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'Half way there.' Yoram Kaniuk
Photo: Naama Firitz
'Against basic principals.' Rachlevsky
Photo: Gil Yohanan
Culture center in Ariel
Artists: Stop racist legislation
Academic, humanitarian figures sign petition sent to PM and Knesset demanding firm action against 'racist laws and inciting rabbis' forbidding renting or selling apartments to Arabs. Prof Shenhar: Reaching level of discrimination never imagined
A petition signed by Israeli artists, academics and public figures was sent to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, cabinet members and 72 members of Knesset on Sunday, claiming the government is creating an "intolerant reality" and enabling "racist laws contradicting the Israeli declaration of independence."

 

A demonstration is planned to take place Sunday afternoon on the streets of Tel Aviv. The rally is organized by some of the artists who also called to boycott the Ariel culture center earlier this year.

 

In the letter, also signed by six Israel Prize recipients, the signatories call out against "acts of explicit racial incitement by public personas, including the Chief Rabbi of Safed Shmuel Eliyahu, who have prohibited selling and renting apartments to non-Jews, and the current spiritual leader of the Shas Ovadia Yosef, who also declared that selling apartments to non-Jews is prohibited."

 

The artists call upon Israeli leaders to take decisive action against these "acts of incitement," saying they have caused "violent behavior and not only have crushed the declaration of independence's statements, but have also proven that no lesson was learned from (Yitzhak) Rabin's assassination."

 

The petition was signed by many artists, including novelists Yoram Kaniuk and Yehoshua Kenaz, actress Hanna Maron, playwright Yehoshua Sobol, photojournalist Alex Levac, graphic designer and political activist David Tartakover, artist Yair Garbuz, former politicians Shulamit Aloni and Ran Cohen, President of the Max Stern Yezreel Valley College Professor Aliza Shenhar, Histadrut HaNoar HaOved VeHaLomed (The Federation of Working and Studying Youth) Secretary-General Pesach Hauspeter, and petition initiators – political scientist Prof. Yaron Ezrahi and radio personality and writer Sefi Rachlevsky.

 

Kaniuk told Ynet, "We're not only heading towards a fascist and a semi-Iranian state, we are already half way there."

 

Kaniuk is not expecting any change to come from the letter, but he did mention that "one must do anything he can to save the State of Israel, before it's too late. We're in big trouble."

 

'Protest should not come just from intellectuals'

Prof. Shenhar does not sound optimistic either: "Imagine a university in a certain country, let's say Germany, and a priest forbidding the residents from renting out apartments to Jews. Here we have a chief rabbi, whose salary comes from taxes paid by you and me, and he's telling people not to rent apartments to Arabs at all costs. We are reaching an unbelievably high level of discrimination and racism we never imagined reaching. I feel great shame."

 

According to Shenhar, "the protest must not come just from a small group of academics and intellectuals, but from all levels of society. The silence really scares me."

 

Rachlevsky told Ynet, "A government that acts explicitly against the basic principals of this State, becomes illegitimate." He claimed that the letter is not just an elite protest, but one that is supported by youth group members. "The violence demonstrated against the elites is one of the worst things going on in the country," Rachlevsky added.  

 

Garbuz, who gave a speech at a recent memorial service for Rabin, linked the new letter to the previous letters sent in regards to the theater in the Ariel settlement. "Just like a person with no limits, a trait which affects every part of his personality, so are we – a State without limits. We think we can hold on to an illegal settlement, which in fact refers to all of them, and continue maintaining a good educational system. It's impossible."

 

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