The deafening silence over Netanyahu’s racism

March 3, 2016

Belfast Telegraph columnist Eamonn McCann considers the media double standards when it comes to the hateful rhetoric spewed by Israeli leaders.

IS THAT a shifty silence I hear? Or just a shrug to convey couldn't-care-less? The outburst in February from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu--"Will we surround all of the state of Israel with fences and barriers? The answer is yes...we must defend ourselves against the wild beasts"--surely merited a mention or two.

But no. Efforts to locate even mild condemnation in the mainstream media have proven futile. It's now seemingly acceptable to refer to Palestinians as "wild beasts" without any flurry of concern from individuals and institutions which see themselves as sophisticated, enlightened, progressive and definitely not racist.

One of the probable reasons for the muted reaction is that the world has become so well-used to insults of this sort from Israeli leaders against the Palestinians that it's difficult to whip up interest, much less anger.

The semi-deranged billionaire making a bid for the Republican nomination for the U.S. presidency calculates that it's necessary to stress, when he talks of Mexicans as thieves and scroungers, that he's not attaching that label to every single Mexican. Usually, he throws this in as an afterthought, a casual addendum. But, still, it's interesting that he feels he has to say it.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu

Netanyahu and a long line of predecessors feel no need for such restraint. The Palestinians are crocodiles, beasts on two legs, grasshoppers to be crushed, and "their heads smashed against boulders," previous Israeli Prime Ministers have variously suggested.

Former chief of staff of the Israel Defense Forces, Rafael Eitan, summed up his preferred fate for the Palestinians: "When we have settled the land, all the Arabs will be able to do about it will be to scurry around like drugged cockroaches in a bottle."

AMID THIS hubbub of hatred, it would have been unreasonable to expect a hullabaloo over Netanyahu's latest contribution to the compendium of bigotry. But what would reaction be if such remarks were directed against Jews?

The question is worth asking if only because, matter of fact, the same sort of racism is indeed spat out at Jews. Occasionally, anti-Semites will explain that they have nothing against Jews, only against Zionists who hold that all of the land of Israel was gifted to them by God--so they can do whatever they want with it and with the indigenous people.

For some, it can be an easy enough step--from condemning the persecutors of Palestine to condemning the Jewish people. Thus, solidarity with Palestine can be used as cover for anti-Semitism, which in turn gives Zionists and their fellow travelers an opening to argue that all or almost all campaigners for Palestinian rights are driven by hostility to Jews.

A tangled mess, then? One side as twisted as the other? Not exactly.

The key consideration in asking what would be made of a politician who publicly referred to Jews as insects has to do not with characterization of the person voicing the sentiment, but characterization of the response.

If it were said that Jewish people should be reduced to the level of drugged cockroaches scurrying in a bottle, is there an MP or newspaper columnist in the land who would dare respond other than with proper outright condemnation?

So why should it be okay to say such things about Palestinians?

Several weeks ago, in an interview with the cable news service MSNBC, Donald Trump answered a question which he had been dodging for months: How, in practical terms, did he propose to deliver on his promise to make Mexico pay for the wall that he wants built along the border to keep Mexican immigrants out?

He had an answer: the U.S. spends (he claimed) $8 billion a year in welfare payments to dependents of "illegal" Mexican immigrants. He'd cut them all off without a cent, use the money to build the wall instead. Not very convincing.

Almost without exception, his political opponents, analysts and commentators have let him know that his plan remains not only undeliverable, but distasteful and deeply offensive.

It was on the same day, February 9, that Netanyahu, inspecting a construction site along the Jordan border, was asked about his planned wall, and replied with his reference to "wild beasts."

Anyone who has been watching the news will know about Trump and his plan for walling Mexico in (or out). But you could have viewed every bulletin in the past month and still know nothing of Netanyahu's blunt explanation of the purpose of the Apartheid Wall.

Worth keeping in mind, too, that every one of the presidential hopefuls of either party who have denounced Trump's wall plan supports Netanyahu's scheme for building a wall to cage Palestinians.

First published at the Belfast Telegraph.

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