Peace Now highlights ‘epidemic’ of incitement in Israel

Video campaign shows selection out of hundreds of thousands of inciting comments against ‘leftists.’ The pro-peace group is far from the only target of recent incitement — even the president is falling victim.

Peace Now has launched an online video campaign to raise awareness about incitement, intolerance and hate speech directed specifically at “leftists” in Israel and expressed most visibly on Facebook. The organization produced a two-and-a-half minute video entitled, “The writing is still on the wall,” displaying a selection of comments left on its Facebook page. To give you an idea of just a few:

-Leftist whores burn already, you should all be shot in the head.

-You should all be cut up into pieces immediately!!! Israel haters.

-Traitors like you should be hanged.

-Stinky leftists, you should be put in gas chambers, you are worse than the Arabs.

-How great if all the Israeli leftists were kidnapped and killed!

There are also comments specifically calling for the death of Peace Now director Yariv Oppenheimer as well as his family members, in addition to a fairly large amount of Holocaust references.

According to Peace Now’s new media and campaign manager Yaniv Shacham, the video shows only a small fraction of the comments they receive, which he estimates number in the hundreds of thousands.

“We are talking about an epidemic,” Shacham told +972. “It’s not just a few teenagers; we are talking about women and men, Ashkenazim and Mizrahim, old and young.”

Shacham stresses that this is widespread in Israeli society and holds Israeli leaders responsible for encouraging such intolerance for differences in opinion.

For example, last month, when Prime Minister Netanyahu was in the U.S. to meet with President Obama, Peace Now published a statement criticizing the latest announcement of new construction plans beyond the Green Line in East Jerusalem. Without directly referring to the organization by name, Netanyahu alluded to the fact that Peace Now was acting against Israeli interests by calling the government out on new settlement plans. Netanyahu’s message was that dissent will not be tolerated, or more liberally interpreted, that those who condemn Israeli settlements publicly are traitors.

About a month ago I wrote an op-ed in The New York Times entitled, “How Israel silences dissent,” speaking directly to this phenomenon of Jews inciting against Jews, and for which I was attacked and berated for being a liar lacking journalistic integrity, or simply inaccurate. For those who doubt the veracity of this phenomenon, Peace Now’s compilation is another testament. Perhaps even more shocking is the case of Israel’s new president, Reuven Rivlin, who has made it a priority to speak out against Israeli racism and violence against Arabs, and for which he himself has become the target of incitement from the Right.

In 1983, a right-wing activist threw a hand grenade into a Peace Now rally, killing one and injuring several others, including current Likud Minister Yuval Steinitz, who was a Peace Now member at the time.

The timing of Peace Now’s launch of its new campaign coincided with the 19th anniversary of former Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin’s assassination, the most glaringly tragic example of inter-Israeli incitement and intolerance. Part of Peace Now’s campaign message is that 19 years later the lessons of Rabin’s murder have not been learned, but if anything, the situation has gotten worse.

For decades, Peace Now has advocated for a two-state solution to the conflict. Its message that the occupation and settlements are detrimental to a negotiated agreement with the Palestinians and that Palestinians have the right to a state of their own is not a radical position, and has been one considered to be held by the majority of Jewish Israelis (despite a recent poll showing otherwise). Yet, if we look at the reality on the ground, the composition of the government, its policies and rhetoric, it appears clear that calling for a two-state solution has, in fact, become an increasingly marginalized, delegitimized, radical position.

The vast number of Israelis who feel free to incite against Peace Now and its anti-settlement, pro-two-state solution platform in the streets and on the web reflect not only that Israelis have moved to the right politically, but that at its core, contemporary Israeli society does not tolerate or respect differences of opinion, the basic mark of any democracy. And the most frightening part is that it is coming right from the top down. As Sefi Rechlevsky wrote this week in a Haaretz oped:

The man who led the anti-Rabin demonstrations that preceded the assassination, protests at which there were slogans including “through blood and fire, we will drive Rabin out,” was none other than Benjamin Netanyahu. He was elected prime minister seven months after Rabin’s murder. He was the same man whom former Shin Bet heads Karmi Gillon and Yuval Diskin were convinced that had it not been for his support for the wave of incitement, it’s possible the assassination never would have occurred. But instead of being shunned by the public, he took up residence in the home and the bed of the murdered Rabin. Even Shakespeare and the Bible don’t provide such tragic endings.

Nearly two decades later, that man is again and still the prime minister of Israel.

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