- A group of prominent Israelis, including academics, lawyers, journalists and politicians, have asked the Israeli Supreme Court to consider imposing sanctions or penalties on Israelis who incite “ethnic cleansing, expulsion and genocide” against the Palestinian people.
- They believe that hate speech against Palestinians has been normalized and legitimized in Israeli society.
- The initiative was initiated by Israeli lawyer Michael Sfard, who wrote a letter in which he made a number of statements that he believes violate Israeli and international law.
If you follow the Israeli public, the following comments are common, whether from members of the government or commentators – or from most Israelis.
- “There are no innocents in Gaza”
- “Gaza must be destroyed and razed to the ground.”
- “There is only one punishment for them: death.”
Now a group of academics, lawyers, journalists and politicians want the Israeli Supreme Court to consider imposing sanctions or penalties on Israelis who call for “ethnic cleansing, expulsion and genocide” against the Palestinian people.
Surprised and horrified
The initiative was launched by Israeli lawyer Michael Sfard, who wrote the letter in which Dagbladet newspaper contained. They have listed here a number of statements that they believe violate Israeli and international legislation. It also shows who made the statements and when.
Israeli Cultural Heritage Minister Amichai Eliyahu was among those who went further, saying on November 5: “We would not have sent humanitarian aid to the Nazis. There are no people in Gaza who are not involved.”
– Since the war in Gaza began, I have been surprised and horrified by the numerous statements encouraging people to commit crimes against the civilian population in Gaza, Sfard tells Dagbladet.
After the massacre carried out by Hamas in southern Israel on October 7, the lawyer believed that extremists were primarily responsible for hate statements against Palestinians. He expected that political leaders or the legal system would condemn or punish what it considered hate speech.
– But I quickly realized that it was not about the peripheral lunatics. Hate speech against Palestinians has been normalized and legitimized in Israeli society since October 7. Sfard says influential people — political leaders, people in the media, influencers and former generals — are circulating such hateful statements against Palestinian civilians.
– Two million Nazis
Comments about getting rid of Palestinians from Gaza have been common among people to the right of Israel for decades. Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir and Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich have long expressed their desire to expel the Palestinians. What is new is that these extremists are present in the government of Israel.
The October 7 terror meant that extremism was about to become acceptable. Finance Minister Smotrich said on Sunday that “a Jewish settlement must be established on the lands of the Gaza Strip,” according to what was reported by Reuters. Haaretz.
– Israel must control Gaza for a long time. (..) There must be Jews there. “Otherwise there will be two million Nazis who will destroy us every morning,” he said. Smotrich.
-Israel was brutally attacked, there were actually rapes and other terrible things that I never thought could happen. “This means that people who are not far from me ideologically are now saying things that I never thought I could say,” Nadav Tamir, Israel's former chief diplomat and former advisor to former prime minister and president of Israel, Shimon Peres, says Dagbladet.
Tamir also signed the letter, hoping to overcome the atmosphere of hatred against Palestinians, which is now sweeping Israel.
Attorney Sfard was born and raised in Israel, and comes from a family of Holocaust survivors.
-And that's exactly why I felt compelled to do something about changing the words. Fortunately, it wasn't hard to convince people of this message, and I've heard from several people who had the same opinion, so there's likely more to come, Sfard says.
Sfard and most Israelis knew that South Africa would take Israel to the UN court in The Hague, based on accusations of genocide in Gaza. The session is scheduled to begin at ten o'clock this morning.
That ministers and other prominent Israelis can make statements about the death and displacement of a people without being punished represents a major problem for Israel. It's an ethical problem, but it also creates legal challenges, Sfard says.
The case in South Africa will take years in the legal system. As a lawyer with experience in international law, I believe that Israel will emerge from this crisis, but the Israeli legal system must act. Saying such things should come with a price, Sfard says.
– Don't forget the West Bank
The lawyer hopes that the Israeli legal system will “address hate speech, condemn it and come up with some form of punishment or punishment.”
– It was Netanyahu (Prime Minister of Israel, editor's note) who legitimized the hateful exchange of words. He brought extreme fascist racists from the peripheries into government.
Sfard says it is “terrible, heartbreaking and embarrassing” to witness the change of words in Israel today.
Hate speech will also affect how soldiers and officers behave on the ground, in Gaza and the West Bank, Sfard says and continues:
– While the war rages in Gaza, violations are being committed in the West Bank. Settlement violence against Palestinians has never been worse. Recently, settlers expelled 16 small communities, with the approval of the army. He says: We must not forget the West Bank.
From tragedy to opportunity
Former diplomat Tamir believes that the initiative is also “a defense of the State of Israel.”
– It is better to deal with these statements yourself than to end up in court in The Hague, says Tamir.
It's optimistic, despite the bleak wording.
The situation is dark now, but if we look at the big picture, it is possible for tragedy to turn into opportunity. Ultimately, more Israelis and Palestinians will realize that the extremists are taking us in the wrong direction. Tamir says more Israelis will also understand that we cannot ignore the Palestinian issue and that this cannot be solved militarily.
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