For the second time within a month, hundreds of intellectuals, writers and artists gathered today (November 7, 2010) to protest against the wave of racism that is flooding the country. This time, too, the protest took place opposite the building where David Ben-Gurion announced the foundation of the State of Israel and read the Declaration of Independence, which promises freedom and equality to all citizens, “irrespective of religion, race and sex”.
In the non-party demonstration, the blue shirts of the members of the youth movements were very prominent.
Sefi Rachlevsky, one of the organizers, expressed the support of the protesters for the actors and actresses, who have refused to appear in tomorrow’s gala performance in Ariel.
Ex-minister Shulamit Aloni stated that the word ”Jewish” does not appear in any prayer – in all the prayers, only the “people of Israel” are mentioned. “This is an Israeli state, not a Jewish state,” she declared.
Professor Mordecai Kremnitzer, vice-president of the Israeli Institute for Democracy, said that more and more judgments of the Supreme Court are being ignored by the government – a fact that undermines the democratic system of the country.
The writer Yoram Kaniuk announced that next week he will go to the Interior Ministry and demand to be registered as “religion-less”, following the recently adopted law that allows only “religion-less” citizens to be wed in a civil marriage.
The speakers for the youth movements promised that their 100 thousand members would join the fight for democratic Zionism against the racist wave that is threatening to submerge the country.
Ex-member of the Knesset Uri Avnery recounted that as a child in Germany he witnessed the ascent of the racists to power and said: “I don’t want to see this happening again, and this time in the state which I have helped myself to create.” (text follows)
Translation of Uri Avnery’s speech:
*As a boy of 9, I witnessed the Nazi ascent to power.
There was nothing dramatic about it. Almost nothing changed overnight. Only slowly, little step by little step, racism started to enter the life of ordinary citizens.
“Don’t buy from Jews!” Don’t let them apartments! Don’t give them work!
In villages and towns, signs started to appear: “This place is Juden-rein!”
Then there came the Nuremberg laws that forbade Germans to marry Jews.
What happened after that is well-known.
In 1948, when, as a simple soldier, I took part in creating this state, I did not dream that I would witness again such a process, and this time in my own state.
Little step by little step, racism is entering our lives.
The Chief Rabbi of Safed forbids the letting of apartments to Arab students. We are paying the salary of this rabbi, and therefore we are responsible for what he says.
Rabbi Ovadia Jossef, the leader of hundreds of thousands, repeats this religious message.
The deputy mayor of Carmiel, too, called on the inhabitants not to let apartments to Arabs and requested to inform him of any such case. He also set up a municipal militia, a kind of civil guard, which is setting up checkpoints every evening to prevent Arabs from entering the town. Following our disclosure, he was kicked out of the municipal coalition, and a member of Lieberman’s party was installed instead. In Carmiel, Lieberman is a moderate.
A new law enables “admittance committees” to prevent Arabs from living in 700 Israeli localities. There is no need for signs “This place is Araber-rein”. No need to learn German to understand what’s happening in this country.
Every week now, new laws are being enacted that remind us of Nuremberg.
Our car is rushing down the slope. A car without brakes. There is no significant opposition in the Knesset. The Labor Party, which has long ago ceased to belong to the peace camp, is falling apart. The Kadima party is trying to out-flank Netanyahu on the right. Indeed, its members have signed the most outrageous racist bills.
But who are we blaming? We can accuse only ourselves!
Where is the peace camp? Where are the masses of Rabin Square? Where is the Israeli Left?
Words are important, but we cannot stop fascism with words alone. Action is needed.
The courageous actors who are risking their livelihood and refuse to appear in Ariel are a model. Every one of us must act, each one in his place, and all of us together.
If must create now a political force to combat racism and fascism, a force which will unite women and men, Jews and Arabs, Ashkenazis and Orientals. If we don’t, history will judge us harshly as accessories to the crime.
“Father, where were you?”
“Mother, where have you been?”
Here, in this building, the State of Israel was founded. Now we are called upon to save it!* /