Netanyahu Just Invited Israel’s Equivalent Of The KKK To Join The Government
by Batya Ungar-Sargon, Forward, 20 February 2019
The Israeli election cycle currently underway has been awash in anti-Arab racism for a while now. But things just got much, much worse.
On Wednesday, Haaretz reported that Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu pushed the Jewish Home Party to join another party, the “Jewish Power” party, which inherited its leaders and politics from the well-known racist Meir Kahane.
Kahana’s Kach party was outlawed in 1994, the same year it was listed as a terrorist organization by the U.S. State Department, after a supporter, Baruch Goldstein, massacred 29 Arabs at prayer in Hebron and the party issued its support.
And now, in 2019, it’s back.
If the Jewish Home Party votes in favor of the merger, it will mean that Michael Ben-Ari, banned from entering the U.S. for belonging to a terrorist organization, will be part of the ruling coalition of the Jewish State. It will mean that Itamar Ben Gvir, convicted of inciting racism and supporting terrorism, will be welcomed in the halls of the Knesset as a lawmaker.
It will mean that Kahana’s legacy — including his attempts to strip non-Jewish Israelis of their citizenship, ban marriage between Jews and non-Jews, and transfer Israel’s Arab population out of Israel — will once again have advocates in the Israeli government.
These are the David Dukes and the Richard Spencers of the Jewish State, people who believe that Jewish sovereignty depends on the oppression, ethnic cleansing and even murder of Israel’s Arab population. And with this merger, Netanyahu’s willingness to sell out any and all values in order to ensure his political survival has reached a new low.
But Netanyahu’s move to include avowed racists in the ruling coalition, though horrifying, should not surprise us.
Netanyahu has spent the better part of the last two years leading Israel down an ugly road of increased ethnonationalism. From the Nation State bill, which ratifies Jewish supremacy over Israel’s minorities, to the whitewashing of Holocaust revisionists in Poland and Hungary, to the embrace of racist premieres of other countries like the Philippines and Brazil, Netanyahu has put all his eggs in the racist, ethnonationalist basket.
The embrace of a party literally called Jewish Power is only the last in a long line of betrayals of Jews, Jewish history and Jewish values. What is the lesson of Jewish history if not that the rights of minorities must be vigorously, vigorously protected? What are Jewish values if not the Torah’s exhortation that we pursue justice, justice at all costs? What are Jews if not the descendants of the most hounded people in history, ourselves the victims of ethnic cleansing time and again?
And now, the ruling coalition of the Jewish State will welcome members who wish to ethnically cleanse Palestinians, already dispossessed of civil rights by the millions, the victims of a brutal occupation in the West Bank and blockaded in Gaza.
Meanwhile, regardless of Israel’s descent into ethnonationalism, we in the Diaspora are expected to continue to provide unwavering support for a Jewish state that’s embracing the very worldview — the supremacy of a country’s majority over its minorities — that has ensured our destruction for millennia.
Contrary to Netanyahu’s cynical view, Jewish rights need not come at the expense of the Palestinians. But when we balk at this request for unconditional support, when we demand accountability for Israel’s descent into this ugliest form of nationalism, we are told that we don’t have the right to speak up because we are assimilating and wont exist in three generations, or because we haven’t served in the Israeli military, or because we don’t speak Hebrew, or because we don’t live in Sderot.
You don’t need to live in Sderot to know a racist when you see one. You don’t need to speak Hebrew to know that ethnic cleansing is wrong, and welcoming its advocates into the halls of the Jewish State’s government is a shanda.
Netanyahu is not only betraying Jewish history with his embrace of ethnonationalism. He is betraying living, breathing Diaspora Jews. For the rise of populist nationalist leaders across the globe has brought with it an astounding and terrifying rise in anti-Semitic incidents, including vandalism, assault, murder, and mass murder — as it always does.
Across the world, anti-Semitism is on the rise in shocking ways, egged on by leaders like Hungary’s Viktor Orban and the United States’ own President Trump alike, both of whom hate minorities and espouse anti-Semitic conspiracy theories as Jewish bodies pile up. Both of whom have been embraced by Netanyahu.
Orban, a close ally of Netanyahu’s, famously cast George Soros as his opponent throughout his campaign in nakedly anti-Semitic terms. And at a campaign stop, Orbán used well-worn anti-Semitic tropes to demean his enemies. “They are not national, but international; they do not believe in work, but speculate with money; they have no homeland, but feel that the whole world is theirs,” he said.
And Trump, who couldn’t bring himself to condemn neo-Nazis and who initially blamed Jews for their own massacre in the Tree of Life synagogue, pushed the anti-Semitic conspiracy theory that George Soros was funding the Central American caravan making its way to the U.S., a conspiracy theory that animated the Tree of Life shooter. And to whitewash his responsibility in the event, Trump bragged about how much he’s done for Israel, and how much Netanyahu likes him.
Netanyahu has certainly leaned into Trump’s support, bragging about it on huge billboards overlooking Tel Aviv. But when he stands with anti-Semitism-enabling ethnonationalists like Trump and shares photo-ops with Orban, he gives a Jewish stamp of approval to the very forces that endanger Jewish lives.
Jewish safety and sovereignty cannot come at the expense of Palestinian rights, freedoms, and dignity. The opposite; ethnonationalism will always come for Jews in the end. If the dignity of our Palestinian brothers and sisters isn’t enough to move you, then let Jewish history do so.
Just as those who fight for Palestinian rights must cleanse their ranks of anti-Semitism, so too must Jews anxious about our past, present and future call out this appalling normalization of racism in the Jewish state.
This will not be done in my name.