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News :: Human Rights
Israel's far-right spreads from the fringes
15 Jul 2014
For years, Israel has been shifting to the right, while the left-leaning peace movement is now only a shadow of its former self. Right-wing parties dominate the Knesset, and nationalist views are widespread.
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Israel fascist.jpg
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Israel right.jpg
Demonstrators have gathered in Jerusalem's city center, close to the former border between east and west. They carry Israeli flags and signs, and shout "Mavet la aravim" (Death to Arabs). They flag down taxi drivers, so they can check if they are Jews or Palestinians. The atmosphere is tense. Many Palestinian taxi drivers from occupied East Jerusalem work in the city.

One young protester shouts an invective at Palestinians, while another replies: "Give it to them."

The uproar was sparked by the deaths of three Israeli yeshiva students who were kidnapped and murdered in the West Bank. Their bodies were discovered buried beneath a pile of rubble near Hebron at the end of June. Hamas has been blamed for the deaths, although the group denies responsibility.

Speaking at the youths' funeral, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said: "A deep and wide chasm separates us from our enemies. They sanctify death; we sanctify life. They sanctify cruelty, and we sanctify mercy. That is the secret and the foundation of our unity."

Racist sentiment

One day later, Mohammed Abu Khdeir, a young Palestinian from East Jerusalem, was kidnapped, tortured and brutally murdered. The perpetrators belong to Israel's extreme right-wing religious scene.

Their teachers and educators are rabbis with a racist world view. They support the settlement movement and claim that all the land between the Mediterranean and Jordan is rightfully theirs. There is no room for Palestinians in this picture.

Rabbi Dov Lior is one of the leaders of the settlement movement. He was arrested in 2011 for making racist remarks, and questioned by police on suspicion of inciting violence. Lior was also the spiritual teacher of Yigal Amir, the man who assassinated Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin in 1995.

'Only room for one nation'

Lior's sums up his teachings succintly: "All of those who believe in the Torah know that this land was promised solely to these people. There is no room for another national entity in this place. There has never been a state belonging to another people here. It belongs exclusively to the Jewish people."

Like Lior, Rabbi David Batzri has many followers, especially among Jews from the Middle East. He previously faced court, and was also sentenced, for making racist comments about Arabs. He fought against the establishment of a combined Arab-Jewish school in Jerusalem, arguing Jews are pure and Arabs impure, and the two should not be mixed.

Rabbi Shlomo Aviner is another well-known face from Israel's right wing. He has called for Palestinian terrorists to face the death penalty. And in 2010, he published an appeal, signed by more than 50 rabbis, for Arabs to be prevented from renting apartments.

Aviner serves as a rabbi in the Beit El settlement in the occupied West Bank. His salary is paid by the state - just like the former military rabbi, Avichai Rontzki. Rontzki supervised soldiers during the Gaza War in 2008-2009. He instructed them to show the Palestinians no mercy. He said civilians could even be killed if it meant the life of a Jew would be saved - a clear violation of martial law.

Dangerous ideas

According to Rachel Elior, a professor of Jewish philosophy at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, these are dangerous statements that should be banned.

"There are certain circles that want to deny the fact that Palestinians are people just like us. No more, no less," she said on Israeli radio. "Unfortunately, many think that we are a holy people, and that non-Jews can be defined as unclean and worthy of death."

The rabbis base their views on ancient and traditional Jewish texts, said Elior, adding that this doesn't, however, legitimize racism.

The Jewish people have a long history that stretches back more than 3,000 years, she added. The collective memory is shaped by texts, which resulted, in part, from Jews living as a persecuted minority among other peoples, said Elior.

There are written sources over 3,000 years old, and it's clear "that over such a long period of time there are all sorts of beliefs that are no longer acceptable today," she said. "Just as we no longer have slaves or maidservants, although there are religious laws that permit doing so, you cannot allow racist comments based on these Israeli sources."

Right-wing football fans

Far-right ideas aren't only limited to religious circles, though. Ultra-nationalist and racist sentiment is also widespread in non-religious society in Israel. For example, the football club Beitar Jerusalem is a rallying point for right-wing extremists and radical fans who make no secret of their anti-Islam views.

That became clear last year when the club enlisted two Muslim players from Chechnya. Beitar supporters from the ultra-nationalist fan club "La Familia" climbed on the barricades and booed the players. There's little reaction when their battle cry "Death to Arabs" is heard in the stadium. The alleged murderers of the young Palestinian Mohammad Abu Kheidra are also said to be associated with the club.

Extremists in the Knesset

Racist remarks even emerge with some regularly in Israel's parliament, the Knesset. The 49-year-old Likud MP Miri Regev, for example, admits quite openly to being a fascist. The former army brigadier general has called for Arab parties to be excluded from the Knesset, dubbing them a "fifth column."

She's not the only one in her party making controversial claims. Likud MP Danny Danon has labeled Arab MPs "masked terrorists," while his party colleague Ofir Akunis has declared that only the Jewish people are entitled to the occupied West Bank. "This is our country," he said.

Ayelet Shaked, an MP with the far-right Jewish Home party, is just as vocal as her Likud colleagues. In a recent post on her Facebook page, she wrote that Israel wasn't waging a war against terrorists, but against the Palestinian people, and that Palestinians were an enemy whose blood must be shed.

Such views are no longer limited to the margins in Israel, having gained in social acceptability. Israel's right wing has moved to the center of the Knesset, and toward the center of society.
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Re: Israel's far-right spreads from the fringes
15 Jul 2014
Lost Voices of Dissent - Israel’s War Echo Chamber by NEVE GORDON

For several days now, some of my neighbours have suggested that the time has come to “destroy them”- meaning either Hamas or Palestinians – “once and for all”. The rockets being fired from Gaza clearly do have the effect of raising the level of hysteria within Israel.

However, not only have the dozens of Grads been fermenting the spirit of war – government ministers, members of Knesset and leading media commentators have also been consistently pouring oil onto the fire. Indeed, it seems the only vocal criticism against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is that he is too soft on the Palestinians. There is no public debate about the necessity of another war, but only about how punitive Israel should be.

Immediately following the discovery of the three Jewish teenagers’ bodies on June 30, Israel’s security cabinet met. Although it was, by then, common knowledge that the higher echelons had known the boys were dead even as they launched a massive military operation in the West Bank two weeks earlier – killing seventeen Palestinian civilians and arresting more than 500, including a number of Hamas members who had been released in the Shalit swap – the cabinet allegedly convened to discuss how Israel should respond to the boys’ death.

‘Not striking hard enough’

Reportedly, the political and security leadership supported a “more moderate response,” while the far-right wing economy minister and the head of the Jewish Home Party, Naftali Bennett, demanded a much harsher reaction. A few days later, Bennett complained that “Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is undermining Israel’s deterrence”; adding that “restraint following the execution of three children is a sign of weakness”. Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman went so far so to dismantle the Likud-Beiteinu unity, blaming Netanyahu for “not striking Hamas hard enough”.

In a similar vein, several prominent columnists urged Netanyahu to take a more belligerent stand. Shaul Rosenfeld noted that Israel’s restraint is outrageous and shameful. In an opinion piece for the popular news site Ynet he wrote: “‘The regional power Israel has fallen to its knees to beg the murderous terrorist organisation to graciously give it some peace and quiet.”

The public debate today is not whether or not to stop the air strikes but rather whether or not to deploy ground forces. In an opinion column, Channel 2′s military correspondent Ronnie Daniel claimed that only “a ground operation will extract a heavy enough price from Hamas” in order to ensure a longer period of peace for Israel. The following day Channel 2′s anchor pondered: “We wanted Hamas to fall on its knees and so far this has not happened”; and Daniel responded, “So far it’s not happening, and the conclusion, in my opinion, is that it has not received enough.”

Moreover, the editor-in-chief of the most widely circulated daily newspaper Israel Hayom, published an opinion article entitled “Bring the Gaza Strip back to the Stone Age.” He immediately explained that he did not mean that Israel should reduce all of the houses in Gaza to rubble but rather to “destroy the weapon arsenal Hamas has accumulated over the past ten years. To pull out the snake’s teeth. To leave them without missiles, with stones at the most. And this can only be done in or through an extensive ground operation.”

While not all commentators were as blatant, the Israeli press has, overall, mobilised itself in the name of the national hysteria. Most commentators for Haaretz, Yediot Ahronot, Ynet, and Ma’ariv concur that the current round of fighting was forced on Netanyahu and are also in general agreement in insisting that it is impossible to eradicate Hamas without recapturing the Gaza Strip, but note that at this stage the government is not interested in doing so.

A number of Likud members also object to a ground operation. Knesset Member Moshe Feiglin stated that “Our enemy is not only Hamas but the entire population that supports it and raises three fingers with pride while handing out candy as our sons are killed,” he wrote, exclaiming: “We should not send a single soldier to Gaza! We do not even need to bomb houses and empty areas! We should simply deny them electricity, water, food and medicine until they fall on their knees.”

Deputy Defence Minister Danny Danon, who has over 105,000 followers on his Facebook page, posted a poster of an aerial photo of Gaza showing a rocket being launched towards Israel. On the poster he wrote: “A billion and a half shekels debt to the electricity company; more than 360 rockets have been fired towards Israel; 0 rationale in transferring electricity and fuel to Hamas.” Close to 33,000 people liked the poster, 6,700 shared it, and 1,200 commented on it, claiming, for example, “it is the leader head of your party [Netanyahu] who is to blame.”

This is the atmosphere produced by the right wing government and the media, but what, one might ask, has been the reaction of the political parties sitting in the opposition?

Responding to a question posed by Channel 2′s anchor, Labor leader and the head of the opposition Yitschak Herzog said: “…I think Israeli restraint has run its course and it’s time to execute the blow that will restore the calm…” The anchor pressed Herzog, asking whether he supports a ground operation, but Herzog was unwilling to provide a direct response. Similarly, former Labor leader Shelly Yachimovitch, alsoexpressed support for the military operation, adding that while she is one Netanyahu’s harshest critics “it is impossible not to appreciate his responsible and restrained conduct in this crisis.”

The leader of the liberal Meretz Party publically demanded an end to the operation, but in a conversation with Netanyahu she was quoted as saying that “You have to punish Hamas, but also strive for a diplomatic move, with the aid of the Egyptians, that will produce a cease-fire.”

The only exceptions to this warmongering have been the usual suspects, people like Gideon Levy, Amira Hass and Uri Misgav from Ha’aretz who have harshly condemned the current round of violence. The voices of the Palestinian members of Knesset have not been heard in the Israeli media for the past several days, because, I suspect, they are adamantly against this cycle of violence and the demos does not really want to hear them.

Finally, the left has organised several protests, fifty people here a hundred people there, and, while often this is how resistance begins, it is not clear how within the current atmosphere these sober voices will amount to anything. It is a time of deep despair for all those who envision a different and brighter future for this land.
Re: Israel's far-right spreads from the fringes
17 Jul 2014
Right Wing Polish MEP’s racial slur sparks anger

STRASBOURG, FRANCE – A far-right Polish MEP outraged lawmakers gathered in the European Parliament on Wednesday by comparing the continent’s unemployed youth to “niggers” in the U.S. South.

Janusz Korwin-Mikke, the outspoken leader of the royalist and libertarian Congress of the New Right party, delivered the remark during a speech to deputies decrying the existence of minimum wage laws.

Comparing job-seeking youth to black laborers in the American South during the 1960s, Korwin-Mikke said: “Four millions humans lost jobs. Well, it was four million niggers. But now we have 20 millions Europeans who are the Negroes of Europe.

“Yes, they are treated like Negroes!

“We must destroy the minimum wage and we must destroy the power of trade unions,” the 72-year-old added, before being shouted down in the parliament session.

The Socialist coalition immediately called on Korwen-Mikke to apologize or resign over what it called the “worst insult of racist discrimination and humiliation.”

“What Mr. Korwin-Mikke has preached did not only offend those that have a different skin color, but everyone who is inspired by the European values of dignity and equality,” said Italian Socialist Cecile Kyenge, who is of Congolese origin.

Korwin-Mikke had already stirred controversy during campaigning for EU elections in May by claiming Adolf Hitler “was not aware of the extermination of the Jews.”