When a would-be convert came to Hillel the Elder and asked him to teach him the entire Torah on one foot, Hillel responded, “That which is hateful to you, do not do unto your neighbor. This is the entire Torah; all the rest is commentary.” (Babylonian Talmud, Tractate Shabbat, 30a)
Benjamin Netanyahu has suffered heaping portions of hatred and incitement, more than any other politician. As a lesson from the many years of abuse heaped on him, it would be only natural and human to expect him to behave according to this ancient Jewish rule: What those who hate you do to you, do not do to others. That, on one foot, is the essence of the Torah on human behavior. And also – and I’m not talking about the messianic era – of political behavior.
Netanyahu has made many turnabouts in his political life. Nevertheless, his latest public flip-flop, a U-turn within hours on the sensitive issue of the infiltrators, appears to outdo its predecessors in its unfathomable scale. And even though experience has taught him that his foolish disciples – and they are too numerous to count – are willing to swallow almost any turnabout, any caprice, any capitulation, this time he felt he had gone too far. He must supply them with a powerful demon that ostensibly forced him to make this capitulation, on which he could pin the blame.
And thus he arrived at the New Israel Fund. His disappointed supporters, he correctly predicted, could home in on this demon and take out their frustrations on it.
For a great deal of its ongoing political activity, the NIF actually deserves condemnation. It has funded and continues to fund a plethora of organizations, like Adalah, that try to undermine the Jewish people’s right to sovereignty, and thus Israel’s existence as a Jewish and democratic state. These organizations operate both in Israel and abroad, and their success has been both considerable and destructive.
A notorious example was the Goldstone Report on the 2009 war in Gaza, which included a great deal of false information given to the Goldstone Committee by groups funded by the NIF. Some of those groups, like Breaking the Silence, are still funded by the NIF. A few months after the report was submitted to the United Nations – and after it had spawned countless condemnations of the Israel Defense Forces – author Richard Goldstone wrote in the Washington Post, “If I had known then what I know now, the Goldstone Report would have been a different document.”
I’ve written dozens of articles here over the years denouncing the NIF’s funding of organizations that seek to undermine Israel’s Jewish-democratic identity, and hence its existence. In quite a few other articles I have taken issue with the politically and ideologically slanted report on settlement outposts dressed up as a legal document that attorney Talia Sasson wrote for Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. Sharon, who (as I know personally) pushed to establish outposts, invited the left-wing Sasson to write a “legal” report that would let him destroy them – just as he destroyed the Gush Katif settlements in Gaza – and thereby extricate himself, as indeed happened, from the clutches of the law.
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Yet today, I believe what Sasson, now president of the NIF, is saying – that she had nothing to do with the betrayal of convincing Rwanda’s government to cancel its agreement to absorb the infiltrators.
Netanyahu is demanding the establishment of a parliamentary committee of inquiry that will investigate the NIF’s activities in Rwanda. A parliamentary committee is by nature a political one, and it lacks meaningful tools with which to discover the truth. Its discussions will be used for mutual recriminations based on the worldviews of the Knesset members who compose it: Some will try to convict the NIF, others to acquit it. More fuel on the bonfire of hatred and division.
Had he really wanted a substantive investigation of the issue, Netanyahu would have asked an agency that reports to him – the Mossad – and it would easily have uncovered the truth. But what Netanyahu wants in this case is an exercise in incitement, not a search for truth.