Israel’s former top justice on Tuesday warned that Arab and Jewish extremists were dragging Israeli society down into a racist abyss, and urged harsher action by law enforcement authorities against them.
Speaking in the aftermath of the June 12 kidnapping and killing of three Israeli teenagers by Palestinian terrorists, and the alleged July 2 revenge killing of an Arab teenager by Jewish terrorists, retired Supreme Court president Dorit Beinisch (2006-12) said Israeli society was now in “a state of emergency.”
Referencing riots and protests that have swept across Israel in recent days, Beinisch said Israel was descending into a climate of “racist incitement and racist speech, which have led to violence and require an immediate response by law enforcement and other authorities.”
In an Army Radio interview, Beinisch highlighted “the human tragedy that befell three families, with three young Jewish victims of cruel terror” — the murdered youths Naftali Fraenkel, Eyal Yifrach and Gil-ad Shaar — and the killing of “an innocent Palestinian,” Muhammed Abu Khdeir, “who was the victim of a despicable act.”
Emotions had been stirred up among Israeli Jews and Arabs, she said, and “this is the moment to take care not to allow incitement to drag us down… The majority must not be silent,” she said, adding that racist expressions by extremists, shouting “Death to Arabs” and “Death to Jews,” are incendiary. “Words have power,” she said, “and the distance from incitement to action is very short.”
Racist, inciteful expressions are not protected by the framework of freedom of speech, and those who utter them should be prosecuted and punished, she added. “Racist expressions are not legitimate freedom of speech.”
Beinisch, who does not normally give interviews, said she was breaking her silence to stress that “the two extremist camps must not be allowed to dictate our lives here. These two extremist camps are dragging Israeli society down.”
Beinisch also called for a major educational campaign to highlight the dangers of extremism.
Earlier in the same program, Army Radio interviewed Jews and Arabs who were attacked during protests on Monday. A Jewish woman was struck in the forehead and knocked unconscious, by a rock that was hurled by Arab protesters through the window of the bus on which she was traveling between Tel Aviv and Kiryat Shmona. And the husband of an eight-months pregnant Arab woman described how their car was stoned by Jewish demonstrators in Upper Nazareth, requiring her hospitalization.