The swiftness with which the Egged and Dan bus cooperatives acceded to a request by the B’Tsalmo organization to remove an advertisement from their buses revealed their great cowardice. The ad, which addressed the defense and public security ministers, respectively, read, “A 3-year-old Palestinian boy was injured in a terrorist attack. The time has come to stop settler violence. Gantz, Bar-Lev, this one’s on you.”
The swiftness of their capitulation wasn’t the only embarrassment; so was Egged’s response that the advertisements constituted “a divisive and confrontational campaign.” Dozens of settlers who carried out a pogrom against residents of the Palestinian village of Khirbet al-Mufkara is okay. Six people injured, including a 3-year-old boy with a head injury, is okay. But the possibility that these ads are making an offensive generalization by presenting settlers as violent – that is completely unacceptable.
In its letter to Egged, B’Tsalmo argued, “To the extent that there is violence by the extremist fringes, this doesn’t permit generalizing about almost half a million people and running ads saying ‘Please stop settler violence.’” It’s hard to imagine a more cynical objection. Settlers are not members of a religion, race, nationality or gender that needs to be protected from those with power. They’re an ideological group at the height of an ideological struggle that effectively entails robbing and dispossessing another people of its lands and rights, in ongoing violation of both Israeli and international law.
Physical violence isn’t a necessary part of the settlers’ toolbox, for the simple reason that they enjoy both defensive and offensive services from the army despite living beyond the sovereign borders of the state. Moreover, settler violence is escalating. Just this week, Haaretz reported that the defense establishment is worried by the substantial rise in crime by Jews against Palestinians in the West Bank.
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More important, the attempt to using the language of human rights, which was created to protect minorities that are weak, persecuted and lack representation, to protect the strongest power center in Israel, one of whose members is currently serving as prime minister, isn’t just a new height of cynicism, but a genuine mockery.
Consequently, it’s also no surprise that the people who were quick to praise the bus companies’ shameful decision to capitulate to a right-wing organization’s hypocritical aggression and remove the ads were “The Shadow” (rapper Yoav Eliasi) and MK Itamar Ben-Gvir. After all, like B’Tsalmo, they are champions of human rights for all, known for their linguistic sensitivity and the care they take to avoid, heaven forbid, making offensive generalizations about any group or participating in any hateful campaign. Tell me who your supporters are and I’ll tell you who you are.
The above article is Haaretz’s lead editorial, as published in the Hebrew and English newspapers in Israel.