Editorial

National Inciter Strikes Again

The aim of Netanyahu’s incitement is clear: to undermine the legitimacy and authenticity of the Druze protest against the nation-state law by portraying them as a herd of fools led by “the left” and the New Israel Fund

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends the weekly cabinet meeting at the Prime Minister's office in Jerusalem Sunday, July 29, 2018
Sebastian Scheiner/AP

Only hours after walking out on his meeting with Druze leaders Thursday and 24 hours before the massive demonstration in Tel Aviv’s Rabin Square Saturday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu shared to his Facebook page a (Hebrew) opinion piece on the Mida website that claimed the New Israel Fund was involved in organizing the protest.

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Incitement against the New Israel Fund could also be found in the Likud response to the failed meeting: “It’s unfortunate that leftist elements, first and foremost the New Israel Fund, are making cynical use of issues related to the Druze community, just for the purpose of political battering.”

The aim of Netanyahu’s incitement is clear: to undermine the legitimacy and authenticity of the Druze protest against the nation-state law. The prime minister portrays the Druze as a herd of fools led by “the left” and the New Israel Fund — as a code name for the “internal enemy” that acts to undermines the state in general and him in particular. Netanyahu thus mocks the pain and insult felt by the tens of thousands of people who filled the square Saturday night.

According to the op-ed, while the advertisements for the rally were nominally the work of an organization called the Campaign Against the Nation-State Law, in fact the demonstration was organized by ANU-Making Change, whose many supporters include the New Israel Fund. That’s how the right works: It takes a slender thread of truth (ANU responded to the organizers’ request to help with preparations for the rally), and spins into a web of lies.

The prime minister seeks to delegitimize the Druze protest, so he uses the formula that has served him well since the incitement against Yitzhak Rabin and “the Oslo criminals.” Technology, and with it the incitement, has advanced since then. In the hours before the rally, right-wing activists shared on social media fake text-message conversations between Labor Party activists about a deal with the Druze community over the protest against the nation-state law. Thus the falsehood spread everywhere.

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Amnon Abramovich, on the popular Friday-night TV show “Ulpan Shishi,” quoted a member of “the prime minister’s circle” as saying after Thursday’s meeting: “After going ahead with it, we can’t change a single word in the nation-state law.

Anyone who doesn’t like it, there’s a big Druze community in Syria; he’s welcome to establish the State of ‘Druzia.’” Although the Prime Minister’s Office dissociated itself from the remark, Netanyahu’s style is all too familiar, and in any case the spirit of the racist comment was already echoing on social media.

Netanyahu’s lies and incitement are systematically unraveling Israel’s fabric. Fair-minded people in the Knesset and among the public must unite against this threat before it’s too late.

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