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Israeli MK incites violence against leftists, Palestinians

It is reassuring to know that in Israel everyone can have their voice heard. Thus, an Israeli anti-war demonstration held last Thursday was countered by a rally supporting the military operation in Gaza by Israeli forces. But there should be a limit on free speech, especially when some of those voices are calling for violence against others.

In developed societies, incitement to violence is a punishable offense. Israel’s standards should be no different.

During Thursday’s rally, right-wing Israeli member of Knesset Michael Ben-Ari (National Union) is seen encouraging the chanting crowd with phrases like, “leftist traitors,” and “leftists out.” He then asks:

Why is it only 200 flights and 15 killed? We want 15 flights and 2,000 killed!

Watch: Right-wing demonstrators call for expulsion of leftists

When I posted this video on my personal facebook account earlier today, it had only 300 views, and I noted that, in my opinion, MK Ben-Ari should be arrested. (I still believe that to be the case, and I hope the authorities are reading this.) I got a number of responses from Israeli Jews noting, with some embarrassment, that the clip is disgusting and that Ben-Ari does not represent Jews or Israel or them:

No no no – This is NOT representative of me or Torah or Israel … We’re taught that when we’re angry, part of our neshama [soul or spirit] is chased away.

I advise this friend (a religious Jewish female, raised in the U.S. but now living in Israel) to write about the issues from her perspective, and to not allow the likes of Ben-Ari to hijack the voice of religious Jews. Meanwhile, another friend – a secular Israeli living in the North, noted:

[A]s a Jew, Israeli and Zionist, I am ashamed in each and every single person in this movie. The damage they cause us as a nation is far beyond any missile coming from the Gaza Strip.

The sentiments are reassuring. And indeed, politically, Ben Ari – a self-declared supporter of the slain Rabbi Meir Kahane and a former member of the outlawed group Kahane Chai – has very few followers in Israel, though enough to get him and his party elected. Some of them are seen in the video with him, chanting “Gaza is a graveyard.”

But for me, perhaps more alarming than Ben-Ari and his supporters are the following:

First, that sentiment – even if not as violent in tone – is creeping into Israeli society and institutions, and it is doing so unchecked. Crackdowns on leftists are often spearheaded by the government itself. Few, except for on the Left, have spoken out against this witchhunt. And comments like “we have to get rid of all of the Arabs” can now be overheard in cafes in “liberal” Tel Aviv.

Second, more and more so, these views – and incitement to violence – are being tolerated in Israeli society, rather than purged with the greatest of efforts.

It is not enough to hide in embarrassment. One must do something to counter these calls for violence, spoken through and shielded by an exploitation of democracy and freedom of speech. MK Ben-Ari does not want dialogue. He wants war, domestically and beyond Israel’s border, and is calling for as much using taxpayer money.

Democracy is complicated. Yes, it includes free speech. But democracy also has responsibilities, which include the safeguarding of rights, including life, for everyone. Israelis and their supporters should raise their voices not just to drain out Ben-Ari and his followers, but to defend the very values their claim to cherish.

Click here for more +972 coverage on the Israel-Gaza conflict.

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    1. Piotr Berman

      Somehow I managed to guess that the MK unnamed in the title is Ben-Ari.

      Ben-Ari is a kind of man that gives fascists a bad name. Few weeks ago he thought police approval to bring Israeli flag to a soccer match in Arab town in Galilee to “shows the fans there who is the boss”. A good fascist, together with at least a thousand of enthusiastic followers would simply buy the tickets and show both local fans and the police who is the boss — or they would get beaten up, but manly, without hiding behind momma’s skirt.

      Reply to Comment
      • Vadim

        He asked for approval to bring an Israeli flag to a soccer match in an Arab town?!

        What a monster.

        Reply to Comment
        • Oriol2

          Perhaps he is not a monster, but you have to admit that he is an idiot and a sad joke. (I know it is also hate speech.)

          Reply to Comment
          • Piotr Berman

            The pinnacle of ben-Ari achievement was when he incited mob in South Tel-Aviv so effectively that they chased some leftist journalist (rescued by police) and firebombed some “infiltrators”. But even then there is a more solid fascist MK speaking (I forgot, Likud or Israel-Beitenu, which of course is not making any difference now).

            The idea about getting police permit to start a soccer riot was pathetic. And what about tearing a New Testament and posting a video of the did?

            Or when he voiced utter admiration for Lt. Col. Eisner because beat up some leftist bicyclists and managed to broke a finger. Eisner was also totally surrounded by those dreaded leftist, and survived only because it was a very pacific crowd. But a single blow with a bicycle pump could leave his unit leaderless!

            I guess no week goes by without Ben-Ari making ass of himself. Now he tries to break up National Union — they have 3 MKs. I think that he tries to corner the vote of paranoid Altzheimer sufferers — of which there are many, but they may forget to vote.

            Reply to Comment
    2. “May they get cancer in their bodies”? My mom died of cancer.

      Incitement to violence absent martial law is a difficult call. Incitement to riot is easier, for you have the derivative riot. If your State is going to ignore incitement to riot against the refugees in South Tel Aviv, it is clearly going to ignore this too.

      I would not ground this as you have, but ask whether (some) Arab Israelis could make mirror image statements w/o State intervention; if so, then the present case is lawful–otherwise, not. This is not to say that Arab Israeli citizens want to make such mirror statements; the question is whether they could.

      Reply to Comment
    3. Ed Frias

      Go on Palmediawatch and see your hateminded Pals.

      Reply to Comment
    4. Yossy H

      So now your calling for FREE speech to be limited?

      “And comments like “we have to get rid of all of the Arabs” can now be overheard in cafes in “liberal” Tel Aviv.”

      I wonder why Israeli’s are talking like that it must be because the Arabs have been such wonderful neighbors almost as warn and caring as the Canadians are to USA.

      Reply to Comment
    5. ekim

      palwatch.org is problematic on multiple levels. First, it uses a derogatory name for the group- do Palestinians call themselves Pals? exactly, neither should you. Would it be ok for me to make up a nickname for Israelis that no one there used?

      Second, those videos are all too real, but conflating them with the views of the whole of Palestinian society is clearly false. Stop it. It only leads to calling for broad measures of collective punishment because you think those “pals” are all the same- violent, beyond reason, and must be crushed with violence.
      to steal a quote from Sherine Tadros- “Hamas is not Gaza. Gaza has over 1.5 million Palestinians living in it. There are mothers and fathers and brothers and babies. There are people that have no interest in politics. Gaza is a society, not an island of terrorists. You cannot use the words Gaza and Hamas interchangeably. Similarly, Hamas is the ruling authority in Gaza — there is no such thing as a Hamas school, or a Hamas police station or a Hamas ministry. These are adjectives are used by Israel to justify the targeting of these sites. Many if not most who work in these institutions are not members of the Hamas organization. There is also a difference between a member of Hamas and a Palestinian fighter.”

      Reply to Comment