Israeli Doctor’s Online Campaign Against Hate and Racism Goes Viral
An Israeli doctor’s campaign against intolerance and hate in Israel has gone viral, prompting people across the country to post images of Jews and Arabs together.
The phenomenon began after a very public spat between Israeli model and actress Rotem Sela and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Incensed by what she saw as anti-Arab rhetoric in this year’s election campaign, Sela wrote, “When will anyone in this government tell the public that this is a country of all its citizens, and all people are born equal.”
“The Arabs are also human beings. And also the Druze, and the gays, and the lesbians, and… gasp… leftists,” she added.
Netanyahu wrote back that he and his party had no problem with Arabs, and added, “Israel is not a state of all its citizens,” but rather the nation-state of the Jews.
“Wonder Woman” actress Gal Gadot then came out in support of Sela, saying, “This isn’t a matter of right or left. Jew or Arab. Secular or religious. It’s a matter of dialogue, of dialogue for peace and equality and of our tolerance of one towards the other.”
“Love your neighbor as yourself,” she added.
According to Israeli news site Mako, inspired by Sela’s post and the controversy surrounding it, Dr. Nadav Grant, who works at a hospital in Petah Tikva, wrote online, “For a long time, I have been frustrated by the racism, the hatred, the delegitimization that is spreading toward entire groups and communities in this country in general, and toward the Arab public in particular.”
“I was not educated in these values in my parent’s home or the institutions where I studied,” he continued. “Happily, I was allowed in my work at the hospital to acquire new friends, dear to my heart, from the Arab public. Among them is Dr. Rafah Mahajna, a very special person, pleasant, good-hearted, and an exemplary doctor from his head to his toes. Over the years we have had many conversations about life and the racist discourse toward the Arab population in Israel.”
Referring to a statement made by Netanyahu in the last election that Arabs were “flocking to the polls in droves,” Grant said, “I especially remember our conversation on the day of the last elections, when I felt ashamed of the statement of our prime minister — ‘The Arabs are flocking to the polls.’ I pictured in my mind’s eye the humiliation that Dr. Rafa experiences after being implied to be an enemy and a dangerous person, together with a large group of many good citizens of our country.”
“Until now, I have been silent, or rather, I spoke only with my family and friends about this painful subject,” he added. “Not until a few weeks ago, when the delegitimization of the Arab public and its elected representatives around the election heated up, I decided — no more.”
Mentioning a series of Arab colleagues and friends, Grant declared, “I live and work with Sawat, Fahdi, Said, Maksim, Muhammad, Anan, Amir, and many more. … I trust them with my eyes closed. … These are not ‘Arabs flocking,’ they are my friends with names and faces, flocking together with me in day-to-day life.”
Grant said of Sela’s message, “I was so happy with its content and timing. I identified so much. In the same breath, I felt deep alienation and opposition to the opponents and those who came out against her, and also the silent ones and those who looked on.”
In response to what he saw as a rise in hate, Grant posted photos of himself with his Arab colleagues online, and encouraged others to do the same. Over 4,000 people have done so, and his original post received more than 8,000 likes using the hashtag shavim, Hebrew for “equals.”