Saturday, December 25

Racism - a Cancer in Israel

It is unfortunate that there are public servants in Israel of all ranks - ranging from some extreme right wing Knesset members to religious establishment public servants (rabbis) in the various municipalities around the country who are legitimizing hatred of non-Jews.

If this causes many Israel pundits to raise their eyebrows and say that I am anti-Israel, anti-Zionist as well as doing a great disservice to Israel and feeding grist to the mill of Israel's enemies - I disagree! Am I deserving of these epithets when I condemn racism and xenophobia in Israel? The justification for being apathetic to racism in Israel is that it gives ammunition to Israel's enemies. Any positive criticism of racism in Israel is viewed as an anti-Semitic reaction that is denying Israel's right to exist. Does this mean that denying or ignoring the existence of racism in Israel serves Israel's interest?

As mentioned in my previous articles - there is a trend of increasing racism or xenophobia as witnessed a few weeks ago (50 rabbis signed a document against renting out apartments to non-Jews). This had a snowball effect, which spurred on feelings of hate for Arabs as well as foreign workers and the demonstrations by right wing groups that followed.

Incidents of violence against Arabs have occurred in East Jerusalem. Widespread demonstrations also occurred in Bat Yam, and Hatikva Quarter. These demonstrations were aimed at Arabs and foreign workers generally.

The demonstrations were even attended by Knesset Member Michael Ben-Ari - a right wing extremist, who stooped to rabble rousing the masses against Arabs. When racism is legitimized by an MK then we must be aware of the danger signals and condemn this development very strongly. It is unacceptable! It is our duty to condemn this phenomenon. These extremists are giving Israel's enemies an excuse to hate Israel and making comparisons between Israel and apartheid South Africa more legitimate especially as some of these racist tainted bills makes its way into law.

If we are complacent and allow racism to prevail then we are just as guilty as the perpetrators themselves. If we do not nip this tendency in the bud we are doing just as much a disservice to Israel as Israel's enemies.

The right wing coalition government of Israel has a number of right wing partners headed by racist extremists, whose statements have been giving legitimacy to racism towards Arabs as well as foreign workers where Israel has adopted a "revolving door" policy whether the latter are caregivers of the Israeli aged, agricultural field workers or builders. They come and go depending on the whims of the Interior Ministry headed by Eli Yishai of the racist Shas Party. He is on record stating that foreigners pollute the Jewish people with AIDS and all kinds of diseases, not to mention the fact that they are a threat to the Jewish character of Israel. Does this perhaps ring a bell of an evil era in Germany in the 1930's and 40's?

Must we Israelis not be aware of the danger signals of racism and try to hide it in the cupboard as it could be perceived as serving the interests of Israel's enemies?

Those who are harming Israel are the racists in the Netanyahu Government. Avigdor Lieberman, Eli Yishai and Michael Ben-Ari, the neo-Kahanist, are spewing hatred for the foreigners in our midst. Lieberman reserves his hate for the Palestinians. Netanyahu's condemnation of racism rings empty when the extreme right flank of his government holds racist views.

Another surprising incident was the visit to Vienna, Austria of Likud Deputy Minister, Ayoob Kara. The purpose of his visit was a meeting with Heinz-Christian Strache, head of the far-right FPO Party and praising him at a joint press conference.

This party was founded by former Austrian Nazis in 1948, including many who had served in the SS. This is the party of the late Joerg Haider.

The FPO has "called for the abolishment of anti-Nazi legislation." It is known for its anti-Semitism as well as praising the Nazi regime. The FPO is also on record for supporting notorious Holocaust deniers. Netanyahu received a letter of condemnation of the visit from Ariel Muzicant, the president of Austria's Jewish community. Maybe Israel supporters will say that criticism of this visit is also anti-Semitic!

While considering the increasing racism in Israel and the nature of Israel's right wing government, it should not surprise us that this government would find strange bedfellows in far right wing movements in Europe and elsewhere. Israel is sensitive towards racism directed at the Jewish people but towards the minorities, the sensitivity is somehow lacking and this is exhibited in the quality of Knesset members in the right wing coalition that was voted in by the majority of Israel’s citizens. It has set a pattern that is moving towards racism and fear of the minority non-Jewish groups living in Israel.


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