The swearing-in ceremony Thursday in which the Afula City Council vowed to maintain the city’s Jewish character is a nationalist rite with dangerous potential. On Facebook the new mayor, Avi Elkabetz, proudly stated that he had closed the city park the day before to everyone but city residents. Elkabetz is keeping his election promise. After all, he pledged to maintain this northern city’s Jewish character and fight the “conquest of the park.”
This isn’t the first attempt to “maintain the Jewish character” of Afula. A protest once arose in the city after Arab families won the bidding process to have dozens of housing units built. And Afula isn’t alone. A few months ago, Kfar Vradim in the Western Galilee hills tried to halt a bidding process after it emerged that half the winners of the previous tender were Arabs.
Israel has a long history of insularity, exclusion and discrimination – in allocating land and other resources, in distributing the population around the country, and in residential screening committees – not only toward the Arab minority but also toward Mizrahi Jews and other groups.
The ceremony in Afula is another warning sign against dangerous processes underway in the Jewish community under the most right-wing government in the country’s history and a prime minister who, at the ballot box, feeds on incitement against Israel’s Arab citizens.
This swearing-in ceremony is a direct continuation of the nation-state law. This legislation, contrary to what people say on the right, expresses a breakdown of the ideology crafted by the country’s founders. It’s a betrayal of the Declaration of Independence’s values and a renunciation of equality as a fundamental value.
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Against the backdrop of the enshrining of Jewish supremacy and Arab inferiority, and the racist incitement that has become typical of Benjamin Netanyahu’s government, not only should we not be surprised at shows of nationalist insularity and incitement, we should get used to the terrible idea that these will only spread.
Citizens in a democratic country have the right to live wherever they want. No local authority has the right to prevent any person from living in its jurisdiction, or to close a park to Arabs on the pretext of promoting an “atmosphere of Afulaites.”
Hopefully this racist, inflammatory government will pass away soon. Until then, the only hope to stop the illness’ spread is in the opposition that, against all odds, will spring everywhere Jews and Arabs live side by side in peace, Afula included.
The above article is Haaretz’s lead editorial, as published in the Hebrew and English newspapers in Israel.