Editorial

Combatants for Hate

Israel's refusal to allow 225 Palestinians into the country to attend a joint Israeli-Palestinian Memorial Day ceremony shows the government will do anything to dehumanize 'the other'

An image painted by British street artist Banksy on the separation wall in Bethlehem, West Bank.
An image painted by British street artist Banksy on the separation wall in Bethlehem, West Bank. REUTERS

On the eve of Memorial Day, Israel refused to allow 225 Palestinians into the country to take part in a ceremony organized every year by Combatants for Peace and the Parents Circle – Families Forum. In previous years, entry permits had been granted, but not this year. The official pretext for denying them entry was “security circumstances,” primarily the stabbing attack in Tel Aviv a week earlier.

This could have been a marginal, almost moonstruck event, one strange and alien to the current national mood. But just as it raised Breaking the Silence to the level of an existential threat to the state, the government will do anything it can to prevent anyone from recognizing that there are human beings on the other side of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and among them are people who have been robbed of the most precious thing of all by these 50 years of conflict. The Palestinians who sought to enter Israel wanted to sit in the same room with parents whose soldier sons had been killed, with bereaved families from the occupying nation.

The devastation of losing a child is identical for all human beings simply because they are human beings. But this message isn’t allowed entry into Israel. The only Palestinians who are allowed to enter Israelis’ consciousness are terrorists, murderers and suicidal fanatics. The government has an interest in maintaining this outlook, which assumes that there is no partner and no Palestinian people, only terrorists. Anyone who dares think otherwise remains beyond the pale.

Yet the event did take place, and the entire hall was filled to overflowing. The Palestinians remained in Beit Jala, but attended the ceremony via video screens. Outside the hall in Tel Aviv, police cordoned off demonstrators armed with Israeli flags. The latter hurled epithets at the bereaved families – “Nazis,” “worthless cowards,” “seed of Amalek,” “go back to Auschwitz,” “get out of our country.” The next day, in response to a question from Nurit Canetti of Army Radio as to whether anyone on the right had denounced this assault on the ceremony’s participants, the following message was posted on Education Minister Naftali Bennett’s Twitter account: “If the report is true, I would expect people who are mourning baby killers and bus bombers to be a little less sensitive to spitting, shoving and water.” Bennett later explained, “One of the students with me tweeted a tasteless remark using my username, and now people are going wild. Relax. It’s Memorial Day today.”

Aside from the words of the student with Bennett, this horror show by right-wingers didn’t compel any condemnations from government representatives. They were silenced by the fear of being portrayed as supporters of the forbidden connection between leftists and Palestinians. The possibility of conversation that doesn’t take place through the sights of a gun is beyond the pale and treasonous, while members of the peace camp are enemies. When daily life is full of bloodthirsty remarks against Breaking the Silence and B’Tselem and attempts to turn the left into a fifth column, the Memorial Day demonstrators were ultimately just putting the government’s true policy into practice.

The above article is Haaretz's lead editorial, as published in the Hebrew and English newspapers in Israel.