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By nixing German FM meet, Netanyahu ups Israel's tyranny a notch

While Netanyahu’s move appears to be extreme, it actually fits coherently with his government’s orchestrated campaign against Israeli human rights organizations.

Prime Minister Netanyahu making a recorded public address. (YouTube screenshot)

Prime Minister Netanyahu making a recorded public address. (YouTube screenshot)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu cancelled his meeting on Tuesday with German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel just one hour before it was slated to begin, after the latter refused to cancel scheduled meetings with anti-occupation organizations B’Tselem and Breaking the Silence. Both organizations refused to comment on the matter, but confirmed their meeting is taking place as planned Tuesday evening.

It is important to note that Netanyahu himself has not publicly stated his ultimatum or the cancellation at any point, with the messages instead conveyed through “senior officials in the Prime Minister’s Office.” This leaves Netanyahu room to later shirk responsibility. Gabriel defended his meetings in a statement to the press before the meeting was cancelled: “You never get the full picture of any state in the world if you just meet with figures in government ministries.”

While Netanyahu’s move appears to be extreme and quite dumb, it actually fits coherently with his government’s orchestrated campaign against Israeli human rights organizations over the last two years. In recent months Netanyahu has called on European governments to stop funding and cooperating with Breaking the Silence, and Israel’s education minister Naftali Bennett has already effectively banned Breaking the Silence from giving presentations in high schools.

Netanyahu’s move is situated well within the context of an increasingly tyrannical government that has now upped its authoritarianism a notch. Israel has been censoring and restricting the freedoms of Palestinians since 1948, it has been applying similar tactics to Israeli leftists for years and is now taking that strategy to its biggest European ally. And Netanyahu knows he will not have to pay any consequences for it. Gabriel has already said cancellation of the meeting would be “regrettable” but would not hurt or affect Israel’s ties with Germany in any way.

The ultimatum and refusal to meet with a German diplomat is reminiscent of the tactics used by the Israeli government against peace activists who began meeting with PLO representatives in the 1970s. In this sense, Israel is now treating Israeli organizations who document occupation as if they were Palestinians: Persona non grata.  Now, anyone who wants to merely meet with or listen to these persona non grata is also an enemy. And just like in 1975, when Israel decided to legislate a law banning Israelis from meeting with PLO members, don’t be surprised if the Israeli government’s next move is to outlaw B’Tselem and Breaking the Silence.

Read more:
Germany’s foreign minister calls Netanyahu’s bluff — and rightly so
Netanyahu looks like a bully, but he doesn’t care

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    1. Itshak Gordin Halevy

      Our prime minister was absolutely right to cancel the meeting. I do not understand how one day after Yom Hashoa a German minister prefers to meet with organizations hostile to the State of Israel instead of meeting with the Israeli prime minister. It is a clear message to the foreign diplomats.

      Reply to Comment
      • Richard Lightbown

        You could try turning the story around and see how you would have reacted had Obama refused to meet with Bibi after he had meet with members of AIPAC.

        The point is that in real democracies the head of state does not try to shut down dissenting opinion.

        Reply to Comment
        • JeffB

          @Richard Lightbown

          AIPAC is a registered lobby that Democrats in large numbers attend. Obama himself spoke their multiple times. Even at the height of the Iran sanctions fight Ambassador to the UN Samantha Power and national security adviser Susan Rice both had speaking slots at AIPAC to represent the administration. That’s not a remotely similar analogy.

          A better analogy might be something like Netanyahu openly meeting with people from the American finance industry interested in undermining the Consumer Protection Finance Bureau to coordinate Israeli banks also opposing these regulations. And yes if he did that it would be a big deal.

          There really isn’t a good analogy because USA political parties (prior to Trump) don’t actively work with foreign governments hostile to the USA government’s policies. American political groups don’t cross borders. A better analogy, though still strained, would be Netanyahu meeting with the American branches of the cocaine cartels (whom the Israelis in the 1980s had historic ties to) to help coordinate joint resistance operations to the DEA policies which Israel in this analogy objects to. And yeah that would be a big deal if he did it.

          Reply to Comment
          • Richard Lightbown

            Your comparison of Israeli human rights NGOs with US cocaine cartels is not worth my while answering.

            But I will repeat my main point since you have chosen to ignore it: in real democracies the head of state does not try to shut down dissenting opinion.

            Reply to Comment
          • JeffB

            @Richard

            In Israel the head of state does not try and shut down dissenting opinion either. Dissent is allowed and encouraged in Israel. Subversion of the government by allying with foreign powers is a different matter.

            Reply to Comment
          • Richard Lightbown

            Nobody is subverting the Israeli government. Human rights NGOs campaign for universal human rights and oppose abuses against them. Fancy you not knowing that?

            Just what is it you so despise about justice and human rights for Palestinians? Why the paranoia?

            Reply to Comment
          • JeffB

            @Richard

            Nobody is subverting the Israeli government.

            You have the foreign minister for a foreign power meeting with internal groups to subvert government policy. That is quite literally the definition of subversion.

            Human rights NGOs campaign for universal human rights and oppose abuses against them.

            Which is fine. In meeting with a foreign power though they are going beyond campaigning.

            Just what is it you so despise about justice and human rights for Palestinians?

            Nothing I fully support justice and human rights for Palestinians. I may disagree with those groups on some of their solutions but if they were fully internal there would be nothing wrong with them. I strongly oppose any Israeli groups reaching out to non-Jewish groups to exert extra leverage internally regardless of whether I agree with the cause 100% or disagree with the cause 100%. The cause has nothing to do with the means.

            Why the paranoia?

            Because what they are doing is extremely dangerous for Israeli democracy. The Israeli left has a legitimacy problem. They explicit promises to the Israeli people on major issues which were proven false. Rather than coming to terms with the failure and coming up with new policies that can command a majority they are reaching out to external groups and trying to increase their leverage that way. Its failure is likely to further damage the left (as the current attitude towards them as traitors shows). If this succeeds it will do so in a way that permanently damages the legitimacy of the left likely for generations.

            Israel to have a healthy democracy needs a healthy left. Israel to have a healthy democracy needs to understand their are limits to democracy. You don’t assassinate people to open up slots. You don’t stuff ballot boxes. You don’t bribe public officials to betray the public trust. And you don’t cultivate foreign supporters to apply external leverage.

            Reply to Comment
          • Ben

            What’s always missing from these analyses is the realization that what happens in the West Bank is not simply an internal Israeli matter. It takes place on foreign soil. That same foreign minister’s government is among those massively funding Israel’s defense and Israel’s occupation by supporting the Palestinians and doing things Israel should be doing for them but is not. And why should it be only Jewish groups that Israeli groups can reach out to on this not simply internal matter. Breaking the Silence only went outside when the Israeli inside absolutely refused to listen to them, their own soldiers, and persecuted them. Breaking the Silence is indeed the scandal that blows the whole corrupt thing wide open. The hypocrisy in saying that “you don’t cultivate foreign supporters to apply external leverage” after the way the Republicans cultivated the foreigner Bibi to apply external leverage and the way AIPAC effectively serves as an agent of the Israeli government right wing, with all sorts of contacts with foreign (Israeli) officials all the time, is astounding. You apply a blatant double standard. Bibi met with AIPAC. The German Foreign Minister met with Breaking the Silence? What’s the difference? That AIPAC is a “registered lobby” and Breaking the Silence is not a “registered lobby”? Your comparison of Breaking the Silence to some sleazy, shady finance types trying nefariously and secretly to undermine consumer protection regulations is the false analogy. One in a long line of them. And it smacks of the Herr Sturmer video type of innuendo and slander of good people, of Israeli Jewish soldiers. Who are openly and transparently, not deviously, expressing a political position based on the most authoritative, inside, hard-earned, substantiated knowledge. They have earned the right to protest. Your characterizing them as traitors is a slander and a mere political position, not an objective judgment.

            Reply to Comment
          • JeffB

            @Ben

            What’s always missing from these analyses is the realization that what happens in the West Bank is not simply an internal Israeli matter. It takes place on foreign soil.

            If it is to discuss what happens on foreign soil then he should be acting like it. Those are two different countries. The meeting should have been with the military dictator of Palestine, the defense minister, the settler council and Abbas to discuss the issues. Start treating it like foreign soil and not part of Israel. Why would the Prime Minister of Israel be someone you would discuss construction in some foreign country with? When Germany wants to talk get involved in the repairs to the Saint Louis highway he doesn’t meet with the head of Brazil and Brazilian dissidents.

            That same foreign minister’s government is among those massively funding Israel’s defense and Israel’s occupation by supporting the Palestinians and doing things Israel should be doing for them but is not.

            It is foreign soil. He’s funding a foreign country’s government. Has nothing to do with Israel.

            Breaking the Silence only went outside when the Israeli inside absolutely refused to listen to them,

            I see no evidence that Israelis refused to listen to them. From the time they started there was quite a lot of discussion of their stories in the Israeli press.

            The hypocrisy in saying that “you don’t cultivate foreign supporters to apply external leverage” after the way the Republicans cultivated the foreigner Bibi to apply external leverage

            The Congress is more powerful than the president not less. Getting called as a witness before a Joint Session of Congress, and agreeing to testify is not trying to bypass or undermine the USA government rather it is working with it. Not remotely an even similar analogy.

            and the way AIPAC effectively serves as an agent of the Israeli government right wing, with all sorts of contacts with foreign (Israeli) officials all the time, is astounding. You apply a blatant double standard.

            AIPAC is a lobby. Foreign lobbies are allowed and encouraged to engage in coordination behavior. Again one case is acting outside the law, one is acting as specified by the law.

            Bibi met with AIPAC. The German Foreign Minister met with Breaking the Silence? What’s the difference?

            The difference is Bibi’s meeting with AIPAC is fully in accord with USA law, and is one of the proper qne regulated mechanisms that exist within the USA government for foreign leaders to lobby the USA Congress for the purpose of getting their opinions heard and dealt with effectively.

            That AIPAC is a “registered lobby” and Breaking the Silence is not a “registered lobby”?

            https://www.knesset.gov.il/lexicon/eng/lobbyist_eng.htm

            Your comparison of Breaking the Silence to some sleazy, shady finance types trying nefariously and secretly to undermine consumer protection regulations is the false analogy. [rant snipped]Who are openly and transparently, not deviously, expressing a political position based on the most authoritative, inside, hard-earned, substantiated knowledge.

            The financial industry has authoritative, inside, hard-earned and substantial knowledge of banking. Your objection falls apart.

            Your characterizing them as traitors is a slander and a mere political position, not an objective judgment.

            I didn’t characterize them as traitors.

            Reply to Comment
          • Ben

            “Those are two different countries…. He’s funding a foreign country’s government. Has nothing to do with Israel….”

            But in fact they are not, the territories are occupied and under Israel’s control but are not Israel. Has a lot to do with Israel.

            “Getting called as a witness before a Joint Session of Congress, and agreeing to testify”

            Simply baloney. Netanyahu was not a “witness” “testifying.” He took an oath? Yeah? He was a political leader of a foreign country speaking against the president in the well of the House of Representatives. And ushered in to do that as a blatantly partisan maneuver, a show, by the opposition party that had absolutely no intention of changing one vote of their own based on what “testimony” Netanyahu revealed. And it violated very clear norms for congressional behavior and for Israeli behavior in terms of bipartisanship.

            “one case is acting outside the law”

            What law did they break? If they had convincingly broken the law why have they not been prosecuted? Israelis government prosecutors are shy and timid, shrinking violets?

            “The financial industry has authoritative, inside, hard-earned and substantial knowledge of banking.”

            Perhaps, but that is neither what you said nor what you insinuated.

            “I didn’t characterize them as traitors.”

            Technically you did not. Arguably, you insinuated something close to that. (Certainly, many on the right here bluntly call them traitors.)

            Reply to Comment
          • JeffB

            @Ben

            But in fact they are not, the territories are occupied and under Israel’s control but are not Israel. Has a lot to do with Israel.

            As I said the Defense Minister (the military dictator of Palestine in your theory) not the Prime Minster of Israel would have been appropriate.

            Simply baloney. Netanyahu was not a “witness” “testifying.” He took an oath?

            He’s not allowed to take an oath before the House of Representatives. He is not subject to USA laws regarding perjury and thus his oath is worthless. John Boehner would have been improperly swearing him in and lacks any power to compel an oath for Netanyahu.

            He was a political leader of a foreign country speaking against the president in the well of the House of Representatives. And ushered in to do that as a blatantly partisan maneuver, a show, by the opposition party that had absolutely no intention of changing one vote of their own based on what “testimony” Netanyahu revealed.

            Well first off it was bipartisan. The key question was whether enough Democrats would sign onto the Republican proposal to overrule the President the Republican votes to do so were already there.

            And it violated very clear norms for congressional behavior and for Israeli behavior in terms of bipartisanship.

            It did violate Israeli norms. It didn’t violate congressional behavior. They do that sort of thing all the time. Honduras was another example that happened about the same year.

            “one case is acting outside the law”
            What law did they break? If they had convincingly broken the law why have they not been prosecuted?

            Because individual prosecution is not the problem. You have a structural problem not an individual problem and it is being addressed by creating black letter law on NGOs not individual prosecution.

            “The financial industry has authoritative, inside, hard-earned and substantial knowledge of banking.”
            Perhaps, but that is neither what you said nor what you insinuated.

            Reread what I wrote. I never said anything about them other than they disagreed with the policy. Authoritative, insiders with hard-earned first hand knowledge can disagree with governments and even other people with authoritative, insiders with hard-earned first hand knowledge. I am one of those authoritative insiders with hard-earned first hand knowledge in the area of insurance. Were I to be cultivating foreign relationships for the purpose of subverting the government on insurance law my 1st class credentials wouldn’t matter a damn it would still be at least borderline criminal.

            “I didn’t characterize them as traitors.”
            Technically you did not. Arguably, you insinuated something close to that. (Certainly, many on the right here bluntly call them traitors.)

            The word traitor gets thrown away way too often by both sides. Treason is a much higher bar than improper foreign lobbying.

            Reply to Comment
          • Ben

            And here’s the other thing. Listen to Yehuda Shaul of Breaking the Silence. He says over and over and very clearly that his only job is to make Israelis aware of what is being done in their name in the occupied territories. He then says it is up to Israelis, not him, to decide what to do with that knowledge. But that Israelis cannot continue to be ignorant and to ignore what is being done and pretend that it is not happening “over there.” The occupation is based on a lie that Israelis tell themselves, that it is not really happening. Out of sight, out of mind. You perpetuate that lie in everything you write. After all, if what the Israeli army occupation troops are doing in the West Bank is so very justified by all your strained legalistic rigamarole, then why should you be upset that Breaking the Silence merely makes public, breaks the silence on, what is going on? I mean, according to you it’s all justified. So why the frantic rush to silence them? You’ve got your justifications, you say. So why hide things? Why the panic? Methinks you know your justifications don’t hold as much water as you’d like us to believe.

            Reply to Comment
          • JeffB

            @Ben

            After all, if what the Israeli army occupation troops are doing in the West Bank is so very justified by all your strained legalistic rigamarole, then why should you be upset that Breaking the Silence merely makes public, breaks the silence on, what is going on? I mean, according to you it’s all justified.

            I never said it is all justified. There are numerous crimes that occur in the West Bank whether one views this as an occupation or Israel as the governing power. I think it is very healthy for the Israeli people to get accurate first hand reporting from people who were personally involved in acts they believed were either immoral or illegal. I don’t object to Breaking the Silence engaging with the Israeli public at all, rather I encourage it. I think what they are doing inside Israel enhances Israeli democracy and strengthens the country. That’s entirely different than cultivating foreign sponsors for anti-government activities.

            Reply to Comment
          • carmen

            “I think what they are doing inside Israel enhances Israeli democracy and strengthens the country.” Here comes the but—-“That’s entirely different than cultivating foreign sponsors for anti-government activities.” That statement requires proof and if you have proof, please share it. It helps you appear serious and not just a bloward that loves to argue. About anything. Everything. And no one knows everything. Sometimes you just, oh never mind. ‘Anti-government activities’? Like lectures, demonstrations, boycotts? Going abroad to speak to audiences who want to see them and hear first hand? These definitely would help israel look like a democracy and not an ethnocentric, xenophobic, theocratic 3rd world country. B’tselem and Breaking the Silence are signs of healthy democracies, not to mention revolution, to help foment change.

            Reply to Comment
          • Ben

            “anti-government activities”

            Oh? And what “anti-government activities” would that be?

            https://972mag.com/why-do-so-many-israelis-hate-breaking-the-silence/114763/

            “Breaking the Silence is a Jewish organization made up of former Israeli soldiers, most of whom served in combat roles. All they want to do is to tell Israeli society, which sent them to the occupied Palestinian territories, what they did there as soldiers. They do so through written and video testimonies collected form over 1,000 soldiers, all of which were approved by the IDF Censor before being published. That’s all.
            They don’t support the Palestinian boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) campaign. They aren’t trying to have Israeli officers tried for war crimes (on the contrary: they believe that the political echelon, not the army, should be held responsible for the occupation). They do not justify any Palestinian violence. They don’t even call on Israelis to refuse to serve in the army, and many of them still do reserve duty every year. If anything, one could pretty easily criticize Breaking the Silence from the left side of the political map…”

            Reply to Comment
          • JeffB

            @Ben

            The anti-government activities is coordinating with foreign powers and foreign people’s to apply pressure Israel to withdraw from the West Bank. Israel government policy is not for a full withdraw but a 90% withdraw and only in exchange for an agreement. Government policy and the minority parties as well is against foreign pressure being applied.

            Reply to Comment
          • Ben

            This is a false characterization of what the pressure is about. Next?

            Reply to Comment
          • Ben

            And BTW, Richard Lightbown puts his finger precisely on something that goes to the heart of what you are about and what is wrong:

            “Nothing I fully support justice and human rights for Palestinians.”

            “I strongly oppose any Israeli groups reaching out to non-Jewish groups”

            Notice anything wrong here?

            Reply to Comment
          • Richard Lightbown

            “Nothing I fully support justice and human rights for Palestinians.”

            “I strongly oppose any Israeli groups reaching out to non-Jewish groups”

            Notice anything wrong here?

            Reply to Comment
          • carmen

            Oh hell yes.

            Reply to Comment
          • JeffB

            @Richard

            Nope. Lets try this with a different minority

            “Nothing I fully support justice and human rights for Buddhists in Wales.”
            “I strongly oppose any Welsh groups reaching out to non-United Kingdom groups for political influence”

            Works fine so we are good.

            Reply to Comment
          • Ben

            Palestinians are an unusual religion inside a country inside a united kingdom of countries. Israelis groups are groups inside that same country inside that united kingdom of countries. Non-Jewish groups are by definition groups not inside that same kingdom of countries. Got it. The silliness of your “argument” is plain.

            Reply to Comment
        • i_like_ike52

          Since when is AIPAC an anti-American organization?

          Reply to Comment
          • Richard Lightbown

            If you have to ask you’ll never know.

            Reply to Comment
      • carmen

        One has absolutely nothing to do with the other. The message is crystal clear that israel continues to be a rogue state continuing defy the u.n. and should be kicked out of it asap. I wonder how many seconds it would take you right wing fanatics to scream antisemitism if israeli ambassadors/diplomats were treated the exact same way? Time will tell but kharma’s a beach.

        Reply to Comment
        • Itshak Gordin Halevy

          The infamous Obama treated Bibi that way. I am so proud when Israel defies the filthy UN.

          Reply to Comment
    2. Average American

      That dirty German Gabriel is trying to destroy Israel! Typical German. Thinks he can just talk to whoever he wants. Boy, Bibi sure set him straight.

      Reply to Comment
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