As an Israeli, I Am Ashamed That My Prime Minister Is a Racist

All this week, he made us one consistent promise: In his coming term as prime minister, there will be no hope. It is one promise that we have all come to believe he can keep.

Bradley Burston
Bradley Burston
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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu waves during his election rally in Tel Aviv, Israel, Sunday, March 15, 2015
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu waves during his election rally in Tel Aviv, Israel, Sunday, March 15, 2015Credit: AP
Bradley Burston
Bradley Burston

This week, push came to shove.

This week, we saw how things really work. How our prime minister really thinks. What he's willing to do, how far he's willing to go, how many of us he's willing to sell out, slander, abuse, for the sake of hanging on to the thing that matters to him more than anything: his job.

After this week, we can never again say that we didn't quite know who Benjamin Netanyahu is.

As an Israeli, I am ashamed that my prime minister is a racist.

On Election Day, knowing that the whole country would see it or hear about it, he warned on a range of social media, "The rule of the Right is in danger. The Arab voters are moving in droves toward the polling places. The NGOs of the Left are bringing them in buses."

How should Jews respond to the threat of Arab hordes advancing on ballot boxes? The posts were explicit: Rush to the polling places, grab your loved ones and get them there as well, to vote Likud.

"With your help, and with God's help, we will put up a nationalist government which will safeguard the state of Israel," my prime minister wrote.

Lest there be any question of how we should view this, when he took the stage for his victory speech lateTuesdaynight, Netanyahu invited singer Amir Benayoun to come up and join him. The prime minister's message was clear: If you are religious and write a racist song ("Ahmed Loves Israel," which refers to Arabs as scum and murderers), a song so incendiary that President Reuven Rivlin feels he must revoke your invitation to the President's Residence, your place is right here, right now, by my side.

I am ashamed to know that the prime minister of Israel is either a racist, which is a horrible thought, or that he incites racism in others for the sake of votes - which is worse.

I am ashamed that my prime minister is a cheat. I am angry that in order to win, on the eve of the election, his campaign defied a judge's ruling and knowingly defrauded thousands of Israelis into thinking that rival Kulanu party leader Moshe Kahlon was messaging them to switch their vote to Netanyahu.

I am ashamed that my prime minister can humiliate and exploit Moshe Kahlon, an earnest and honorable man, and get away with it.

As an Israeli, I am ashamed that my prime minister is a liar, a huckster, a calculating, desperate coward, a schmaltz merchant.

Now we finally know what he meant, just last October, when he told President Obama that he remained "committed to the vision of peace of two states for two peoples."

He explained it allon Mondaynight, when, standing behind bulletproof glass in the square where Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated, he addressed a rally of thousands of right wing Jews, many of them bused in from the West Bank at the expense of the Israeli taxpayer.

Just after telling the crowd that they should avoid incitement, that he was prime minister even of Israelis who don't agree with him, and that "We pride ourselves on upholding the unity of Israel," he made it all clear:

There are already two states for two peoples. There are the People of Us - that is Zionists, which is to say Jews who are right-wing, who prize settlements above all else, and who resist all compromise, forswear any concession, oppose all negotiation, and who will vote for Benjamin Netanyahu when he declares that there will be not one settler uprooted, even from outposts which Israel itself has declared illegal.

And then there are the People of Them. All of the rest of us. People he calls anti-Zionist. People whom he describes as haters of Israel. Dark forces, treacherous, in league with foreigners.

"Yes," the uber-secular prime minister told the crowd, suddenly putting himself forward as the pious, commandment-keeping, mezuzah-kissing SuperJew, explaining who "We" are: "We keep the traditions of Israel."

Then the man who is bought and paid for by a gambling billionaire took it up a notch. "They have V 15, but we have the People." They have the money, but we have something more important, he concluded.

"It won't be money that decides this. Rather, it will be heart, soul, belief."

We're all going to need it.

I am ashamed that my prime minister believes - and is quietly pleased - that many young people who love their country, have served their country, have endangered their lives for our sake, but who are not part of Us - not settlers, not ultra-Orthodox, not right-wing, and in many cases, not Jewish - will solve their own problems of housing and providing for a new family, by leaving Israel.

I am ashamed that my prime minister perceives, and accepts, that many people who are indigent, elderly, chronically ill, will meet the challenges of a neglected and failing health care system, by dying.

I am ashamed that my prime minister is declaring that millions of Palestinians are unentitled to rights, beginning with the right to have a say as to the kind of government and country they want to live in.

Most of all, I am ashamed that what my prime minister does, works. I am ashamed that racism works here, with my people. As a Jew, I believe that if all we are left with, is bigotry and fear, it will be the end of us.

All this week, Benjamin Netanyahu made us one consistent promise: In his coming term as prime minister, there will be no hope.

It is one promise that we have all come to believe he can keep.

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