On Tuesday a Jewish mother gave birth at the Israeli HaEmek Medical Centre in the city of Afula in the northern district of Israel. The Jewish woman found herself lying in a room alongside an Arab mother who had given birth at the same hospital. The Jewish woman got angry and asked hospital staff to move the Arab woman out of the room.
The request was rejected by the hospital administration, where Arabs and Jews work together. However, the terrible behaviour which was a result of a policy aimed at breeding systematic racism, shocked the Arab woman and her husband.
“At this moment at HaEmek Medical Center, where my wife had just given birth, her roommate refuses to stay in the same room with her because she’s Arab,” Dr Wasim Rock, the Arab woman’s husband, wrote on Twitter.
Due to the tension, Dr Rock voluntarily moved to another room as the Jewish Israeli woman said she she did not feel safe, “but she does not have the right to request that other people leave the room in a hospital,” he added.
Dr Rock told Israeli TV Channel 13: “We are all citizens of the same country. We need to live together in peace because we do not have any other country or place to live in.”
This incident echoes a similar event in 2016, when Israeli Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich’s wife requested that an Arab woman be moved out of her room after giving birth to a baby at an Israeli hospital.
“As a woman who lives here, in Samaria [the occupied Palestinian West Bank], I experience the war between us and the Arabs on a daily basis. And because of that, yes, I feel uncomfortable sitting in the same room with an Arab woman. As far as I am concerned, we are enemies,” Smotrich’s wife said.
Extremist far-right Smotrich, a member of the Knesset for the Jewish Home Party, defended his wife’s views. “It’s only natural my wife would not want to lie next to someone who just gave birth to a baby that might murder her baby in another 20 years,” he said.
But Smotrich’s wife’s racism went further, she told Israeli TV: “I distinguish between Jews – of European descent, Moroccan descent, Yemenite descent – and Arabs. The first ones are my people; the second are my enemies.”
Mossawa Centre, a rights group working to achieve the rights of Israeli Arabs and Palestinians, blamed Smotrich for what happened with Rock’s wife, citing remarks he made in 2016. “Racist” Smotrich and his wife “can feel proud about the racist climate they have created,” the rights group said.
The atmosphere of racism promoted by Smotrich does not stem from the incident with his wife in the maternity ward, but in every single corner across the political and social spectrums. In 2015, Smotrich declared in a Knesset Interior meeting that developers in Israel should not have to sell homes to Arabs.
“Anyone who wants to protect the Jewish people and opposes mixed marriages is not a racist. Whoever wants to let Jews live a Jewish life without non-Jews is not a racist,” Smotrich said. He added: “I believe in God’s words. I prefer that Jews make a living and would not sell a house to Arabs.”
In March 2017, he said there were only three choices to deal with a Palestinian child throwing stones at Israeli occupation forces. “Either I will shoot him, or I will jail him, or I will expel him,” he said.
In 2017 he published an essay called “Israel’s Decicive Plan,” in which he said: “Ending the conflict [between Israelis and Palestinians] means creating and cementing the awareness – practically and politically – that there is room for only one expression of national self-determination west of the Jordan River: that of the Jewish nation. Therefore; those who wish to forgo their national aspirations can stay here and live as individuals in the Jewish state.”
Palestinians who are unwilling to forgo their national ambitions, he wrote, “will receive aid to emigrate” or be characterised as “terrorists” and “will be dealt with by the security forces with a strong hand.”
Two years ago, he addressed Arab lawmakers in the Israeli Knesset saying: “You are here by mistake. It is a mistake that [Israel’s founder David] Ben-Gurion did not finish the job and did not throw you out in 1948.”
Alongside his racism and advocating annexation of Palestinian territories, Smotrich rejects calling the murder of Palestinian families or the burning of Palestinian children and women acts of terrorism.
Referencing the settler arson attack that killed a Palestinian family, leaving only their four-year-old child orphaned and with severe scars, Smotrich said: “The murder in Duma, with all its severity, is not an incident of terrorism. Period. Whoever calls it terrorism is deviating from the truth, causing mortal and unjustified harm to human and civil rights.”
The most problematic issue today is that Smotrich is not the only racist among Israeli politicians; Israel is plagued by racists from the far-right to the far-left. This racism passes from the politicians to the public complicating the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Israel’s newest government is packed with ministers who, like Smotrich, are racist against Arabs and other minorities in society. Some openly declare that they believe themselves to be “fascist”.
As long as Israel’s leaders harbour such hate, an end to Israeli aggressions – both by authorities and civilians – will not be on the horizon.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.