Piki Ish-Shalom, a Senior Lecturer in the Department of International Relations at The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, reflects on an outbreak of racial hatred and xenophobic violence in Israel. – Jeff
History is a reservoir of teachings. For example, fusing together xenophobia, social unrest, racial stereotyping and sexual hysteria is especially explosive, endangering the marginalized others, the social fabric, and the political system as a whole. Looking at the rise of the xenophobic right in Europe, it sometimes seems that many Europeans have forgotten the lessons they so painfully learned. I fear that Israel, on the other hand, has not learned those fundamental teachings at all.
In the last couple of years Israel faced a steady inflow of Africans, smuggled in through its borders. Their numbers are hard to know accurately, but the estimation is in the tens of thousands. Most of them are from Eritrea and Sudan; countries torn by wars and hunger. Many of them are asylum-seekers, who apply for refugee status. But the state authorities mostly refuse to examine their requests, as is required by the Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees (1951), of which Israel is party. On the other hand, they are not deported, and thus remain in a purgatory state in which they are legally banned from work, do not enjoy any social rights, and are pushed into lives of misery and poverty at the margins of society.
Hardly any asylum-seeker is granted the status of a refugee because Israel fails to fulfill its legal responsibility to examine their requests. Hence, they remain as asylum-seekers and are perceived as illegal immigrants. Many of them are crowded in the streets of southern Tel Aviv alongside poor sectors of Israeli society, sectors that themselves suffer from marginalization, alienation, and a host of economic and social problems. Seeing their streets crowded by foreigners, who allegedly steal their jobs and affect their standards of living, alienates those sectors further and flairs their anger at the government. Nothing new in the stratification of racial hate, unfortunately.
Recent weeks have witnessed . . .
Read more: Asylum-Seekers, Hate Speech and Racism – Tel Aviv, Israel, May 22nd
Hypocrisy and human rights, hate speech, and the surprising role of young people and their social media in the world historic changes occurring in North Africa and the Middle East have been our issues of the week at DC. While I know, from my ability to track levels of readership, each of the posts attracted more or less an equal degree of our readers’ attention, it was hate speech that stimulated an interesting discussion, interesting on its own terms, but also in the way it sheds light on the other posts of the week.
Gary Alan Fine is not worried about hate speech. Most of us are. He thinks it excites and draws attention, and that its negative effects are overdrawn. Iris “hates hate speech,” but thinks that we have to learn to live with it. It is the price we pay for living in a democracy. Rafael offers a comparative cultural approach, agreeing that in English hate speech may not be as pernicious as it may first seem. But he, nonetheless, reminds us that sometimes hate and its speech have horrific consequences, citing the case of a local preacher “insisting on an idea of building a memorial reminding folk that Mathew Sheppard is now in hell.” Rafael underscores that sometimes hate speech and aggressive actions are intimately connected, sometimes, even, hate speech functions as an action. Esther looks at the problem from a slightly different angle. She thinks that concern about civil discourse is a good idea, but asks: “shouldn’t we be thinking, talking and doing some more about cause and prevention of violent outbursts by lost individuals?” While, Michael is more directly concerned with hate speech and action, maintaining that it undermines democratic culture. “Hate frequently destroys the cultural underpinnings needed for democratic processes to emerge and thrive.” He then expresses his concern about the hate speech in Madison, echoing those who were most concerned with the relationship between hate speech and the massacre in Tucson.
© Akiramenai | Wikimedia Commons
And then, in a sense, the Supreme Court joined our discussion, . . .
Read more: DC Week in Review: Civility Matters
Half a century ago, Tom Lehrer, our iconic musical satirist, paid ironic tribute to National Brotherhood Week. In introducing his cracked paean to tolerance, Lehrer asserted that ‘I know that there are people who do not love their fellow man, and I hate people like that.’ His grievance is all too common. We have resided for some time in an age that frets about hate speech, but when does distaste become hatred? And is sharp and personal talk bad for the polity? The shooting of Representative Gabrielle Giffords temporarily invigorated the debate over civility, but such moments have a way of not lasting. That was so January. Biting discourse draws attention and motivates both supporters and opponents.
In the immediate aftermath of the Tucson killings, some on the left focused their attention on those in the Tea Party who expressed vivid – and yes, offensive – animus for President Obama. There surely are those whose colorful language hides an absence of mindfulness. But, as conservatives knew well, their time for grievance would come soon. After all, we have a United States senator who titled his literary effort, Rush Limbaugh is a Big Fat Idiot. And there was the backbench Democrat from Memphis who compared Republican tactics to Nazi propaganda. Hitler would have George Soros’ wealth if he could receive a tiny royalty for each use of his name or image.
Even more dramatic is the boisterous crowd of teachers on the mall in Madison, Wisconsin. Protesters are fighting for collective bargaining rights, and in the process compare their newly elected governor, Scott Walker, to Hosni Mubarak and worse. Others will judge the justice of the Badgers’ cause, but who has taught these demonstrators about the villains of history? By the way, as an Illinois resident, I welcome the fleeing Democratic state senators and urge them to pay our newly increased income tax, part of which will go to teachers’ pay.
The question is how concerned should we be with Governor Walker’s and President Obama’s detractors? What is hate speech? Is it just . . .
Read more: Hate Speech or Biting Political Provocation?