By Daniella Peled
February 10, 2009
One occasionally sees the phrase "Death to Arabs" scrawled on walls and bus stops around Israel. It's a common enough graffiti, the catchphrase of the long-outlawed Kach party.
But I recall once seeing the ugly phrase daubed on a wall in Ramat Aviv, a leafy middle-class suburb and the sort of place where everyone votes Meretz, practices yoga and only buys fair-trade produce.
Incongruous enough, but what struck me was that the graffiti remained there for weeks, passed by the Ramat Avivniks every time they went to the café to buy their ethically-sourced cappuccinos. I wonder, in Hampstead, say, would someone have called the council or got out a tub of paint to cover a similarly offensive graffiti?
In the struggle to put the rise of the far-right Avigdor Lieberman in context, maybe this apparent apathy towards racism is part of the explanation.
In the UK the BNP have managed to win some 100 local election seats. In Israel, Lieberman's Yisrael Beitenu is expected to be the kingmaker of the next government.
This is a party that advocates transfer and whose rhetoric goes far beyond legitimate political debate. It campaigns to remove the citizenship of any one who refuses to swear allegiance to Israel as a Jewish state - an attack not only on the country's 1.5 million Arab citizens, but also on its non-Zionist haredi population.
Newspaper reports last week that Lieberman allegedly once belonged to the outlawed Kach party raised barely a ripple. His party is apparently wildly popular with young voters. Has racism become acceptable in Israeli politics, or do people just not care enough?