Sefi Rachlevsky
Haaretz (Opinion)
March 23, 2011 - 12:00am

If there is one country in the world that should have heeded the commandment 'Thou shall not build nuclear reactors,' it is Japan, and that is not 20-20 hindsight. The traumas of World War II, of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, along with the fact that Japan sits on the seam of tectonic plates, should have kept it away from that path. But Japan became a leader in the construction of reactors after all.

If there is one country in the world that should have heeded the commandment 'Thou shall not fall into the chasm of anti-democratic racism,' it is Israel. The traumas of World War II of the horrors that racism and hatred wreaked on democracy, along with the fact that Israel sits on the seam of the Islamic world, should have kept it away from that path. But the regime threatens to turn Israel into a rising anti-democratic power after all.

It is not for nothing that Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion, for the many months during which he could have taken over the Old City of Jerusalem in late 1948, refused to do so. Israel's first prime minister understood that if the country took the path of antagonistic and provocative religious-messianic identity, the cracks in the Islamic-Jewish-Christian seam would bring about destruction. Only if Israel chose to turn its back on the sanctity of Jerusalem and to prefer a realistic and normal identity, could it flourish.

And so Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was accurate in his warning after the terror attack in Itamar against incitement that leads to murder. As he looks inward, and he must first of all look inward, he will easily grasp the extent of the danger. It is not "just" state-funded Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu inciting against the Arabs and it is not "just" the leader of the racist world in Israel, Rabbi Dov Lior, who enjoys a respectable amount of funding and a variety of official posts. It is not even "just" the fact that most first-graders in Israel who are defined as Jews receive religious and ultra-Orthodox education in which it is self-evident that a non-Jew is not a human being.

Rather, Netanyahu can see the danger in his much more immediate environment. The Knesset, led by the Netanyahu government, in the face of the unrest in the region, has chosen of all things - just like during the Great Revolt that led to the destruction of the Second Temple - to turn to violence against its own people. The victim is democracy itself. In one day the Knesset passed the "Nakba law" and the "discrimination committees law," both directed at smashing the fundamental principles of separation of branches of government, freedom of expression and equal rights.

Netanyahu should look even more deeply inward. As an expert at incitement he should know very well that the person who whips up a crowd of tens of thousands to shout "in blood and fire we will run Rabin out," leads directly to the assassination in the square. The disaster toward which he could lead Israel now is even worse than the revolt that spilled over from the public square in Jerusalem to the public square in Tel Aviv.

This is not a unique case. A battered child frequently becomes a battering parent. It was precisely Japan's defeat by the atom that pushed it to make use of the atom's power despite the danger. The fact that Jews were the ultimate victim of the anti-democratic and racist world has led many of them to embrace precisely that world.

However, Israelis should not defend the country's uniqueness but rather defend their identity and their lives. If the regime that encourages incitement, racism and anti-democracy is not toppled soon, we will find that the future is already here. No law will stop the lamentations that call the disaster by name. The nakba - the catastrophe - that is getting close must be stopped by overturning the regime.


American Task Force on Palestine - 1634 Eye St. NW, Suite 725, Washington DC 20006 - Telephone: 202-262-0017