Israeli minister of public security Yitzhak Aharonovitch approved a measure on Thursday that eases gun restrictions, expanding gun license eligibility to tens of thousands of people who previously did not qualify.
“The decision comes from a need to improve the feeling of safety among the population in light of the recent terror attacks,” said Aharonovitch.
The new, ostensibly temporary, guidelines will allow certain army unit veterans, officers in the army reserves, former police and Shin Bet (Israeli secret police) officers and former security guards at the Israel Airports Authority to qualify for a gun license.
Because military conscription for Jewish Israelis is compulsory, this constitutes a large portion of the Israeli population.
Recipe for disaster
Combined with the rising tide of anti-Arab extremism in Israeli society, the loosening of gun restrictions is a recipe for disaster.
This type of incitement is not only prevalent, it is alarmingly acceptable.
As The Electronic Intifada’s Patrick O. Strickland reported last week, an Israeli train driver who agitated for his countrymen to run over Palestinians for “the Jewish Nation” in a Facebook post has faced no real repercussions, and will keep his job.
Similarly, there will be likely be no consequence for the high school math teacher in Ashkelon who sent an image to his students of a Muslim graveyard, captioned: ”In times like these, it’s important to remember there are also good Arabs! And they can be found here.”
The hate is not isolated to random individuals. Indeed, the Israeli public has been whipped into a racist frenzy by incitement from the top.
Incitement from the top
Earlier this month, Aharonovitch (the security minister) incited vigilante violence when he applauded the swift police execution of the Palestinian driver responsible for a vehicular attack in Jerusalem on 5 November.
“The action of the Border Police officer who chased the terrorist and quickly killed him is the right and professional action, and that is the way I would like these incidents to end,” said Aharonovitch. “A terrorist who strikes civilians should be killed.”
Many understood this as a call for police and armed civilians to act as judge, jury and executioner against perceived “terrorists,” which in the Israeli lexicon is interchangeable with “Arabs.”
The Association for Civil Rights in Israel linked Aharonovitch’s incitement to the police murder of 22-year-old Kheir Hamdan days later.
On 9 November, in the Galilee village of Kufr Kana, Israeli police shot Hamdan after he banged on their van with an unidentified object.
CCTV footage of the killing reveals that the officers shot Hamdan at close range without warning as he ran away, and then shot him again after he was injured and bleeding on the ground, completely contradicting initial police claims that Hamdan attacked an officer with a knife.
Adalah, the legal center for Arab minority rights, expressed alarm over the “direct connection” between incitement from the top and the behavior of citizens on the ground.
“The minister [Aharonovitch] stated that anyone who attacks Israeli Jewish citizens should be killed immediately,” said Adalah. “In any democratic society that respects the life of its citizens, any government minister that makes statements such as those by Yitzhak Aharonovich should be immediately dismissed.”
But there is no penalty for inciting against Arabs in Israel, so Aharonovitch has doubled down.
After inciting vigilantism against a largely defenseless Palestinian population, Aharonovitch is supplying the trigger for Israelis to act on their worst impulses.