Who’s the Terrorist?

'Jews, stop messing around,' part of a series of anti-miscegenation slogans spray-painted in the Arab village of Jaljulia in central Israel, November 28, 2019.

In October 2000 the security forces killed 12 Palestinian Israeli citizens and another Palestinian from the territories. The Or Commission established that they had been shot even though they posed no risk to the lives of those who shot them. Despite this, the police commissioner was not assigned a bodyguard. Several years later, the Justice Ministry’s department for investigating police officers closed the cases on the killing of the demonstrators; there is no evidence that the department’s head had to take on a bodyguard, either.

If we go back further in Israeli history, we can recall the six people who were killed on Land Day in 1976, and the 49 who were killed in the Kafr Qasem massacre in 1956, and many other severe injustices committed against Israel’s Arab population, but for some reason neither the “terrorist” Arabs or their leaders were tempted into thinking in terms of a political murder, or that more chilling term, “assassination.” They left that kind of terror to the fascist right.

Here we have it: Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit merely dared to announce that he would be filing indictments against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, not for betraying his country, God forbid, but for the lesser allegations of bribery and breach of trust, and the whole top tier of the prosecution is under heavy guard. So, Netanyahu, who’s the terrorist here?

Political terrorism requires an atmosphere of enthusiasm and rallies that will warm the terrorist engines. Fascism needs a vessel in which to cook up its plans, and there’s no better place to gather all the hatred and demagoguery than the city square; even better if there’s a balcony overlooking it.

Last week, all this (except for the balcony) was ready at the Tel Aviv Museum plaza. All the characteristics of the pre-assassination atmosphere were there. Whoever decided to organize that demonstration of support for Prime Minister Netanyahu knew what the next step might be.

He knew that the demonstration might be no less than the opening shot (literally) in the race toward the next political murder.

A responsible leader works to pull the rug out from under the feet of the instigators. A thuggish leader gives them the match in the form of inciting speeches and turning the anger against the Arab public. With Netanyahu all the boxes are checked – the balcony, the incitement against the Arabs and the emphasis on their relationship with some of the forces in the Jewish community. He holds the patent on this toxic mix. And just as it was 27 years ago, the mix doesn’t disappoint.

I hear the shouts, the curses. I see the hatred in their eyes, and wonder where I’ve seen something similar before. It’s amazing how such hatred, which only a short time ago was directed against Palestinians, in the blink of an eye is redirected toward Jews, members of the same nation. It seems that supporters of fascism not only have no God, in the moment of truth they have no brothers and sisters, either.

But as in any campaign here, when there’s an attack on Israeli democracy, the first ones to pay the price are the Arabs, even though on the face of it they have nothing to do with what’s going on between Netanyahu and Mendelblit. Over the weekend 40 vehicles in Jaljulya were vandalized and had their tires slashed. On Saturday in Ramat Hasharon, there was an ugly, dangerous attack on MK Ahmad Tibi of the Joint List. There were curses and condemnations and even an attempt to harm him physically.

Like the late Palestinian Israeli author Emile Habibi, I too am hearing the thunder of history’s laughter. Who knows, perhaps those thugs who vandalized the vehicles in Jaljulya know that their Jewish victims won’t find a better shelter than their Arab brethren, the ultimate victims of this fascism. Perhaps these Jewish victims will wake up for a minute and start to realize that their real allies in the struggle for the rule of law and clean government are actually the Arabs, who are discriminated against in all realms, including the legal system.