Bennett suggests Arabs steal Jewish property during conference for Israeli high schoolers who will be voting in their first elections. Activist says he was threatened by Shin Bet outside the event.
Dozens of Arab and Jewish-leftist high school students walked out on a speech by Naftali Bennett after he suggested Arabs are car and property thieves during a conference held on Sunday at Tel Aviv University.
The leaders of several Israeli political parties spoke at the conference, put on by the Citizens’ Empowerment Center in Israel, which was convened for Israeli high school students who will be old enough to vote for the first time when Israeli elections are held on March 17.
One of the students who walked out says he was then questioned by Shin Bet officers who demanded to see his identity card. The student, who is also an activist in Meretz, told Haaretz’s Yarden Skoop: “They told me that I was suspected of attacking a government minister, and that I should expect a phone call from the Shin Bet.”
The students walked out in the middle of Bennett’s speech after he made the following remarks, which Hebrew speakers can view and hear on this video clip (translation/summary immediately below the video):
People who drive to the Negev know that they can’t park their cars near popular tourist sites because they will certainly get broken into. [In response to an approving prompt from someone in the audience, Bennett affirmed, “In Petah Tikvah, too!”] And in the Galilee, and they steal tractors from farmers. And in East Jerusalem! In East Jerusalem you can’t even go to Mt. Scopus or the Mt. of Olives anymore. And in every Arab village and in every Arab city. And by the way this hurts the Arabs too! Because the State of Israel has decided that the law should only be enforced in places like Tel Aviv and Ra’anana [prosperous, liberal cities in the center of the country]. And that is why [when/if the Jewish Home is asked to join the next governing coalition – LG] we will demand the legal affairs and domestic security portfolios, so that MK Ayelet Shaked will be the Minister of Internal Security.
At this point the protesting students get up to leave. Based on what we can see in the video, they filed out quietly, with the Meretz supporters identifiable by their bright green T-shirts. Bennett shouted at them, “That’s always the way with the leftists. They run away. Go ahead! Run! We are staying here in this land! We are not running away!” Bennett supporters in the audience responded with cheers and applause.
Ayelet Shaked is notorious for having posted on Facebook that all Palestinians were enemy combatants, irrespective of their gender or age, and for referring to them as “snakes.” She has on many occasions expressed radically right-wing ideas which have been widely covered by the Israeli media.
Dror Feuer, an Israeli journalist for Globes newspaper, who is a supporter of Hadash, the Arab-Jewish socialist party, attended the conference and tweeted (in Hebrew), “Just coming out of the elections conference with several party leaders and a thousand high schoolers. It was pretty good, until Bennett got up and said all the Arabs were car thieves. He really did. The Arab students left and so did I.”
In response, Bennett posted a Facebook status addressed directly to Feuer. In very idiomatic Hebrew (which he translated into English as well), he calls Feuer a liar and threatens him with a libel suit if the journalist fails to delete the tweet within 24 hours. The media, Bennett writes, has been persecuting him for three years with lies about things he allegedly said or did, and these lies are having a negative effect on his reputation abroad. Bennett cleverly chooses three examples of cases where the media did level accusations that were later shown to be untrue, or at least open to debate. He ignores the many occasions on which he has made blatant, crudely racist remarks directed at Palestinians, including the time he said that he had killed plenty of Arabs and had no problem with that.
The whole incident is an excellent example of Bennett’s genius for populism and public relations. It is true that he did not specifically say that Arabs were car thieves; instead, he spoke in code. Imagine if a right-wing populist running for office in the United States were to give a speech that played on white fears by referring to the risks of driving around the Brownsville section of Brooklyn, the south side of Chicago or East Los Angeles. Everyone would know he was referring to brown people, just as Bennett’s audience knew he was referring to Arabs. And how easy it is to play on the fears of the people in power as a means of deflecting from the reality of hooligans rampaging through Jerusalem, shouting “death to Arabs” with impunity, beating up random passersby because they look or sound Arab, even beating up Druze citizens who are serving in the Israeli army, because they were heard speaking Arabic.
In Israel the police are not punished for shooting unarmed Arab protestors in the back, or for beating them senseless — not even when there is videotaped evidence. Whites in America might be afraid of blacks, but the blacks are the ones who get shot, choked to death and jailed. And in Israel it is the Arabs who get beaten and jailed for protesting — or just for existing. And when they walk out of a speech given by a racist parliamentarian, they are allegedly questioned by the Shin Bet. And the Ashkenazi Jewish ex-combat officer parliamentarian who preaches racist incitement to an audience of high school students? Nothing will happen to him.