In this chapter we will describe severe incidents of violence and discrimination between various groups in Israeli society over the past year. We will inquire whether these incidents signal a rise in the frequency of racist phenomena and whether we are witnessing a long-term trend, or alternatively, a local or cyclical increase in violence connected to the current security situation. Similarly, the chapter will address the question of whether one can fold all of the various incidents into one category, and whether the term that is widely used to describe these phenomena, “racism,” is, in fact, adequate. Amendment 24 to the Penal Code (1977) and decisions of the Supreme Court supply a clear definition of the term racism. Nevertheless, we shall argue that this definition and the interpretation given to the law, makes discussion of the issue superficial, causes confusion, and prevents making the appropriate differential response to the various phenomena.
Our discussion will focus upon three different expressions of this phenomenon:
- The intra-Jewish issue involving different Jewish groups (this touches on the question of the absorption of new immigrants by the veteran population and stresses the cultural gaps between them; and expressions of intolerance between groups that exhibit totally different lifestyles – e.g. secular and ultra-Orthodox Jews);
- The Jewish-Arab problem (which focuses on the Jewish-Arab national conflict);
- Terror attacks and extreme violence.