In mid-February 2023, social media users angrily circulated a photo showing an Israeli student inside a lecture wearing a T-shirt with the words: "Let every Arab mother know that her son's fate is in my hands." The use of this phrase, and other racist phrases that the Israeli occupation state claimed to be banned, was not a new act, as for decades the occupation soldiers in paratroopers, air forces, snipers, the Golani Brigade and others printed these phrases on dozens of shirts, jackets and trousers.
To celebrate graduation in a military course or during training, Israeli soldiers develop and create different forms of drawings and logos. In textile printing shops, they demand custom clothing bearing the badge of their unit with a drawing of their choice, such as a shirt showing a sniper from the Shaked Brigade, a Palestinian woman pregnant with a bull's eye attached to her belly, and an English slogan that reads: "One shot. Two dead," and then another T-shirt showing dead children or mothers crying over the graves of their young, or a picture of a mosque bombing or a gun aimed at a child.
#فيديو | The Israeli occupation forces arrested two young men in the vicinity of Damascus Gate in occupied Jerusalem this evening while settlers gathered in the place and chanted "Death to the Arabs" pic.twitter.com/GtOLH3b2Vw
— Shehab News Agency (@ShehabAgency) March 31, 2022
In light of the escalation of the dominance of the extreme right in the Israeli occupation state, especially under the leadership of Benjamin Netanyahu, who heads a coalition described as the most extreme in the history of Israel, it seems that the phenomenon of crude racism towards Arabs has become more widespread than ever, while racism and extremism have become two features that color political life and even social interactions in the occupation state.
The state is subject to its extremists
Rabbi Meir Kahane, who founded the Kach movement and planted the seeds of the Jewish extreme right decades ago. He carried hostility and hatred of Arabs that exceeded all limits. (Getty Images)
In late April 2021, an Israeli girl from the Old City of occupied Jerusalem appeared in a video clip leaning towards the correspondent of the Israeli channel "Kan" aimed at the Arab audience, and after moving from the ranks of her comrades who chanted "Death to the Arabs", she addressed her speech to the channel's Arab correspondent, saying: "I am not saying that we will burn your village, I am saying leave the village and then we will come and live in it." Meanwhile, when the Israeli occupation forces were attacking worshippers at Al-Aqsa Mosque during the holy month of Ramadan, a phrase written on the girl's shirt caught the eye: "Rabbi Kahane was right."
It was a crude reminder of Rabbi Meir Kahane, who founded the Kach movement and sowed the seeds of the Jewish extreme right decades ago. Throughout his career, Kahane carried hostility and hatred of Arabs beyond all limits, to the extent that the Israeli occupation state itself prevented him from entering parliament, while the United States included his party on the list of terrorist groups, and Ehud Springzak, a professor at the Hebrew University, described him in an article published in the Los Angeles Times: "There is not a single Israeli I know who has made a greater contribution to the brutality and public spirit of the (Israeli) people than Kahane did."
Meir Kahane was born in 1932, an American-Israeli who grew up with stories that glorified Jewish extremism in the thirties and forties of the twentieth century, the same period in which armed Zionist groups such as the Irgun and Stern carried out bombings and massacres against Palestinians and British officials in Palestine under the Mandate in order to serve the nascent Zionist state project. "The Arab is cancer in our midst, and we don't live with cancer," as he told the audience a few years before his death: "Cancer is either cut and get rid of it or you die with it," and "it is better to have a Jewish state hated by the world than to have an extermination camp (Auschwitz) that enjoys the love of the world."
Over the years, the heirs of Kahane's thought in Israeli life have emerged as a natural product of the increasingly apartheid regime, and this has translated on the ground in bloody ways. Kahanist ideology is based on four foundations: racism, nationalism, anti-democracy, and the justification of the use of violence, which to some extent underpinn Israel itself and have become more and more entrenched, especially in recent decades. One of Kahane's most famous disciples is Rabbi Baruch Goldstein, the American-Israeli extremist settler who perpetrated the 1994 Cave of the Patriarchs massacre in Hebron, about whom extremist Rabbi Yaakov Perrin said during his funeral that "a million Arabs do not reward a Jewish fingernail."
As a result of this extremist discourse, crude hatred and racism against Arabs and Palestinians grew on a large scale in the Israeli occupation state, and began to grow among different groups of young people and adolescents from the supporters of the extreme right and others, especially after the victory of the occupation army in the 1967 war. Many of these extremists have military experience from their service in the occupation army, some are armed, and most importantly, they are aware that attacks on Palestinians are usually legally doomed to impunity. In doing so, it is easy to spread incitement, chauvinism, and exclusion among those who have absorbed hatred of Arabs from their environment, from schools and universities to political associations and institutions.
It is not surprising, then, that in Jerusalem we see a group of Jewish teenagers loitering in the middle of the occupied city, and then brutally assaulting a Palestinian resident, a phenomenon that has become commonplace. These boys often spent their childhood in the ultra-Orthodox community and then grew tired of religious observance and took off their black suit and hood, but without breaking away from the world of radical political thought, violence and veneration of rabbis such as Ovadia Yosef, Shalom Arush, and Mordechai Eliyahu, who unleashed hatred and contempt for Arabs, and subsequently founded violent extremist groups that relentlessly target Palestinians such as Arab Vandals Abroad, Arab Expelled and Preserving a Heart Jerusalem" (without the presence of Arabs).
Death to the Arabs. From Jerusalem to Stadiums
On May 29, 2022, thousands of Jews, mostly Orthodox, marched on the so-called "Jerusalem Day," the anniversary of the occupation of the holy city during the 1967 war, passing through the heart of the Palestinian neighborhood of the Old City waving flags and shouting on their way to the Western Wall (al-Buraq) on the other side of the town: "The Jewish nation is alive," and "Death to the Arabs."
A year before the mentioned date, this usual march caused an 11-day round of fighting between the occupation state and the Islamic resistance movement Hamas, which fired a barrage of rockets towards the occupied city while the procession was about to begin, the event has always been a dangerous manifestation of the constant Israeli hostility towards Palestinians and Arabs, as its patrons used to chant racist slogans, and some of them are armed because of their previous work in the army, other than being effectively protected from the occupation police who do not put in their way One checkpoint.
One might imagine what would happen if the course of events were reversed, and Arab citizens from the occupied interior shouted slogans against the Jews or with an Arab nationalist slogan such as: "From the river to the sea. Palestine will be free." They will obviously be arrested for incitement, beatings with tear gas or shooting, and will be systematically insulted and mutilated as "anti-Semitic." This happened, for example, with poet Dareen Tatour, who was sentenced to five months in prison for a poem she posted on Facebook in 2015 titled "Resist, my people, resist them," as well as separate posts about Palestinian resistance.
It is not surprising, then, that Palestinians ruled by Israel with its arbitrary laws have received more indictments and sentences for incitement to violence than Jews. This is evident in a study prepared by the Israeli Religious Action Center (IRAC) for the period 2014-2021, which showed that 77% of all indictments for incitement to violence and racism were filed against Palestinian citizens in Israel (48 Arabs), despite the fact that they constitute only 20% of the total citizens, and while about 99% of Palestinian citizens received prison sentences, 54% of those convicted of Jews in similar cases were not sentenced.
If we move to sports, our stadiums and stands will be the scene of these contradictions and the scene of crude Israeli racism as well. One of the most popular clubs in Israel is the Beitar Jerusalem football team, founded in 1936, and one of the most right-wing and extremist clubs, whose fans chant at every match such as: "May your village burn" and "Arabs are sons of", and usually the voice of the most common slogan among the team's fans, "Death to the Arabs", usually stands out in the background. The club is linked to the Zionist movement "Betar", which was founded in 1923, about a quarter of a century before the establishment of the occupation state itself, and is represented by parties such as the right-wing Likud party, which is now headed by Netanyahu himself.
With the beginning of the rise of the Zionist right to power represented by the Likud Party led by "Menachem Begin" in 1976, this team emerged that achieved golden victories at the level of local championships, and coincided with its rise the emergence of racist and ethnic discourse of its fans who did not hesitate to unleash chauvinistic Zionism and racism towards Arabs. It can be said that there is an important dimension that makes the Arabs a major subject for the team's fans and their hatred, which is that these fans trace their origins to the Jews of the East who grew up in the Arab countries at the beginning of the twentieth century, and they are convinced that they were driven out of their Arab countries persecuted and took refuge in the occupying power, and therefore that state should be exclusively for the Jews.
Stoking extremism is the government's mission
Ben Gvir never hesitates to declare his explicit belief that violence is the basis of the project of defending "the land and the nation" (the two Jews, of course). (Reuters)
This racism, which is increasing day by day in the streets and Israeli institutions, certainly would not have flourished without a political environment that nurtures it, so it is no wonder that extremists are ruling Israel today in fact rather than metaphorically. In March 2021, one of the disciples of the late Rabbi Meir Kahane, head of the Jewish Greatness party participating in the current government coalition, Itamar Ben-Gvir, who for years placed a portrait of Baruch Goldstein in his home and blessed with his crime on the Cave of the Patriarchs in 1994, arrived at the dome of the Israeli parliament.
Ben-Gvir has become a symbol of Israel's shift to the right more than ever after becoming defense minister in Netanyahu's government last December, and Ben-Gvir never hesitates to declare his explicit belief that violence is the basis of the project to defend "the land and the nation" (the two Jews, of course). Let us not forget that Netanyahu's recent electoral victory is partly due to the fear of the Arabs, through which the current prime minister succeeded in rallying the right wing behind him and pushing Israelis to vote for him in the elections more than once.
These right-wing extremists, both in the Israeli government and abroad, enjoy unprecedented financial and political support, and major American Jewish organizations are devoting their resources to supporting them, even using U.S. anti-terrorism laws to prosecute Palestinian activists. This happened in January when the Jewish National Fund, one of the world's oldest Zionist organizations with close ties to the Israeli government, invoked U.S. antiterrorism laws to sue a major Palestinian rights group in the United States for its support for the international boycott movement, and the lawsuits are part of a broader Israeli-led strategy to crack down on organizations critical of Palestinian oppression.
This is happening as the Israeli government continues to fuel anti-Arab incitement more than ever, even backing away from its efforts to preserve the democratic framework it has used to save face for the international community. Under Netanyahu's leadership with the likes of Ben-Gvir and Bezalel Smotrich, there have been public efforts to empower and encourage hatred and racism, whose proponents are living their golden age under a new project that explicitly advocates securing Jewish supremacy.
Today, laws in Israel are drafted for the right-wing project, courts are directed, and religious and military thinking is shaped so that the exclusion of Arabs completely becomes normal. Despite the astonishment this trend raises in the West, it seems from an Arab angle that this crude right-wing turn was inevitable given the nature of the occupying power and its settlement roots, based from the first moment on the violent expulsion and racial dispossession of the Arab population in Palestine.