Israel Is Building a Judocracy by Silencing Arab Mourning

Minister Erdan is misleading us twice when he presents the burial of murderer Baruch Goldstein as proof that Israel doesn’t discriminate between Jews and Palestinians.

Zvi Bar'el
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Baruch Goldstein's tombstone in Hebron.
Baruch Goldstein's tombstone in Hebron.Credit: Rafi Kutz
Zvi Bar'el

Now that the pests have been removed, at least until the end of the winter session, we can once more enter the Knesset. The Ethics Committee has sprayed the required pesticides, noses were held for a few minutes, the brain was blunted by the powerful smell of the toxins, but the price was worth it. The Knesset will be Jewish and democratic. True, a few “good” Arabs are still walking the Knesset corridors, the kind that don’t pay condolence calls on terrorists’ families, but for them, too, a suitable clause will be found. It’s only a matter of time.

And to tell the truth, it is not clear why the Ethics Committee decided to cast blame only on the “bad apples” and not the whole crate. After all, this is not a private crime by three Knesset members. They are not some artist who defecates on the flag or opens a Facebook page cursing the prime minister. They are representatives of the public who bear collective responsibility and a historic role. Their status as a “collective piece of shrapnel in the Jewish national posterior,” if I may be allowed to slightly twist that immortal phrase by Naftali Bennett, requires regarding them as one bloc. Generalization here is necessary. Without it the judocratic state cannot be formed and protected from its enemies, especially those at home fighting a rearguard battle over the separation between Jewish and democratic.

Thanks to the Arab MKs, this judocracy made a giant leap this week on its way to legitimization. It did not make do with voting about the criminals and their punishment. It redefined the offense of causing fundamental damage to the image of the state. The Arab MKs who went to the homes of those who killed Jews – and it does not matter what the official reason was for their visit – stand accused of expressing sorrow and holding a mourning ceremony that constitutes respect for terror.

The State of Israel knows full well how important mourning and its customs are in forming the national consciousness. The state, which built itself on poet Nathan Alterman’s “Silver Platter” and Haim Gouri’s “Here Lie our Bodies” sanctified sacrifice for the homeland as a supreme value. Mourning for heroes, or for martyrs, builds and fosters the national ethos and national collective, which of course is dangerous and threatening when “the enemy” does it.

And so, since the beginning of the occupation Israel has been strict about demanding “quiet funerals,” in the dead of night, with a small group of participants, sometimes even outside the hometowns of the dead, and did not always allow families to erect a mourning tent or hold memorial ceremonies.

The reason, as Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan wrote in these pages ("Haaretz Is Siding With the Families of Terrorists," February 8), is the desire to avoid public disorder and incitement. Erdan also presented the story of the burial of Baruch Goldstein, the murderer from Kiryat Arba, as proof that the state does not discriminate between Jews and Palestinians. Erdan misleads us twice. Goldstein received a beautiful grave site in “Kahane Park,” which has become a place of pilgrimage for his followers, and Goldstein also has a book of heroism named after him, Baruch HaGever (“Blessed be the Man”) which continues to serve as basic reading material for the “hilltop youth.” Goldstein, in short, is an inseparable part of the settler legend, a legend that the Palestinians must not be allowed to foster.

That was precisely the serious offense that the Balad MKs committed. They took part in the mourning of murderers’ parents. Instead of condemning the families for raising wild children and excoriating the Palestinian environment and the incitement that “encourages” knife attacks, instead of reading the prime minister’s page of messages to the families in the midst of the worst tragedy of their lives, they prayed together the prayer for the dead.

They, the Arab MKs, contributed to the Palestinian ethos and eroded the Israeli one. But thanks to them we will have a new law, perhaps we’ll call it “the National Definition Law,” by which those who hurt the Jewish narrative, or foster the Palestinian ethos by means of speeches, mourning ceremonies, prayer or Twitter, will be considered supporters of terror. That’s how to build a judocracy.