Opinion |

The Israelis Who Protested Against a Home Sale to Arabs Aren't Alone. They Have Friends in the Left

As long as the false separation persists between the good, clean and just (and white) left on one hand, and the ugly and racist (and brown) right on the other, nothing will change

Tsafi Saar
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Israelis demonstrate against a home being sold to an Arab family, Afula, June 13, 2018.
Israelis demonstrate against a home being sold to an Arab family, Afula, June 13, 2018.Credit: Gil Eliyahu
Tsafi Saar

It’s very easy, and totally appropriate, to be appalled by the reports of demonstrations in Afula against the sale of a house there to an Arab family. How could anyone not be horrified by such overt racism, by statements like “As soon as one comes, they’ll spring up like mushrooms after the rain,” as one resident put it? Unpleasant analogies come immediately to mind.

At the same time, one must ask: What’s so special about the racist protesters in Afula? Isn’t the entire country strewn with places — kibbutzim, cooperative communities and the like — that practice the very same discrimination and refuse to open their doors to Arabs (among others)?

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Sure, they do this much more elegantly than the Afula protesters. They don’t stand in the streets shouting “enemies of Israel!” Instead, they establish admission committees, which meet in air-conditioned rooms and, presumably very politely, choose (we won’t call it “selektzia,” why get in trouble?) who is appropriate and who is not, who is “one of us” and who should stay with his own kind.

Do those who are justifiably outraged over the Afula protests and the racism they expressed cry out and write impassioned op-eds when another Arab, or Mizrahi Jew, or gay couple, or head of a single-parent household is rejected by some admission committee (assuming they were optimistic enough to apply in the first place)? Do they protest with the same intensity against the government’s biased land allocation policies, which put Palestinian citizens at the very bottom of the ladder and many Mizrahim just a little bit higher?

For example, you probably won’t see residents of Kfar Vradim congregating in the street and brandishing racist signs. Nonetheless, when it became known in March that half of the winning bidders in a sale of building lots in the northern Israeli community were Arabs, the local council suspended the sale in order to preserve the town’s “secular-Jewish-Zionist character.” Arabs aren’t the only ones who aren’t wanted there. Ultra-Orthodox Jews were turned away previously.

And does anyone still think the High Court of Justice, which authorizes many of the injustices of the occupation, will stem the racist tide? Don’t forget that in 2014, the court rejected petitions against the “admission committee law,” which permits the use of criteria such as “incompatibility with the community’s sociocultural fabric” to deny admission to cooperative communities.

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It isn’t only small communities that are specifying the groups that are undesirable: In Zichron Yaakov, much fuss is being made over a planned halfway house for people in recovery from drug abuse. Some residents who vehemently oppose the plan are holding protests.

Granted, the hypocritical pseudo-left isn’t the biggest problem in Israel today. But why is it so annoying? And why is it so important to give it a shake and expose the lie at the basis of its self-perception? First, because of its excessive pretension. Second, and more important: As long as the false and arbitrary separation persists in many people’s minds between the good, clean and just (and white) left on one hand, and the ugly and racist (and brown) right on the other, nothing will change.

Those who ask themselves why it is that so many Israelis continue to hate, and to hate “the left” all the more, even though the right has been in power for decades, may find at least a partial answer here.

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