When Racists Stop Apologizing

Party leaders Naftali Bennett and Ayelet Shaked set the tone, enabling the Habayit Hayehudi campaign against Arab-Jewish intermarriage in the Ramle local election

Israeli Education minister Naftali Bennett attends the weekly cabinet meeting at the Prime Minister's office in Jerusalem, September 12, 2018.
Thomas Coex/Pool via Reuters

Habayit Hayehudi’s racist campaign in the Ramle city election, warning against Jewish-Arab intermarriage, is the rotten fruit of party chairman and Education Minister Naftali Bennett’s political project, as executed with his ideological partner Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked. Both officially said goodbye to any guilt feelings on the part of the far right when they declared, a few years ago, that they would no longer apologize.

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The campaign poster shows a young woman in a hijab, a table with lit Shabbat candles and a Kiddush cup in the background, and the caption, “There are hundreds of cases of assimilation in Ramle and nobody cares. Tomorrow it could be your daughter.” Below is a promise to voters: “Only a strong Habayit Hayehudi can preserve a Jewish Ramle.” Anyone who still doesn’t understand the danger of a society that pursues purity and has shed the checks and restraints of shame and guilt should translate the campaign slogan into German and listen to its historical sound.

An campaign poster in Ramle from the right-wing Habayit Hayehudi party says: 'There are hundreds of cases of assimilation in Ramle and nobody cares. Tomorrow it could be your daughter.'
Moti Milrod

The party’s national headquarters initially said that it would not accept “negative campaigns against other publics and communities.” But even this condemnation didn’t last long, and was replaced with a different message: “The party’s position on the issue of assimilation is clear: The Jewish people must preserve its national character and its tradition, religion, culture and heritage. At the same time, it is proper to keep the campaign respectful.” It seems that Habayit Hayehudi’s electorate wants to suckle Islamophobia even more than its leaders want to provide it.

Bennett and Shaked’s responsibility for the incitement in Ramle cannot be underestimated, nor can we be satisfied with their party’s lukewarm call to “keep the campaign respectful.” Without slighting Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s part in sowing social division and hatred, this dangerous duo from Habayit Hayehudi plays a major role in the government’s and the public’s extreme tilt toward the right. How should we interpret the education minister’s silent consent to this campaign? The fact that a man like Bennett is responsible for the education of Israel’s children ought to alarm any decent parent. What kind of deterrence is expressed by the silent consent of the justice minister to such blatant incitement? Well, what can we expect from someone who dedicates herself to destroying the judicial system?

>> Read more: ‘Tomorrow It Could Be Your Daughter’: Right-wing Party Campaigns on Anti-assimilation in Central Israeli Town

Ghassan Munier, who is running for the Ramle city council, warned of a violent outbreak in the city, which is known for the good relations between its Jewish and Arab residents. Another candidate, Nayef Abu Suiss, has filed a police complaint. On Wednesday residents destroyed most of the posters in protest, and the campaign was stopped. This was instead of the campaign being stopped by the genuine intervention of Habayit Hayehudi’s leaders, or by the Central Elections Committee.

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