The Israeli Basic Law: The Knesset – states that a person cannot be a candidate for the Knesset if their goals or actions, including statements deny the existence of the State of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state or if they incite to racism. In the last rounds of elections, under this law, the Supreme Court rejected the candidacy of former MKs and supporters of Meir Kahane – Michael Ben Ari and Bentzi Gopstein, the founder and head of the Jewish supremacist group Lehava.
The court mistakenly allowed Itamar Ben-Gvir to run for elections. Ben Ari and Gopstein are both well-known inciters to racism, inciters and perpetrators of violence against Arabs. They both deny the existence of the Palestinian people and openly preach the forced transfer of Palestinians from their homeland. Itamar Ben-Gvir in his ideology, his speeches and his behavior is no different for those two outlaws. The only difference between Ben-Gvir and the others is the legitimation that he received from Benjamin Netanyahu.
The former prime minister, who would do anything to remain in power, paved the road for this known criminal and Arab hater to become an MK. Ben-Gvir has not disappointed those who voted for him. He has spewed hatred and incitement against Arabs from day one in the Knesset. His legitimation by Netanyahu has helped to make him one of the most powerful members of Knesset.
When Ben-Gvir’s mentor and spiritual leader Kahane was elected to the Knesset in 1984 before the law was changed that forbade him from running again, it was axiomatic that Kahane was far outside of the Israeli consensus. It was universally agreed that he was dangerous and that his ideology was illegitimate and should be condemned and rejected.
There was an agreement in the 11th Knesset that, when Kahane would speak in the plenary, 118 MKs would walk out. Only the chairman of the plenary would remain. Kahane was prohibited from participating in most of the Knesset committee meetings and the Knesset presidium made it very difficult for Kahane to present legislative initiatives.
The media related to Kahane in the same way that the Knesset did. Kahane was not invited to news programs, he did not have a voice on radio. The newspapers did not run after him and there was no social media to grant him a platform. Kahane’s racism, hatred and violent outbursts received very limited stages in the public’s eye. I was a victim of Kahane’s hatred twice.
I attended a Kahane rally because I wanted to witness his hatred first hand. In the middle of his speech, he recognized me and with his devilish eyes and an outstretched hand he yelled “we will deal with you (pointing at me) just as we will deal with your Arab friends.” Everyone stared at me and knew I did not belong there. A second occasion was when the door and wall of my office in Jerusalem at the Institute for Education for Jewish Arab Coexistence was spray painted with “Death to Arabs.” The rejection of Kahane by the elected representatives of the people in the Knesset, and the closed doors to Kahane in the media severely limited his ability to gain support in the country.
Today the situation is different. Ben-Gvir, a replica of Kahane, not only has the full rights of every other MK, he has full access to all parts of the Israeli media. Year-end summaries pointed out that Ben-Gvir was among the top five Israeli politicians in the number of interviews and time on the media – the list was topped by Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and Netanyahu. In all of Ben-Gvir’s appearances in the Knesset, in the plenary and in committees and in the media he rants and raves against Arabs, most often calling the Palestinian Members of Knesset terrorists.
He preaches the most despicable forms of racism and hatred. He uses his Knesset immunity to provoke violence in the most sensitive places during the most sensitive times. Ben-Gvir is dangerous and it is time for the majority of members of Knesset to stand up and leave whenever he speaks – in the plenary and in committees. He should not be allowed to disrupt the legitimate center of Israel’s democracy. It is also time for Channels 11, 12 and 13 to stop awarding him celebrity status.
The only welcome mat Ben-Gvir should find should be on the racist Channel 14. The newspapers and the electronic media should revoke his privilege of being interviewed and reported about. The social media companies such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Telegram and TikTok should shut down any and all accounts of his and those linked to him, just as they did to former president Trump who used the social media to breed division and hatred. Ben-Gvir is a cancer in Israeli society and it is time to remove him from our body politic.
The writer is a political and social entrepreneur who has dedicated his life to the State of Israel and to peace between Israel and her neighbors. He is now directing The Holy Land Bond.