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Israel’s Israel-Bashing Left

Posted By P. David Hornik On December 27, 2010 @ 12:37 am In FrontPage | 136 Comments

“If there is an independent Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital, we won’t agree to the presence of one Israeli in it,” Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas told reporters in Ramallah on Saturday. And reiterated: “when a Palestinian state is established, it would have no Israeli presence[.]”

Even to say that Abbas’s words elicited yawns—let alone charges of racism and Nazism—among those who champion the cause of a Palestinian state would be an exaggeration, since even a yawn is a kind of reaction.

The Israeli Left, however, has been going pretty wild lately in leveling such charges—not, of course, against the respective Palestinian entities in the West Bank and Gaza but against Israel itself. And as usual, much of the venom is concentrated in the Israeli Left’s flagship publication, the daily newspaper Haaretz.

“The fire of hatred and racism is ablaze in Israel”—thus, no less, the paper opened its editorial on Thursday. And it extended the metaphor in Sunday’s editorial, charging Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu with supplying “fuel for the fires of racism and xenophobia.”

On Friday, columnist Ari Shavit wrote of Israel’s “xenophobic stench” and “xenophobic frenzy” and that “the virus of hatred is making Israel look and sound like a benighted racist country.”

Also on Sunday, columnist Zvi Barel, in a barely coherent rant, asked whether “Israeli racism [can] be eliminated through law, trial and punishment, or is it already part of the Israeli identity?” Barel also averred that for Israelis, “being Israeli means belonging to a separate race that also happens to be Jewish; what counts is the Israeli race.”

But even these were bested by another Haaretz op-ed on Sunday, this one by Hebrew University scholar Daniel Blatman. For Blatman, Israel is not just a swamp of racism but—no less—on the verge of Nazism. As he writes:

Millions of people in Germany who would not have defined themselves as anti-Semites and certainly not as Nazis were swept up in the messianic and pseudo-religious public atmosphere. Israel today is becoming slowly and increasingly swept up in “redemptive xenophobia.”… In the Israel of today, we can observe quite a few conditions whose presence in other societies and among other peoples led to racial separation, ethnic cleansing and even genocide…the domestic reality in Israel today is 1932.

What has prompted this latest flare-up on the Israeli Left, beyond its usual drumbeat of defamation? Mainly three things.

One was the now-famous “rabbis’ letter,” a statement earlier this month by about 50 municipal rabbis calling on Israeli Jews not to sell or rent homes to Arabs. The second, which followed soon after, was a rally on December 20 in Bat Yam, a town just south of Tel Aviv, against Arab-Jewish intermingling.

And the third was a rally the next day, December 21, in southern Tel Aviv. In this one the complaint was not about Arabs but, instead, about the area’s infiltration by mostly-illegal African migrants.

The rabbis’ letter was denounced by other rabbis and by leading right-of-center Likud politicians like Minister Benny Begin, Knesset speaker Reuben Rivlin, and Netanyahu himself. The “Bat Yam rally” attracted about 200 fringe-Right activists from various places in Israel and only a handful of people from Bat Yam—population 120,000—itself, while being denounced by the town’s mayor.

As for the southern Tel Aviv rally against migrants, it in fact drew sympathetic responses from left-of-center figures. Tel Aviv mayor Ron Huldai of the Labor Party said that “The residents’ protest is justified and understandable” and called on the government to “set a clear immigration policy.”

And prominent, Tel Aviv-based, left-of-center media star and political aspirant Yair Lapid wrote, in an op-ed called “This is not racism,” that

these migrants cause a real problem.

The participants in the rally…in Tel Aviv Tuesday tried to explain to the media, almost desperately, that their motives have nothing to do with whether the migrants are white or black…. Their problem with the infiltrators is not their origin, but rather, what they do to their neighborhoods.

Meaning that the migrants have brought to these neighborhoods a major infestation of crime and drugs and made walking the streets a constant peril.

But do not look to the “elite,” Haaretz-type Israel-bashers of the Left, most of whom have socialist roots, to show a whit of sympathy for the problems of the working-class residents of southern Tel Aviv.

For that matter, while both the rabbis’ letter and the Bat Yam rally were legitimate targets of criticism, in many cases ordinary Israelis’ concerns about Arab encroachment stem from real problems, and should be well within the bounds of human sympathy without resorting to epithets of “racism” and worse.

There, however, is the crux of the matter.

For while the pro-Israel community works hard to draw a distinction between legitimate criticism of Israel and outright slander, in that regard the Israeli Left is not a friend but, instead, one of the enemies—and among the most virulent of them.

And too busy at its work to give true, systematic racism like that promoted by the Palestinian Authority—and epitomized by Abbas’s statement on Saturday—even a passing notice. Or too in synch with it.


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