Text size

There's a new game in town: Every extreme statement by a right-winger, every outrageous poster at a demonstration, and every esoteric pagan ritual is suspected of constituting "incitement" and is immediately reported to the authorities for investigation by the police and examination by the state prosecution. This inane procedure must be stopped forthwith.

It's true that the language used by the right wing has become sharper in the past few weeks. But the struggle against this should not go through the courts. The right hasn't changed its mode of thinking, only its way of expressing its thoughts. Just as no thought should be subject to police intervention, no utterance should be subject to criminal investigation. Only actions should be subject to trial. In the hysterical atmosphere that was created around the right-wing extremists in the wake of the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin, security and judicial authorities are trying to intervene in a place where they have no business intervening. The problem with the extremists of the right does not lie in what they say but in what they do.

It's important to know that there is a dangerous right wing in Israel and it is important to settle accounts with it for the damage it has done to the country over the years, but those accounts have to be settled by the society, not the secret service.

If settlers at a protest hold up a sign that brands Prime Minister Ariel Sharon a "dictator," that is not the business of the police. They have the right to think and say that Sharon is a dictator. If they wave a poster declaring, "We will not forgive," beneath a photograph of the head of the disengagement directorate, Yonatan Bassi, that is not a criminal act that requires the State Prosecutor's Office to get involved. Why is it forbidden not to forgive Bassi? Similarly, a hallucinatory ceremony such as the "pulsa denura" that Yossi Dayan, a rabbi or pseudo-rabbi from the Psagot settlement, threatened to perform should not lead to his investigation. Yossi Dayan has the right to perform whatever weird ceremony he feels like, and his handful of eccentric followers have the right to back him up - as long as no concrete threat is made to the life of the prime minister. The Jewish Division of the Shin Bet has the task of keeping an eye on the acts of those who constitute a genuine danger, but it's doubtful that the "pulsa denura" is that danger. Words don't kill.

By the same token, the rabbis of the settlements have the right to issue a racist proclamation calling on the government not to recoil at killing Palestinian civilians. There is even a positive aspect to this: they show their true face. The shock of various circles at this proclamation - as though the army is constantly trying to preserve the life of Palestinian civilians and only the rabbis are urging a new policy - is more than a little self-righteous.

Even without the rabbis' call, the lives of the Palestinians are being trampled underfoot - and that is what the law enforcement authorities should have objected to long ago. Nor did we see anyone in the police, the Shin Bet security service or the state prosecution assail racist statements made by cabinet ministers, from Benjamin Netanyahu's description of Israel's Arab citizens as a "demographic problem," to Israel Katz's "everyone and his bin Laden," referring to the Arab MKs, and Gideon Ezra's proposal to hire Arab (Bedouin) security guards, because they will be able to sniff out Arabs better. Those are all racist statements, and because they emanate from the heart of the government, rather than from the fringes of society, they are far more serious than the rabbis' proclamation. If similar remarks were aimed at the Jews in Europe, the world would be up in arms.

So the problem lies not in statements but in violent, racist acts. Underlying the entire occupation are two basic assumptions: that we have the right to achieve everything by force, and that just because Jews are allowed to do certain things in this country doesn't mean the Arabs have the right to do them, too. The law enforcement authorities have never come out against these basic premises, even though it is from them that all the other violent actions and ugly statements derive.

The right must be permitted to threaten and vilify to its heart's content. The utterances by the rabbis and the posters of the demonstrators are a lot less dangerous than the actions of the settlers and the soldiers - indeed, their very presence in the territories is the truly violent and racist act. For two generations we have been inculcating in our children the worldview that there are two nations here - one master nation for which everything is permitted, and another inferior nation over which we have the right to rule. That is the real incitement.