The following video shows an incident that took place on a municipal bus in the greater Tel Aviv area (near Bnei Brak, for those who know the territory). This was a couple of days ago, shortly after the bodies of three Jewish boys who were abducted in mid-June were discovered in the West Bank.
The video shows a Palestinian man (wearing a baseball cap), presumably a citizen of Israel. Three men in military uniform (they are not combat soldiers, but probably employees of the ministry of defense— i.e., bureaucrats) form a human barrier between the Palestinian man and a group of Jewish-Israeli men. The man in the white shirt is shouting, “Filthy Arabs!”; ”Filthy Arab murderers of children!”; “I’ll take your heads off!”; “Fuck your mothers!”; “This is our country and not yours!” The Palestinian man is outraged – he shouts and indicates that he wants to respond physically, but the men in uniform who have created the physical barrier tell him to be quiet, sit down and wait for the police to arrive.
In the background, some of the passengers are muttering things like, “Shut up, you donkey!” and “Idiot!” at the Jewish man, while others try to push the uniformed men aside in order to attack the Palestinian. In the end, the bald man in the striped shirt succeeds in pushing aside the uniformed men who are trying to create a physical barrier around the Palestinian man. He reaches across and slaps the Palestinian man. It’s very easy to imagine how this scene could have devolved into something much, much worse.
The Facebook comments in response to the video are diverse. Some express horrors and shame, while others jeer, say they’re sick of the bleeding hearts (who, naturally, should go live in Gaza) and that those Arabs deserve what’s coming to them.
Also today, Palestinian-Israeli author Sayed Kashua, who has written both critically acclaimed Hebrew novels and is the creator for the hit television show “Arab Labor,” who lives in West Jerusalem and sends his children to a mixed Arab-Jewish school, writes in his weekly column for Haaretz that he no longer believes Jews and Arabs will ever be able to live in peace. He says that he is leaving Jerusalem, and that he might not return to the country following his planned year-long sabbatical in Chicago.
Two days ago, Ayman Siksek, a Palestinian-Israeli literary critic and author of the successful Hebrew novel “To Jaffa,” wrote a Facebook status in which he describes grimly the terrifying atmosphere of incitement in the country as a whole, and in Jerusalem specifically. A week after Siksek’s mother was attacked at a local grocery store in Jaffa, a friend in Jerusalem told him to cancel his planned visit to the city, because it was too dangerous. “The city is sick,” she wrote him.
Mobs of hyper-nationalist Jews are roaming the streets of downtown West Jerusalem, past people sitting at outdoor cafes, shouting “death to Arabs!” with impunity. The police are not enforcing the anti-incitement laws against Jews. But in East Jerusalem, the police are shooting Palestinian demonstrators, who are out protesting the abduction and murder of 16 year-old Mohammed Abu Khdeir, with foam-tipped rubber-coated steel bullets and tear gas. They are beating them, often very badly,and arresting them. People are barricading themselves in their homes, afraid to leave.
This is a terrible, frightening time. Perhaps a point of no return.