When racism isn’t a cause for shame

Israel/Palestine
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When Benjamin Netanyahu was re-elected as Israeli Prime Minister in January 2013, many political pundits predicted that we could now expect to see a kinder, gentler Knesset. Other analysts, myself included, feared that the new crop of legislators would be even crueler and more racist than their predecessors. An overview of the past six months would sadly seem to confirm the prognostications of the pessimists.

To believe that with the ultra-Orthodox parties cut out of the coalition, level-headed leadership would ensue requires one to consciously ignore the endless stream of supremacist statements by top politicians from the largest parties in the government: Likud, Yesh Atid and HaBayit HaYehudi. Public comments made by parliamentarians in the last 24 hours alone perfectly encapsulate the frightening lows that this country’s leaders have sunk to.

Yesterday, on July 29, 2013, Israeli daily Yediot Ahronot reported that the leader of HaBayit HaYehudi, Israel’s Minister of Industry Trade and Labor and of Religious Affairs Naftali Bennett said, “I’ve killed many Arabs in my life and there’s no problem with that.” Asked to clarify his statement, Bennett’s spokesperson told 972 Magazine that he was speaking not of all Arabs, but of Arab militants who are captured — in other words, prisoners of war.

Today, July 30, 2013, the ultra-Orthodox website BeHadrei Hadarim reported that David Lau, who began a ten-year term as the Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi of Israel less than a week ago, castigated Jewish youth for watching sports broadcasts, since the players are just “niggers”. News site Maariv NRG uploaded a YouTube video that contained an audio file of Lau making the racist statements.

The first English-language Israeli news site to run the story, Ynet, completely buried the lead of the story — the rabbi’s revolting racism – and focused instead on his aversion to sports. Worse still, they intentionally mistranslated the word he used, “kushim”, which means niggers, as “black men”, which in Hebrew is actually “shchorim”, or “anashim shchorim”.

Bennett saw fit to respond to Lau’s statement over Facebook, not condemning him for saying them, but rather condemning “the media” for “hounding” Lau. Bennett termed the comments “jovial”, “marginal” and “insignificant” and announced his support for Lau.

The anti-Arab and anti-African racism of Israel’s top political and religious leaders is not reserved for the realm of words alone. The government continues apace with its dual human removal projects: the Prawer-Begin plan to dispossess Bedouin Palestinian Arab citizens of Israel of their lands, so that they can be appropriated for Jewish settlements; and the Yishai-Saar plan to expel all African asylum-seekers from the country.

The objectives of the Netanyahu government are no secret: to reduce the number of non-Jewish people living in the country and to reduce the amount of land that the remaining non-Jewish people live on. Confident of the ability to carry out these plans, Israel’s political and religious leaders make no attempt to hide the hate that lies behind them.

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