The president of the United States believes there’s no difference between racist, anti-Semitic, violent rabble and those who protest racism and anti-Semitism. At a press conference U.S. President Donald Trump condemned the demonstrators in Charlottesville, Virginia, who protested a neo-Nazi march and said there was blame on both sides. He called those protesting the neo-Nazis “alt-left,” and accused them of “charging with clubs.” Not everyone there was a neo-Nazi, he said: “Some of them were very fine people.”
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Even as he later tried to backtrack from his remarks, he implied moral equivalence between the neo-Nazis and the “left” and chose to give legitimacy to white supremacists.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu generally interprets his role in the broadest possible fashion; as far as he’s concerned he’s the prime minister of the entire Jewish people. That’s how he acted after a terror attack in Paris, when he called on French Jews to immigrate to Israel, or when he stood beside the French president at a ceremony marking the 75th anniversary of the expulsion of Paris’ Jews.
But confronted with the shameful pictures from Charlottesville – which led President Reuven Rivlin to write, “The very idea that in our time we would see a Nazi flag paraded in the streets of the world’s greatest democracy and Israel’s most cherished and greatest ally is almost beyond belief” – Netanyahu was silent. Other than a weak condemnation – made before Trump’s remarks – of “expressions of anti-Semitism, neo-Nazism and racism,” he chose to remain mum.
Netanyahu’s silence in the face of anti-Semitism follows his meeting in Hungary with Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, who during that period was leading a campaign against Jewish tycoon George Soros, and who had praised Hungary’s anti-Semitic Holocaust-era leader Miklos Horthy.
With his silence over Trump’s remarks and his meetings with nationalist leaders who harbor anti-Semitic sentiments, Netanyahu is choosing to cooperate with a right wing that believes in national and religious purity, a right wing that is working to eliminate the liberal order that fights for human rights and separation of powers and seeks a situation in which all democratic institutions – the courts, the media, cultural, educational and civil society institutions – will all be subordinate to the government. Netanyahu is putting Israel on the dark side of history.