Particles of hatred are flooding the public discourse
Photo: David Vinokur
The neighbor from the opposite building stood on her balcony, furious. We, the new neighbors who had moved into the neighborhood three days earlier, couldn't believe our ears when she shouted, "You're making so much noise. Go back to the transit camp," adding a few more swearwords in favor of the emotional climax.
I actually laughed, mainly because of the timing. It was the eve of Lag B'Omer, and my adolescents were busy organizing the bonfire, opening and closing the gate, giggling as teenagers do. They were in for a serious shock when they realized that even in the 21st century, some people of a specific ethnic descent are still sent to their "natural" place - the transit camp.
Only in Israel you send your kids to school to learn about the day in which Rabbi Akiva's students stopped dying from a mysterious epidemic which struck them because they did not treat each other with respect, and only in Israel you suffer from the same epidemic of unfounded hatred on the very same day.
Op-ed: Freedom of expression is a noble value, the air democracy breathes; but the court has failed to equip democracy with tools to defend itself against those who are using freedom of expression to recruit hate criminals.
Some call it "double standards." I prefer "denial mechanism," because we Israelis perceive ourselves as the chosen people, a light unto the nations, and all kinds of other self-compliments, which deny a behavior that has become acceptable in our region.
The number of blessings rhyming with "fellowship," "tolerance," "peace" and "friendship" we have been showered with here in the past few days through the acceptable channels of the smartphones and social media could have turned the Middle East into Europe, if only someone actually meant what he had sent to the whole world in honor of the Jewish New Year.
The attribution of a certain behavior or trait to the descent, gender or color of a person has become a collective sport in Israel, which one is required not only to take part in but also to internalize its rules of hypocrisy.
It's perfectly normal to write in a talkback, "All Arabs should be killed," and then text your mother, "May we have a year of peace." It's okay to write, "I hope all the refugees will come live in your neighborhood," and then publish a photo of flowers and butterflies with the caption "A year of love," or send your daughter to a modern dance class and your neighbors to a transit camp.
What seems like good satire material has become the material of newscasts and newspaper headlines. Statements by politicians and government workers, which add fuel to the fire and lash out at entire publics, are followed by more and more such statements, and it seems that in the current state of affairs we are all walking in the exact opposite direction than the one we are so hoping for.
They say that there hasn't been so much pollution in Israel like in the past week for more than 75 years. But the damned dust, which has disappeared from our region by now, is a lot less harmful than the dust which has no intention of disappearing anytime soon: The particles of hatred flooding the public discourse and inflaming acts of violence which are multiplying as we speak.
The "hatred report" issued recently by the Berl Katznelson Foundation shows there is a way to measure how the statements and words of opinion leaders influence the public discourse. The report's initiators, who also asked me to join the public committee against racism and incitement, are working to monitor the words, curses and comments on social networks and websites. The sight reflected from the "hatred clock," which is updated once a month based on the current events and the public discourse around them, cannot be ignored.
The hatred diet nourishing the Israeli must be replaced with an alternative menu. The amazement and shock over hate crimes like the ones which have taken place in our pure region in the past year are sometimes the lip service of those who have done nothing to stop the incitement.
Like a chicken and an egg, like a circle that never closes, like the sun during the day and the moon at night: Hate crimes are always generated by incitement, and harming innocent people in the name of an ideology will always be the product of hatred.
Shana Tova! May we learn to hate less, and stand behind our words a bit more.