The Israeli Right Has Found a New Way to Incite Against Arabs

Odeh Bisharat
Odeh Bisharat
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Prime Minister Naftali Bennett (L) shakes hands with United Arab List Chairman Mansour Abbas in the Knesset, June.
Odeh Bisharat
Odeh Bisharat

According to the Arabic proverb, “If you marry a monkey for his money, the money will go away and the monkey will stay the same.” They told us that a sea of money would flood Arab society after the United Arab List joined the government. Meanwhile, a long and tortuous route of committees, subcommittees, coordination and who knows what awaits the money. And on the other hand, what’s flowing in the benighted alleyways of the country is incitement. The slogan “the Abbas tax” (referring to budgets for the Arab community) is the latest version, after the “demographic threat” and “supporters of terror.”

Yes, a new kind of incitement is capturing the city squares: Here the greedy Arab is grabbing the food from the mouth of a poor Jewish infant, and the loot lands right into his swollen belly. For me, being that I am very sensitive to the distress of others, even the bite of knafeh in my mouth already tastes bitter. My thoughts wander to our Jewish cousins, who go to sleep on an empty stomach. Oh, the pangs of conscience.

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It’s nothing new, and it didn’t and doesn’t happen only in Israel. A good friend drew my attention to the fact that in closed and sealed ethnic countries, whenever the minority receives a drop of distributive justice, it is already attacked as though it were the source of evil in society. And now, if a broken window in a classroom is not repaired, the Arab who devoured the budget is to blame.

Strange to say but during the days of former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the Arabs, even when they were in the opposition, received 15 billion shekels and didn’t “merit” incitement of this kind. Today the Arabs are replacing the Jews of Eastern Europe during the dark days, when they were accused of controlling the country’s resources at the expense of the suffering nation there.

In the good old days of Netanyahu we were “terrorists,” we were “going in droves to the polling places.” Now we’re the ones controlling the budget spigots. It’s a new tune, to which we are unaccustomed. Is the extreme right, with its lack of conscience and inhibitions, singling us out for incitement in the spirit of the accursed 1930s? Have its research institutes discovered a new formula – the formula of the money controlled by the Arabs – that arouses the demons in a person’s soul even more than accusations of terror?

Meanwhile, the Arabs are sharing this status – that of the victim of incitement – with a partner. Please meet: Naftali Bennett, the prime minister, whose legitimacy the far right refuses to recognize, even two months after his swearing in. Last week I passed by a junction in Haifa, and saw about 20 people carrying huge signs inciting against Bennett. Not against his policy, but against his very legitimacy as prime minister.

Welcome, Bennett, to Israel’s club of illegitimate citizens. For some reason I felt identification with the man, for whom not a day goes by without his enemies making his life miserable, with curses and with incitement against him and his family – who, in total contrast to the family of his predecessor, are totally absent from the political arena.

Every period has its own division. Once it was the slaves versus the feudal lords, and later it was the workers versus the capitalists. At the moment here, at this point in time, the division is between the inciters and those they incite against. Twisted are the paths of history. At the moment, the Arabs and Bennett, the former director general of the Yesha Council of settlers, are on the same side of the barricade – the side being incited against. Danger is hovering above the heads of both.

That’s no small thing. About 30 years ago, a prime minister was assassinated because he joined the Arabs, in other words the side that is incited against, and today the atmosphere hasn’t changed much, and has even become murkier. In his day, the inciters complained about “handing over parts of the homeland” to the enemy, and today the situation is even more serious: handing over the state budget to the internal enemy.

And there are those who will go even further, and as far as they’re concerned, it’s not only the state budget, it’s the entire state. Likud MK David Amsalem is already adding more fuel to the fire, appointing the Joint List’s Mansour Abbas as prime minister. God forbid.

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