Encountering Peace: Mirror, mirror on the wall

No matter how much concealer we apply, we cannot change reality or mask the fact that our Knesset has become a bastion of xenophobia.

While riding in a Jerusalem taxi recently I noticed that the name of the company was decorated with stars of David. I asked the driver about it. He replied: “Yes, our company only hires Jewish drivers, so our passengers can feel safe.”
I remember moving trucks in Jerusalem with large signs reading “Jewish workers only.”
There were ads in the Yellow Pages for companies that only employed Jewish workers. I guess it’s become politically incorrect to be so blunt. I saw a pizza place in Baka that was searching for delivery boys “after army service,” which definitely made me think – do delivery boys in southwest Jerusalem need combat training? It must be a tough job.
Now there is “SOS Israel,” founded in 2003, which even has a Facebook page organized to oppose any agreement with the Arab world which includes “giving up territory.”
Today this kind of organization has also adopted an agenda to save Jewish girls who have developed relations with Arab boys. This new expression of Jewish enlightenment is also issuing kashrut certificates to companies that don’t hire Arab workers. Can you imagine an organization in France giving out certificates to companies that don’t hire people of Middle Eastern background? I remember as a boy of nine visiting Virginia several months before the Civil Rights Act was passed, and seeing signs on restaurants that read “whites only.”
Now, under our own eyes, our government is being led by politicians and parties which are pushing bills that would move us toward the Nuremburg laws, such as the anti-incitement bill, the admission committees bill and the bill to protect Israel’s values, to name a few.
For the reader’s amusement (or chagrin), here is what a future proposed bill could look like, with the way things are going: Understanding that the purity of Jewish blood is essential to the further existence of the Jewish people, and inspired by uncompromising determination to safeguard the future of the nation, the Knesset has resolved the following, which is promulgated herewith: Marriages between Arabs and Jews are forbidden. Marriages concluded in defiance of this law are void, even if performed abroad. Extramarital intercourse between Arabs and Jews is forbidden. Arabs will not be permitted to employ Jewish females under the age of 45 as domestic workers.
SOME MKs would anxiously support such a proposal. They would even add all kinds of amendments regarding Jews who in any way support Arab interests.
They would certainly remove my right to write in The Jerusalem Post. I am already a proud member of the right-wing’s list of self-hating Israeli traitors, also known as the S.H.I.T list.
In 1984, when Meir Kahane was elected to the Knesset, I brought to the Education Committee a copy of the Nuremberg laws and superimposed Kahane’s political platform. This made the front pages, and most Israelis were shocked by Kahane’s extreme racism. Today, no one is particularly upset that our Knesset has become a bastion of xenophobia.
The rise of racism is a direct outgrowth of our refusal to make peace with our Palestinian neighbors. Yes, it is our refusal. There is a Palestinian partner for peace, and anyone who doubts that is ignorant of the facts. Our publicists and politicians can rewrite the “narrative” as they please, but it will not change the fact that if Israel was serious about making peace on the basis of what has already been negotiated, it would be possible to end this conflict.
We might feel secure because the US used its veto in the UN, but we shouldn’t live with the illusion that US support is a form of security. Israel is being delegitimized by its own actions. The legislative agenda of Avigdor Lieberman, Shas, the National Union and a significant part of the Likud, together with the continuation of the occupation, settlement building, the destruction of Palestinian homes in east Jerusalem, the removal of Jerusalem residency rights from hundreds of Palestinians each year who were born in the city, the taking over of Palestinian properties owned by Jews prior to 1948 while denying Arabs the same rights, no longer fools the world. Our policies and democracy do not go hand-in-hand. The charade is over. Instead of a “light unto the nations” Israel’s policies are leading us into the darkest era we have known as a state.
I write this with rage in my heart, and a deep sense of pain. I am filled with rage at the public’s silence in the face of our ugliness. I’m furious that voices of people such as Bennie Begin and Dan Meridor are not heard.
Those who propose racist and xenophobic legislation in the name of “saving Jews and Judaism” are acting in my name. My Judaism does not include hatred of non-Jews. My Israel is one that seeks peace with its neighbors and sees our future linked to our ability to reach agreements that sustain life, build prosperity and care about the welfare of people less fortunate than us.
I want to believe that the reality we see today is symptomatic of a society in the final days of a conflict. I want to believe that Israel has already recognized there will be a Palestinian state, and that the occupation must end. There are anti-Semites who work to delegitimize Israel, but they can cease their activities because our government is doing it so much better. The mirror eventually shows us reality, regardless of how much makeup we use.
The writer is co-CEO of the Israel/Palestine Center for Research and Information (www.ipcri.org) and is in the process of founding the Center for Israeli Progress (http://israeli-progress.org).