People who see Netanyahu as the great Jewish avenger should know how low he’s willing to go in exploiting the memory of Jewish suffering.
I can never get over the shamelessness with which Israeli nationalist power freaks will exploit people’s memories of anti-Semitic persecution for their own low purposes. Nobody’s better at it than Netanyahu; he can barely make a speech without waving around a document or two from some Holocaust-era archive. And he’s always got that furious expression on his face, as if to warn his audience not to even dare think that he’s faking it, that he’s using the memory of Jewish tragedy in the most calculated way, strictly to help him and his team get away with some new or old outrage – bombing Iran, killing Palestinians, building settlements, whatever. Netanyahu is very far from being the only Israeli nationalist known to work this scam, of course, but he’s the best at it. He looks so hurt and angry up there when he’s going on about Jewish victimhood, and he’s so audacious in wrapping himself in that mantle, that the average shmo is too intimidated to even say to himself that this guy is obviously laying it on too thick, he’s been doing it for 30 years, it’s a highly polished act. After all, that’s Bibi Netanyahu up there; snickering at him is like snickering at the Holocaust. So our leader goes on getting away with it.
I wish people who see Bibi as the Jewish avenger, brave and true, would be aware of how this guy used the memory of Jewish persecution yesterday. He broke new ground. For the purpose of removing Yair Lapid as the obstacle to his forming a right-wing/ultra-Orthodox government, Netanyahu likened the Yesh Atid party leader’s refusal to sit in a government with Haredi parties to past boycotts against Jews. He also identified Lapid’s stance with current international boycotts of Israel and of products made in the settlements. For the goal of pressuring Naftali Bennett, leader of the settler-backed Habayit Hayehudi party, to break his alliance with Lapid and join up with the Haredi parties in his next government, Netanyahu told a news conference last night:
There’s a boycott against a sector in Israel and this goes against my views. … I think that we, as Jews who have suffered from bans, we cry out in protest when Israel is shunned in international forums – as we should. We protest when settlers in Judea and Samaria have to deal with product boycotts – as we should. So the people who have to be the most sensitive to this issue are the settlers.
I suppose I should give Bibi credit for restraint – he could have evoked the image of ultra-Orthodox Jews in Europe being herded into gas chambers, but he limited himself to the goyim’s boycotts. (Note that he didn’t mention Lapid by name, giving himself what he thinks of as plausible deniability. A classic Netanyahu performance.)
There is no Jewish memory too tender for him to exploit, no matter how base the political objective. He’s been doing it too long, he lost his moral compass a long time ago – it works, it’s a winner, so he reaches for it instinctively. The Arabs, the U.N., the U.S., Yair Lapid – get in Bibi’s way and he will stamp “anti-Semite” on your forehead before you can blink your eyes.
Again, it’s not just Bibi by any means, but he is the best at it – the most skilled, the most prolific, and, as the leader of Israel and of nationalistic Jews everywhere, the most influential.