As it turns out, last summer’s social protests were actually aimed at the Arabs and the ultra-Orthodox (Haredim). They only seemed to be against big business. That, at least, is the implication of the prime minister’s statements in his recent interview to Sami Peretz and Moti Bassok (“The Marker”, April 5).
After declaring that without the Arabs and the Haredim, Israel is in great shape, Benjamin Netanyahu lamented the state of the middle class, which feels as if it is supporting these two groups, adding, with the objectivity of a UN observer, “They’re not always wrong.”
March in Tel-Aviv for social justice, August 20, 2011 (Photo: Activestills)
In a few years the revisionists will write that the summer of 2011 marked the start of the uprising by the builders of the country against the Arab parasites (they’ll figure out a way to conceal the Haredim) – one more glorious chapter in the history of the nation’s return to its homeland.
Netanyahu’s approach in this regard should be enough to keep any right-thinking person awake at night, in part because of his evasion of responsibility – it is the government that is responsible for setting economic policy, after all – but mainly because of how he tars entire sections of society with a broad brush. If the laws against harassment applied to leaders, Netanyahu probably would have been charged long ago with harassing whole sectors of the population. Moreover, the unhinged members of Israeli society could interpret his remarks as license to go after the two groups. The Haredim, bless the Lord, are not lacking in saviors in the corridors of power; only the Arabs will be in for a beating.
Instead of slinging mud, the prime minister should acknowledge the discriminatory policies of his government. His foreign minister is trying to export the country’s Arabs, while he himself said at the 2003 Herzliya Conference, “If there is a demographic problem, and there is, it is with the Israeli Arabs” and not with the Palestinians.
And how exactly does the middle class float the Arab sector? Perhaps he is speaking of the enormous sums that turned Israel’s Arab villages into refugee camp replicas? Or maybe the generous budget allocations that have left no available housing for the younger generations of Israeli Arabs or industrial areas in the Arab communities? Now we know why last month the prime minister so generously exempted Arabs from the duty to sing the national anthem: Evidently, it is a step on the road to excluding them from the state.
In his address to his cheering fans in the U.S. Congress nearly a year ago, Netanyahu said: “Of the 300 million Arabs in the Middle East and North Africa … less than one-half of one percent are truly free, and they’re all citizens of Israel.” With the same pathos he could have added that just as the Jews are a light unto the nations, their Arabs are a light unto the rest of the Arabs – a kind of poor man’s “light unto the nations,” if you will. Now the pessimists can have their day: If Israel is in “great shape” economically only when that one-half percent – the Arab creme de la creme – is removed, what does that say about the remaining 99.5 percent? They’re a lost cause.
Nevertheless, the holiday atmosphere and the smells of the spring flowers had their effect, and I decided to make my own exclusionary list: After subtracting the pro-settler cabinet members, we have a normal government; after deducting the ministers of hate and discrimination, everyone will be hugging in the streets; after removing the occupation and the settlements, the desert will bloom; after taking away the tycoons and monopolies, justice and equality will reign; after discounting Labor Party chairwoman Shelly Yachimovich, we will have an opposition with a spine.
Out of fear that excluding too many people might make this country a little boring, I left Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon off the list. He and his low chair did inject a little entertainment into our lives.