By Rabbi Dow Marmur.
That Binyamin Netanyahu made alarmist statements – interpreted by many as hostile to all the Arab citizens of Israel – before the elections last March, reprehensible though they were, could have been seen as an attempt to woo Jewish Israelis to vote for his party, Likud. It seemed to have worked. Likud got several more mandates than the polls predicted and Netanyahu remained prime minister.
It’s more difficult to offer a corresponding explanation for Netanyahu’s outburst against what sounded like all of Israel’s Arabs when he visited the pub in Tel Aviv where two men had died and several persons were injured, two of them severely, by the indiscriminate shooting by an Israeli Arab. He seems also to have killed a third person, the taxi driver he hired after the shooting – ironically, an Israeli Arab from Lod, married to three wives and father of about a dozen children.
Those who are prone to explain the antics of public figures by delving into their private lives may be tempted to speculate that Netanyahu’s latest outburst was because his wife is currently being investigated for maltreatment of staff and abuse of funds at the prime minister’s residences. He may, therefore, be under great pressure.
But a more obvious interpretation is that Netanyahu is simply hostile to Israel’s Arabs – it may be called racism in some quarters – and dresses it up in the customary way of politicians as the need for security that demands more policing in Arab communities, “silencing” the mosques where opposition to his government – perhaps to every Israeli government – is being voiced and where unlicensed guns abound. The inference is, of course, that the murderer in Tel Avis, identified by his own father and described as mentally deranged, was a product of anti-Jewish incitement by all or most Arabs.
Many Israelis were very critical of Netanyahu’s unjustified outburst. In response he has added fuel to the fire. And he didn’t speak in similar terms about religious Zionist settlers after the arrest of the Jewish terrorists from their midst who burnt down the house and destroyed the Arab Dawabsha family in the village of Duma.
This had made some Israelis despair of their present government, indeed of the future of their state because Netanyahu’s statement is one of several outrageous acts of late. Another is education minister Bennett’s latest attempt to censor what Israeli literature students should read and his effort to impose his kind of nationalism on the school curriculum. Yet another manifestation is justice minister Shaked’s efforts again to curb the Supreme Court. A full list would include many more examples.
However, an article in Monday’s Ha’aretz by the Israeli psychiatrist and brain researcher Dr Yoram Yuval, grandson of the late Yeshayahu Leibovitch, who was one of Israel’s most original Orthodox thinkers, tells us not to panic. Governments come and go, he reminds us, but the State of Israel is there to stay, presumably with its 20% Arab minority. The Jewish people will continue to exist and thrive in the Jewish state all disputes, quarrels and unresolved issues notwithstanding.
I fervently hope that he’s right. It’s unthinkable that the magnificent creation that Israel has become and the way it withstands hostility from all sides, would go under because of the folly and mismanagement of their own who’ve been elected to govern. Let’s protest as much as we can but not lose hope of better governments to come.