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The Seven Worst Double Standards Undermining Israel

Let me begin by agreeing with Benjamin Netanyahu. I'm speaking here about one of the prime minister's most fervently stated positions

Bradley Burston
Bradley Burston
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Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gives an interview to the foreign press at his office in Jerusalem, Israel.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gives an interview to the foreign press at his office in Jerusalem, Israel.Credit: Kobi Gideon / GPO
Bradley Burston
Bradley Burston

Let me begin by agreeing with Benjamin Netanyahu. I'm speaking here about one of the prime minister's most fervently stated positions:

Double standards are wrong. When they are applied to Israel, they undermine and de-legitimize the state in the eyes of the world.

So, in Israel's own words, let's see how this works in practice:

1. THE STANDARD: Israel maintains complete bipartisan neutrality regarding American politics. It neither takes sides nor interferes with the U.S. electoral process, nor with governance at the state and federal levels.

THE PRACTICE: During Donald Trump's presidential campaign, Netanyahu's right-hand man, Israeli Ambassador to Washington Ron Dermer – a GOP operative prior to his moving to Israel – acted as a key adviser to Trump's speechwriters.

Earlier in the campaign, Netanyahu took the rare step of addressing a joint session of Congress, excoriating then-President Obama's signature Iran nuclear deal, and by extension, the Democratic Party as a whole.

Netanyahu remains joined at the Republican hip through his crucial media and funding ties to GOP uber-donors Sheldon and Miriam Adelson. (See also: Number 7 on this list.)

2. THE STANDARD: Israel utterly rejects the intervention of foreign governments in efforts to affect policy within the country.

THE PRACTICE: Israel is spending tens of millions of dollars on an overseas-targeted campaign to combat perceived threats of anti-Israel activism within the U.S., the EU, and elsewhere. Massive government resources and in-house and outsourced intelligence have been marshaled into fighting organizations and activists abroad, including backing for campaigns to name and shame campus figures.

Israel has also vigorously promoted state-level legislation to ban as anti-Semitic, boycotts against Israel and/or boycotts of settlement-linked businesses. The laws have sparked a backlash from rights groups and others, who argue that the legislation violates First Amendment free speech guarantees.

3. THE STANDARD: In Israel's view, boycotts are inherently discriminatory and are, in practice, a form of "awareness terrorism."

THE PRACTICE: Netanyahu government officials frequently boycott individuals and organizations, often in direct defense of the settlement enterprise.

Last week, when Airbnb announced that it would remove listings in Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank that are "at the core of the dispute between Israelis and Palestinians," Israeli ministers responded by urging boycotts and sanctions against Airbnb.

In one of countless cases, Netanyahu last year boycotted a scheduled meeting with German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel – who was visiting Israel to take part in Holocaust Remembrance Day events – because Gabriel met with members of the anti-occupation NGOs Breaking the Silence and B'tselem.

In another, Dermer, a staple guest of right-wing groups, has consistently refused to meet with or snubbed a number of liberal American Jewish organizations that openly describe themselves as supporting Israel, among them J Street and its campus arm J Street U, Americans for Peace Now, and the New Israel Fund.

4. THE STANDARD: Israel maintains that it is the only democracy in the Middle East, and treats its non-Jewish citizens with equality and full respect.

THE PRACTICE: Where to begin? Perhaps with the nation-state law, passed in July, which gratuitously and explicitly demotes the Arabic language, formerly an official language of the state. The law also infuriated and dishonored the nation's Druze citizens, who serve in the army and have sacrificed greatly for the country, only to see a law which, in their words, renders them second-class citizens.

5. THE STANDARD: Honoring the memory of the Holocaust and its watchword, Never Again, Israel stands opposed to genocide in any form, by any nation, against any people.

THE PRACTICE: Just this week, Netanyahu effusively welcomed the visit of President Idriss Deby of Chad, who has been accused of genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity and torture.

Netanyahu is also said to be actively seeking ties with Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, who oversaw the genocidal war in Darfur and is the first sitting head of state ever to be indicted by the International Criminal Court. The charges include "genocide by killing, genocide by causing serious bodily or mental harm, and genocide by deliberately inflicting on each target group conditions of life calculated to bring about the group's physical destruction" in three separate counts.

6. THE STANDARD: Israel is the welcoming homeland for all Jews, regardless of their race, denomination, or politics.

THE PRACTICE: Uh, no. In the last year alone, Jews have been rejected, detained at the airport, interrogated, humiliated, and in some cases deported, for the following factors:

They came from Uganda and were converted to Judaism by the Conservative movement; they were vocally and profoundly pro-Israel but advocate a boycott of the settlements; they want to immigrate to Israel but are leftist in outlook; or they were anti-occupation activists, and as such were actually asked how they felt about Benjamin Netanyahu.

7. THE STANDARD: Israel is committed to protecting Jews from Jew-hatred and anti-Semitic attacks anywhere they may live in the world.

THE PRACTICE: When American neo-Nazis, KKK members and other white Americans marched in Charlottesville in 2017, chanting "Jews will not replace us!" and Trump signaled that they included "very fine people" – which is to say, people who voted for him – Netanyahu was silent.

As he has been regarding anti-Semitic campaigns mounted by the right in Hungary and elsewhere in Europe, and about an anti-Semitism-tinged meme posted by his own son. He's even gone one better than anti-Semites – slandering the Jew-haters' favorite target, Holocaust survivor and philanthropist George Soros, blaming him for a pro-asylum seekers protest campaign.

When, this year, eleven Jews were murdered in a mass killing by a white supremacist in Pittsburgh, Netanyahu's efforts at aid were directed at supporting Trump.

He hailed the president despite Trump's callously victim-blaming remarks about an under-protected shul. He dispatched Dermer to Trump's side, and the envoy turned out to be the only public official to receive Trump at the synagogue.

Meanwhile, cabinet Minister Naftali Bennet appeared as well, to tell everyone who would listen that – despite the waves of anti-Semitism unleashed by Trump – U.S. anti-Semitism was not as bad as it was pictured, and besides, the White House had moved the embassy and scuttled the Iran deal. End of story – except for Israel's chief rabbi, who couldn't quite bring himself to call the Conservative Tree of Life an actual synagogue.

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