Israeli racism and violence are symptoms of a ‘sick’ society
For whatever reason, some mistakenly perceive the Israeli newspaper Haaretz as liberal, progressive and even “pro-Palestinian.” Of course, none of this is true. This misconstrual tells of a much bigger story of how confusing Israeli politics is — and how equally confused many of us are in understanding the Israeli political discourse.
On Nov. 28, Israeli President Isaac Herzog stormed the Ibrahimi Mosque in the Palestinian city of Al-Khalil (Hebron) with hundreds of soldiers and illegal settlers, including a who’s who of Israeli extremists. The scene was reminiscent of a similar occurrence when then-opposition leader Ariel Sharon stormed Al-Haram Al-Sharif in East Jerusalem in September 2000. It was this event that unleashed the second Palestinian uprising, which led to thousands of deaths. Herzog’s gesture of solidarity with the Kiryat Arba settlers was identical to Sharon’s earlier gesture, which was also made to win the approval of Israel’s burgeoning and influential right-wing extremists.
Only a few months ago, Haaretz described Herzog as a “centrist, soft-spoken, ‘no-drama’ person” who, at times, “felt out of place on Israel’s stormy and fractured political battlefield.” According to the newspaper, Herzog “may be exactly what Israel needs.”
But is this really the case? Marvel at some of the statements made by Herzog as he visited a site where 29 Palestinians were massacred by a Kiryat Arba extremist, Baruch Goldstein, and where many more were shot dead by Israeli soldiers in the aftermath of the tragic event. Not only did Israelis celebrate the memory of Goldstein with a shrine befitting heroes and saints, but many of Herzog’s companions during the provocative “visit” are ardent followers of the Israeli terrorist.
“We have to continue dreaming of peace,” Herzog declared while marking the first night of the Jewish festival of Hanukkah inside the mosque compound, which had been emptied of its Muslim worshippers. Proudly, he “condemn(ed) any form of hatred or violence.”
Meanwhile, hundreds of Israeli soldiers were terrorizing 35,000 inhabitants of the old city of Al-Khalil. These Palestinians, who suffer daily violence at the hands of nearly 800 armed settlers in Kiryat Arba, along with an equal number of Israeli soldiers, were locked in. Their shops were closed, their life was put on hold, their walls covered with racist graffiti.
“If he had walked around the corner,” the Israeli news website 972Mag reported, referring to the Israeli president, “Herzog might have seen the graffiti on the walls reading ‘gas the Arabs.’”
Chances are Herzog already understands — in fact, supports — such racism; after all, he was joined by the likes of Eliyahu Libman, who heads the Kiryat Arba regional council, and Hillel Horowitz, leader of the settlers of Al-Khalil. These two men preach extremism and violence against the Palestinians as a matter of course. Aside from hosting the Goldstein grave and shrine, the settlement has a park that carries the name of Meir Kahane, spiritual leader of Israel’s most violent extremists.
In an emotional speech given by Horowitz in the company of Herzog, the settler leader announced that the Israeli president’s violent storming of the Ibrahimi Mosque “reminds us that we did not take the land of foreigners.” He followed this by saying: “Your visit here strengthens our mission.”
There are no indications that the Israeli society, government and media will cure the racism, military occupation and apartheid.
From the point of view of Horowitz, Libman and their ilk, their “mission” has been a great success. They have managed to steer Israeli politics almost entirely toward the right. Even the “centrist, soft-spoken” president is now fully embracing their sinister aims.
But will Haaretz acknowledge this reality? And will it admit that the “liberal” and “progressive” editorial line it has allegedly championed for many years has completely failed. Will it depict the truth about Israel?
Compare the newspaper’s positive portrayal of Herzog with its coverage of the former right-wing Israeli President Reuven Rivlin. The latter was rightly, on various occasions, criticized for his pro-Likud political line and for his divisive role that contributed to an already fragmented Israeli political scene. But when Rivlin, in October 2014, declared that “Israeli society is sick and it is our duty to treat this disease,” a Haaretz columnist lashed out, suggesting that his comments “are positively bursting with Jew-hatred.”
“First he called Jewish society ‘sick’ — dredging up antisemitic tropes about Jews as carriers of cultural and ideological disease. Then he asked whether Jews are ‘decent human beings’ — Questioning their humanity itself,” the article argued.
Of course, the sickness of “violence, hostility, bullying (and) racism,” which Rivlin had pointed out, is very real. Other symptoms of this horrible disease also include military occupation, apartheid and genocidal violence like that frequently meted out against the besieged Gaza Strip.
While this Israeli “disease” is becoming common knowledge globally — with organizations such as Human Rights Watch and many others describing it in the most honest and blunt terms — the vast majority of Israeli society, including their representatives and their “soft-spoken” president, remain blind to it. They are shielded from the truth by their own hubris, infatuated with their military power, and intoxicated by the humiliation and violence that Palestinians are subjected to in Al-Khalil, in Gaza, in Jerusalem and throughout occupied Palestine.
There are no indications that the Israeli society, government and media — “liberal” or right-wing — will, on their own, develop the necessary antibodies that will cure the racism, military occupation and apartheid. Yes, it will ultimately be the Palestinian resistance that will make the difference when it comes to holding Israel accountable. But that can only happen when the international community takes a courageous stance in advocating Palestinian rights and unconditionally supports the Palestinian quest for freedom.
Whether right wing, left wing or centrist, Israel is committed to its military superiority, its racism and the military occupation. The sooner we accept this fact and quit subscribing to the illusion that change in Israel will happen from within, the sooner the Palestinian people will finally achieve the justice they need and deserve.
- Ramzy Baroud has been writing about the Middle East for over 20 years. He is an internationally syndicated columnist, a media consultant, an author of several books, and the founder of PalestineChronicle.com. Twitter: @RamzyBaroud