Opinion

Israel Under Trump: Welcome to the New Home of Nazi Denial

Even for Israel, where Beyond Belief is another name for the place all of us live in all the time, there seems something impossible, something bordering on science fiction, about this country engaging in Nazi-washing

President Donald Trump shakes hands with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu after making a joint statement in Jerusalem, May 22, 2017.
Evan Vucci/AP

Welcome to Israel under the influence of Donald Trump.

As Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu maintained silence over the U.S. president’s having equated neo-Nazis and Ku Klux Klan members with the leftist counterprotesters who came under deadly attack in Charlottesville, Virginia, the prime minister’s hand-picked communications minister declared that Israel’s relations with the White House take precedence over condemning Nazis.

“Due to the terrific relations with the U.S., we need to put the declarations about the Nazis in the proper proportion,” Communications Minister Ayoub Kara told The Jerusalem Post.

“We need to condemn anti-Semitism and any trace of Nazism, and I will do what I can as a minister to stop its spread,” said Kara. “But Trump is the best U.S. leader Israel has ever had. His relations with the prime minister of Israel are wonderful, and after enduring the terrible years of Obama, Trump is the unquestioned leader of the free world, and we must not accept anyone harming him.”

Even for Israel, where Beyond Belief is another name for the place all of us live in all the time, there seems something impossible, something bordering on science fiction, about this country lending a home to, well, Nazi denial.

It was much in evidence during the country’s most-watched news broadcast on Wednesday night.

What we saw was, in essence, a four-minute-long promotion of a Nazi.

It was an interview with Richard Spencer, the same idol of the so-called “alt-right” white nationalist movement who celebrated Donald Trump’s victory by declaring, “Hail Trump! Hail our people! Hail Victory!” while his followers made Nazi salutes.

This is the same Richard Spencer who has branded the mainstream media with the term lugenpresse (the lying press), which Nazi Germany propagandists used to attack Jewish and opposition media outlets.

And this is the same Richard Spencer who praised Trump for aiding in the “de-Judaification” of the Holocaust by omitting any mention of Jews from his statement marking Holocaust Remembrance Day.

Maintaining a mystifying and at times frightening level of professional politesse, Channel 2 anchor Danny Kushmaro asked Spencer whether he viewed white supremacists in Charlottesville chanting “Jews will not replace us” as anti-Semitic and a hate crime.

Spencer, unfazed and perhaps encouraged by the respect accorded him, argued that the chant simply reflected the reality that “Jews are vastly overrepresented in what you could call ‘the establishment,’ that is, Ivy League-educated people who really determine policy, and white people are being dispossessed from this country.”

There was more, much more, culminating in Spencer’s admiring and unchallenged comparison between white supremacism and the Zionist movement.

But the interview was far from the only instance of an abhorrent phenomenon in an Israel under the influence of Donald Trump. It is the rise of Nazi denial – the desire among certain political and media figures associated with Netanyahu to curry favor with the U.S. president by downplaying or dismissing the dangers of the KKK, neo-Nazis and other white supremacists who took part in the violence in Charlottesville.

White nationalists, neo-Nazis and members of the 'alt-right' during the 'Unite the Right' rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, August 12, 2017.
CHIP SOMODEVILLA/AFP

Netanyahu, who waited for three long days – and for a cue from Donald Trump – to issue a pallid response to Charlottesville, set the tone for Nazi-washing.

But he left it to his son and corrosive mini-me Yair to step up and shout the real lesson of last weekend’s violence: that leftists are more dangerous than neo-Nazis.

“The neo nazis scums in Virginia ... belong to the past,” he wrote in a Facebook post. “Their breed is dying out.” At the same time, he continued, “the thugs of Antifa and BLM who hate my country (and America too in my view) just as much are getting stronger and stronger and becoming super dominant in American universities and public life.”

To be sure, many opposition leaders in Israel (and the press as well) have been vocal in condemning both the white supremacists and Netanyahu’s tepid response.

But while most Israeli newspapers ripped into Trump for the "SHAME," as the daily Yedioth Ahronoth put in a one-word banner headline, of having equated leftist counterprotesters with Nazis and Klansmen and offering that there were “very fine people on both sides,” there was one conspicuous exception.

Sheldon Adelson’s Israel Hayom, which vigorously promoted Trump's campaign and presidency with front-page stories and a parade of exclusive interviews and photos featuring the U.S. president arm in arm with the paper’s gushingly pro-Trump editor-in-chief Boaz Bismuth, relegated the backlash over the Tuesday news conference to a rock-bottom Page 24.

As blogger John Brown’s sardonic flowchart suggests, Israeli and foreign Israel-hawk hardliners' propensity to brand all critics of the Jewish State as tantamount to Nazis may have taken its toll on their sense of judgment.

It may just be a matter of habituation over time.

After all, if you're always busy looking for anti-Israel "Nazis" under every leftists' bed, you may miss the real thing when, swastika and torch in hand, it storm-troops down the street.