Israeli Cabinet Minister Afraid of Kahanists

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MK Itamar Ben Gvir at the Knesset in June.

Rabbi Meir Kahane can rest in peace. His successor, MK Itamar Ben-Gvir, has become Israel’s guiding light. Just last week, Social Affairs Minister Meir Cohen stopped promoting a campaign to help child victims of sexual abuse after Ben-Gvir requested it. Israel’s moral police officer simply didn’t like it that the star of the campaign was rapper Tamer Nafar, who identifies as a Palestinian citizen of Israel. Ben-Gvir spoke and Cohen snapped to attention, and ordered that the campaign not be given prominence on the ministry’s website.

The social affairs minister’s shameful surrender comes a few days after the Egged and Dan bus companies decided to remove ads about the pogrom perpetrated by dozens of masked settlers in the West Bank Palestinian village of Khirbet al-Mufkara, in the course of which a 3-year-old boy suffered a head injury. The ad’s caption said: “The time has come to stop settler violence.” The reason: Right-wing groups and Ben-Gvir, of all people, were bothered by the fact that the campaign made generalizations and spread hatred. It’s hard to believe the extent to which people fear Ben-Gvir’s ire.

Those who read what Ben-Gvir wrote to Cohen could have been confused briefly into thinking it was a chapter of his new autobiography. Without a hint of shame Ben-Gvir, among the most extreme ultranationalist, racist and instigative public figures in Israel, accused Nafar of being an “extreme, ultranationalist inciter who is known for his antisemitic and anti-Israeli messages and an open supporter” of the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement against Israel.

Nafar is a Palestinian Israeli rapper whose songs deal with Arab social protest in Israel. He angers the right because he reminds them of all the things they like to deny, such as the occupation, the Nakba and the systemic discrimination and criminal neglect of the Arab population in Israel.

Nafar took part in the campaign to publicize the hotline of protection centers for children and teens who are victims of sexual assault. In Israel, where Arabs account for one-fifth of the population, the participation of popular Palestinian artists is very important in campaigns targeting the society at large.

But Cohen is afraid of Ben-Gvir. He ordered that the campaign’s promotion be stopped and that “in the future ... greater sensitivity [be shown] when cooperating with entities whose participation is liable to harm the Israeli public.” It is very unfortunate that instead of focusing on their work and helping to promote a campaign whose purpose should be sacred to the Social Affairs Ministry, the ministry and its head surrender to ultranationalist bullying of the basest kind, and exemplify poor, weak leadership.

The above article is Haaretz’s lead editorial, as published in the Hebrew and English newspapers in Israel.

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