on all regional states, including Israel and Iran.
The cultivation of a strategy of fear, based on the perception that “the whole world is against us,” together with the withdrawal from universal human values, will bring disaster to the region.
There is no doubt that the strategy of fear that sees danger in the Muslim call to prayer, or danger in the status of the Arabic language in Israel (as evidenced by the bill proposed by MK Avi Dichter (Kadima), former minister of internal security, to deprive Arabic of its equal status with Hebrew), has already turned into a strategy of hatred and discrimination.
Under its right-wing government, Israel is taking giant steps towards classic fascism.
Israeli democracy is under attack from all sides. The multi-pronged assault targets: 1) the Arab minority; 2) the independence of the courts; 3) freedom of the press; 4) NGOs and civil society organizations; 5) the middle class and the underprivileged (through the adoption of rampant capitalism); 6) peace and the Palestinian people.
This assault manifests itself in the militaristic values that have become dominant in legislation and economic priorities and the existence of racist groups who attack Arabs and burn mosques.
Thus, the muezzin bill is just the tip of the iceberg. It threatens Arabs, but it will not spare Jews.
Member of Knesset Mohammad Barakeh is chairman of the Hadash