Former prime minister Ehud Barak on Friday spoke out against the rise of right-wing extremism in Israel, calling the growing presence of Jewish terrorism “a direct threat” to Israel and urging that it be “crushed with an iron fist.”
Addressing Channel 2’s audience in a prerecorded segment broadcast Friday night, the former IDF chief of staff and Labor Party leader said the recently published video clip of gun-wielding radicals at a wedding was a glimpse into “the abyss into which a messianic and abnormal group has fallen” and into which others may descend.
Earlier in the evening broadcast, a former head of the Shin Bet said the threat posed to Israel by religious far-right extremists has reached unprecedented levels, worse even than in the lead-up to prime minister Yitzhak Rabin’s assassination in 1995. Those behind the firebombing of a Palestinian home in the West Bank village of Duma were “a professional underground in every regard,” Carmi Gillon said.
“Their terrorist activities are a direct threat to democracy, the state, and the Zionist enterprise,” former prime minister Barak said. “The writing is on the wall, and in letters of fire,” he added — citing the torching of the Dawabsha home in July which claimed the lives of three Palestinians; the burning alive of Mohammed Abu Khdeir a year earlier, and the igniting of mosques and churches by other extremist Jewish terrorists.
“Jewish terrorism and hate crimes are the juice of spiritual and moral falsehood taking place within us, and which we must crush with an iron fist if we value life,” Barak said.
These actions by a violent and extreme minority are “a stain of ignominy on the image of Israel that’s looking us in the mirror,” he said.
He appealed to Israeli society — left and right alike — to engage in “a discourse of truth,” and urged national unity for the sake of the survival of the Jewish people.
The growing hate-filled discourse and silencing of dissent by the far right “comes from an urge to cover up the mounting fear of facing — eyes wide open — the truths of our lives,” he said in a veiled allusion to Israel’s control of the West Bank and its Palestinian population.
He warned against Israel’s possible descent into ethnic or religious conflict or, worse, referencing “the Johannesburg of days past.”
“We all want a Jewish, Zionist, democratic, strong, confident and blossoming state,” he said. “Hasn’t the time come to clarify among ourselves how to achieve that? How not to get stuck in a bi-national state?”
Barak, 73, retired from political life ahead of the January 2013 elections after serving most recently as defense minister in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government.