Binyamin Netanyahu, inciter-in-chief

The Prime Minister returns to his hate-mongering roots

A strange dialogue took this place between grassroots rightwing activists and the government. A demonstration was held in Bat Yam under the slogan of fighting the Arabs, with an emphasis on the fear of “assimilation”, or, to use the more accurate and less laundered term, defilement of blood. One of the participants called for the killing of Jewish women who date Arabs. Even the Nazis didn’t go that far.

A significant number of the Bat Yam demonstrators appeared, one day later, in southern Tel Aviv. They even (Hebrew) carried the same placards: “Jews, Let’s win! The Daughters of Israel to the People of Israel”. There is no difference between the hate of the African refugees, against whom the demo in Tel Aviv was intended, and the hatred of Arabs; it’s the same hatred of non-Jews. While the southern Tel Aviv demo was officially against “foreign workers”, it was in southern Tel Aviv that five Israeli citizens, one of them an IDF veteran, were forced to evacuate their apartment, under threat of it being set on fire while they were inside (Hebrew). Their crime? Having the wrong blood. This was no idle threat, by the wat: Jewish terrorists of the Hatikva neighborhood – part of southern Tel Aviv – firebombed two apartments in 2008, because Arabs were residing there (Hebrew). This week, as the hate was on full burner, someone threw a burning tyre full of incendiaries into an Ashdod apartment, where five Sudanese refugees lived; they barely survived it (Hebrew).

As far as both the inciters and the crowd they gather care, there is no difference between the refugees and the Arbas: both of them foreigners, and both of them are considered to be a threat – psychologically if not actually. Roi Maor has the quotes to prove it.

Refugees march in the Human Rights March, 2010
"Infiltrator, your grandmother". Refugees march in Tel Aviv. (Yossi Gurvitz)

The vitriol against the refugees comes from above, from the government. There’s no point in wasting words on that son of African emigrants, Eli Yishai; he may be the worst of the lot – quite possibly because his voters relish this sort of bile – but he’s definitely not alone. The police commissioner, Inspector General Dudi Cohen, informed us a couple of days ago that he is worried about the crime levels among the refugees, blatantly ignoring research by the Knesset which showed (Hebrew PDF) that crime among them is lower than among native Israelis. Given what’s going on in the last week, Cohen’s statement is criminal incitement, derived either from ignorance or malice.

And above it all, stands the inciter-in-chief. Binyamin Netanyahu’s entire career is seeped in incitement, from trotting to scenes of terror attacks during the Rabin government, through that Zion Square rally when he pretended not to hear the cries of “Rabin is a traitor”, through the “the left has forgotten what it means to be Jewish” moment, through the unforgettable “they’re a f r a I d” chant at the media during the 1999 elections, through his attacks on Israeli Arabs during that great artillery drill, Cast Lead.

This week, Netanyahu went one step forward. In response to the wave of racist attacks, he informed the nation that their intent is good, but they’re actions are questionable. He called Israelis to “avoid taking the law into their own hands”, as if setting apartments on fire and death threats are legal measured, unfortunately employed by unauthorized personnel. He kept speaking of “observing the laws”, and told the rightwing grassroots time and time again he understood their message, that the government is on their side, that they’re building a fence. He said nothing of the hate-mongering against Arab citizens, not to mention the juxtaposition of incitement against them and against the refugees. He spoke of a wall; he omitted any mention of the concentration camp the government is building in the south, intended to deal with people who’ll manage to avoid the fence. No disorderly violence, please; the bureaucracy will take of “the problem” – Netanyahu’s words – in its own way.

Why did Netanyahu ride this particular wave? Perhaps because it is in his nature to ride them. That is. After all, how he built his career: by playing to the fears of Israelis. Perhaps he is afraid that letting this wave pass will help others depict him as a wuss, who lacks the spine the population craves. Perhaps, comes the disquieting suspicion, because he knows that by setting bonfires of hatred, he will distract people from the Carmel fire and the way he and his government managed to avoid taking any responsibility for it. Perhaps, he reasons, if he stands with the hate-mongers, his myriad of failures may be forgotten.

So far, alas, it seems to work just fine.