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MK: Parliament members using racism for political gain

March 23, 2016 9:46 P.M. (Updated: April 1, 2016 8:40 P.M.)
Israeli Knesset (AFP/Eric Feferberg, File)
BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) -- A Palestinian member of Israel’s Knesset on Tuesday charged other parliament members of using incitement and racism for political gain, according to a Knesset press release.

MK Aida Touma-Suleiman of the Joint List made the remark during a plenary session held to mark the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.

The MK said she welcomed the decision to recognize the day in light of the ”harsh displays of racism that have taken place in the parliament building lately.”

Touma-Suleiman referenced a recent poll conducted by the Coalition for the Fight against Racism reporting that 52 percent of Israelis believe Israeli society is becoming more racist.

The study said in particular that most racial discrimination in the country was directed against “Arabs, asylum seekers and Ethiopians.”

”If we do not find ways to change this reality, we will find ourselves in a serious problem,” Touma-Suleiman said in her address.

”Unfortunately, there are MKs who use incitement or racism against the Arab population, against asylum seekers and against other groups within society, only for the sake of political gain and to get more votes.”

Israel has become notorious for detaining thousands of asylum seekers in Holot, the world's largest detention center by area, and has long recieved criticism for treating its Ethiopian Jewish population and Palestinians -- who make up some 20 percent of the population -- as second-class citizens.

MK Nava Boker of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party meanwhile called to “end the campaign of racism and incitement” against Israeli settlers who reside on Palestinian land in contravention of international law.

"In my opinion, the most severe racism in this country is directed at the residents of Judea and Samaria, or, as you call them, 'settlers,' " Boker said, referring to the Israeli-occupied West Bank.

Boker also identified the “most severe racism” in Israel as directed at Jews by "terrorists."

"Almost every morning we wake up to terrorists attempting to murder Jews only because they are Jewish," Boker said.

"Racism is the term that can be used to describe 13-year-old teenagers who are incited and twisted with hate who go out and stab Jewish children with scissors," the MK said, likely referring to an incident in November where two Palestinian teenage girls were shot after reportedly chasing a security guard with scissors.

Palestinian 14-year-old Hadeel Awwad was shot 11 times and killed during the incident.

Allegations of incitement and racism have been lobbed by a number of parties -- Israeli and Palestinian -- in recent months.

The Knesset in particular has been the site of heated exchanges among MK’s since a wave of unrest spread across the occupied Palestinian territory and Israel in October. Violence has continued unabated since.

The six months have been marked by a series of small-scale attacks carried out by Palestinian individuals on Israeli military forces, though attacks have also targeted illegal settlements as well as civilians in Israel.

Over 200 Palestinians and just under 30 Israelis have been killed since October.

The high rate of Palestinian deaths led Israeli rights group B’Tselem in November to slam Israeli government officials -- Netanyahu and Knesset members in particular -- of inciting and normalizing a “shoot-to-kill” approach against Palestinians, regardless of if the individual poses any danger.

B’Tselem attributed the shoot-to-kill policy to “inflammatory statements by senior members” of the Knesset, members who the group said draw support from the PM’s silence on the matter.

While Israeli officials have often sought to blame recent violence on “incitement,” Palestinians have oft pointed to Israel's nearly 50-year military occupation of the Palestinian territory, no prospect of a political solution, and a deep sense of frustration and despair.
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