As usual, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu didn’t miss a chance to incite in an effort to divert public debate from the real issues on the agenda. “There is no better evidence for the importance of the law,” he said of the nation-state law, referring to the Palestinian flags that were waved at the Tel Aviv demonstration Saturday night that was organized by the Higher Arab Monitoring Committee. As if the nation-state law was a response to internal unrest in Arab society, and not a blatant attempt to incite the Jewish public against it.
Tens of thousands of demonstrators, Arabs and Jews, gathered in Rabin Square and marched to the Tel Aviv Museum plaza in an inspiring, rare demonstration of solidarity and closing of ranks against the evil wind blowing from the Israeli legislature – and Netanyahu succeeds in making sure the whole country is talking about those demonstrators who carried Palestinian flags.
“This is exactly why we passed the nation-state law,” he lied brazenly. As if the law distinguishes between Arabs, whom he’s turned into second-class citizens. After all, the Druze are the best proof that it doesn’t matter what the Arabs do – whether it’s waving Palestinian flags or being buried in coffins wrapped in the Israeli flag after dying in their homeland’s defense – the State of Israel excludes them.
The Knesset, with the open, vigorous support of the prime minister, passes a basic law that purports to be the state’s identity card. It’s a law that excludes the Arabs from the nation, the flag and the anthem, and that perpetuates Jewish superiority. Then, without any shame, Netanyahu dares protest that in a demonstration of tens of thousands, there were those who exercised their legal right to raise the flag of their people, and he uses that as a retroactive justification for their exclusion. There is no limit to his demagoguery. As if this were the story; as if civil rights were conditioned on loyalty tests.
The opposition leaders in general, and Labor chairman Avi Gabbay in particular, repeatedly fall into the traps Netanyahu sets for them, allowing him to dictate the public agenda while they participate in the discourse of incitement. Instead of attacking Netanyahu for the nation-state law, the leader of the opposition finds himself babbling about the right of return, as if this is the most burning issue now.
Netanyahu turned the Palestinian flags into the heart of the matter, so as to drag the entire country into his comfort zone and nullify the justified protest. He deliberately harms the delicate fabric of mutual existence and drives a wedge between Jews and Arabs in order to prevent Arab-Jewish cooperation. That’s the secret of his power. From the beginning of his public career, he has consistently worked to divide and conquer. The only way to defeat him is to stop playing into his disruptive hands.
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