The Next Political Murder Is a Matter of Time
Over 100,000 Israelis gather in Tel Aviv for a protest against the new far-right government and its proposed judicial reforms on January 21, 2023. (Amir Levy/Getty Images)

The Next Political Murder Is a Matter of Time

Ma’ariv, Israel, January 27

Somewhere in the State of Israel, the next Yona Avrushmi – who killed a peace activist during a 1983 demonstration – is likely sitting and planning his next steps. The wild hatred, poison and unrestrained incitement that members of the government and their agents in the media are now spewing will eventually fall on deaf ears. The next political murder in Israel is only a matter of time. When I looked at the crowds that gathered in Tel Aviv last Saturday night, and those that will gather there this Saturday – adults, young people and families with children – it was obvious that they did not only come to protest. They also wanted to feel that they are not alone, that there are others like them who have not been swept away by the political insanity that has engulfed us. But it was also completely clear that the person who had already drifted away and would try to harm them would be found. Humans are highly infectious creatures. They infect each other and their environment with their thoughts and behavior. The cliché says that a person is the average of the five people closest to them. This is more than just a cliché; it is true. Each of us is a product of our immediate environment and, in the internet age, also a product of the content we consume. The filth spewing from government mouthpieces is falling on fertile ground. This week, Matan Khodorov, a colleague at News 13, confronted attorney Eran Gil from Netanya. Gil had written to journalist Or Heller that he was “the son of a terrorist, more racist than Hitler”; he had wished for an abortion in Channel 13 economics correspondent Lior Kenan’s first pregnancy; and he had called Khodorov an “LGBT pervert.” Every week, I receive similar comments in response to the column I write here, though usually less creative than what attorney Gil put forth. I have generally let them pass as nonsense that everyone encounters from time to time. But when such reactions are supported by government spokespeople, it is only a matter of time until they are translated into actions. I am not the only one with this concern. The Shin Bet is also hearing these voices and reading these tweets. They understand that the Avrushmi scenario is becoming increasingly realistic and could materialize any day. Unlike in 1983, when Avrushmi murdered Emil Greenzweig in a demonstration against the First Lebanon War, today’s police surveillance tools are much more sophisticated. Nowadays, it is possible to identify people who have the potential to carry out the hateful messages they are disseminating on the internet. Some of these people may receive a warning at their door or by phone, and some will be spotted when they attend demonstrations that they are not supposed to be at. The Shin Bet is well aware of the potential for another politically motivated murder and is determined to prevent it. However, whereas the Shin Bet remains committed to fulfilling its role for the state, parts of the media have completely neglected this responsibility. Broadcasting companies have given a platform to those who propagate hatred and incitement without even attempting to challenge these instigators with facts. This week, the renowned Israeli philosopher Joseph Agassi passed away. A student of the renowned philosopher of science Karl Popper, Agassi was known for his belief that the condition for formulating a scientific theory is to define the experiment that would disprove it. Born into an ultra-Orthodox family from Jerusalem, Agassi was a renegade who paid a price for his views, receiving a cold shoulder from universities in Israel. Nevertheless, he maintained that criticism is the basis of scientific progress while also recognizing its limits. He famously stated: “There are disputes that are rational, and some that are not rational. … The public debate must concentrate on the best various opinions and discuss them critically while seeking the truth.” In 2023, truth and rationality already have been challenged in Israel; anything can be said and, if repeated with confidence, will be accepted as truth. What remains, however, is the freedom to challenge the so-called “truth.”  I doubt I will ever witness Agassi’s dream of an Israeli nation, which is independent of religion and united in its inhabitants, come to fruition during my lifetime. Nevertheless, those who are attempting to impose a radical change upon us will be judged by history – and, if we are fortunate, by more than just history. – Alon Ben David (translated by Asaf Zilberfarb)

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