The 21st of March is known for being the international day against racism and is marked in different places around the globe. Every year I hope that there will be no need for this type of day or demonstration, but this is a naïve thought.
In reality, we need much more than just a day once a year that is dedicated to racism, discrimination and other ugly phenomena that still have a big part in our societies. This happens everywhere! Only a week ago I was visiting my family in Israel, the same week that the elections took place, which was indeed a very tense week, as I wrote about in my last blog.
The last days before and after the elections showed how racist the debate is in Israel! I’m not only talking about the discussion between Jewish and Muslim people that can get extremely ugly. I also refer to the public and private debates between the variety of Israeli people which crossed all the lines in the last couple of days.
But why am I surprised? What can you expect from the people of Israel, when they only follow the great example of their prime minster?! Benjamin Netanyahu, who was elected again, was so afraid two days before the elections that in a political media stunt “warned” his voters from the Arab citizens who are planning to vote (like it’s not their democratic right anyway?!) Can you imagine any other leader who publicly makes such a racist and primitive statement against one of the biggest minorities in their country?
This situation is extremely ridiculous and dangerous. The spirit of the statements that were made in the last days reached a new level of racism. To hear radical right wing activists talking in a racist manner is unfortunate, but is not new. To hear the prime minster express himself in this manner is extremely shameful. And from there, the way to a “media” civil war was not long. What we call in Hebrew the “ethnic demon” has proven to be alive and kicking. Wrangling between the right and left activists, media persons, academia and politicians was only the beginning. Left wing Jewish Ashkenazi people blamed the Jewish Mizrahi right wing people for choosing a right wing government again and voting for Netanyahu. (this is of course a stereotype since there are many Ashkenazi right wing Israelis, or Mizrahi left wing Israelis.)
The never ending discussion between Mizrahi and Ashkenazi Jews was so racist and discriminatory, almost like we went 50 years back in time. The record broke on Sunday morning when a university professor said to another public figure on live television, that it was better if her parents remained in Morocco to rot there, instead of coming to Israel (and vote for Benjamin Netanyahu).
At this point it was finally good to see how the people were starting to unite and understand that there is no room for these statements in the Israeli society. Unfortunately not enough right wing people condemned Netanyahu. Even though he tried to apologize, I believe he can’t take it back anymore.
So yes, we still need demonstrations against racism, Islamophobia, anti-Semitism, sexism, homophobia, xenophobia and the list is long. In Israel, or in the Netherlands, and all around the world these phenomena have not passed from the world and we should fight against them in every possible way, not only once a year.