On Sunday, Israel's cabinet dedicated its weekly meeting to an important issue. Not important – critical. Yossi Kuperwasser, the director-general of the Ministry of Strategic Affairs, found the time to attend the meeting and even brought along a presentation. Not just a presentation – an audio-visual presentation, with both images and sounds. Thanks to the presentation, songs in Arabic were played in a cabinet meeting for the first time in history.
Minister of Strategic Affairs Yuval Steinitz, who introduced the director-general to the ministers, stressed that he is not just a Kuperwasser, one of the thousands of Kupperwassers living among us. He is Brigadier-General Kuperwasser, an indisputable military authority.
The subject was incitement. Kuperwasser told the ministers what horrible things our Palestinian neighbors are saying about us. He picked out the harshest statements for them. Indeed, these are harsh statements. Some of them are infected with foolish racism, some with an intentional distortion of history, and all with deep hatred of the State of Israel. There is no way of justifying these statements, and there is no reason to morally defend them. Incitement is one of the ugliest aspects of the conflict.
But a wise, mature Israeli government would have known how to review the incitement issue in its correct context. At the first stage, it would have looked into the incitement against us in the Arab world. Without much effort, it would have discovered that the hatred towards Israel is a fact of life in the entire Arab world, and in large parts of the Muslim world. The country where copies of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion are being sold for pennies is not Palestine but Egypt. The incitement against Israel has no boundaries. Not Morsi's Egypt – Mubarak's Egypt and General al-Sisi's Egypt. Hatred is the exhaust pipe allowing the regime to blow off steam. There is an absolute boycott of Israel, surrounding all layers of the public.
The Israeli governments, including the current one, are ignoring this inconvenience. Rightfully ignoring it. The words are outrageous, but the action is more important. We are better off with peace stained with hatred than with returning to a state of war.
Who is a bigger racist?At the second stage, the cabinet would have devoted its weekly meeting to a review of the state of incitement here. Instead of whining about someone in the Palestinian Authority comparing Jews to dogs, it would have asked how one of its senior ministers likened the Palestinians to shrapnel in the backside. It could have opened up a thorough discussion on this issue: What is more shallow, what is more contemptible, a dog or buttocks, how are the two perceived in the Palestinian tradition and how are they perceived by Jewish tradition.
Later on, the government would have discussed rabbis' sermons. Who is a bigger racist, the mufti of Jerusalem or Rabbi Dov Lior; what is more violent, the sermons in mosques in Hebron or the leaflets handed out in Jerusalem's synagogues; who is more dangerous, stone throwers in Hawara or price tag youth in Yitzhar.
"But there the incitement is broadcast on television channels," one minister would say. "And where exactly is it broadcast here?" the other minister would ask. "But the maps," the first minister would say. "In their maps there is no mention of the State of Israel. In their maps Palestine stretches out from the sea to the Jordan River." "True," the second minister would say. "I invite you, honorable ministers, to check out the maps in our schools. We also have one state from the sea to the Jordan River, and none other. The difference is only in the name."
Wiser, more sincere Jews have said about this: It takes one to know one. And: A pious hypocrite. And also: Those who live in glass houses should not throw stones.
In order to shock the ministers, who didn't understand the purpose of Sunday's meeting, what the cabinet was required to decide and what it was supposed to do, Kuperwasser told them a story. An incident which happened to him, when he went abroad and met an Arab. Yes, an Arab. When he told him he was Israeli, the Arab said: "It's hard to believe, you don’t have horns."
"This is a cabinet meeting," Minister Amir Peretz commented. "This isn't a place for sharing personal experiences."
Had Peretz taken a hard look at government table, he would have realized he was wrong: It's not a personal experience but a deep understanding. His colleagues, the ministers, are a good example. Something is growing out of their heads. If it's not extra brains, then it must be horns.
P.S. Minister Steinitz, who initiated Sunday's discussion, is indeed the victim of incitement. The person who incited against him, quite viciously, was his successor as finance minister, Yair Lapid. Lapid began his term with a pitch-black description of the economic situation at the end of the Steinitz era. Steinitz was harmed; the economy was harmed; the figures proved Lapid wrong, and yet, he didn't bother to apologize. This incitement should have been the subject of a cabinet meeting. A presentation should have been prepared against this incitement. Where is Kuperwasser when you need him?