After the Dust Settles: The Dangers of Normalizing the Transfer Discourse

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This research paper by Zulat puts the spotlight on the escalation in the extremist discourse in Israel following the horrific events of 7 October and its aftermath. The ripple effects of Hamas’s murderous attack and the war it ignited on Israel, the Palestinians, and the entire world are immense, their dimensions inestimable as long as we remain in the eye of the storm. One of the immediate visible impacts is the radicalization of the views and discourse in Israel, as evidenced in the mainstream media, social networks, and pronouncements of public figures and senior government officials, who have called, directly or indirectly, for the obliteration of Gaza, hurting its inhabitants and expelling them from the Gaza Strip. The normalization of the violent discourse, which continues to rage unrestrained by the law enforcement agencies and gatekeepers, exacts a very heavy internal and external toll, ranging from the loss of trust in government institutions and growing polarization between Jews and Arabs to the condemnation of Israel worldwide, following the charges of war crimes brought up against it at the International Court of Justice and elsewhere. This paper analyzes the discourse and examines its implications for Israel’s security and foreign relations, as well as for the national resilience of Israeli society.

Rabble-rousing and inflammatory utterances are heard all over, not only toward Gazans but toward Palestinians in general, including Palestinian citizens of Israel. The gatekeepers and law enforcement authorities have taken no steps to penalize instigators of violence and racism, be they elected officials, commentators, or journalists, and have even come out in support of the persecution and muzzling of anybody who dares to voice criticism, especially Arab citizens of Israel. In the absence of boundaries, extremists and other elements with vested interests have taken advantage of the outrageous discourse to set facts on the ground and accumulate political power, by means of rampages and harassment that have led to the displacement of over 1,000 Palestinians from their homes in the West Bank and have created a real threat to the physical and economic security of the Arab citizens of Israel.

The paper examines how the transfer discourse in Israel is perceived and understood outside of Israel, where people are exposed to images of the vast dimensions of the killing, devastation, and hunger in Gaza, and worry about the loss of control over the settlers in the West Bank. The cumulative effect of the pronouncements by senior officials has reinforced the impression that the State of Israel, deliberately or at the very least nonchalantly, is targeting uninvolved Palestinian civilians and abandoning basic values and principles of international and Israeli law. South Africa’s application to the International Court of Justice claiming that Israel was violating the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide cited the remarks of government officials and the lack of a judicial response to establish the required mental element of intent to annihilate.

The paper shows that the extremist discourse has significantly hurt Israel’s international status as a democratic country that sanctifies life and is committed to protect human rights and uphold the principles of international law, and as a consequence, it has also damaged the armor shielding Israel’s national security. Furthermore, a public atmosphere where Arab citizens are automatically labeled potential enemies, arrested by the hundreds, fired from their jobs, evicted from educational institutions, marginalized and silenced, has exacerbated social polarization and has all but extinguished trust in the state’s ability to protect the minority. Under these conditions, Israel’s national resilience and its ability to rebuild itself as a self-preserving democratic society has eroded and grown weaker.

Setting the limits of legitimate discourse is an important first step on the way to regaining responsibility for the survival of Israeli society and the fate of the State of Israel after the tragedy of 7 October. Our ability to rise from an all-time low toward healing and rehabilitation depends on the prospects of curbing the extremist discourse. Our ability to be a legitimate member of the “family of nations,” to have normal foreign relations, and to fight soaring anti-Semitism depends on proving that Israeli society does not legitimize talk of a population transfer and ethnic cleansing. Our ability to have here an egalitarian and healthy society depends on us to stop poisoning the well.

Therefore, Zulat has formulated a series of recommendations centering on the steps needed to redefine the limits of a reasonable discourse, with an emphasis on the factors whose influence on Israel’s security, foreign relations, and national resilience is crucial: the country’s decision-makers and the media. The recommendations focus on three areas:

1. Restrictions on Elected Officials: Knesset Members and Municipal Officials

The recommendations focus on increasing enforcement against pronouncements inciting violence and reinforcing the guidelines on the limits applying to inflammatory language. We urge the Knesset Ethics Committee to exercise its authority on the subject and propose to update the code of ethics for heads of local authorities and to establish an ethics committee in the Interior Ministry to enforce it.

2. Civil Servants

We recommend to the Civil Service Commissioner to instruct all civil servants, by virtue of the fact that they are obligated by law, especially by the Civil Service Regulations (Takshir), to observe proper and respectful behavior in public and to avoid inflammatory language.

3. Limits of Discourse in the Media

We recommend to the Second Authority for Television and Radio (SATR) to enforce the code of ethics for television and radio broadcasts and to take measures against any violators. We also urge it to issue new guidelines to franchise owners clarifying their commitment to objective, balanced, and accurate reporting, including specific examples of reports and programs that do not meet such standards, and we exhort the SATR to commit to take measures if these standards are violated in the future.


Dr. Maha Sabbah Karkabi


Senior Lecturer in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev. She holds a Ph.D. in Sociology from Tel Aviv University (2015), a postdoctoral fellowship at the Center for Gender Studies, SOAS, University of London (2015-2016), a postdoctoral fellowship in the Department of Sociology at Tel Aviv University (2016-2017), and a postdoctoral fellowship Ph.D. at the Humphrey Institute for Social Research, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (2018-2020).
Dr. Maha Karbahi’s areas of interest focus on the connection between social change, family behavior, and gender inequality in societies in the process of change and specifically in Palestinian Arab society in Israel. Her research draws attention to the study of family life and employment, using a combined “ethnic lens” and “gender lens” and paying attention to the perspective of Palestinian Arab women, a group characterized by intersections between multiple marginal locations, which over the years has remained hidden from the research eye. Dr. Karkabi-Sabah’s research is published in professional journals and chapters in scientific books that are considered pioneers in family research, work, and gender equality.


Prof. Frances Raday

Professor Emeritus in the Lieberman Chair in Labor Law, in the Faculty of Law at the Hebrew University and serves as a full professor in the College of Management’s academic track, where she also serves as chair of the graduate program and as honorary president of the Concord Center for International Law Absorption. Radai was a member of a working group of the UN Human Rights Council on discrimination against women. In addition, she is a prominent and feminist human rights activist.


Dr. Rawia Aburabia 

Faculty member of Sapir Academic College’s School of Law, received her PhD from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Her research deals with the interface between law, gender, minorities, and human rights. Has published in leading journals on the subject of the matrimonial laws pertaining to Muslim women in Israel. Her book Under the Law, Outside Justice: Polygamy, Gendered Citizenship, and Colonialism in Israeli Law is expected to be published as part of the Gender Series of Kibbutz Meuhad Publishing House.

Dr. Aburabia has extensive experience in international human rights and public law. She has worked as a jurist for the Association for Civil Right and has been invited as a specialist to address such international forums as the United Nations and the European Parliament on the subject of indigenous communities and minority rights. She has interned with Human Rights Watch in Washington DC, and has been a member of the executive board of Amnesty International. In 2018, she was selected by the magazine Globes as one of the 40 most promising young persons in Israel under the age of 40.



Ron Kessler

With over two decades of experience in the field of digital content, Ron has participated in numerous political and social campaigns. He helped run the digital activity of senior public officials, and worked in various NGOs. Ron is a fundamentally optimistic man, who believes that Israel can be changed and so can people. Lives in Tel Aviv.