The Next Tragedy Is on Netanyahu

The prime minister won’t be able to claim his hands are clean if someone someday translates the government’s incitement into action

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Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends the weekly cabinet meeting at his office in Jerusalem on April 23, 2017.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends the weekly cabinet meeting at his office in Jerusalem on April 23, 2017.Credit: RONEN ZVULUN/AFP
Haaretz.
Haaretz Editorial

The past week has clarified the ugly image of Benjamin Netanyahu’s extremist government. Its members compete among themselves to promote wild incitement and divest themselves of any semblance of statesmanship, as if they were rabble at a demonstration rather than people responsible for running a country.

As usual, their target bank includes opponents of the occupation, first and foremost human rights organizations. Every minister proposes his own McCarthyite initiative to gag them in order to gain headlines, and every junior Knesset member shoots arrows at them to bolster his reputation.

Shortly after Netanyahu issued an ultimatum demanding that Germany’s foreign minister cancel his meetings with such organizations, his vocal, supportive choir joined in. Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely defined the organizations as “internal enemies” – a statement that can be interpreted as nothing but unbridled, dangerous incitement that is liable to lead to bloodshed.

Culture Minister Miri Regev sent a letter to Haifa Mayor Yona Yahav demanding that he act to cancel an event by one such group, Breaking the Silence, at a private gallery in the city. “It’s unnecessary to point out that Breaking the Silence works to undermine Israel’s image and portray it as an immoral country, and to portray the Israel Defense Forces and its soldiers as an immoral army,” Regev wrote.

Earlier this week, Regev even tried to prevent an event at the Jerusalem Cinematheque that included a screening of director Yotam Feldman’s documentary “The Lab,” about the Israeli arms industry. “The goal of the evening, as it was presented to me, is to show the evil, ugly face of Israel,” the culture minister wrote in a letter to Jerusalem’s mayor. She added that the film subverted “the state, its values and its symbols.”

The culture minister and all her colleagues in the government repeatedly display a lack of understanding of, or perhaps a lack of desire to understand, the essence of democracy. They incite against anyone who dares to criticize the government – a practice that not only cannot be forbidden in any properly functioning civil society, but that should even be encouraged.

Netanyahu won’t be able to claim his hands are clean if someone someday translates the government’s incitement into action. The man who has repeatedly obtained power through incitement bears responsibility for the next tragedy.

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

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