Two recent statements - one from a right-wing government minister and the other a liberal Zionist icon - reveal the staggering degree of racism in Israeli political discourse.
The first comes from Israeli Culture and Sport Minister Limor Livnat, who is a member of Netanyahu's Likud party, who declared during a debate at Israel's Tel-Hai Academic College yesterday, "Israel is a Jewish state. It's certainly not created to be a state of all its citizens."
When some of those attending the event responded negatively with booing and calling her a racist, Livnat appealed to - of all things - tolerance and respect for democracy, exploding, "I ask you to show me the same tolerance you evince toward the representative of the Balad party, otherwise you wreak havoc on democracy."
Balad is an political party comprised primarily of Palestinian citizens of Israel and which seeks to "transform the state of Israel into a democracy for all its citizens, irrespective of national or ethnic identity." As a result, it has long faced discrimination and opposition, often in the form of attempts to ban party candidates from running in Israeli elections.
Such a statement is nothing new for Livnat. During a radio interview back in 2002, when she was Ariel Sharon's Education Minister, she said, "We're involved here in a struggle for the existence of the State of Israel as the state of the Jews, as opposed to those who want to force us to be a state of all its citizens," adding that Israel is not "just another state like all the other states. We are not just a state of all its citizens."
Warning that the Galilee and Negev were becoming "filled with Arab communities," Livnat emphasized that Israel's "special purpose is our character as a Jewish state, our desire to preserve a Jewish community and Jewish majority hereso that it does not become a state of all its citizens."
She has expressed dismay at even the extremely limited power of non-Jewish politicians in Israel and, in 2008, championed a proposal that would rescind the status of the Arabic language as one of Israel's official languages. Perhaps most ironically, in 2005, after the Knesset "approved the transformation of Ariel's College of Judea and Samaria and several colleges in the Galilee into universities...Livnat rejected the establishment of an Arab university out of hand, calling it racist."
His conclusion is that the "settlement enterprise" must stop, not for any legal, moral or humanitarian reasons, but rather because:
...today we are on the brink of a bi-national state, and many people who are familiar with what is currently happening on the ground claim the process cannot be stopped. But even if there is some truth to their claim, we can still soften the blow with a solution of cantons and agreements of dual citizenship.Cantons and dual citizenship. That's how Yehoshua suggests Israel deal with Palestinians. And he's known as a "liberal Zionist."
One could wonder how far off references to "liberal Apartheid" really are.
Originally posted on Mondoweiss.
Correction: This post originally stated Livnat's recent comments were made during a Knesset hearing, to the boos of other Israeli ministers. Naturally, this was not the case. The comments were made during a debate at an Israeli college in response to statements made by Balad minister Basel Rateb. The above post has been corrected. (h/t The Indefatigable David Samel)