The evil of Benjamin Netanyahu

Israeli government photo.

Israeli government photo. Benjamin Netanyahu

October, 2015

He’s the wrong man, in the wrong place, at the wrong time. And he has been for far too many years.

For those people, like myself, who believe in Israel’s right to exist but also believe that this belief doesn’t give Israel the right to do whatever the hell it wants, Benjamin Netanyahu’s continued racist and potentially internationally criminal actions have made things so bad in Israel, one really has to question how long the country can survive with him as its leader.

There are so many examples to choose from, but let’s start with the most recent.

His declaration that the Holocaust was not indeed conceived by Adolf Hitler and his gang of cronies like Himmler, and Goebbels, but was actually cooked up by the Mufti of Jerusalem, Haj Amin al-Husseini. Netanyahu made the charge while giving a speech at the opening of the World Zionist Congress this week in Jerusalem.

Now Husseini was no sweetheart. And rather than going into his extensive dubious background, I would refer you to the first link at the bottom of this page from Josh Marshall at TalkingPointsMemo that explores this more fully.

But to say that Hitler, as one scholar put it, was little more than a “clueless anti-Semite” convinced by an Arab Palestinian Muslim to conduct the Holocaust is so vile, and so racist, so historically inaccurate, and so the wrong thing to say at this particular moment in the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians, that when I first heard it, I momentary wondered if Netanyahu had gone crazy.

Fortunately, I was not the only person who reacted this way.

Dozens of historical scholars, including many well-known Jewish historians, denounced Netanyahu’s comments as ridiculous. As the Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported, “Prof. Dina Porat, chief historian of Yad Vashem, [the Holocaust Memorial in Jerusalem] called Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s claim that Hitler did not seek to exterminate the Jews until his meeting with the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem at the time, Haj Amin al-Husseini ‘completely erroneous, on all counts.’ “

Completely erroneous, on all counts.

In fact, not a few historians pointed out that what Netanyahu was doing was giving a boost up to the Holocaust deniers by seeming to say “Oh, Hitler he didn’t really want to hurt the Jews. He had to be pushed into it.”

Which leads us to ask: why did he do it?

Benjamin Netanyahu is evil.

Oh he’s not evil in the way that Al-Qaeda is evil, or the Islamic state is evil. That evil is truly on the level of the Nazis, and the sooner it is wiped from the face of the earth, the better.

No, he is evil like Erdogan is evil, like El-Sisi is evil, like Jean-Marie Le Pen is evil, or like Pamela Geller is evil. It is a cynical evil that seeks out the darkest parts of a human and twists into something misshapen and foreboding. It relies on fear of the other, suspicion and violence. But mostly fear.

For the ultra-nationist and far-right settlers movement, it must have been music to their ears. It gave them just another excuse – maybe the ultimate excuse – to continue to brutalize Israeli Arabs and Palestinians.

We’ve seen this trait of Netanyahu raise its head before this week’s “completely erroneous” statements about Hitler.

During the most recent Israeli election, facing what look like imminent defeat, at the last second he resorted to making racist statements about the Palestinians, and assuring his thuggish supporters that there would never be a peace deal as long as he was the Prime Minister of Israel. And in the jigsaw puzzle world of Israeli politics, where small parties with only two or three seats can dictate the fate of the entire nation, that was all he needed.

And here’s the really sad part of what Netanyahu has done.

Israel is a great nation, that has produced some of the greatest thinkers, scientists, businessmen and technologists that the world has ever seen. For many, many years it was the only democratic nation in the Middle East. And the people who lived there rightly felt proud of its place in the world.

And that is what Netanyahu has destroyed. Under his leadership Israel has become in many places (and not just in the Arab world or in Muslim countries) an international pariah. Israel is no longer looked at by many people as the one true voice of democracy in the Middle East, but instead as a racist occupying power, guilty of war crimes which it refuses to admit, a country whose products are worthy of being boycotted by many, a country of one law for one group of citizens and another law for another group of citizens.

When I was a kid I had nothing but admiration for Israel. I read everything I could about it. I was seduced by the myth of Israel, and felt that, after the Holocaust, the world needed a place like Israel.

I don’t feel that admiration so much anymore. While I will still support Israel’s right to exist, I can no longer support its actions in its own country or in the world at large. For me, much of this falls at the feet of Benjamin Netanyahu. And I will never forgive him for that.

Nor, I think, will the world. And one day, I feel fairly certain, neither will Israelis.

Copyright Tom Regan 2015

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Tom Regan Tom Regan has worked for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation and with the National Film Board in Canada, and in the United States for the Christian Science Monitor, Boston Globe, and National Public Radio A former executive director of the Online News Association, he was a Nieman fellow at Harvard in 1991-92.





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