Opinion

We’re the Good Folks

Racism isn’t the exclusive province of the right. Racism is the state.

Benny Gantz at a Tel Aviv Beach on Israeli Election Day, September 17, 2019.
Tomer Appelbaum

After the Rabin assassination, the consensus hastened to label Yigal Amir and unnamed rabbis as dangerous “wild weeds.” Still, it’s worth recalling Amir’s rebuke to journalists, on live TV, when his remand was first extended: “Why aren’t you telling people that half the square were Arabs?” referring to the rally where he carried out the shooting.

It wasn’t just the biblical death sentence “din rodef” and the whisperings of nationalist Haredi rabbis that surrounded the murder, but the challenging of the legitimacy of Rabin’s parliamentary majority. No one has said anything about this since then.

Who is now raising the alarm about “a majority with the help of Arabs”? Benjamin Netanyahu, of course, along with the apartheid settlers who are sure they know what God would do with the land. But pay attention, too, to the “good folks.”

>> Read more: Even if the settlers' party lost, the settlements won | Opinion ■ Does racism now define Jewish identity in Israel? | Opinion

Their new darling, Avigdor Lieberman, a settler who already waged an election campaign based on incitement against the Arab minority (“No loyalty, no citizenship”), woke up one morning and is suddenly a “liberal” (who appoints his party’s Knesset candidates for each election), and is warning Benny Gantz against getting any assistance from the Joint List.

And Gantz? After the election, this leader of the “good folks” camp stood there and listed all the people he had called, and the only name he couldn’t bring himself to utter was that of Ayman Odeh, the Joint List chairman. Rather cowardly for a former IDF chief of staff.

The “good” folks would never publicly denounce “a majority with the help of Arabs,’ because they are not “Kahanists” – but that’s where they’re at. They voted Kahol Lavan, but don’t expect them to suddenly reach out to the large Arab minority.

They didn’t place Arabs on their liberal Knesset slates. And since these same folks also hold the top positions in television, you won’t find an Arab woman news anchor, not to mention a news editor. The huge discrepancy between the percentage of Arab students in the universities, where the “good folks” rule, and the percentage of Arabs who are senior faculty members, requires a separate article, but even the percentage of Arabs who work in administrative positions there is tiny.

And signage? Well, the University of Haifa, where anti-Arab discrimination ought to activate BDS, was two years ahead of the nation-state law in removing Arabic from its signs. Did you hear a peep of protest from the “good” folks?

A protest outside the University of Haifa against the cancellation of a Nakba Day event, 2012.
Hagai Frid

The world of the “good folks” is the hothouse in which the exclusion of Arabs grew and continues growing – in the banks, government offices, academia and pubic companies. In all of these places, discrimination doesn’t take the form of racist slogans, but in fierce protection of privileges that the “good folks” will never give up, even if they don’t talk about them. For this they need the racist right, so they can be aghast at its messages. For this, there are also elections, a purifying ritual in which the “good folks” cleanse themselves of Netanyahu’s racism and hope that the Arabs vote in droves. And then, the election is over.

Look at Meretz. In order to make Ehud Barak palatable, a whole melodrama was stirred up – in this newspaper and on the radio – and for a moment there, Esawi Freige was the representative of the Arab nation who forgave the general. But afterwards, in the campaign, they kept him hidden. He did not get into the Knesset. Who would relinquish their seat for his benefit? Tamar Zandberg? You must be kidding. She is a prominent exemplar of the “good folks.”

Israel’s Arab citizens make up 20 percent of the population, but live on 2 percent of the land zoned for residency and 1 percent zoned for agriculture. Jewish privilege surrounds them when it comes to communities, water quotas, budgets. All they can do is fight in the opposition under the leadership of the Joint List, with all its shortcomings, together with the remnants of the Israeli left. Racism isn’t the exclusive province of the right. Racism is the state.