Standing Up for Israel Means Saying 'Not In My Name'

Did someone say ethnic cleansing? Have a good look in the mirror.

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Prime Minister Netanyahu opens the weekly cabinet meeting at his Jerusalem office, September 11, 2016.
Prime Minister Netanyahu opens the weekly cabinet meeting at his Jerusalem office, September 11, 2016.Credit: Gali Tibbon, AFP
Bradley Burston
Bradley Burston

This is one of those times when standing up for Israel means having the guts, the pride, the concern and the passion to say, right out loud: Not In My Name.

You don't have to take it anymore. You don't need to swallow it in shame, or worry about timing, or backlash. After the last few days, we're already way past that.

It began hours before Benjamin Netanyahu effectively took the advice of senior Republican Senator Lindsey Graham,

Who according to The Washington Post, told the prime minister to "tell the administration to go F themselves."

It had already begun Friday morning, long before anyone had heard the prime minister in his pre-Shabbat Facebook post, implicitly accuse the White House - and the majority of North American Jews and anyone else who supports a two-state solution - of supporting war crimes in a theoretical, and, in fact, wholly disingenuous, future "ethnic cleansing" offensive against West Bank settlers.

Credit: Haaretz

It began with Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat telling activists of the Likud party he hopes to someday head as prime minister, that the "philosophy" of closures and curfews and concrete blocks deployed in Palestinian villages within the city limits "creates a very high level of coexistence between Jews and Arabs in the city.”

It continued with another expression of "coexistence," this in Sheldon Adelson's Israel Hayom newspaper, distributed effectively as a service of the Prime Minister's Office.

"With the U.S. elections two months away, an exceptional and first-of-its-kind conference was held two days ago in the American Congress in Washington, in support of Samaria [indicating the settlements of the northern West Bank] and against the BDS movement," the article began, noting the participation of "several Republican members of Congress."

In support of Samaria. Not Israel. Samaria.

"The only place in the Middle East in which there is coexistence," Samaria Regional Council head Yossi Dagan was quoted as telling the conference, "is in the industrial zones of Yosh [the West Bank], which they [BDS supporters] want to boycott."

And it didn't stop. More dubious "support" for Israel came as a still-traumatized and grieving America prepared to mark September 11. The first 9/11 Facebook post of the supposedly politically neutral but in fact staunchly right-wing advocacy NGO StandWithUs was of footage of Palestinians celebrating the attacks - scenes grossly unrepresentative of how most Palestinians viewed the horror.

No one has to take this anymore. No one has to accept that lies and quarter-truths and bigotry and demagoguery do Israel any good. The opposite is true. And Israelis and their supporters abroad are starting to raise their voices, some of them from unexpected quarters, standing up to lance the steadily inflating gasbags of propaganda.

One voice was that of Tamir Pardo, who recently made his first public remarks after stepping down as director of Israel's Mossad espionage agency.

This man, who knows as much or more about threats to Israel than anyone, said that the real danger to Israel's existence is not Iran, nor the Iran nuclear deal, nor BDS, nor terrorism, nor anything external. Rather, it is movement in the direction of civil war.

When Tamir Pardo, certainly no leftist, says at the same time that establishment of an independent Palestinian state is crucial to region-wide peace in the Middle East, he is standing up for Israel, and saying to the hard right: Not in my name.

Another voice was that of Dan Margalit, the veteran lead commentator of the aggressively pro-Netanyahu Israel Hayom. He told Channel 10 television this week that the prime minister's use of the phrase "ethnic cleansing" and his continual attacks on the administration seemed to Margalit to be "madness of the first order."

When the centrist Margalit says that "Benjamin Netanyahu continually causes damage, he's a continual factor of damage to Israel's relations with the United States, with Obama at the very least, and this damage will not be repaired quickly, no matter who becomes president," he is standing up for Israel and saying to everyone listening: Not in my name.

When the dovish J Street organization issues a powerful response to Netanyahu's post, and at the same time urges "the US Treasury to review the tax-deductibility status of contributions to groups working to entrench or expand Israeli settlement activity in the West Bank," it  is standing up for Israel, and telling the clout- and cash-laden Samaria Regional Council: Not in my name.

When Matthew Duss, president of the Foundation for Middle East Peace, demonstrates that Netanyahu's claim of Palestinians requiring a Jew-free state is false ["Palestinian leaders have made clear that Jews can be citizens of a future Palestinian state, but that they will not accept the presence of enclaves of Israeli settlers peppered throughout that state (as, of course, no state would]" – he is standing up for Israel, and telling the prime minister: Not in My Name.

Pro-peace advocates for Israel like writer Sarah Tuttle-Singer are calling out StandWithUs for incitement on a day of mourning and introspection ("Your first post on 9/11 pushes us further away from one another at a time when strong bridges are necessary It isn't advocacy. It's incendiary. It isn't pro-Israel. It's anti-Palestinian.")

They are standing up for Israel, and telling StandWithUs and other groups on the disguised hard right: Not in our name.

It's an indication of this time of madness,that the most telling response to Netanyahu's charge of Palestinian ethnic cleansing, came – inadvertently to be sure - from none other than Netanyahu's Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman.

Speaking Monday at Ariel University, the pride and joy of Samaria settlers, Lieberman called on Netanyahu to support his plan for "land swaps" involving Palestinian citizens of Israel and West Bank settlers in the context of a future two state agreement.

"Why do the [largely Arab area of the] Triangle and Umm al-Fahm need to be part of Israel?" Yedioth Ahronoth quoted Lieberman as saying. "Why should I need to subsidize [militant Israeli Arab preacher] Raed Salah and pay a salary to [radical Palestinian Israeli MK] Haneen Zoabi?"

"I see no reason why the prime minister should not adopt the principle of land swaps."

Did someone say ethnic cleansing? Have a good look in the mirror.

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