PH Quickie: Netanyahu Intercept-ed


As reported by The Intercept (and a handful of other news outlets), Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu was caught in a hot mic moment Wednesday as he spoke to four eastern European leaders. He was arguing against the EU’s decision to insist that Israel respect Palestinians’ human rights as a condition for trade.

“The European Union is the only association of countries in the world that conditions the relations with Israel…” on what? Watch what he says: “on political conditions.”

Think about it. The prime minister of a country that (supposedly) shares our values thinks human rights is a political issue. It’s something only bleeding-heart liberals care about, and here they’re trying to strongarm him, an ultra-right leader, into running his country like he gives a damn about Palestinian rights. Absurd.

It was the EU that, in 2015, began a boycott against products made in illegal Israeli settlements on Palestinian land, and labeled “made in Israel.” At that time, the Israeli Foreign Ministry temporarily suspended diplomatic dialogue with the EU, stating that "the EU has chosen, for…[wait for it] political reasons, to take such an exceptional and discriminatory step.”

Netanyahu himself raged that the move was "hypocritical and [set] a double standard," adding that the EU "should be ashamed" of its actions.

Ashamed of what?

The EU has, in recent years, made attempts to relieve some Palestinian suffering: countries have financed schools, playgrounds, and solar panels for Palestinians, only to have over $74 million worth of these donations destroyed or confiscated.

European governments have provided financial backing to Israeli human rights groups like Breaking the Silence and B’Tselem, both of which work to bring Israel to account for human rights abuses.

If the EU has anything to be ashamed of, it is the fact that it has not stood up to Israel’s bullying tactics. $74 million wasted on projects in Palestine – how about taking Israel to task?

But no one is willing to do that.

And so Netanyahu can say things like, “We have a special relationship with China, and they don’t care. I mean, they don’t care about the [wait for it] political issues.”

And, “It’s absolutely — may I say — I think it’s crazy. I think it’s actually crazy.”

Nobody special

What’s crazy is that 70 years after the Nakba, Israel is still getting away with murder.

Israel says it wants to be treated like a normal state – a normal democracy. No double standards that single it out for its transgressions.

But it also wants to be treated like it’s special – it’s the Jewish state, resurrected after 2,000 years. And it should be able to defend itself in ways that do not comply with international law. And it should be able to call human rights “political” and optional. And it should be able to have nukes but forbid other countries of its choosing to do the same.

Imagine, as historian Tony Judt was quoted in the Intercept, “What about Libya? Yemen? Burma? China? All of which are much worse…if Burma came to the EU and said, ‘It would be a huge advantage for us if we could have privileged trading rights with you,’ Europe would say: ‘First you have to release political prisoners, hold elections, open up your borders.’” Abide by international law. Don’t consider human rights a political issue.

The only thing the EU – and the US and all the others – can do is to treat Israel like any other quasi-democracy: pressure it to do better. No more free passes. No more mulligans.