Israeli Mood

Posted: October 22nd, 2008 | Author: | Filed under: In the News | Tags: , , , , , | Comments Off

If there is an effective currency in Israeli politics today, it’s Racism. Not any racism – PC does apply when it comes to Jews – but racism against Arabs. That’s why it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the mayor of Acre, Shimon Lankri, has declared in a synagogue on the holyday of Simchat Torah, that “Acre belongs to us, and will remain ours forever and ever”. By “us” he was referring to the Jews of this mixed city.

Acre has seen five days of clashes between Arabs and Jews two weeks ago, and obviously, Mr. Lankri adopted the right wing narrative of the events, interpreting them as part of an organized Arab effort to take over Jewish land and houses, or in more common words, “to drive us into the sea”. This statement shouldn’t come as a surprise, considering the fact that Mr. Lankri has already decided to punish the Arab population of his city by cancelling the Acre theatre festival last week, “to let things calm down” (the festival takes place in the old city of Acre, which is populated mostly by Arabs. It makes the best week in the year for most of the businesses there).

Mr. Lankri is not Liberman. He is a member of Kadima, which is supposed to be a center party. In his actions, he represent the consensus in Israel today, a consensus which allows you to say or do just about anything to Arabs, and not only won’t the public opinion punish you, you might even score some points.

Racism is present in Israel not only in politics but in everyday life. There are organizations calling to boycott Arab businesses, there are racist songs during football matches, and you can find racist graffiti just about everywhere. It even happens in liberal Tel Aviv: A few years ago I was working on one of the holiday editions of my paper. The cover story was supposed to be an interview with a Palestinian woman. Just as we were about to send the paper to print, one of the editors in chief of the paper came to see our first page. “What’s that”, he shouted. “That’s what you are you’re giving the Jewish people on Rosh Hashanah? A picture of an Arab with rotten yellow teeth? Nobody wants so see an ugly Arab on their front page on Rosh Hashanah”.

We changed the cover story.

Racism in Israel is so dangerous today, because it’s a combination of “street level” talk with a growing elite of right wing and centrist writers, politicians and journalists, who regard the Arab citizens of the state as its number one problem. This combination is what makes Liberman ride high in the Polls. The weird thing is that most of this is unknown to the rest of the world. Sure, people hear about the west bank and Gaza, but inside the 48′ borders (what we call “the green line”), Israel is still the picture perfect democracy. Israeli lobbying groups in the US and Europe actually say again and again how wonderful life is for the Arab-Israelis in the only democracy in the middle east, and nobody seems to dispute them.

Maybe they should consider inviting Mr. Lankri to one of their events.

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