Incitement to hate by public figures in Israel has nearly doubled in the past year. According to the Coalition Against Racism in Israel, which released its annual report for 2012 ahead of the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination on March 21, there were 106 cases of racist statements made by public figures over the past year, compared with 59 such events the year before.
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Broken down further, the totals include 44 cases of incitement against Arabs, 54 against refugees and migrants and four against Mizrahi Jews (Jews of Middle Eastern descent). Two cases of incitement against Russian speakers and two against the gay community were also reported.
The report, which traces racist incidents from mid-March of 2012 through mid-February 2013, culls its information from events reported in the media as well as incidents handled by the coalition's member organizations.
The coalition was founded by the Mossawa Center, an advocacy organization for Arabs in Israel, in 2003. It now counts 37 human right organizations among its members.
The report also cites 23 cases of damage to cemeteries and holy sites – Musli, Jewish and Christian. Only 13 such incidents were reported in the previous year.
There was a also a sharp uptick in racist incidents at sporting events, with 78 such cases being tallied this year compared with only 55 the
Nidal Othman, the attorney who heads up the Coalition Against Racism, said that the newly formed government must make fighting racism one of its top priorities.
"Last year, we saw an increase in racist incidents," he said. "It was a year of incitement on the part of public figures, and it penetrated deep into Israeli society."