A Public Sphere for Poetry, Politics, and Nature
Since the horrible murder of three Israeli teenagers, followed by the equally abominable revenge killing of the Palestinian boy from Shuafat, Israel has witnessed a wave of racist hatred on a scale perhaps not known before. Part of it has to do with the near-infinite opportunities of the internet: tens of thousands of virulent hate messages sent by ordinary Israelis have clogged the major sites; thousands of them call openly for revenge. I remember a time somewhat like this one, in the summer and autumn of 1982, the days of the first Lebanon War; the nadir came when a hate-filled nationalist threw a grenade into a Peace Now demonstration, killing my student, Emil Grunzweig. Some of the internet sites these days have called for the execution of leftists. Perhaps most striking of all is the utter shamelessness of this wave. Probably people used to have these same feelings but were not so ready, or eager, to state them in public. Decades of demagoguery and xenophobic incitement by the right, including, famously, by Netanyahu himself, have had an effect. The sluices are open.
The other innovation in the public sphere is the presence of Israeli lynch gangs prowling the streets of downtown Jerusalem. Sporadic outbursts of mob violence have been seen here before, but this time, after the killing of the teenagers, we saw organized Fascist groups attacking any Palestinians unlucky enough to be going home late at night, after work (the restaurants and pubs in Jerusalem employ many Palestinian workers). Ta’ayush kept small groups of volunteers in the city center for most nights last week and the week before with the aim of forestalling such attacks; there were cases when the police were called in to save Palestinians trapped by savage Jewish mobs. A particularly terrible case occurred when the Light Rail, the electric tram, was surrounded by rabble screaming “Death to Arabs!” A Palestinian Ph.D. student in Islamic studies at the University, a woman well known to my colleagues, was caught in the tram and witnessed passengers trying to shove another Palestinian woman, a young mother with her baby, out of the carriage, into the hands of the mob. Most of the passengers, as always in such cases, watched passively. Fortunately, the tram was eventually able to continue its journey, and the mother and child survived.
— by David Shulman, Hebrew University of Jerusalem
For David Shulman’s complete article, click here.