5 of the Most Appalling Acts of Incitement From Israel This Week: Major Poll Shows Racism in Israel Is Far from Fringe

News & Politics

Our latest edition of Israel Incitement Watch focuses not only on the racist statements of Israel's political and religious leaders, but on the first-ever Pew poll of Israeli Jews, which found that racist sentiments were not confined to a fringe, but are embraced by a large segment of the population.

1. Poll of Israeli Jews reveals support for racial hierarchy and ethnic cleansing.

On March 8, the Pew Research Center published the results of its premier poll of Jewish-Israeli society, confirming in concrete numbers what analysts have long sensed from anecdotal evidence: the vast majority of Jewish citizens want Israel to treat them better than it treats its non-Jewish citizens, and about half want the state not to have any non-Jewish citizens altogether.

According to the Pew Poll, 79% of Jewish Israelis, nearly four-fifths, say that the state should give Jews "special treatment." Furthermore, 48% of Jewish Israelis polled, nearly half, say they support stripping non-Jewish Arabs of their Israeli citizenship and expelling them from the country. Among secular Jews, support for stripping Arabs of their Israeli citizenship and deporting them out stood at 36%; among religious Jews, support for ethnically cleansing Palestinian citizens of Israel stood at 71%.

Deputy Speaker of the Knesset Bezalel Smotrich responded to the poll by identifying advocates of ethnic cleansing as his potential supporters, remarking over Twitter that "There are those to be led."

2. Centrist lawmaker calls to expand settlements, expel families of attackers.

In Israel, it is not uncommon for the so-called centrists in the Israeli parliament to lend their support to anti-democratic legislation tabled by the ruling rightists. In some instances, these alleged centrists try to win over conservative voters by attacking the far-right-wing government from the even-further-right. This week, Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid did both, beginning with the latter; on March 7, he attacked the Netanyahu government in a Knesset caucus meeting, claiming it was not building nearly enough houses in Jewish-only settlements in the occupied West Bank.

Two days later, Lapid announced that he would support the ruling Likud Party's proposal to add deportation to the list of punishments to be meted out to Palestinians who attack Jews. Like Israel's demolition of the houses of Palestinian attackers, this measure would also adversely affect the militant's family members whether or not they had anything to do with an attack. Lapid took to Facebook to express his support for the bill, which calls for permanently expelling a Palestinian attacker's entire family: "The terrorists must know that Israel will chase down not only them, but their families as well, if they try to harm innocent citizens." Both deportation and collective punishment are considered to be war crimes under international law.

It is instructive to contrast Israel's treatment of the families of Palestinian attackers of Jews with its treatment of the families of Jewish attackers of Palestinians. Earlier in the week, a Knesset ethics panel rejected a complaint by a leftist lawmaker and ruled that Israel's Justice Minister had done nothing wrong by meeting with the mother of one of the Israelis accused of burning a Palestinian family alive. "There was no improper behavior by Ayelet Shaked," the parliamentary panel declared.

3. Chief rabbi calls for killing attackers and cutting off contact with seculars.

Wading into an ongoing national debate over how Palestinians who attack Jews should be treated, one of the country's two chief rabbis declared that it is incumbent upon Jews to kill them on the spot. “If someone comes to kill you, you kill him first," Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef said on March 12, telling Israeli soldiers to ignore legal and moral obligations to apprehend attackers with the minimum force necessary, whether these instructions come from "the High Court of Justice, or that some chief of staff" of the Israel Defense Forces.

In the same speech, Yosef renewed a biblical call to commit genocide of all "Amalekites." The Torah records the existence of a people called the Amalekites, though they have no known living descendants in the modern era. Nevertheless, this designation is routinely trotted out by right-wing rabbis to call for massacres of Israel's enemies du jour.

"If some terrorist comes to me now, and I know he's a terrorist, and we caught him. He doesn't have a knife in his hand, he doesn't have anything. And I know, Elijah the Prophet will come to me and tell me that he's from Amalek. Is it permitted to kill him on Shabbat? No. But Elijah the Prophet says that it's Amalek. Put him in prison, after Shabbat say a blessing and kill him," said Yosef.

Later in the week, Yosef called on religious Jews to prevent their children from socializing with children of secular families, even blood relatives.

4. Humanitarian aid destined for Palestinians ends up in Israeli pockets.

Many people around the world express their solidarity with the Palestinian people by donating money to Palestinian projects. But Israeli researcher Shir Hever has just released a new report which claims that of the more than $2 billion in humanitarian aid that is donated to Palestinian causes annually, a whopping 78% ends up in the hands of Israelis. Hever explains in his recent report that Israel siphons away these sums by insisting on playing the middle man between international donors and their intended recipients.

"To reach the Palestinians, donors have no choice but to go through Israel. This provides ripe opportunities for what he terms ‘aid subversion’ and ‘aid diversion.’ The first results from the Palestinians being a captive market. They have access to few goods that are not Israeli," Jonathan Cook writes in the National. "Aid diversion, meanwhile, occurs because Israel controls all movement of people and goods. Israeli restrictions mean it gets to charge for transport and storage, and levy 'security' fees."

5. Israel's Culture Minister doesn't know who John Lennon is.

At first glance this entry might seem to be an ill-advised choice for one of the worst outrages of the week. No indigenous Palestinians, African refugees, or anyone else was harmed when Israel's Minister of Culture Miri Regev revealed that she could not correctly identify a member of the most commercially successful band in the history of popular music.

Regev's public record of hateful incitement against Palestinians, Africans and leftist Jews is frightening, to be sure. But in a week when the local liberal newspaper runs an opinion piece titled "Could Miri Regev be the next prime minister?" the revelation that this popular politician isn't just a rabid racist but also a culturally illiterate revisionist historian seemed to set off a political tripwire.

Since her appointment to the ministry in 2015, the former military censor has confirmed the worst fears of forward-thinking Israeli artists, accusing progressives of having a disproportionate influence over Israeli culture, and proudly announcing that she would cut this down to size. In January, Regev introduced new Knesset legislation that would "make support for a cultural institution dependent on its loyalty to the state of Israel."

This week, in an interview, Regev name-dropped Lennon—who wrote the popular antiwar anthems “Give Peace A Chance” and “Imagine” and was murdered more than 35 years ago—as a patriot she would be happy to see play Israel at some point in the future. "I have nothing against artists and cultural institutions. I, too, travel to London and New York to see shows. I would very much like Tel Aviv to host an artist like John Lennon, who wraps himself in the British flag after three hours. It warms the heart," she said.

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