New Israel Fund is the leading organization committed
to equality and democracy for all Israelis.
Last month, Israeli teenagers shouting "Death to Arabs" attacked four Palestinian teenagers in downtown Jerusalem in an incident the media termed an attempted “lynch.” One of the Palestinians was knocked unconscious. Hundreds stood by and watched.
The police apprehended a few of the attackers. But taking a few kids off the streets will not stop the next incident. The most senior Israeli law enforcement officials need to do their part to prevent racially-charged violence.
NIF supports a number of groups seeking to confront this problem. We're fighting racism. We're rooting out incitement. We're building bridges between Arab and Jewish groups. And we're standing with the majority of Israelis who want an end to this wave of racism and violence.
Make no mistake: There are extremists in Israel bent on exploiting Jewish-Arab tensions to wipe away the dream that Jews and Arabs can live together in a spirit of cooperation and goodwill.
One extremist organization, called Lehava, has been "warning" that Arabs are sexually attacking Jewish women. And they've been threatening violence if Arabs don't "distance" themselves from Jewish women.
So it should come as no surprise that some Jewish teenagers rationalized last month’s attack on the grounds that the Arab youth came to downtown Jerusalem to hit on Jewish girls. On the courthouse steps, one teenager explained: "Why should an Arab make passes at my sister? They shouldn't be here, it's our area."
To put an end to the violence, we need to stop those stoking the flames of hatred.
Fortunately, Israel has strong laws against incitement to racism and incitement to violence. And two groups backed by NIF -- the Coalition Against Racism and the Israel Religious Action Center -- have been relentless in their demand that these laws be enforced, especially when religious leaders incite to racism in the name of Judaism. And in the matter of Lehava, these groups filed eleven requests that the Attorney General open a criminal investigation.
NIF is not alone. The Israeli police have also reportedly turned to the Attorney General to request that a criminal investigation be opened against Lehava. They know what we know: incitement has no place in a democratic society.
In the wake of the attack, Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin rejected the notion that this was an isolated incident. Rather, he said, "this is a microcosm of a national problem that could endanger Israeli democracy."
Speaker Rivlin added: "The time has come for us to stop covering up... This is a shared responsibility, of every leader and every publicly elected official."
He's right. Let's do our part to stand up for democracy in Israel. Write Israel's Attorney General today.