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"Price Tag" is dangerous for Israel by Peace Now's Yariv Oppenheimer

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By Yariv Oppenheimer

Democratic discourse can not tolerate incitement and calls for revenge in response to terror attacks, no matter how horrendous. The Secretary-General of Peace Now responds to the article by the member of the hilltop youth, Meir Bartler, who called openly for vengeance..

Meir Bartler, of the hilltop youth, called openly, here on Ynet's opinion channel, to avenge the victims of the Itamar attack. Bartler, a representative of the future generation of the settlers, thereby demonstrated the moral degradation that has befallen the entire settler community in recent years. His article of incitement proves that what was once only whispered in closed rooms has now become an acceptable and legitimate position among the hilltop youth and their representatives in the Knesset.

There are no words to condemn and denounce the murder of the family in Itamar, but the criminal attack is no excuse to completely lose the human and moral norms that are usually found precisely in Jewish tradition. The IDF is not an army of revenge, Israel is not a state of terror and the response to the attack must be finding its perpetrators and prosecuting them. The IDF is not an armed militia whose purpose is to terrorize and attack civilians only to satisfy the primitive urges for revenge and venting fury. What would distinguish Israel from the terrorist organizations if the hilltop youth's vision took hold and Israel had an army occupied with carrying out revenge attacks, while losing its battle morals and humanism?

Democratic discourse cannot tolerate incitement and calls for revenge against innocents in response to terror attacks, no matter how horrendous. A democratic regime must allow all streams of society freedom of expression, as long as the freedom of expression is not used to legitimize killing, incite to violence and racism and harm democracy itself. Bartler's comments in his article cross the line and present the settlers' revenge campaigns in the Palestinian villages as legitimate and necessary acts.

Bartler and his friends prove yet again that on the Israeli side too there are extremist groups based on racist and violent world views, which stop at nothing to terrorize and intimidate and prevent any future chance of coexistence and political settlement.

The fundamental perception of Arabs as an inferior people and Jews as a superior race is what grants legitimacy to the continuation of the occupation, the harassment and the pogroms, which the settlers call "price tag." With their very own hands and under the open eyes of the IDF the settlers manage to spread fear and terror in the Palestinian villages of the area and turn the concept of "settler" for the Palestinian child into a symbol of occupation, violence and fear, which puts the Zionist vision and its moral basis to shame.

But maybe it is no surprise that the fundamental world view that supports building the settlements while denying the basic rights of another people has given rise to an extremist and racist generation, which views hurting innocents as a value in its own right. Beyond the questions of right and left, Israeli society must maintain a basic common denominator of belief in the rule of law, human rights and resistance to all kinds of violence. Gangs of settlers, who take advantage of the attack in order to vent their rage against an innocent Palestinian population, must be stopped and their leaders must be prosecuted.

Our entire society must stand up against the violent elements that take sticks, stones, guns and the law into their own hands and threaten the continued existence of Israel as a democratic and enlightened state.

Yariv Oppenheimer is the Secretary General of Peace Now.