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Is it Racist to Prioritize Freedom from Terror?

Jonathan S. Tobin
JNS, Aug. 25, 2023

“The problem with these assumptions is that those condemning Ben-Gvir are ignoring not only the context of his comments but also why a heretofore marginal figure has risen so far in Israeli politics.”
So much of what has been tearing Israel apart in the last several months can be traced back to public opinion about one man—and his last name isn’t Benjamin Netanyahu. The list of issues dividing Israelis since protests ostensibly against judicial reform began in January is long. But there can be no underestimating the way that attitudes towards National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir have influenced the debate about the international campaign to delegitimize the government that was formed after last November’s Knesset election.
Ben-Gvir was back in the news this week when his comments during an interview on Israel’s Channel 12 made him the focus of renewed controversy. In discussing the recent surge of Arab terrorism with Israeli-Arab journalist Mohammad Magadli and whether more stringent measures should be taken to stop the bloodshed, Ben-Gvir said, “My right, the right of my wife and my children to move around Judea and Samaria is more important than freedom of movement for the Arabs. The right to life comes before freedom of movement.”
Most media sources quoting Ben-Gvir didn’t include the last sentence in the quote they used. Shorn of that line and taken out of the context of a discussion of a series of murders of Jews by Palestinians who are then celebrated by their community and its leadership as heroes, the comment came across as unabashed racism. The notion that a Jewish right to free movement takes precedence over similar rights for Arabs is repugnant.
That was the way it was interpreted by numerous media outlets, as well as the U.S. State Department, which took the trouble to specifically condemn Ben-Gvir for what it described as “inflammatory comments” and “all racist rhetoric.”
The contretemps also caused a furor on social media where Palestinian-American supermodel Bella Hadid posted a video of Ben-Gvir’s statement on an Instagram story to her 60 million followers to which she appended the pious sentiment that: “In no place, no time, especially in 2023 should one life be more valuable than another’s. Especially simply because of their ethnicity, culture or pure hatred.”

… [To read the full article, click here]

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