Benjamin Netanyahu’s children attacked an Arab cleaning man on the seaside promenade in Tel Aviv and caused him serious injuries. They attacked an Arab waiter in a Tel Aviv restaurant with chairs and their fists. They attacked an Arab from Upper Nazareth at the shore of Lake Kinneret because they heard him speaking Arabic. Netanyahu’s children waved hate-filled signs against Muslim players of the Beitar Jerusalem soccer team and set fire to its clubhouse. Netanyahu’s children attacked an Arab woman on a Jerusalem light rail train just because she was an Arab.
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All these events took place in Israel within a few days. The attackers were of course not the prime minister’s biological children, but they all were the creation of his spirit, students of his views and pupils of his government’s policies. These Israeli skinheads are the fruits of the nationalistic and racist atmosphere that has grown greatly in recent years, the Netanyahu years.
Such a streak of anti-Arab violence is not just a coincidence of course. So many of these kind of violent acts in such a short time never happened here before. Their source is planted deep within the Israeli experience that Likud-led governments have acted to nurture. A Jewish child grows up in Israel with the feeling he is a member of the chosen people, one who is allowed to do almost anything. He learns that only his people have rights to this land. This child knows his country must be Jewish, and only Jewish.
During the Netanyahu years the child grew up with a feeling of continual danger, usually exaggerated and hollow. He hears all day long of the dangers lying in wait for him, all at the hands of Arabs and Muslims. He learns he is the member of a people who are always the greatest victims, there are no other victims. There are those who repeat for him that the Arabs are not people like he is, it is doubtful whether they are human beings at all; just suspicious objects, terrorists. They all want to throw him into the sea, stab him, plant a bomb, shoot a Qassam rocket at him or blow themselves up next to him. The child learns that Israel’s Arab citizens are a cancer, a stab in the back of the nation and a fifth column; and it is necessary to strip them of all their remnants of rights. He learns that Israel “gives” the Arabs too much.
He sees alongside the road a fancy house in an Arab village and tells himself: Look at that. He hears Arab members of Knesset and tells himself: Look at us, what a democracy. He sees a veiled woman or hears someone speaking Arabic and knows this means danger. He doesn’t even think to compare the treatment of Jews in Europe in the 1930s to the treatment of Arabs in Israel. He has never met an Arab Israeli for a real conversation, and there is absolutely no chance of that with a Palestinian from the territories.
This child knows nothing about the Nakba, except that it is an invention of Israel-haters and the very mention of it is treason. Of the hundreds of villages that were destroyed and the fate of their hundreds of thousands of residents, some of whom still live in Israel, torn away from their families, banished from their lands and villages he knows nothing at all and wants to know nothing. He has no idea what it means to be an Arab child his age in Israel who hears the prime minister of both of them describe the Arab child as a demographic threat. The Jewish child has never heard a single good word from the prime minister on a fifth of the citizens of his country, only condemnation, threats, exclusion and danger. All this he learned in even more forceful terms in recent years, the latest Likud years.
These children have grown up now and become “youths.” They are the clear disciples of what they were taught, and now they think they must act. To attack an Arab whom they run across, to beat up a cleaner sweeping the streets of their city or to attack a passenger wearing a head scarf. They know that they are allowed to do so since no one will enforce the law against them. They even think they are required to do so. And they are right: That is what they were taught during the cursed Netanyahu years.