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Photo: Knesset spokesperson, Reuters
Netanyahu and Herzog at the Knesset. Politicians incapable of speaking to the point
Photo: Knesset spokesperson, Reuters
Ben-Dror Yemini
The discourse of hatred: A victory for marginal groups
Op-ed: When the public discourse focuses on 'fascists' versus 'traitors,' the more serious, practical debate - which Israeli democracy needs like the air it breathes - is defeated.
This is a warning call: Something bad is happening to us. The margins are taking over the public discourse, turning it into a discourse of hatred.

 

 

The Israeli public is not there, but it's being dragged there. Israel has a sane majority, a huge majority, but instead of the Knesset presenting a model for a practical discussion, instead of keeping its distance from the violent discourse - it has moved closer to it.

 

The clash between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Opposition Chairman Isaac Herzog at the Knesset on Wednesday was a shameful moment. Herzog demanded that Netanyahu condemn the verbal attacks on President Reuven Rivlin - and Netanyahu stood up and condemned them. Netanyahu demanded that Herzog condemn the incitement of the Breaking the Silence organization - and Herzog muttered something about freedom of expression.

 

Im Tirtzu's video against Breaking the Silence. A discourse based entirely on propaganda
Im Tirtzu's video against Breaking the Silence. A discourse based entirely on propaganda

 

That's basically like the public corruption debate: Not everything that isn't criminal is also moral or legitimate, and not everything which one can say under the law is worthy of defense. If this is about freedom of expression, then the discourse of hatred is being legitimized. The authors of "The King's Torah," which permits the killing of gentiles according to the Halacha, have also received legal authorization. Is that a reason to defend their right to continue publishing abomination?

 

And when the discourse is between slander against the president on social media and slander and lies on the part of Breaking the Silence, we all stand to lose from it. And when some of our politicians are incapable of speaking to the point, without slogans about freedom of expression, then the slandering ones win.

 

I was in touch with Herzog on Wednesday, before the Knesset clash. He presented a completely sane stance: Support for Breaking the Silence, as long as they present their testimonies to the IDF authorities rather than as horrific propaganda abroad, and as long as they sever all ties with the BDS movement. It was a practical stance, neither slanderous nor impassioned. But somehow, the practical stances are wearing out. The fiery discourse is winning.

 

Look at what has happened here in the past few days: Propaganda films were produced on the right and on the left, taking center stage. It wasn't a serious discourse, and definitely not a practical one. It was a discourse based entirely on propaganda. A serious of screams and slander. It was a victory of the margins.

 

Essentially, it must be said that Breaking the Silence and B'Tselem are worthy of criticism, but they are not traitors. On the other hand, members of the Im Tirtzu movement are not exempt from criticism either, but they are not fascists.

 

But when most of the discourse focuses on "fascists" versus "traitors," the more serious, practical debate - which Israeli democracy needs like the air it breathes - is defeated.

 

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