Open Zion

10.25.13

Why Are Israelis Tone Deaf to Incitement Against Palestinians?

The Prime Minister of Israel has been known to angrily decry anti-Israel incitement among Palestinians, and he is right to do so. If there's ever to be peace between the two nations, it will have to consist of more than negotiating terms and signing papers—the people involved will have to learn to see and treat each other as human beings, or the paperwork won’t last.

What, then, are we to make of two stories of incitement that came out of Israel just this week?

The first, reported by +972, reveals that posters lauding Meir Kahane have been appearing on the walls of Israeli military outposts. Meir Kahane was not only a racist ideologue of the worst stripe, he actively encouraged anti-Palestinian violence. Baruch Goldstein, the settler who massacred 29 praying Palestinians, was a member of Kahane's Kach Movement; both the Israeli and American governments have designated Kach and its successor movements as terrorist organizations. The posters in question read “Kahane was right”; in one photo, a uniformed soldier can be seen casually leaning back against Kahane’s headshot, rifle in hand.

The second story emerged from an interview that Yediot Aharonot conducted with Israeli celebrity/fashionista Nicole Raidman.

Raidman told Yediot that she’s planning a new home in a small community on the Israeli border with Gaza, a house that will feature green construction and solar energy. Asked by the reporter what she plans to do there, Raidman responded:

I’ll sit on the roof with my daughter and an AK-47 and play Angry Birds: There’s an Arab! Shoot! More than that: I’ll buy a pink tank with Swarovski crystals. I’m a right-wing extremist because a friend of mine was killed in an attack when I was a girl, okay?

Fantasizing about randomly killing Palestinians with one’s daughter, a tricked-out tank at your side, is bad enough, as far as these things go. As to Raidman’s justification for her attitude, I’m sure that the Israelis involved with the Israeli-Palestinian Bereaved Families Forum might have a different idea as to what she might do with her grief, but heaven knows Nicole Raidman isn’t the first person to respond to violence with revenge fantasies.

But then Raidman goes on to reveal just how blind she is to the implications of what she’s saying, shedding light not just on her own inner workings, but also on the enormous cognitive dissonance that exists for so many in Israeli Jewish society.

When the reporter asks her to clarify, Raidman helpfully adds: “I just mean terrorists”—and then, when told “but not all Arabs are terrorists,” replies:

I agree. I have Arab customers. One customer from Ramallah spends millions. What do I care. But their way of thinking, the way they raise their children with hate towards us, I can’t stand it. But if I see a 10 year old with a huge gun [totach —literally: cannon], I’ll shoot him!

Note that Raidman’s daughter—the child she is raising, educating, and wants to take up to the roof with an AK-47—was born in 2010. I can only imagine what Israeli officials would say if a Palestinian celebrity said anything similar.

This inability to see that something’s broken when a government can complain about incitement but isn’t much bothered by Kahane, or that cultivating murderous loathing among children is indefensible on either side of the border, is a kind of blindness that plagues Israeli Jewish society and shapes its relationship with all the Arab peoples among which it lives. And lest you be tempted to bring up textbooks: Sure, Palestinian textbooks have issues with hate-and-fear-mongering—and Israeli textbooks do, too.

Like any people, we Israelis tend to see our side’s flaws as unremarkable, and the other’s as unforgivable. We tell ourselves that a few posters don’t mean anything; that neither Raidman nor her toddler will be hauling a Kalashnikov up to the roof anytime soon. That our textbooks tell the truth.

When people kill each other for decades, though, the hate and the fear tend to flow both ways. Whether or not we want to talk about it, there exists mounds and mounds of evidence that Israelis are just as capable of hate and fear as anybody else.

Consider this: After hearing his interviewee fantasize about killing 10 year olds, Yediot’s reporter blithely changed the subject back to fashion. Violent xenophobia and bigotry are just part of the conversation.