The head of the Anti-Defamation League harshly criticized Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's claim that Palestinians supported the "ethnic cleansing" of Jews in the West Bank, saying the term was inappropriate to describe the removal of settlers and that his argument was unreasonable.
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In an op-ed penned for Foreign Policy, Jonathan Greenblatt said that while there were real and legitimate issues Netanyahu could have criticized the Palestinian Authority for, he instead "chose to raise an inappropriate straw man regarding Palestinian policy toward Israeli settlements."
Last Friday, Netanyahu accused the Palestinian leadership of wanting to ethnically cleanse the future Palestinian state of Jews in an English-language video message posted on his Facebook page. Israel shows that it is ready for peace, Netanyahu said, while a Palestinian state with the precondition of no Jews amounts to ethnic cleansing.
Greenblatt said that "like the term 'genocide,' the term 'ethnic cleansing' should be restricted to actually describing the atrocity it suggests – rather than distorted to suit political ends."
"Israel has many legitimate concerns about Palestinian policies and behavior, not the least of which is Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’s rash accusations that Israel commits acts of genocide and ethnic cleansing of Palestinians. However, the charge that the Palestinians seek 'ethnic cleansing' of settlers is just not one of them," Greenblatt wrote.
The ADL chief also refuted the prime minister's equating between Israeli settlers in the West Bank and Arab citizens of Israel, saying that "there never has been a question about the legitimacy of the Israeli-Arab presence within Israel’s democratic society."
The last time the ADL took issue with Netanyahu's comments was when he claimed it was the mufti that convinced Hitler to annihilate European Jewry. At the time, Greenblatt tweeted that “Even if unintended, the prime minister, by his words, plays into those who would trivialize or understate Adolf Hitler’s role in orchestrating the Final Solution.”
In his video, Netanyahu criticized the common argument that settlements in the West Bank are an obstacle to peace and stated, "No one would seriously claim that the nearly two million Arabs living inside Israel – that they're an obstacle to peace."