To Hate Properly

It’s not the legislation that creates the hatred, it only grants it legitimacy and turns those who espouse it into loyal law-abiding citizens.

A photo of Dr. Zvi Bar'el.
Zvi Bar'el
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Demonstrators shouted "Death to the Arabs" during the rally in memory of Shelly Dadon, Afula, May 10, 2014.
Demonstrators shouted "Death to the Arabs" during the rally in memory of Shelly Dadon, Afula, May 10, 2014. Credit: Rami Shllush
A photo of Dr. Zvi Bar'el.
Zvi Bar'el

What did several dozen Jewish citizens shout at a rally in Afula in memory of murdered 20-year-old Shelly Dadon? They shouted “Death to the Arabs.” But how can we complain about them? After all, they were angry about the “nationalist motive,” which may or may not have motivated her murderer.

All right, that was in Afula. Because in Haifa, “the mixed city” − as opposed to Jerusalem, which is the “united city” in its hatred − and even in Tel Aviv, which is officially called “Tel Aviv-Jaffa,” hatred of Arabs is cloaked in delicate, elegant veils, and it takes a sharp eye to identify it. But it is very much in existence. Ask the Arab woman, a student, who wanted to rent an apartment in Tel Aviv, and the liberal landlord replied that he had no problem, but that there was liable to be a problem with the neighbors.

Hatred of Arabs is not considered a crime in Jewish Israel. That’s why the new name, “hate crimes” − which is pushing out “price tag,” which in itself replaced “hilltop youth” − is nothing but a bluff. All these terms are designed to depict the envoys of Israeli ultranationalist culture as being on the outside margins, so that it’s not worth investing an effort to uproot them.

Later the accusing finger was pointed at the “surroundings” where they live. What are they, anyway? Outcasts who don’t represent the general community of law-abiding and Arab-loving settlers. It’s true that they rely on the words of rabbis who preach hatred, but “those rabbis are also the outermost edge of the central stream.”

Now the laws of race and discrimination that the Knesset is passing have been seated at the dock. Not those that laid the foundations for hatred during the early years of the state, but the new ones, initiated by relatively new MKs, those who boast the title “weird,” “messianic” or “ultranationalist”: Here they are again, those exceptions, who shouldn’t be taken seriously − the “mainstream” remains pure, of course.

But this central stream is like the white line on a busy highway: It doesn’t cause accidents, it only marks where causing them is permitted. The main argument against the new legislation is that it creates wholesale exclusion of Arabs, and is therefore also to blame for the birth of its practical interpreters. As though without MKs such as Yariv Levin (Likud), David Rotem (Yisrael Beitenu), Ayelet Shaked (Habayit Hayehudi) or ministers such as Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman and Economy Minister Naftali Bennett, these marginal types would not exist and the left-center (a strange cocktail in itself), in the guise of Arab lover Finance Minister Yair Lapid, could continue to graze quietly in the political meadow.

But how did these “hilltop MKs” emerge? Wasn’t it the mainstream of the public that elected them? Not only in the settlements of Beit El and Itamar, but in Tel Aviv-Jaffa too.

The technicians behind this legislation, those artists of spray paint and tire-puncturing spurs, have a good understanding of the spirit of racism. They believe, correctly, that the legislation is only the packaging of the real product − of hatred, disgust and mainly fear. Not of the Arabs, but of a loss of identity. They give hatred a shape and form. They are not only the envoys of the legislators, they are the elected officials for all those who cluck their tongues, place another veil on themselves, and mumble something else in condemnation of hatred of the other.

It’s not the legislation that creates the hatred, it only grants it legitimacy and turns those who espouse it into loyal law-abiding citizens. It transfers ultranationalist patriotism, which is based on hatred, from its emotional, subjective status to its banal, legal, objective place. And since obeying the law and equality before the law are the foundations of democracy, everyone is obligated to obey the law, everyone is required to hate.

This is the source of the terrible paradox underlying the term “hate crimes.” Because how can one even perpetrate a patriotic crime if it is legal? How can an authentic − if flagrant − expression of national identity be a crime, and a “hate crime” yet? Can a nation even be blamed if its DNA contains hatred of non-Jews?

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