On Tuesday (April 6th), MK Bezalel Smotrich (A member of Tkuma, who serves as an MK for the Jewish Home) tweeted a number of controversial tweets where he advocated separation of Jewish and Arab women in Maternity Wards. Smotrich later said that not wanting to be in the presence of Arabs because they make you uncomfortable (not because of security reasons, rather because they are Arabs) is “a natural feeling”. What he doesn’t understand is that the feeling that to him may be “natural” has a name. It’s called racism and it’s very dangerous.
Seeing an Israeli member of parliament advocate segregation based on race, immediately made me think of the dangerous slippery slope it would likely lead to. It may start with separating women in maternity wards, but what’s next? Separate park benches? Different public bathrooms? Different lines at the Supermarket? What happens when we wake up one day and we are living in Apartheid South Africa? The thought was frightening.
What Smotrich said was truly horrible, yet it had the opposite effect on much of the country. Somehow, out of this beast, came something beautiful. Within minutes of Smotrich’s tweets, Israelis across the board, from Right to Left told stories of their shared experiences with Arabs both in Maternity wards and generally from day to day life in Israel. On the news, Jewish and Arab women were saying “we are all sisters” and social media was flooded with personal stories from, private individuals, politicians and celebrtities (One great example is THIS post by Hanoch Daum). It was truly beautiful. So while the fact that an Israeli MK would support segregation was extremely saddening, the awakening that took place in response to it was breathtaking.
Smotrich was widely condemned by the media, many of whom accused his comments (and him) of being a narrow minded and racist. In a failed attempt to show that he is not the latter, he said the following:
“…The Ethiopian Jews are my brothers, and that is why I like them. Arabs are my enemy and therefore I don’t enjoy being around them…”
Make no mistake, he knows exactly what he is doing. He is purposefully portraying all Arabs as the enemy. It is not about Right or Left, it’s about right and wrong, and the picture Smotrich would like to paint is wrong. Saying all Arabs are our enemies is wrong. It is incorrect, juvenile and apart from anything else, the root of so many problems. I am not attempting to absolve the murderous terrorists who are slaughtering Jews, or President Abbas who’s incitement against Israel and Jews has caused mass bloodshed, but views like the ones held by MK Smotrich are simply counter productive and detrimental to an already intricate problem. All of us living in this small piece of land called Israel and especially Knesset members have a responsibility to try and create a better and safer future for the next generation and to not condemn them to a life of war, struggle and conflict – “Veal Charbech Tichye” (“And by thy sword shalt thou live” – Genesis 27:40.)
I take comfort in knowing that Israel is not silent when things like this are said. I take pride in knowing that it was widely condemned. I marvel at some of the stories shared in the last few days and wish Israel had more stories like those, and less like this. This week was the anniversary of the death of Martin Luther King, Jr. I’d like to end with something he once said that seems just as relevant today:
“I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear”