Let’s Keep Israel Safe for the Political Fringes

Right-wingers’ assault on Knesset members at a panel discussion this week was an act worthy of fascists.

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Haneen Zoabi after being attacked in Ramat Gan, March 3, 2015
Haneen Zoabi after being attacked in Ramat Gan, March 3, 2015Credit: Reuven Kastro, Walla! News

So this is how the panel discussion at the College of Law and Business ended. Thugs known as “right-wing activists” poured a soft drink on MK Haneen Zoabi’s head, a flagpole hit Joint List spokeswoman Emilie Moatti on the head, someone rammed an elbow into Zionist Union MK Michal Biran’s stomach, activists “associated with Habayit Hayehudi” booed and blasphemed, and the police detained a young man for questioning.

So ended another event deemed “intolerable” because people not considered worthy representatives of Zionism had taken part. It doesn’t matter that the bullies are termed “wild weeds” — it’s also meaningless to label them activists of Yisrael Beiteinu, Habayit Hayehudi or Yahad Ha’am Itanu.

As long as the heads of these right-wing parties fail to denounce, renounce and expel these zealots, they are their partners. The parties are responsible for the riotous behavior.

At first glance, the offenses seem minor, but taken together they create an atmosphere of terror designed to silence anyone who doesn’t hew to the racist-fascist line spouted by the thugs and their mentors. Their actions are “price tag” attacks — acts of random violence by fundamentalist settlers against Palestinians or left-wing activists. As such, there is a tendency to dismiss them with a shrug; after all, it’s election season and passions are running high.

Bitter experience teaches that such acts tend to be accepted, even understood, by society, especially when the targets are considered enemies of the people, the state and the right kind of Zionism. Breaking up a political conference, “light” blows, and threats by telephone or social media cross the border of legitimate action. Many fascist movements operated this way before they came to power.

A political conference must not become a dangerous challenge for the participants. The fact that Israel’s right-wing parties compete among themselves for the most extreme campaign messages doesn’t legitimize the lawlessness that occurred on Tuesday. As a country that prides itself on being the only democracy in the Middle East, Israel must be a safe place for every politician, even ones seen as “disobedient.”

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