An overabundance of hatred burdens our world. Witness everything from the ranting of Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Iran’s intention to stone yet another woman for adultery to Oklahoma’s attempt to constitutionally ban Muslim Shariah law, which plays no role in the state’s legal processes. But some people get it right.
Take the response of Israel’s prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu to this week’s appeal by right-wing Israeli rabbis to keep Jews from selling or renting property to non-Jews.
I’ve not been a supporter of Bibi (Netanyahu’s nickname). While I stand behind Israel’s need for and right to security, I believe that peace between Israel and the Palestinian Authority—forcing Hamas to play ball or be further isolated—can and should be achieved. Yet I know that Bibi’s supporters on the right will do everything they can to dismantle the current peace process—one poorly thought out by President Obama as was President George W. Bush’s rushed and haphazard attempt at Annapolis in November 2007.
Nonetheless, Bibi’s straightforward rejection of the rabbis provides a clear lesson to those who delight in fanning the flames. “Such things should not be said, neither about Jews nor Arabs,” Netanyahu stated. “They must not be said in any democratic land, and especially not in a Jewish democratic state that respects the morality of the heritage of Israel and the Bible.” Bibi continued: “There are Jews and non-Jews in our midst. How would we feel if somebody were to say not to sell an apartment to the Jews? We would protest, and we do protest when this is said among our neighbors.”
Is Bibi grandstanding? Is he playing to Washington while covertly encouraging Israel’s intransigent right? Possibly. Yet his unambiguous statements represent the decency of Israeli Jews who can be concerned for their national sovereignty and security and still acknowledge the humanity of non-Jewish Israelis. And that shouldn’t come as a surprise.
Today (December 10), thousands of activists supporting International Human Rights Day marched peacefully in Tel Aviv. I may not agree with all their specific positions—though I fully support human rights—but I’m delighted that they expressed their solidarity and position freely without interference. Israeli society is multicultural and anything but homogeneous in its politics. Israelis expect to express their opinions and do. Sadly, such a march in Tehran, Cairo, Damascus, Baghdad or Riyadh would be fraught with danger.
In my post, “The Psychopath and the Fool” (10-29-10), I condemned hateful remarks about gentiles by Israel’s former Sephardi Chief Rabbi, Ovadia Yosef. I condemn the rabbis who wish to deny non-Jews in Israel their rights. I applaud Israeli Jews who, having suffered as “the other,” reject condemning non-Jews as “others.”
I also salute Bibi for saying the right thing right away. May his words soon help transform “peace” from a professed value into concrete reality.
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