This morning, an American woman I met in my gym told me she specializes in tolerance education. I instinctively responded that here we specialize in intolerance, not tolerance. The burning by settlers of a mosque in Maghayar in retaliation for the demolition of an illegal building in Alei Ain is just one recent example.
Prime Minister Netanyahu’s condemnation would have sounded less hollow if it were backed up by real action against those who incite violence and express racist remarks about the Muslim and Palestinian populations. When the official Jerusalem Day rally is marked by right-wing youths screaming racist and anti-Muslim slogans in the midst of a Palestinian neighborhood, the desecration of mosques cannot be far behind. When rabbis write racist books about when it’s OK to kill a non-Jew, and the state does almost nothing about it, attacks on Palestinian farmers are inevitable. Instead of investigating the clear incitement on the right, the police and Knesset waste precious resources investigating so-called incitement on the left. Racially and religiously abusive demonstrations against Muslims are not only allowed, but are directed by the authorities into the heart of East Jerusalem. Peaceful demonstrations against the wall, or in support of Palestinians trying to protect their land, on the other hand, are frequently violently broken up by the police, and demonstrators arrested. Just for one example, read this blog about a demonstration in Nabi Saleh on Friday.
Today we read about Israel Hasson’s (Kadima) initiative to prevent human rights organizations from receiving the help of National Service volunteers. Sadly, Kadima MK’s have been behind several of the anti-democratic measures passed by the Knesset in recent months, and Tzipi Livni does nothing to stop it. The silencing of alternative opinions and intolerance of difference is reaching dangerous proportions. Our response must be to speak up all the louder. To join demonstrations. To support organizations that are battling for the democratic nature of this country. To not only vote for the political parties that we agree with, but to join them and work on their behalf. To write letters and send e-mails. To find any way that we can to speak up – for democracy, for tolerance and for the future of this country.