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Netanyahu responds to Leahy with a strange string of lies

The prime minister shoots off a sharply worded letter to a senior American senator who dared question Israel’s human rights record. That Netanyahu thinks anyone reading it will do anything but howl is worrying sign about his judgement.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks at a press conference in Jerusalem, March 23, 2016. (Amos Ben Gershom/GPO)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks at a press conference in Jerusalem, March 23, 2016. (Amos Ben Gershom/GPO)

In mid-February, Senator Patrick Leahy, together with 10 other Democratic Senators, wrote a letter asking U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry to investigate the possible violation of human rights by Israel, as a U.S. foreign aid recipient. The letter, which only made news in Israel on Wednesday, was prompted by suspicions of numerous extrajudicial killings of Palestinian suspected attackers over the last year.

Prime Minister Netanyahu responded to Senator Leahy, and posted this excerpt of his letter on Twitter:

(Posted on Benjamin Netayahu's official Twitter account)

(Posted on PM Netanyahu’s official Twitter account)

Reading it, I think Netanyahu must know deep in his heart that he is lying his face off, lying obscenely, to the point of absurdity — surrealism. Does it mean that he has, as Solzhenitsyn said, no other means of justifying our violence? That there are no other accurate arguments that effectively justify what happens here?

Reading it more closely, I realized that every single line in the graphic rendition of his letter contains a bald-faced lie, or at best an egregious omission. For those who think I am exaggerating, here is the annotated version:

The IDF and the Israel Police do not engage in executions.

It did, just last week. And its soldiers executed a 14-year-old girl in 2005 (acquitted). And the Shin Bet executed captured and bound hijackers in 1984. Those are the very obvious cases. There are numerous suspected executions over just the last year, when many were killed for attempted stabbing, killed for being a troubled child, killed for suspicion. There were the two teens killed for demonstrating in Beitunia in 2014 – the IDF closed its investigation into that last case just today. The cases over the last year generally involve at least two, and often a group of heavily armed soldiers killing individual suspects grasping knives, or in one case, a pair of scissors.

Israel’s soldiers and police officers defend themselves…

The military regime governing the West Bank is not a defensive mission. The soldiers were not present last Thursday in Hebron to defend the State, but in order to enact military rule over a population lacking civil rights under conditions most of us wouldn’t suffer for a day.

The military does of course defend settlers, but the settlers aren’t there to defend Israel either. They are there to expand sovereignty because they feel like it, and they do not believe that Palestinians already living there have anything resembling the rights enjoyed by all other human beings.

…and innocent civilians…

The fact that a person is a civilian means he or she must not be physically harmed. It does not mean that person is innocent of all other accusations, obviously. Taking away land, resources and livelihood from another society and benefiting from segregated parallel legal systems constructed to suppress and decimate one population and let the other flourish – well, settlers are guilty of that. All Israelis are, actually. That’s why I’m writing this, because I personally oppose this policy profoundly – almost desperately, as an Israeli. Civilians are not the only ones involved here, anyway. So this “innocent civilians” part just doesn’t work.

…with the highest moral standards…

Does anybody seriously believe our team – any team, anywhere – has the “highest moral standards?” Where is his humility? What does he even mean?

… against bloodthirsty terrorists who come to murder them.

Somebody who attacks a combatant carrying a loaded gun on active duty, in uniform, in a conflict zone, is not a terrorist; he’s a combatant in a conflict. Terror is attacking civilians for a political (or other) cause. The murderer who stabbed Dafna Meir, a 30-year-old pregnant woman in her home, is a terrorist. It’s a pretty clear distinction. Why does it matter so much? If the stabber was a Jewish Israeli, calling him a terrorist would be important for allowing certain extraordinary investigation procedures, including, lamentably, methods that count as torture. If the stabber is Palestinian, just using the term terrorist legitimizes killing on the spot.

Where is the concern for the human rights of the many Israelis who’ve been murdered and maimed by these savage terrorists?

Is Netanyahu for real? The American government issues endless condemnations after practically every bad thing that has happened to Israel. Those billion.s of dollars America dutifully hands over every year to protect Israelis, the years of stalwart diplomatic support for Israel – is there a way to show “concern” that the U.S hasn’t done?

The fact that I am responding to this point is crazy-making. The fact that Netanyahu thinks anyone reading this will do anything other than howl makes me terrified about his loss of judgment as the prime minister.

This letter should have been addressed instead to those who incite youngsters to commit cruel acts of terrorism.

Yes, there is also incitement behind the stabbings in addition to what I have mentioned a dozen times above. But did Netanyahu ever ask himself why it’s so horribly effective (for the few hundred out of 4 million who have attacked since September)? Put it this way: if someone told me, with my lovely Tel Aviv life, to go and stab someone, well, let’s see… I wouldn’t do it! I would probably think he or she was an eccentric quack and go on about my day.

Moreover, stuffing young people’s heads with some insane theory in which the cruel act of military rule over a stateless people for 50 years is a good thing – is that anything other than incitement? Long, slow-burning, indirect incitement, yes, but it works. Our soldiers are now either killers, or they’re getting killed. Of course that is pretty much the fate of all soldiers at war and it’s time to stop denying we’re in one. Yet young people, in Israel survey after survey, are on his side, ready to march off to this hellish fate with pride.

I am not sure why people take pride in the permanent military oppression of millions of Palestinians. Because to the Palestinian young people doing the stabbing, that’s what it has become.

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    1. Yeah, Right

      Isn’t the simplest explanation that Bibi doesn’t give a s**t what Leahy thinks regarding the IDF, except that such a letter from Leahy gives Bibi a chance to grandstand before the Israeli public.

      In short: Netanyahu’s letter is addressed to Leahy, but the intended recepient of the message is the Israeli voter.

      Seen in that light then Netanyahu’s judgement-call becomes perfectly understandable: he is simply using Leahy as an excuse (and, really, any excuse would do) to further pander to the prejudices of his constituency.

      Netanyahu’s judgement only becomes “terrifying” if the US Congress takes his words seriously, but let’s keep this real, OK?

      Reply to Comment
      • Eliza

        Its a fair call to say that Netanyahu’s response to the Leahy letter is aimed at bolstering internal Israeli support. But its out there on Twitter for all to see and cannot be retracted.

        Isn’t this an example of Netanyahu’s poor judgement – that he appears confident enough to use language like ‘bloodthirsty terrorists’ or ‘savage terrorists’. Now this may go down well in Israel but outside Israel most would twitch at least a little bit.

        Whilst most members of Congress would probably dismiss his language as understandable in that all politicians understand that they must keep their punters happy, I would think that such language does pose a problem to members of Congress. They also have domestic punters to keep happy and would much prefer softer language etc. Isn’t this the bind that Netanyahu and his ilk are now in?

        To me its all part of the inevitable unraveling of the ‘special relationship’ or ‘unbreakable bonds’ – OK, its just a little bit of unraveling but every bit counts in the long run.

        Netanyahu’s judgement or his capacity to use language to please two distinct audiences is lacking – and this should be at least a bit terrifying for Zionists. He would have been better advised to keep his mouth shut.

        Reply to Comment
    2. Carmen

      Senator Patrick Leahy Responds To Prime Minister Netanyahu About The Worldwide Application Of The ‘Leahy Law’

      “The Prime Minister of Israel knows – and it should go without saying – that the United States does not provide weapons or other aid to Hamas or any other terrorist group, and that no nation more strongly condemns and works to eradicate terrorism worldwide than does the United States. There are multiple laws prohibiting such aid to Hamas and other such groups, and one reason Israel is the largest recipient of U.S. military aid is to help defend against terrorist attacks.

      “The congressional letter cites allegations of possible serious abuses, identified by respected international human rights organizations, by the military and police forces of Egypt and Israel. Under the Leahy Law it is the responsibility of the State Department to evaluate the credibility of such allegations. The Leahy Law, which has existed for nearly 20 years, applies uniformly, worldwide – no country is exempt – and it applies to specific military personnel and units, not to general security forces, when U.S. aid is involved. It has led to the suspension of U.S. aid to military personnel and units found to have committed abuses in many countries when governments fail to punish those responsible, and only when those governments themselves have failed to act. This is only fair to U.S. taxpayers, and it is necessary in upholding the rule of law that our country stands for.”

      I am so proud of THIS united states senator – Bravo Senator Leahy. This is the mature, diplomatic and measured response to netanyahoos bullshit bluster. It should be translated into hebrew to show israelis the caliber of a statesman that follows his conscience and not a money trail. Thank you Senator Leahy!

      Reply to Comment
    3. Carmen

      “But did Netanyahu ever ask himself why it’s so horribly effective (for the few hundred out of 4 million who have attacked since September)? Put it this way: if someone told me, with my lovely Tel Aviv life, to go and stab someone, well, let’s see… I wouldn’t do it! I would probably think he or she was an eccentric quack and go on about my day.”

      Why would you make a comparison with you and your “lovely Tel Aviv life” and not someone who lives in a world of filth and despair in Tel Rumedia or anywhere else in Hebron? And I don’t think there’s actually someone telling these young men and women to go out and stab people; wouldn’t there be a whole lot more then? I think parents are encouraging their children not to do anything provocative at all, just being Palestinian is akin to having a large target on your head or your back. You’d be crazy to give up your self-proclaimed “lovely Tel Aviv life” anyway. You’re top dog, no worries. You can go anywhere you want to. I’m not really sure what to make of your statement, but it sounds pretty disconnected from the subject matter. That’s the effect of the occupation.

      Reply to Comment
      • Ben

        Scheindlin’s main point is simple and straightforward. She’s putting herself in the Palestinians’ shoes. Something exceedingly few Israelis do. And pointing out the vast differences in hardships and oppression and injustice. And the response to this extreme provocation, looked at with empathy. It’s a good point.
        Whether there’s actually “incitement” is good to contest as you do but Scheindlin’s point is that these are not “incited imbeciles” as the insufferably condescending, racist Israeli overlord mentality would have it. The Israelis who en masse now are screaming for their army to murder disabled attackers and are baying for the resignation of their army chief for saying he would not want to see a soldier empty his magazine on a girl with scissors are the very same Israelis who condescend to and depersonalize and typecast Palestinians as “bloodthirsty murderers.” In other words, it is actually the Palestinians who show way more self control and ability to resist violence under pressure than the Israelis.
        Your point below about “war” versus occupation is well-taken.

        Reply to Comment
    4. Carmen

      “Our soldiers are now either killers, or they’re getting killed. Of course that is pretty much the fate of all soldiers at war and it’s time to stop denying we’re in one. Yet young people, in Israel survey after survey, are on his side, ready to march off to this hellish fate with pride.”

      Of course they’re proud – you’re calling this a war, that makes them little bens ‘n bats ‘warriors’. Sounds sexy to some I suppose. There’s israeli women who want ‘warrior’ sperm. Call it what it is. This is an OCCUPATION. Not a war. How many women would be demanding occupier’s sperm btw? This is not a war. Who are the combatants? The most heavily fortified military force on the planet versus… Palestinian civilians? This isn’t a war, its an OCCUPATION, and OCCUPYING FORCES or OCCUPIERS sounds absolutely shameful and nothing at all to have pride about. Call this what it is, OCCUPATION, OCCUPATION, OCCUPATION, ALWAYS OCCUPATION. Then maybe the little bens ‘n bats will say f#%@ the occupation and refuse to serve.

      Reply to Comment
    5. Average American

      Wait a minute. How did Netanyahu know about the letter? It was to OUR Secretary of State. Israel has a mole in our government? Did someone tell Kerry to hand over everything he gets to Netanyahu?

      Reply to Comment
    6. Every time he opens his mouth, Netanyahu shows contempt for America and Americans. When he opens his mouth in response to American Senators, he dares the US to do more than condemn. So far, he wins with blackmail, for the Senators dare not withhold aid. Not so far, anyway. How long he can play this game is another question. But he’s never been one for the long view.

      Reply to Comment
    7. Brent

      Many well made points.

      What bothers me is the seeming absence of Palestine’s intelligentsia. Its youth are trapped in a fishbowl and lacking insight into how to resist the occupation in ways that may have a chance of making a difference. Resist yes but dig holes, no.

      Fate determines Israelis and Palestinians to live as neighbors, either in independent states or in one state together. Israelis will have to choose between their state or a secular state with equality for all.

      Reply to Comment