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All this happens, and Israelis think we're talking about rain. Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai describes the xenophobia of his city's residents as "understandable and just," and the political savior to be, anchorman Yair Lapid, writes that if the Sudanese were Norwegians, nobody would be talking about racism.

The obsequious populism of Lapid, the conscientious patron of his city's indigent residents, cannot cover up the disgrace: If the dark-skinned people were blue-eyed blonds, there would be no problem here. The proof? Israel absorbed hundreds of thousands of non-Jewish Russians, blue-eyed blonds, and nobody protested, nobody muttered a word of complaint. Ask the Ethiopians, ask Israeli Arabs, including Bedouin and Druze who serve in the Israel Defense Forces, and then decide whether we're talking about pure, unadulterated racism, and not anything else.

People on the streets are ranting words of racism, and the pundits are sweeping this stinking trash under the rug. Our leaders are standing still, condoning what is happening by keeping silent or paying mere lip service. The public, as usual, is apathetic, and the fires rage, threatening to burn down the whole house and everybody inside.

Did you look at the demonstrators' smiling faces in Tel Aviv's Hatikva neighborhood on Tuesday, or listen to the words uttered when a Jewish Ethiopian stood up to speak, and to the calls to burn down the house of foreigners? Do you really think this isn't racism? Listen to the talk about our "pure" society, about guarding the "character" of certain communities, and about the spread of diseases or threats to young women and ask yourself: Isn't this xenophobia and racism?

It sounds like it, it looks like it, it acts like it. It is it. Printing more sanctimonious articles won't change the facts: Racism has reared its head, with the encouragement of our political leaders, and most of us are indifferent. Few people ask themselves: Is this really a society we want to live in?

Suddenly, residents of Bat Yam and the Hatikva quarter are frightened and seek security. A city and a neighborhood formerly known for crime, and to some extent still known for it, deflect their fears and woes onto the foreigner, even though foreigners are less responsible for distress in these areas than the residents themselves. That's how it was in Europe in the 1930s, and that's how it is with us now. Such malicious demonstrations could be staged today in Europe only by neo-Nazi and similar groups; with us, a mayor praises them. In Europe there would be forceful counterdemonstrations. If the hatred were directed at Jews, leaders in Europe would mobilize strong counterdemonstrations. With us, there is virtually no response.

This is what happens when the political "center" is hollow and imaginary. Lapid and Huldai, Gideon Sa'ar and Tzipi Livni, and, as a matter of fact, most Israelis, are masters of the lie, denial and repression. The damage they do is no less serious than that wrought by the hatemongers; they are accomplices to a crime. There are societies worse than ours, but there is no society more self-satisfied, proud, condescending and blind to its ailments.

As usual, the problem is not the extremists. They exist everywhere. The problem is a political center rife with apathy and self-satisfaction. It lives with its lies and amusements, and isn't worried about anything but getting its next thrill. The blacks can sweep the streets (and make themselves scarce when their work is done ), and the mendacious pundits can ease our conscience. Both of them clean the trash we leave behind.

We will build mass detention camps and call them "holding areas." We will banish refugees and say this is "consensual." We will continue to be racists and live amicably with that; after all, Lapid and Huldai said it's all right. And if anyone dares say anything about humanism, human rights and compassion, he will be viewed as a bleeding heart in the best case and a traitor in the worst. Just ask Lapid, the rising star in our political heavens.