Knesset Speaker Yuli-Yoel Edelstein opened Tuesday`s special plenary session marking International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination by saying that xenophobia stems from a sense of fear or hatred, ”or a combination of both.” Even worse, he said, is the ”violence directed towards those who are considered inferior or without the right to exist.”

”The father of this sin was of course Adolf Hitler who, during his time in prison, formulated an ideological platform for racism and this twisted concept,” he told the plenum. ”The State of Israel conducts itself according to different principles that are light years away [from Hitler`s]. We must fight incitement and racist activity, not only with statements, but with action as well. The enlightened world must recognize the need to wage an all-out war against any phenomenon of hatred, anti-Semitism, incitement and modern blood libels.”

Knesset holds special plenary session to mark International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination; Speaker Edelstein: ”Enlightened world must wage all-out war against modern blood libels”

(A Jewish shop in Berlin during the boycott of April 1, 1933. The sign says: Germans. Defend yourselves! Don`t buy from Jews! – Source: Yad Vashem)

MK Aida Touma-Sliman (Joint List) welcomed the Knesset`s decision to mark International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, particularly in light of the ”harsh displays of racism that have taken place in the parliament building lately, also from this podium.” She mentioned a study conducted by the Coalition for the Fight against Racism which found that 52% of Israelis believe Israeli society is becoming more racist, and that most of the racial discrimination in the country is 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-Sliman declared. ”Unfortunately, there are MKs who use incitement or racism against the Arab population, against asylum seeks and against other groups within society, only for the sake of political gain and to get more votes.”

MK Nava Boker (Likud) said ”racism is the reality of our life here, as almost every morning we wake up to terrorists attempting to murder Jews only because they are Jewish. 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; racism is how MKs in this House are against labelling Hezbollah as a terror organization, only because [Hezbollah] harms Jews. 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`. On this day, I call to end the campaign of racism and incitement against the settlers. Stop blaming them for everything. Just as the State of Israel is being blamed for the conflict, there are elements who try to blame the settlers for all the major problems in the country.”

MK Yigal Guetta (Shas) said late Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion, ”like most of the leaders of Zionism,” viewed Mizrachi culture as ”primitive an irrelevant.” According to him, this ”racism from home, which hurts more than racism that comes from the outside,” was manifested in the attempt to impose ”uniform education” in the immigrant camps, as well as in the cutting of the sidelocks of immigrants from Yemen. This racism, Guetta argued, continues today, ”but in a more sophisticated way.” In this regard, he noted that of the 61 university presidents in Israel, only one is Mizrachi. ”Yedioth Ahronoth, which calls itself `the country`s newspaper`, has never had a Mizrachi editor in chief. There has never been a Mizrachi prime minister, but everyone chases after the Mizrachi vote during elections. The Bank of Israel has had eight governors – all Ashkenazim. There have been 10 state prosecutors – all Ashkenazim.”