While the Israeli army continues to pummel the Gaza Strip and its residents for a second month, the upsurge in anti-Palestinian sentiment in Israeli society shows no signs of abating. As even mainstream Israeli politicians threaten the Palestinians of Gaza with ethnic cleansing and genocide, Israel’s far-right figures take to the street to rile up racist supporters and to chase Palestinians out of public spaces and enforce racial-religious separation.
On August 17, 2014, the Israeli anti-miscegenation group Lehava protested a party in central Israel city of Rishon Letzion celebrating the union of a son of Muslim Palestinian citizens of Israel and the daughter of Jewish citizens of Israel. A bus brought activists from Jerusalem to the venue, so that they could harass wedding guests as they arrive, chant “Death to Arabs!” and hear speeches from followers of the late Rabbi Meir Kahane extolling the virtues of racial-religious purity.
Since the state only permits weddings within faith-based communities, mixed Jewish-Gentile married couples are exceedingly rare in Israel. Regardless, the far right has made fighting the phenomenon a centerpiece of its political platform. The Kahanist Knesset representative Michael Ben-Ari was denied re-election in 2013 by a narrow margin, as center-right lawmakers adopted his rhetoric and vacuumed up his votes. The Kahanists continue to organize on the ground and push the Zionist consensus even further to the right.
It is important to note that the vigilante vanguards of Lehava have received funding from the Israeli government, via its sister organization Hemla. Lehava has also testified to the Knesset that 1,000 Jewish Israeli woman have been kidnapped and forced to marry Palestinians. While the Israeli police deny that any such cases exist, it also works in tandem with anti-miscegenation patrols throughout the country that try to deter young Israelis and Palestinians from socializing.
Clearly, the most precious Palestinian rights to be violated in recent weeks have been the rights of Gazans to life and health, to safety and security, to food and shelter. But while the Israeli government seems intent on destroying any possibility of peace with Palestinians for the foreseeable future, ultra-nationalists are trying to snuff out what little hope there is of coexistence by vilifying those few Jews and Palestinians who are, against all odds, living examples of the possibility that we can all get along in the land as equals.