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December 22, 2015 1

Israel’s Choice: Incitement or Civility

By Jonathan Green­blatt
CEO of the Anti-Defamation League

This arti­cle orig­i­nally appeared in the Times of Israel.

As we see in Amer­ica these days, when peo­ple are feel­ing vul­ner­a­ble and inse­cure, politi­cians and dem­a­gogues play on those fears to offer solu­tions that are often anti-democratic and that will ulti­mately weaken, rather than strengthen society.

 So it is in Israel. The coun­try faces con­tin­ual ter­ror­ist vio­lence against its cit­i­zens — more fright­en­ing in some ways than intifadas because of the ran­dom and inti­mate nature of the attacks. And as hos­tile anti-Israel cam­paigns grow around the world, some Israelis turn to sim­plis­tic solu­tions. Those include blam­ing ter­ror on those who dis­agree with them polit­i­cally and engag­ing in behav­ior that verges into incite­ment. Such trends risk sti­fling the cul­ture of free expres­sion that Israel can be so proud of.

In recent days, this phe­nom­e­non has man­i­fested itself in the con­tin­ued attacks on Pres­i­dent Reuven Rivlin for his insis­tence on speak­ing to all seg­ments of Israel’s diverse soci­ety. It has shown up in an ugly video cre­ated by Im Tirtzu, a right-wing advo­cacy group, to name and dele­git­imize left-wing Israeli activists as “for­eign agents” in what can only be con­sid­ered an act of hate­ful incite­ment. It also appears in a broader Knes­set bill that would bar non­govern­men­tal orga­ni­za­tions funded by for­eign gov­ern­ments from any con­tact with gov­ern­ment and mil­i­tary authorities.

All of these together rep­re­sent a seri­ous threat to Israel’s robust demo­c­ra­tic tradition.

Let’s be clear: when a group like Break­ing the Silence airs alleged atroc­i­ties com­mit­ted by Israeli sol­diers abroad — instead of through the estab­lished legal chan­nels for deal­ing with such alle­ga­tions — it under­stand­ably raises the ire of Israelis who are proud of the Israel Defense Forces, the force that stands in the way of Israel’s destruc­tion at the hands of its ene­mies. And it is fair to raise ques­tions about whether such groups play a con­struc­tive role or con­tribute to Israel’s iso­la­tion in the world.

There is, how­ever, a line that should not be crossed. And of late, there are too many cross­ings of that line.

Pres­i­dent Rivlin has been a par­tic­u­lar tar­get of these attacks. Already dur­ing last sum­mer, when Rivlin harshly con­demned the arson attack in Duma, he was widely con­demned on social media for speak­ing out. This included the post­ing of pic­tures of him wear­ing a kef­fiyeh and a Nazi uni­form. Incite­ment of this nature is rem­i­nis­cent of the attacks against for­mer Prime Min­is­ter Yitzhak Rabin that pre­ceded his assas­si­na­tion 20 years ago.

 More recently, when the Israeli pres­i­dent spoke before the Haaretz con­fer­ence in New York, which also fea­tured a panel dis­cus­sion with Break­ing the Silence, Israel’s Chan­nel 20 harshly crit­i­cized him on their Face­book page say­ing the pres­i­dent “mustn’t spit in the face of the sol­diers,” and that his par­tic­i­pa­tion in the same con­fer­ence with Break­ing the Silence is “con­tempt of the presidency.”

The pres­i­dent used his podium to high­light the impor­tance of speak­ing with groups with whom he stren­u­ously dis­agreed, a prin­ci­pled exam­ple of the type of plu­ral­ism that define open soci­eties. Indeed, he specif­i­cally called out his com­plaints against groups such as Break­ing the Silence, as did for­mer Min­is­ter of Jus­tice and Knes­set law­maker Tzipi Livni.

 A trou­bling inci­dent in the effort to dele­git­imize and sti­fle left-wing crit­i­cism of Israel was the egre­gious video pro­duced by Im Tirtzu paint­ing left wing activists as com­plicit in Pales­tin­ian stabbings.

 An orga­ni­za­tion has every right to be crit­i­cal of polit­i­cal activ­i­ties it deems harm­ful to the nation. But this kind of fear tac­tic — of blam­ing left-wing groups for the ongo­ing wave of Pales­tin­ian ter­ror­ism in order to dele­git­imize them — is a form of incite­ment that crosses over into hate speech. Whether one agrees or dis­agrees with the work of the non­govern­men­tal orga­ni­za­tions men­tioned — and ADL strongly dis­agrees with groups like Break­ing the Silence, which refuse to con­tex­tu­al­ize Israeli mil­i­tary actions and to con­sider the hos­tile cli­mate to which they con­tribute — accus­ing them of sup­port­ing Pales­tin­ian ter­ror is poten­tially libelous, and cer­tainly unde­mo­c­ra­tic and dangerous.

This kind of incite­ment against Pres­i­dent Rivlin or against left-wing orga­ni­za­tions and activists should be rejected and con­demned. Israel has trag­i­cally expe­ri­enced what such incite­ment can lead to. Luck­ily, many have spo­ken up.

At the same time, respon­si­bil­ity for how one deals with del­i­cate issues, par­tic­u­larly at a time of great vul­ner­a­bil­ity in soci­ety, falls on all sec­tors of soci­ety. Those on the left who are crit­i­cal of Israeli poli­cies have a right to offer those crit­i­cisms. But they also should be mind­ful of the impact of those crit­i­cisms on the aver­age Israeli and on embold­en­ing forces around the world who are hos­tile to Israel.

For civil soci­ety to work in a demo­c­ra­tic coun­try, civil lib­er­ties must be pro­tected. The right to voice one’s views must be guar­an­teed, and one’s secu­rity in doing so must be reassured.

If civil lib­er­ties are dimin­ished in Israel, Israel will be diminished.

But out­side of Israel, it is essen­tial to rec­og­nize that, in any soci­ety, if a citizenry’s sense of vul­ner­a­bil­ity and inse­cu­rity reaches a break­ing point, pub­lic sup­port for civil lib­er­ties dimin­ishes accord­ingly, while calls for secu­rity increase. In fact, it is worth reflect­ing on the remark­able resilience of Israeli democ­racy in the face of the unre­lent­ing exter­nal threats that it has faced since its establishment.

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January 13, 2015 1

Israelis Gather to Bury Victims of Terror in France, Killed Because They Were Jews

(ADL Israel Staff attended the funer­als of the four French Jews ear­lier today in Jerusalem. Below is a per­sonal account from Phyl­lis Ger­ably and Car­ole Nuriel of ADL’s Israel Office)

Today, mak­ing the way to the Har HaMenu­chot (Mount of the Rest­ing) ceme­tery, there were flags and signs put up by the Jerusalem Munic­i­pal­ity embrac­ing the French. The Israel National Police and secu­rity were in place in prepa­ra­tion of the expected large crowds, and the par­tic­i­pa­tion of the Israeli Prime Min­is­ter Ben­jamin Netanyahu, Pres­i­dent Reuven Rivlin, Oppo­si­tion head Isaac Her­zog, rab­bis, min­is­ters, ambas­sadors and the French Min­is­ter of Envi­ron­ment Ségolène Royal, rep­re­sent­ing the French government.

An impres­sive crowd of thou­sands came out on a cold sunny day to pay final respects to four peo­ple they never met, who were trag­i­cally killed sim­ply because they were Jew­ish. The crowd brought together, in a feel­ing of com­mon des­tiny, fam­ily, friends, mem­bers of the French com­mu­nity in Israel and native Israelis. At the entrance to the ceme­tery a small crowd of French Jews held signs say­ing, “I am Char­lie; I am a Jew; I am an Israeli; I am French; We’ve had Enough.”  ADL Condolence France

In his mov­ing eulogy for the four vic­tims, Pres­i­dent Rivlin put it elo­quently: “This is not how we wanted to wel­come you to Israel. This is not how we wanted you to arrive in the Land of Israel, this is not how we wanted to see you come home, to the State of Israel, and to Jerusalem, its cap­i­tal. We wanted you alive, we wanted for you, life.”

Prime Min­is­ter Netanyahu spoke about Israel being the safe haven for the Jew­ish peo­ple, and that the threat against the Jew­ish peo­ple is, in fact, a threat against all of human­ity. Oppo­si­tion Head Yitzhak Her­zog spoke of his great-grandfather who was the rabbi of Paris one hun­dred years ago, and rec­og­nized the roots and strength of the Jew­ish com­mu­nity in France.

The vic­tims’ fam­i­lies each spoke about their loved ones and how they yearned to be in Israel. Their dig­nity and love for Israel was very mov­ing. Look­ing out at the crowd of mourn­ers — Ashke­nazi and Sephardic Jews joined in sor­row by this hor­rific act — was a quiet reminder to all of us that we are respon­si­ble for one another, no mat­ter where we are.

French Min­is­ter of Envi­ron­men­tRoyal spoke about threats to Jews being a threat to all the French peo­ple, and that France with­out its Jew­ish com­mu­nity just isn’t France.  Min­is­ter Royal also said that com­bat­ing anti-Semitism and racism is going to be the num­ber one pri­or­ity for France in 2015. When she announced that the four mur­dered Jews were going to receive the French Legion of Hon­our medal, a few in the crowd broke out in applause.

It was very hard to avoid the feel­ing that this mes­sage was too lit­tle, too late.

The funeral ended with the singing of Israel’s national anthem, HaTikva, of which the words “We did not lose our hope” (“Od lo avda Tik­vateinu”) had, this time, the addi­tional mean­ing that while a tragic event had occurred, Israelis have hope for a bet­ter future for all.

 

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July 1, 2014 0

Iran Broadcasting Enters Ramadan With Anti-Semitism

iran-anti-semitic-documentary-ramadan

Screen shot from IRINN doc­u­men­tary aired June 30, 2014

In the lead up to the start of the month-long Mus­lim hol­i­day Ramadan, which is often char­ac­ter­ized with high tele­vi­sion view­er­ship fol­low­ing the break of the day’s fast, Iran’s broad­cast­ing author­ity, Islamic Repub­lic of Iran Broad­cast­ing (IRIB), has aired inter­views and doc­u­men­taries pro­mot­ing anti-Semitic con­spir­acy the­o­ries of Jew­ish con­trol over Hol­ly­wood and a nefar­i­ous Jewish-Zionist plan to use sor­cery against Iran.

IRIB is the state-run broad­caster in Iran that uses its media plat­form to pro­mote the regime’s anti-Israel and anti-Semitic ide­ol­ogy to the pub­lic. In the past, IRIB has used the Ramadan hol­i­day and the high nightly tele­vi­sion view­er­ship to broad­cast anti-Semitic films and tele­vi­sion series.

In an inter­view with a Tehran Uni­ver­sity pro­fes­sor and Islamic scholar Vali­ol­lah Naghipour­far on June 27, 2014, a series of out­landish anti-Semitic con­spir­a­cies were made accus­ing Jews of using sor­cery and witch­craft. When asked by the inter­viewer on IRIB’s Chan­nel 1 if Iran’s ene­mies can use jinns, super­nat­ural beings in Islamic the­ol­ogy (known as ‘genies’ in the West­ern lex­i­con), to gather intel­li­gence and spy on Iran, Naghipour­far responded that, “Jews have a very strong con­nec­tion with jinns and sehr [magic].” Naghipour­far added that the major­ity of Jews are “sor­cer­ers” who can send jinns to gather intel­li­gence and spy on Iran on behalf of the Israeli government.

Three days later, IRIB’s 24-hour news net­work, Islamic Repub­lic of Iran News Net­work (IRINN), aired a short doc­u­men­tary, called “Zion­ist Aspi­ra­tions to Con­trol the West.” The doc­u­men­tary pro­moted anti-Semitic canards of alleged Zion­ist and Jew­ish con­trol of U.S. pol­i­tics and poli­cies, Hol­ly­wood, and academia.

The doc­u­men­tary employed the terms “Zion­ist” and “Jew­ish” inter­change­ably, claim­ing that one of Pres­i­dent Obama’s biggest sup­port­ers is Gold­man Sachs, “America’s largest bank­ing net­work that has no non-Jewish own­ers and who are all Zion­ists and sup­port­ers of Israel.” The doc­u­men­tary also shows a graphic of the globe with a Star of David super­im­posed on it fol­lowed by the logo of AIPAC, claim­ing that the most pow­er­ful lobby in the U.S. “works for the inter­ests of another coun­try and every­one knows which one.” Pic­tures of sev­eral high-ranking offi­cials in global finance, such as for­mer chair­man of the Fed­eral Reserve Ben Bernanke and for­mer IMF Man­ag­ing Direc­tor Dominique Strauss-Kahn, were depicted as the Jew­ish hands in con­trol of the global economy.

Inter­spersed with scenes from Schindler’s List, the doc­u­men­tary also claimed that Jew­ish and Zion­ist con­trol of Hol­ly­wood have built their stature by exploit­ing the Holo­caust and anti-Semitism, com­par­ing it to when “the Chil­dren of Israel built the golden calf dur­ing Moses’ absence and began wor­ship­ping it.” The nar­ra­tor added that, “Zion­ist elites even say that non-Jews are not rec­og­nized as human beings and only Jews have importance.”

The month of Ramadan is a time when many Mus­lims around the world take time to reflect on their faith through prayer and fast­ing. Ramadan is also prime time tele­vi­sion sea­son for many coun­tries in the Arab and Mus­lim world when mul­ti­mil­lion dol­lar tele­vi­sion series are aired nightly after the end of the fast.

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