Bibi, ADL, your racism is showing
by Kathryn Shihadah
How is the camel’s back not broken yet?
Fifty years of occupation, twelve years of blockade, 600,000 Israeli settlers, 250 dead unarmed Gazan protesters, three one-sided “wars” in which 3,500 Palestinians in Gaza (and about 150 Israelis) have been killed–that’s not a big enough deal for us to utter a word of reprimand or turn off the financial spigot to Israel.
The US is shelling out $10 million a day, $7,000 a minute in aid–not humanitarian, but military aid, mind you–to a country that last summer passed the openly racist Nation-State Law, that last month saw its prime minister create a coalition including disciples of a Jewish supremacist, that last week disqualified pro-Palestinian parties from even appearing on the election ballot, while welcoming an anti-Palestinian candidate who is a member of a Jewish terror group.
These outrageous acts did not outrage us; Israel’s leaders are emboldened.
Israel for Jews only
Prime Minister Netanyahu went on record over the weekend in defense of that indefensible Nation-State Law.
On Sunday, when a TV personality dared to suggest that “Israel is a state of all its citizens and that all people were created equal,” he felt compelled to respond:
Israel is not a state of all its citizens. According to the nation-state law we passed, Israel is the nation-state of the Jewish people — and not anyone else.
[Arabs in Israel] have equal rights.
(Question: Equal to what? Answer: Equal to the rights of second-class citizens.)
Netanyahu’s next statement completely disassociated the Palestinian people from their own homeland:
The Arab citizens have 22 nation states around them and they do not need another.
This is something you can say when you call those people “Arabs” instead of “Palestinians.” Their centuries of constant connection to this particular land are invisible, irrelevant–all Arabs are the same, all Arab countries are the same. And the “Jewish State” is not for “Arabs” because Israel (which only came into existence a few decades ago) is calling the shots. “Pick an Arab state, any Arab state, and go there. Or if you want to stay in this non-Arab state, you’ve been warned: it’s not your state. It’s ours.”
This is bald-faced racism.
But have no fear! The Anti-Defamation League stepped in.
ADL: the voice of reason?
Director of the ADL’s Israel office, Carole Nuriel, “defended” the “Arabs”:
This anti-Arab rhetoric is a deeply troubling trend that, if continued, could undermine Israel’s vibrant democracy. The representation of Israeli Arabs in the Knesset has historically been a source of pride for Israel, highlighting its democratic character, despite the enduring conflict with its Arab neighbors, and attesting to its genuine efforts to include the Arab community as equal citizens.
It’s not really possible to be a “democracy” or to “include the Arab community as equal citizens” within the context of the Nation-State Law.
And the ADL’s conspicuous inability to use the word “Palestinian” when talking about Palestinians indicates the organization’s place on the Zionist continuum: Palestinian-ness is unthinkable. The very word “Palestinian” recalls non-Jewish historic ties to the land; only the monolithic term “Arab” will do. This puts the ADL only a step away from Netanyahu’s position that 22 “Arab states” is plenty.
ADL has never been an ally of Palestinians. It endorsed the US Embassy move to Jerusalem with all its anti-Palestinian baggage, it supports the Jewish-only “right of return” to the land that most Jews left 2,000 years ago, but Palestinians were exiled from only 70 years ago.
ADL’s language as it scolds Israel’s far-right government demonstrates how similar the two ideologies really are.
Is it time for outrage yet?
The United States–particularly its government–has looked the other way as Israel perpetrated atrocity after atrocity. Will the latest round of blatant racist, anti-Palestinian statements from Israel’s prime minister tip the scales?
Only if American civil society makes some noise. Contact your senator and representative. Tell them to denounce Netanyahu’s racist ideology; remind them that your tax dollars are subsidizing this nonsense.
President Reuven Rivlin on Monday appeared to launch a harsh attack on Netanyahu over his comments about Arab Israelis, saying that all citizens enjoy full equality before the law. Said Rivlin: “There are no, and there will be no, second-class citizens.”
A central part of Netanyahu campaign against his prime challenger, ex-military chief Benny Gantz, has been his allegation that Gantz will be unable to build a ruling coalition without the backing of Arab parties. Arab parties have never sat in an Israeli coalition government, and they say they have no interest in doing so now.
Gantz has been quick to reject the association, citing his tough military record of pounding Gaza terror groups and saying he would not rely on the Arab bloc in the Knesset to stabilize a future government.
The charge nonetheless is part of the Netanyahu campaign playbook that has worked before.
On election day in 2015, fearing a possible loss, Netanyahu mobilized his supporters by releasing a frantic midday video in which he warned that Arab voters were heading “in droves” to the polls. The move, for which he later apologized, may have helped turn the tide and secure another term for him.
Netanyahu and Likud ministers have over the past week pushed the talking point that the choice in the election is between Netanyahu and the Arab lawmakers, chief among them the Ta’al party’s MK Ahmad Tibi. The refrain “It’s Bibi or Tibi,” using Netanyahu’s nickname, has been uttered multiple times in recent days by top party officials.
On Sunday, Netanyahu engaged in a social media argument with a popular reality TV host who criticized his party’s anti-Arab rhetoric, after Culture Minister Miri Regev in a Saturday TV interview repeated the claim that Gantz will form a government with Arab parties.
“Dear god, there are also Arab citizens in this country. When the hell will someone in this government convey to the public that Israel is a state of all its citizens and that all people were created equal, and that even the Arabs and the Druze and the LGBTs and — shock — the leftists are human,” she said.
Netanyahu shot back on his account: “Dear Rotem, an important correction: Israel is not a state of all its citizens. According to the nation-state law we passed, Israel is the nation-state of the Jewish people — and not anyone else.
“As you wrote, there is no problem with Israel’s Arab citizens. They have equal rights and the Likud government has invested more than any other government in the Arab population,” he added, but immediately went on to claim, once again, that a Gantz-led government that includes the Arab parties would “undercut the state’s security.”
Sela said she received an outburst of fiery comments criticizing her post, and in another post said the “disgusting” responses “will never prevent me from voicing my opinion.”
Regev also responded to Sela and said: “We have no problem with the Arabs. We do have a problem with hypocrisy and with [Yair] Lapid and Gantz trying with all their force to conceal that fact that they are leftists masquerading as centrists.”
Arab lawmakers came to Sela’s defense and praised her for her “courage.”
“Rotem Sela, we don’t know each other but bravo,” said Hadash-Ta’al chairman Ayman Odeh.
“The very fact that a senior media personality like Rotem Sela needs courage to say Arabs are also humans is a testament to the dark times in which we’re living,” said the party’s No. 2 Ahmad Tibi, who has been a frequent target for Netanyahu’s attacks.’
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu appeared to suggest Monday that Israel’s Arab citizens had more affiliation to other Arab states around the region than to Israel, responding to controversy over his claim a day earlier that Israel is not a country of all of its citizens but a Jewish state.
Netanyahu has come under harsh criticism amid accusations that he is using anti-Arab rhetoric as part of his election campaign. On Sunday, he responded to model Rotem Sela’s complaint over the issue by saying
The claim that there are 22 other Arab states is often used by right-wing Israelis as an argument against Palestinian statehood, but is not generally used as an argument regarding the country’s Arab citizens, who make up almost a quarter of the population.
The discussion over the Basic Law: Israel – the Nation State of the Jewish People, which passed in July, was rekindled over the weekend, after Sela, a popular television host, blasted Culture Minister Miri Regev (Likud) for claiming that Benny Gantz and Yair Lapid’s Blue and White party wants to establish a government with the help of Arab parties.
“What is the problem with the Arabs???” Sela wrote on her Instagram account. “Dear God, there are also Arab citizens in this country. When the hell will someone in this government convey to the public that Israel is a state of all its citizens and that all people were created equal, and that even the Arabs and the Druze and the LGBTs and — shock — the leftists are human.”