The Most Racist Knesset in Israel's History

Lawmakers seem to compete against each other to the racist nadir, as Netanyahu is practically egging them on; and with such weak-kneed opposition, that's hardly a surprise.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the Knesset, June 24, 2015.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the Knesset, June 24, 2015. Emil Salman

The current Knesset appears to be the most racist in the history of the legislature. It is also the most boorish and mediocre. Scandal follows scandal, MKs vie with each other to see who will lead the assembly to its nadir. Wednesday’s pick was the new deputy interior minister, MK Yaron Mazuz (Likud,) who told his Arab colleagues “we’re doing you a favor that you’re sitting here,” and called on them to return their identity cards. The most ludicrous moment was when he told them: “You’re in a democratic country, respect it.”

The right response to these contemptible words may have been to ignore them completely. A lawmaker and deputy minister who shows this level of ignorance, lack of basic understanding of democracy and pure racism, is not worthy of a response. On the other hand, it is impossible to keep silent when such low and infuriating statements are made.

Indeed, the prime minister went up to the rostrum to respond to the remarks of his fellow faction member. But Benjamin Netanyahu added insult to injury. Instead of pillorying Mazuz, as he should have, he also turned his lordly tongue on the Arab MKs and demanded that they denounce what is happening in Syria and Yemen, stating that they have no “right to accuse the IDF of war crimes.” Netanyahu cannot be suspected of ignorance and lack of understanding of democracy. Clearly, he has realized the usefulness of inciting racism against the Arabs of Israel, during the elections and after them.

And that is not the end of it. This shameful incident happened during the a debate on the proposal by the Joint Arab List to annul the amendment to the Citizenship Law that prohibits the unification of Palestinian families in Israel, which the cabinet extended last week. It is a racist amendment, nationalistic and discriminatory, which prevents Arab citizens of Israel from establishing families with their Palestinian spouses. It is revalidated for short periods because of its inherent illegality, and has been extended 13 times since it was first passed in 2003.

Zionist Union, the main opposition party and senior representative of the center-left, decided not to participate in this important vote and instructed its members to leave the plenum. It is difficult to think of a weaker or more flawed act and a greater betrayal of its role. Since it has been led by MK Isaac Herzog, it has been in constant decline. With an opposition like this, no one should be surprised at the coalition.