Opinion

Netanyahu's Charlottesville Response Proves He's Lost Any Semblance of a Moral Compass

The first person in the world, outside of the U.S., expected to react to such events like those in Charlottesville is the prime minister of Israel – the state of the Jewish people. So where the Israeli government keeps quiet, we speak out

white supremacists clash at the alt-right rally in Charlottesville, VIrginia, August 12, 2017.
white supremacists clash at the alt-right rally in Charlottesville, VIrginia, August 12, 2017. CHIP SOMODEVILLA/AFP

What about leadership? What about the historic responsibility? What about the imperative to protect our brothers and sisters in the U.S.?

The neo-Nazi march in Charlottesville was a murderous demonstration of hatred against Jews and African-Americans more extreme than we have seen in many years. Flags bearing swastikas, calls of "Sieg Heil" and the Nazi slogan "Blood and soil" chanted again and again by the marchers.

During the Shabbat prayer, three Nazis, in uniform and bearing rifles, stood outside the local synagogue. The heads of the community hired guards to protect the Jews arriving to pray from gangs of thugs. Torah scrolls were smuggled outside after it was understood that the protesters intended to burn the place down. It is beyond belief that something like this could happen in the United States, our closest global ally, in 2017. What have we come to?

The first person in the world, outside of the United States, who is expected to react to such an event is the prime minister of Israel – the state of the Jewish people. But Benjamin Netanyahu was silent.

Netanyahu didn't bother reacting to events preceding this madness in the U.S. (and Hungary either), and didn't set the bright red boundaries that Israel is committed to insist upon. Even after U.S. President Donald Trump’s historic comments on Tuesday, where the president of the United States uttered statements that should never be said, Netanyahu stayed silent and shamed the Israeli people as a whole.

No, this is not "diplomatic caution" – it's simple carelessness. Let's remember, Netanyahu had no problem speaking at the U.S. Congress just before the 2015 Israeli elections for the sole purpose of extorting a few more votes for himself back in Israel. But he is less interested in protecting the American-Jewish community and keeping the promise Israel makes every year on Holocaust Remembrance Day – "Never Again!" The man has lost any semblance of a moral compass. He uses the remembrance of the Holocaust only when he can reap political benefit from it.

Netanyahu may have jumped ship, but Israel must never lose its compass.

We must set a clear boundary against anti-Semitism and protect the Jewish people wherever they may be. There are no gray areas when it comes to these issues, and this doesn’t jeopardize our relationship with the U.S. or with any other partners around the world. But anti-Semitic marches that proceed unimpeded, with no condemnation from Israel, jeopardize us. Our silence enables the situation to worsen.

It is our historic duty to react to this, and our duty for the future.

So where the Israeli government keeps quiet, we speak out, and will continue to stand unequivocally and without fear against Neo-Nazis and racists wherever they may be.

That is what is expected of all of Israeli leadership, left or right, to do today.

Stav Shaffir is a Zionist Union MK and head of the Knesset and OECD transparency committees.