Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gestures during a weekly cabinet meeting in Occupied Jerusalem on April 14, 2019. Image Credit: Reuters

As in the elections of 2015, the Israeli extreme right, headed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, again attacked “Israeli Palestinians” during the latest election campaign. This time his rightist alliance exploited the recent racist ‘National Law’, which states that “the State of Israel is the national homeland of the Jewish people, and that the right to self-determination in the State of Israel is limited to Jews”! Here, we should recall that Netanyahu won in the 2015 elections after he incited Israelis at the last moment, telling them that “Arab voters are turning to the polls in large numbers.”

Results of the index of racism and incitement in the Israeli social networks of 2018, prepared in Israel annually by (7amleh) the Arab Centre for Social Media Advancement, show that there is “an increase in the level of Israeli incitement and racism through social networks in 2017 and that the peak in 2018 was in the period of the ‘National Law’ legislation”.

The 2018 report found that “most of the incitement was directed against the Palestinian Knesset (Israeli Parliament) members, their political parties and the entire population of 48”. According to this report, “The rate of racism and hate online has increased since 2017 and an inciting post was published every 66 seconds in 2018 (up from every 71 seconds in 2017). In total, there were 474,250 posts that called for violence, racial profiling and insults against Palestinians (compared to 445,000 in 2017) published past year”. From all of the posts about “Arabs,” it said “1 out of 10 contained an insult or an invitation to violence against Palestinians.”

In an election video, Israeli Knesset member Oren Hazan, using a scene from the Western film The Good, the Bad and the Ugly appeared in a bubble bath shooting at the picture of the Palestinian Balad (the National Democratic Assembly) party leader Jamal Zahalka, also a Knesset member. Hazan pasted their two pictures on the movie’s original actors and posted the video on his Facebook page.

Celeb rebuke

Israel’s famous actress and TV presenter Rotem Sela provoked Netanyahu when she responded to racist comments uttered by the fanatic Israeli Culture Minister (Miri Regev). Sela tweeted: “When will anyone in this government tell the public that this is a country of all its citizens and all people are born equal? The Arabs are also human beings and also the Druze…..”

In a climate of fierce debate over the Palestinian representation in the Israeli Knesset, Netanyahu responded to Sela on Facebook. “Israel is not a country of all its citizens,” he wrote. “According to the nation-state law that we passed, Israel is the state of the Jewish people — and belongs to them alone.” Israel’s President Reuben Rivlin rebuked Netanyahu saying “Arabs aren’t second-class voters” and that “there are no first-class citizens” in Israel. “When we face the ballot we will all be equal, Jews and Arabs. In the Knesset everyone will be represented, Jews and non-Jews,” he said.

In its editorial, Haaretz said that “Netanyahu’s words are a public acknowledgement that through the National Law the State of Israel is no longer a democratic state, here is what is hidden: the goal of the national law is to make it clear to Arab citizens that in the eyes of the state they are citizens of Israel. But they must know that the state is not for all its citizens, and since Israel is not a state for all its citizens, any political circumstances in which a government includes Arab parties will “undermine the security of the state and its citizens.”

The Guardian newspaper sharply criticised Netanyahu’s comments, describing his actions as “fanatical and blind and playing on feeding the division.”

“Netanyahu’s statements were supposed to be shocking, but in fact they clearly revealed the objective of the nation-state law was to make the Palestinians second class citizens,” the newspaper said. It added that “these statements should have been disgraceful if he had known shame, but Netanyahu’s campaign to run for a new term in office, despite accusations of bribery and corruption, shows that he is not, and that he is strengthening the division.”

In an outright condemnation, the editorial went further and said: “Netanyahu’s recent actions are a blind and abhorrent fanaticism and a deviation to extremism, as well as his heinous transformation of the right and the gathering of hardline parties, the integration of Jewish anti-Arab racist forces and pro-settlement (i.e. colonisation) parties and helping them cross the threshold of representation in the Knesset to support him personally as prime minister.”

Israel’s “National Law” consolidates Jews’ supremacy recognising that Israel is a state of any Jew from any part of the world, more than a state to any Arab citizen born in “Israel”! This clearly reveals why that law overlooks equality as a constituent value in the ‘State of Israel’ as incorporated in the so-called Israeli Independence document.

It is certainly a development that has recently been leading to fostering and furthering the discourse of hatred against the “Israeli Palestinians” i.e. the Palestinians who stayed in their homeland (Palestine) during and after the 1948 war that paved the grounds for declaring the “State of Israel”.

— Professor As’ad Abdul Rahman is the chairman of the Palestinian Encyclopaedia.