Transportation Minister Bezalel Smotrich, who chairs the National Union party, launched an ugly racist attack on Friday against Knesset members from the Joint List of Arab parties who skipped the Knesset’s swearing-in ceremony to attend protests against violence in the Arab community. This is what the Arab-hating extremist Jewish nationalist wrote on Twitter: “It’s fortunate they boycotted the Knesset’s opening session. They would have even opened fire there as an expression of joy/sorrow/protest/just because it’s customary (and then, of course, they would have blamed the police...).”
This is the same man whom Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu boasts is a natural partner, and whom he appointed as a member of the cabinet. This is the man who represents the religious Zionist movement in the Knesset. It isn’t a racist slip of the tongue, but an organized doctrine of Jewish chauvinism that, shamefully and dangerously, not a single cabinet member has denounced.
Since the beginning of the year, more than 70 Arab citizens have been murdered. Thousands of people from throughout the country – mayors, Knesset members and religious figures – have over the last few days protested how the police fight such crimes. In response, Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan again convened an “emergency meeting” and reiterated that the police “must fight violence just as they fight terrorism.”
>> Read more: A police force for all its citizens
But that’s precisely the problem. When Erdan thinks about the Arab community, he thinks of it as an internal enemy. And when he decides to seriously address the problems of violence in Arab towns, he describes the fight using terrorism terminology. That’s when it becomes clear that the differences between Erdan and Smotrich are merely a matter of style.
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The higher threshold for representation in the Knesset, the nation-state law and incitement against Arabs in the cabinet, in the Knesset, on the street and social media have united the country’s Arabs and strengthened them politically. This process is now at its peak, with the Joint List’s recommendation that Benny Gantz be tapped as prime minister.
Now the Jewish majority must undergo a sweeping revolution of consciousness with regard to the Arab minority. Among other steps, the Public Security Ministry should be scrapped and the Police Ministry reinstated. Perhaps that would help the person who heads it to remember that the minister’s job is to protect all Israelis, Arabs and Jews alike, rather than viewing the position as chief of an army defending the majority against the minority.
Israel needs new coalitions comprised of those believing in the prospect of a shared life for Arabs and Jews. The time has come for Erdan, Smotrich and all their colleagues in this “natural” Arab-hating Jewish coalition to go home, so that people who wish to solve problems rather than merely creating them have the opportunity to do so.