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A Facebook message that appeared on my computer screen caused me so much shock and dismay that I committed a mortal Facebook sin: I told the person who had put the message up what I thought of him by using insulting language.

I regret that reaction. I regret my too hasty finger on the return button. And I regret the language I used. But what I don’t regret is the shock and dismay that the message aroused in me.

And what was the message? It showed the bannerhead of one of Israel’s few remaining intelligent newspapers, Ha’aretz, embedded in the red-black-green flag of the PLO, with a message rejoicing at the one-day strike at the paper and expressing the hope that the newspaper would never appear again.

Of course, those hopes were dashed the very next day, when the paper appeared as usual, but the sentiment that was expressed shocked me to the core. The meaning of this was that the paper is the mouthpiece of the PLO, and that its readership is the enemy, that those people are traitors.

That is a truly shocking message, but sadly it seems to be one that is accepted by a growing segment of Israel’s population, propagated by persons purporting to support Zionism but who in fact purvey a distorted version of the original ideology. Their version advocates continual territorial expansion, opposition to any attempt to get a peace process going and rejection of the idea of a two-state solution.

How these people propose to resolve the problem of the presence of two million or more Palestinians just across Israel’s borders is beyond me. Transfer? Massacre? Mass voluntary exodus? Continued domination of a hostile population? It all seems unrealistic and unethical to me, and not in accordance with any of the traditional values of Judaism. Some people seem never to have heard of ‘love thy neighbor as thyself.’

While I subscribe to Ha’aretz, that doesn’t mean that I subscribe to all the views expressed in it. In fact, its op-ed and opinion pages generally provide a platform for a very wide range of opinions. Besides, I don’t have the time and patience to read all the articles that appear there. But to define thousands of law-abiding Israeli citizens as the enemy, as betrayers of the Zionist cause, is shocking, dangerous and evil. According to recent opinion polls, about half of Israel’s population of seven million hold the view that a two-state solution is desirable, given the appropriate conditions. Are they all to be regarded as traitors?

The tendency to tar large segments of the population with the brush of disloyalty is vile, and ultimately dangerous. In fact, it not only constitutes incitement to hatred, it is hatred, pure and simple. It takes us back to the period before the assassination of Prime Minister Itzhak Rabin, when certain elements within the population fostered hatred and enmity of those whose views differed from theirs.

Let’s hope that as elections approach, Israel will manage to rise above that low level of discourse and debate and aspire to discuss the fundamental issues in a civilized manner, without fostering hatred.

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