Is Left­ist Anti-Semitism Based On Con­spir­acy The­o­ries?

Forward Magazine - - Contents - By John-Paul Pagano

He mur­dered the two-state so­lu­tion. His re­fusal to present his own maps was not the only prob­lem; Pales­tinian ne­go­tia­tors claim he wouldn’t even look at theirs.

No Is­raeli leader has done more to shape the pol­i­tics of Jewish Amer­ica.

leader Jerry Fal­well. Af­ter his speech, the crowd chanted, “Not one inch.”

That May, when the Clin­ton ad­min­is­tra­tion con­sid­ered pub­licly out­lin­ing how much land Is­rael should re­lin­quish, Ne­tanyahu’s am­bas­sador to the United Na­tions, Dore Gold, de­clared that Is­rael would not ac­cept an “ul­ti­ma­tum.” The talk­ing point soon re­ver­ber­ated be­tween Ne­tanyahu’s Jewish and GOP al­lies.

Even af­ter Clin­ton left of­fice, Ne­tanyahu kept sug­gest­ing he was hos­tile to Is­rael. In a 2001 con­ver­sa­tion with set­tlers, he de­nounced Clin­ton’s “ex­tremely pro-Pales­tinian” views. That Au­gust, in a col­umn for The Jerusalem Post, Ron Der­mer, who would be­come Ne­tanyahu’s most in­flu­en­tial aide, blasted Clin­ton for a “moral equiv­a­lency that equated the ter­ror­ist with the vic­tim.”

When Barack Obama won the Demo­cratic nom­i­na­tion in 2008, Ne­tanyahu’s al­lies launched a sim­i­lar at­tack on him. Michael Oren, whom Ne­tanyahu would ap­point am­bas­sador to the United States, warned that while “Ge­orge W. Bush es­tab­lished new stan­dards for the term ‘pro-Is­rael,’” Obama’s elec­tion was “likely to strain the al­liance.” In May 2010, at a small meet­ing at the Coun­cil on For­eign Re­la­tions, a Wash­ing­ton Mid­dle East ex­pert heard Ne­tanyahu’s vice prime min­is­ter, Moshe Yaalon, call Obama “the least pro-Is­rael pres­i­dent in Is­rael’s his­tory.”

What did Obama do to de­serve this des­ig­na­tion? In 2009 he pro­posed that Ne­tanyahu — in re­turn for steps by Arab coun­tries to­ward the nor­mal­iza­tion of re­la­tions — freeze set­tle­ment growth, some­thing Is­rael had al­ready promised to do in the 2003 road map for peace. This led long­time Ne­tanyahu ally Mal­colm Hoen­lein, ex­ec­u­tive vice chair­man and CEO of the Con­fer­ence of Pres­i­dents of Ma­jor Amer­i­can Jewish Or­ga­ni­za­tions, to de­clare that even “Pres­i­dent Obama’s strong­est sup­port­ers among Jewish lead­ers are deeply trou­bled by his re­cent Mid­dle East ini­tia­tives.”

Then, in 2011, Obama pro­posed that the two-state so­lu­tion be based on the 1967 lines, with mu­tu­ally agreed-upon land swaps, the same prin­ci­ple that had un­der­girded the pa­ram­e­ters Clin­ton out­lined in 2000. Ne­tanyahu re­sponded by call­ing those “in­de­fen­si­ble lines.” Mitt Rom­ney said Obama had “thrown Is­rael un­der the bus.” The fol­low­ing year, Ne­tanyahu ap­peared in Rom­ney cam­paign ads.

Fi­nally, when Obama signed a nu­clear deal with Iran in 2015, Ne­tanyahu didn’t just ar­gue that the deal — which was en­dorsed by Is­rael’s own Atomic En­ergy Com­mis­sion — made Is­rael less safe. He in­vited Elie Wiesel to at­tend his ad­dress to a joint ses­sion of Congress, and then de­clared: “I wish I could prom­ise you, Elie, that the les­sons of his­tory have been learned. I can only urge the lead­ers of the world not to re­peat the mis­takes of the past” — thus im­ply­ing that Obama was know­ingly per­mit­ting a sec­ond Holo­caust. Through such com­ments, Ne­tanyahu made it eas­ier for prom­i­nent con­ser­va­tive pun­dits like Ben Shapiro to call the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion — which sent Is­rael more mil­i­tary aid than any ad­min­is­tra­tion in his­tory — anti-Semitic. And by de­mo­niz­ing the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion, Ne­tanyahu helped con­vinced a seg­ment of older, more re­li­gious Amer­i­can Jews that a Repub­li­can — any Repub­li­can — was prefer­able to Obama’s for­mer sec­re­tary of state, Hil­lary Clin­ton. It’s no co­in­ci­dence that in 2016, Shel­don Adel­son, Ne­tanyahu’s most im­por­tant Amer­i­can Jewish sup­porter, be­came one of Trump’s most im­por­tant fi­nan­cial back­ers, too.

Ne­tanyahu also en­abled Amer­i­can Jewish sup­port for Trump by le­git­imiz­ing big­otry. If a seg­ment of Amer­i­can Jewry proved will­ing to tol­er­ate Trump’s defama­tion of Mus­lims and Arabs, it is, in part, be­cause for years they had heard a charis­matic, English-speak­ing Is­rael prime min­is­ter do the same thing.

In Ne­tanyahu’s first cam­paign for the Knesset, ac­cord­ing to his bi­og­ra­phers Ben Caspit and Ilan Kfir, he de­clared, “The Arabs know only force.” In his 2000 book, “A Durable Peace,” Ne­tanyahu fa­vor­ably quoted Win­ston Churchill as say­ing, “Left to them­selves, the Arabs of Pales­tine would not in a thou­sand years have taken steps to­ward the ir­ri­ga­tion and elec­tri­fi­ca­tion of Pales­tine.” Else­where in

the book, Ne­tanyahu de­clared that “vi­o­lence is ubiq­ui­tous in the po­lit­i­cal life of all the Arab coun­tries” and that “for much of the Arab world, peace is a coin with which one pays in or­der to get some­thing else… peace can be signed one day and dis­carded the next.”

Be­fore Trump de­manded a wall along Amer­ica’s south­ern bor­der, Ne­tanyahu built one to de­ter African asy­lum-seek­ers. Be­fore Trump warned that un­doc­u­mented im­mi­grants and in­ner-city blacks were plan­ning to steal the 2016 elec­tion via voter fraud, Ne­tanyahu warned that Pales­tinian cit­i­zens of Is­rael were turn­ing out “in droves.”

Ne­tanyahu is more ar­tic­u­late than Trump is. He’s less crude and less er­ratic. But he has done more than any other Is­raeli or Amer­i­can Jewish leader to nor­mal­ize the de­hu­man­iza­tion of Pales­tini­ans, Arabs and Mus­lims among Amer­i­can Jews. And, in so do­ing, he primed his Amer­i­can Jewish sup­port­ers to ac­cept the de­hu­man­iza­tion ped­dled by Don­ald Trump.

Once upon a time, both Amer­ica and Is­rael boasted a vi­brant strain of non­racist and even anti-racist con­ser­vatism. Is­raeli Pres­i­dent Reu­ven Rivlin, a life­long Likud­nik, has called for greater equal­ity for Is­rael’s Pales­tinian cit­i­zens. John McCain spoke out when a woman at one of his 2008 ral­lies said she couldn’t trust Obama be­cause he was an “Arab,” McCain replied: “No, ma’am. He’s a de­cent fam­ily man [and] cit­i­zen that I just hap­pen to have dis­agree­ments with on fun­da­men­tal is­sues.” Mitt Rom­ney has de­nounced Trump for mak­ing “scape­goats of Mus­lims and Mex­i­can im­mi­grants.”

But Rivlin, McCain and Rom­ney’s brand of con­ser­vatism has grown weaker. In the 1990s, the most in­flu­en­tial Amer­i­can Jewish con­ser­va­tives resided at pub­li­ca­tions like The Weekly Stan­dard, which, for all their faults, still ar­gued that Amer­ica should pro­mote democ­racy in the Arab and Mus­lim world. Now they re­side at Bre­it­bart, which spe­cial­izes in de­pict­ing Mus­lims as sav­ages. In Is­rael, one of Ne­tanyahu’s po­ten­tial suc­ces­sors is Trans­porta­tion Min­is­ter Yis­rael Katz, who last sum­mer praised a book that called Is­rael’s Pales­tinian cit­i­zens “par­a­sites” who should be put in in­tern­ment camps.

Ne­tanyahu didn’t learn his big­otry from Trump. He most likely learned it from his fa­ther, Ben­zion Ne­tanyahu, who as late as 2009 de­clared: “The ten­dency to­wards con­flict is the essence of the Arab. He is an enemy by essence. His per­son­al­ity won’t al­low him any com­pro­mise or agree­ment.” He has passed it on to his son Yair Ne­tanyahu, who in 2011 wrote, “Ter­ror has a re­li­gion and it is Is­lam.” And as the most im­por­tant Jewish po­lit­i­cal leader of the 21st cen­tury so far, he has helped to make anti-Mus­lim, anti-Arab and anti-Pales­tinian big­otry a per­va­sive force in Amer­i­can Jewish life.

For all this, Trump can thank him. As for those of us who be­lieve that racism des­e­crates Ju­daism’s high­est ideals, we will be struggling with Ne­tanyahu’s legacy for the rest of our lives.

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