"Why don't you come spend Shabbat with us on our settlement, come to the synagogue and see for yourself that we don't have horns and there is no occupation?" I get such an invitation practically word for word every few months from settlers who wish to present the appearance of a normative, moral and virtuous community beyond the Green Line.
In the last week, the truth behind the polite invitations, the Shabbat challah loaves and the broad smiles of many of the settlers was revealed again, as they went on talking about Jewish morals, Zionism and values.
In a single week we saw members of the radical right who serve as the parliamentary aides of a popular rightwing member of Knesset harass the granddaughter of the late Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin on her way out of a memorial service for her grandfather; we heard about a bus driver who refused to admit Palestinians who had undergone security inspections, and when forced by the police to take them, dropped them off in the middle of the road; we all saw the shocking sights of a Palestinian family being rescued from a burning taxi after it was firebombed (burned taxi is pictured); we saw dozens of Jewish teenagers, in public view in downtown Jerusalem, running and beating an Arab almost to death only because he was Arab. In the face of such an ugly wave of racism, the leadership of the Israeli right continues its worrisome practice of rolling its eyes, taking no responsibility, excusing and even supporting such actions.
The bus driver who dropped off Palestinian passengers in the middle of the territories received backing from his employers, while the Israeli regional councils in the territories run a campaign to pass a regulation forbidding Arabs from using the public transportation. After the lethal firebomb was thrown in Gush Etzion, the security forces refrained from raiding the settlement of Bat Ayin to which the tracks of the perpetrators led, and the slow progress of the investigation bears no resemblance to similar investigations when the victims on the highways are settlers.
The settler leaders, who hasten to blame the Palestinians for every incident in the West Bank, fell suddenly silent, refrained from condemning the attack and asked to wait until the investigation was completed. The head of the Gush Etzion Council outdid them all when at the last minute he prevented a sympathy visit by Jews to the residents of the victims' village, so as not to imply, God forbid, that it was Jews who had thrown the firebomb. Not a single one of the leaders of the settlements in the area would admit that the hill from which the firebomb had been thrown had turned into a preferred destination for the area's settler youth, from which to target passing Palestinian vehicles.
Members of the rightwing Lehava organization managed to justify the lynch in Jerusalem as a deterrence measure to keep Arab youths from "coming on" to Jewish girls, a baseless racist argument that attempts to legitimize violence and racism. Other rightwing figures tried to minimize the incident, excused the Palestinian teenager's grave injury by a heart disease from which he had suffered since childhood and demanded to stop using the term "attempted lynch." In response to all of that depravity, not a single central figure in the settlements' leadership expressed concern over a young generation that is adopting methods of operation typical of terrorist organizations and nationalist and fascist movements.
Eli Yishai, Miri Regev, Danny Dannon and all the other members of the permanent chorus, which is quick to convict migrant workers or Palestinians every time a Jew is attacked, fell completely silent and chose not to confront their traditional supporters. Education Minister Gideon Saar also bears responsibility since he has systematically cut civics and democracy programs in favor of Jewish heritage studies and tours to Hebron and biblical sites. Were such violence perpetrated against Jews in any European country, the chorus of condemnation would surely be deafening. But when the victims are Palestinians, there are people who manage to find "security" or "religious" justifications for the expressions of hatred and racism and thereby give their support to the entire phenomenon. With leadership like that, it is no wonder that after every hate event the Internet is flooded with words of encouragement and support by thousands of brainwashed and hate-filled Israelis that would befit the most backward countries in the world.
Therefore, next time a smiling settler invites me to his home and tells me of the wonders of coexistence and the values of Zionism and morals, I will ask him what exactly he does after mosque burnings, olive tree torchings, fire bombings, lynch attempts in Jerusalem, discrimination against Arab passengers on buses and other forms of racism against Arabs. You cannot have it both ways. You are either with them or against them.
Article originally appeared in Ha'aretz, here (Hebrew)