Is Leftist Anti-Semitism Based On Conspiracy Theories?
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.