Only Right Wingers Have Political Freedom in Israel

When a left-wing artist says a scrap of a sentence against Israeli policy, the government mob attack goes wild. When a pop singer incites against Arabs, he is invited to the PM's residence to sing the national anthem.

Olivier Fitussi

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s father, the historian Benzion Netanyahu, signed harshly worded petitions demanding that soldiers refuse an order – and moreover, threatening that soldiers who followed orders to leave the illegal occupation in Gaza be tried for a crime against humanity. No one asked that junctions named after him be renamed or that his dignity be compromised in any way. His son, the prime minister, won the election at a demonstration with settler leader Daniella Weiss, the queen of preaching refusal of orders, convictions and arrests for assaults on soldiers. Nobody said a word.

But let the principal of a school for the arts sign one soft petition years ago, which did not call for refusal but only supported the right of soldiers to do so because of the occupation, and a mob attack for her dismissal is led by a mayor, while another mayor leads the charge to fire a teacher whose only crime was to have participated in a demonstration against the occupation.

The playing field has become so crooked that the distortion of the rules goes without saying. And petitions are legal, but incitement to racism is not. But that does not keep Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu, who has been indicted on such charges, from continuing to instruct others, by virtue of his position as the state-appointed chief rabbi of Safed, not to rent or sell apartments to Arabs. He is not dismissed, and a sea of public money continues to stream into his pockets. But let a teacher demonstrate outside of school hours and he is threatened with dismissal if he is on the wrong side.

Benzion Netanyahu is not alone. Important rabbis have preached refusal of orders – much more than a soft petition – but no one stops the flow of public money to them. The educational status of those rabbis remains strong: When a mob, urged on by government ministers, threw objects and stones at IDF soldiers at the settlement of Beit-El and called for the reversal of a court decision, all those educators remained at their post.

When a left-wing artist says a scrap of a sentence, the government mob attack goes wild. Official incitement presents his stand as anti-Israeli, and not as criticism of Israeli government policy, as accepted in a democracy. But when Amir Benayoun became a serial inciter against the left, “the devil” [Barack Obama], the Arabs, “knife in the back [of the nation],” he became the prime minister’s in-house singer and was invited to the prime minister’s residence to sing the national anthem at his victory celebration.

It’s not one teacher or one principal. A huge sector of education is preaching systematically against service in the Israel Defense Forces in general. It has only grown larger, funded by the state. In addition to the ultra-Orthodox education system, the state religious system separates girls and boys, prevents secular teachers from entering its schools and adds indoctrination. And most of the children in Israel who are considered Jewish began first grade on Monday in various religious and ultra-Orthodox frameworks.

It’s not just the official right wing. When the Yesh Atid chairman, MK Yair Lapid, is trying to put himself in the center of the political map, he claims that supporters of the NGO Breaking the Silence, who are against violence, are inciting to racist violence, like the outlawed Kahane Chai group. People who are trying to place themselves in the center don’t understand one simple thing: The more everyone incites against “the left,” the more the entire map moves to the right. And then the inciter from the center becomes not right-wing enough. It’s enough to see what this insanity did to Likud.

Right-wingers who are not fascists must remember: There is no such thing as political freedom for one side only. And people of the center-left, if they ever want to change the government, must know: Anyone who tries to feed the public more left-hatred does not become more legitimate to that public, but adds fuel to the fire that burns him too.