Harnessing anti-Semitism

Rather than recognize the suffering of another people and pave way for genuine reconciliation, Netanyahu prefers to ride the fragments of hatred.

Haaretz Editorial
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Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gestures as he speaks during a special session marking the International Holocaust Remembrance Day in the Knesset
Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gestures as he speaks during a special session marking the International Holocaust Remembrance Day in the KnessetCredit: Reuters
Haaretz Editorial

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will never miss an opportunity to justify his stubborn refusal to come to an agreement with the Palestinians and avoid the emergence of a binational state here. On Sunday, as he opened the weekly cabinet meeting, Netanyahu pulled a new rabbit out of his populist refusal hat: The Anti-Defamation League’s latest anti-Semitism survey.

Obviously the prime minister didn’t address the problems inherent in the very existence of surveys of this kind, since the phrases presented to those surveyed are actually classic stereotypical perceptions (“Jews have too much power in the business world”) that only strengthen global anti-Semitism. Rather than work to actually eradicate prejudices about Jews, the ADL simply reinforces − this time to 53,100 people in 102 countries − the same dark stereotypes, just in the form of survey questions.

Netanyahu, the last of the demagogues, seized on one of the survey’s findings, which states that the place with the highest level of anti-Semitism is the Palestinian Authority areas, where 93 percent of adults allegedly hold anti-Semitic views. Of course that finding can, and should, be explained in the context of the Israeli occupation that’s going on for 47 years; an occupation in which hundreds of thousands of Jews settled on lands that are not part of the State of Israel; an occupation under which thousands of Palestinians were killed and hundreds of thousands jailed; an occupation that prevents the Palestinians from living comfortably and with dignity.

But despite these obvious explanations, Netanyahu chose to say that, “this is the result of the unceasing acts of incitement by the Palestinian Authority, which distorts the image of the State of Israel and the image of the Jewish people, as we are familiar with from other places in our past.”

The prime minister was not satisfied with making the gross comparison between the Palestinians and the Nazis, which has been a common comparison during his premiership. He continued his inflammatory remarks, arguing that “this is manifest in the fact that they conduct marches to mark what they call the Nakba [the ‘catastrophe’ of Israel’s founding],” and concluded, “Whoever sees the creation of Israel and its continued existence as a catastrophe does not want peace.”

The contempt and simplistic attitude displayed by Netanyahu with regard to the Palestinian tragedy, “what they call the Nakba,” is at the heart of the problem. Rather than recognize the suffering of another people and thus pave the way to genuine reconciliation, he prefers to ride the fragments of hatred and present the other side as rejecting peace. He knows better than anyone what such rejection is made of.

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