By Uri Avnery Published by Haaretz 21 Dec. 2013
SEEING HER face on the TV screen, one is struck by her beauty. It is the face of an angel, pure and innocent. Then she opens her mouth, and what pours out is vile and ugly, the racist message of the extreme right. Like seeing a cherub parting its lips and revealing the teeth of a vampire.
Ayelet Shaked may be the beauty queen of the present Knesset. But she is the instigator of some of the most outrageous right-wing initiatives in this Knesset. Her latest exploit is a bill which is now being debated in the Knesset, which would levy a huge tax on donations given by foreign “political entities” to Israeli human rights associations, those who advocate a boycott of Israel (or of the settlements only), the indictment of Israeli officers accused of war crimes in international courts, and more. All this while immense sums are flowing from abroad to the settlements and their supporters. Much of it comes from American Jewish billionaires of dubious repute.
This is the face of an international phenomenon. All over Europe, extreme fascistic parties are flourishing. Small despised fringe groups suddenly expand into large parties with a national impact. From Holland to Greece, from France to Russia, these parties propagate a mixture of super-nationalism, racism, xenophobia, Islamophobia, anti-Semitism and immigrant-hatred. A deadly witches’ brew.
The explanation? All over the place, the economic crisis has hit the people hard. Unemployment is high. Young people cannot find jobs. The victims look for a scapegoat on which to vent their anger. They choose the foreigner, the minority, the helpless. That’s how a failed painter named Adolf Hitler became a historic figure. For politicians without vision or values, this is the easiest way to success and prominence. It is also the most despicable.
LAST WEEK, we saw a spectacle that would have shaken our grandparents to the core. Some 300 black people, many of them barefoot in the biting cold of an exceptionally severe winter, were walking dozens of kilometers on a central road. They were refugees who had managed to flee from Sudan and Eritrea, to walk all the way through Egypt and the Sinai and had crossed the border into Israel. There are now about 60,000 such African refugees in Israel. Thousands of them are crowded in the most run-down slums of Tel Aviv and other cities, causing deep resentment among the locals. This has proved a fertile breeding ground for racism.
Looking for a solution to the problem, the government built a large prison in the middle of the desolate Negev desert, unbearably hot in summer and unbearably cold in winter. Thousands of black refugees have been crowded there without trial for three years. Israeli human rights associations applied to the Supreme Court, and the imprisonment of the refugees was declared unconstitutional. The government thought again and decided to circumvent the decision. Not far from the forbidden prison a new prison was built, and the refugees were put there for one year each. No, not a prison. Something called “Open Live-in Facility”. We are good at naming things. We call that “verbal laundry”.
This “open” desert prison is closed during the night, but inmates are free during the day. However, it is far from anywhere. The inmates must register three times during daytime – thus making it impossible to go anywhere, not to mention finding work. It is from this “open” prison that the valiant 300 have walked out and marched all the way to Jerusalem, some 150 kilometers, in order to demonstrate in front of the Knesset. It took them three days. They were accompanied by a few Israeli human rights activists, mostly female. In front of the Knesset they were brutally attacked by specially trained riot police. Each demonstrator was surrounded by half a dozen bullies and violently thrown into a bus, which brought them to the old non-open prison.
A hundred memories float into our minds. Of Jews being hounded from country to country. Of the mighty USA rejecting Jewish refugees on a German ship, fleeing from Nazi persecution. And later exterminated in the death camps. Of the Swiss pushing back Jews escaping from the concentration camps who had made it to their border.
The Bible commands us to treat the stranger in our midst as we would want to be treated ourselves. “Also, thou shalt not oppress a stranger, for ye know the heart of a stranger, seeing ye were strangers in the land of Egypt!” (Exodus 23:9) Amen! http://zope.gush-shalom.org/home/en/channels/avnery/ [Abridged]