J Street welcomes an initiative launched by Education Minister Shai Piron to combat the growth of racism and incitement in Israeli society with a special education program in Israeli schools in the new school year. In testimony before the Knesset this week, Minister Piron said, "During operation Protective Edge we have been exposed to expressions of racism and incitement that cannot be tolerated."
The past months have sadly seen growing expressions of anti-Arab sentiment as well as harassment of Palestinians as well as of pro-peace activists. The low point was, of course, the horrific murder of 16-year-old Mohammed Abu Khedir who was abducted, beaten and burned to death for no reason other than that he was a Palestinian.
Together with Minister Piron and many Israelis, we are alarmed at the dangerous and unacceptable racism and intolerance that has appeared not only in speech and writings in social media, but also in the streets, in work places and in public transportation.
Minister Piron is performing a vital service to his country by launching this initiative, starting with a special effort during the first week of the new school year "to treat the affliction of racism and talk with students about aspects of tolerance, acceptance of the 'other' and defeating racism in our society."
Political extremism, if tolerated, ignored or denied, will flourish and spread. Active intervention is required to defeat it in accordance with the principles and ideals of our faith.
As a primarily American Jewish organization, we urge other American Jewish communal institutions and leaders to discuss this problem openly and to look for ways to support and cooperate with Minister Piron's efforts.