Israel's Benjamin Netanyahu, who was recently re-elected as prime minister for the fourth time, has appointed Ayalet Shaked as justice minister. This has raised some eyebrows due to Shaked's ultranationalist views. Indeed, Shaked, a member of the far-right HaBayit HaYehudi (“Jewish Home”) party, made headlines last year after she deemed the entire Palestinian people “the enemy” on Facebook and essentially argued for their extermination “because the enemy soldiers hide out among the population, and it is only through its support that they can fight.” Many condemned her comments as calling for genocide of the Palestinian people.
The Facebook status in question, which she later deleted but which was archived before she did so, was posted one day before Palestinian teenager Muhammad Abu Khdeir was kidnapped and burned alive by Israeli extremists. The status was translated by Dena Shunra for the Electronic Intifada:
The Palestinian people has declared war on us, and we must respond with war. Not an operation, not a slow-moving one, not low-intensity, not controlled escalation, no destruction of terror infrastructure, no targeted killings. Enough with the oblique references. This is a war. Words have meanings. This is a war. It is not a war against terror, and not a war against extremists, and not even a war against the Palestinian Authority. These too are forms of avoiding reality. This is a war between two people. Who is the enemy? The Palestinian people. Why? Ask them, they started.
I don’t know why it’s so hard for us to define reality with the simple words that language puts at our disposal. Why do we have to make up a new name for the war every other week, just to avoid calling it by its name. What’s so horrifying about understanding that the entire Palestinian people is the enemy? Every war is between two peoples, and in every war the people who started the war, that whole people, is the enemy. A declaration of war is not a war crime. Responding with war certainly is not. Nor is the use of the word “war”, nor a clear definition who the enemy is. Au contraire: the morality of war (yes, there is such a thing) is founded on the assumption that there are wars in this world, and that war is not the normal state of things, and that in wars the enemy is usually an entire people, including its elderly and its women, its cities and its villages, its property and its infrastructure.
And the morality of war knows that it is not possible to refrain from hurting enemy civilians. It does not condemn the British air force, which bombed and totally destroyed the German city of Dresden, or the US planes that destroyed the cities of Poland and wrecked half of Budapest, places whose wretched residents had never done a thing to America, but which had to be destroyed in order to win the war against evil. The morals of war do not require that Russia be brought to trial, though it bombs and destroys towns and neighborhoods in Chechnya. It does not denounce the UN Peacekeeping Forces for killing hundreds of civilians in Angola, nor the NATO forces who bombed Milosevic’s Belgrade, a city with a million civilians, elderly, babies, women, and children. The morals of war accept as correct in principle, not only politically, what America has done in Afghanistan, including the massive bombing of populated places, including the creation of a refugee stream of hundreds of thousands of people who escaped the horrors of war, for thousands of whom there is no home to return to.
And in our war this is sevenfold more correct, because the enemy soldiers hide out among the population, and it is only through its support that they can fight. Behind every terrorist stand dozens of men and women, without whom he could not engage in terrorism. Actors in the war are those who incite in mosques, who write the murderous curricula for schools, who give shelter, who provide vehicles, and all those who honor and give them their moral support. They are all enemy combatants, and their blood shall be on all their heads. Now this also includes the mothers of the martyrs, who send them to hell with flowers and kisses. They should follow their sons, nothing would be more just. They should go, as should the physical homes in which they raised the snakes. Otherwise, more little snakes will be raised there.
Her status was followed a week later by Israel's so-called “Operation Protective Edge” in Gaza, which would leave the area devastated. In 50 days, the IDF had killed at least 2,137 Palestinians, including over 500 children, and left over 10,000 wounded. According to the UN, 72 per cent of Palestinians killed in this offensive were civilians. About a third of the wounded children, will be forced to live with permanent disabilities. One-third of Gaza's total population, over 520,000 people, have been displaced, of whom 279,389 were taking shelter in 83 UN-run schools.
While shocking, her statement was not the first time that Israeli leaders have been accused of inciting violence against Palestinians, including genocide. Indeed, Israeli activist David Sheen's testimony at the Russell Tribunal for Palestine revealed a worrying trend within Israeli society.
Here are some of the people Sheen highlighted in his presentation:
Yitzhak Shapira, a rabbi who lives in the Israeli-occupied West Bank settlement of Yitzhar and who heads the Od Yosef Chai Yeshiva organization, published a book in 2009 entitled “The King's Torah” in which he wrote that “there is justification for killing babies if it is clear that they will grow up to harm us, and in such a situation they may be harmed deliberately, and not only during combat with adults”. He was questioned for his statements but released within a few hours after protest by supporters and members of parliament.
Shapira was outdone by Ovadia Yosef, the leader of the Ultra-Orthodox Shas party, who has made such statements as “Goyim (non-Jews) were born only to serve us. Without that, they have no place in the world – only to serve the People of Israel”, “the six million Holocaust victims were reincarnations of the souls of sinners” as well as calling Arabs and Muslims words such as “snakes”, “evildoers” and “stupid’. On Arabs in general, Yosef was quoted as saying that the IDF must “send missiles to annihilate them”. After passing away last year, Yosef's funeral gathered 800,000 Israelis to mourn his death. It was the largest funeral gathering in Israeli history.
Shimon Gapso, the mayor of Upper Jerusalem, said about his district that “[Upper Nazareth] is a Jewish city and it’s important that it remains so. If that makes me a racist, then I’m a proud offshoot of a glorious dynasty of “racists’”. David Stav, the chief rabbi of the City of Shoham as well as the founder and chairman of the Tzohar Rabbinical Organization, wrote an op-ed in the Times of Israel during the war on Gaza calling it a “Milchemet Mitzvah”, or a “War by Commandment”. In other words, a holy war, or as he defined it “a defensive war whose victory is a sanctification of God’s name.”
Moshe Feiglin, the former member of Likud and head of Manhigut Yehudit (Jewish Leadership) faction within the party, called for Israel to conquer Gaza and to put its citizens in camps until the whole area was ethnically cleansed of all Palestinians. On the two-state solution, he said: “No two states for two people; there is only one state for one nation.”
Naftali Bennett, the current minister of economy and head of Ayelet Shaked's “Jewish Home” party, has said that “I already killed lots of Arabs in my life, and there is absolutely no problem with that.”
And finally, Rabbi Noam Perel, secretary-general of the World Youth Movement since 2012, called for the IDF “to be turned into an army of avengers which will not stop at 300 Philistine foreskins.”