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Netanyahu tells a little lie that says a lot about him

On August 2 Raviv Drucker, a prominent and widely respected Israeli journalist, published the following status on his Facebook wall:

Yesterday the prime minister made the following pre-recorded statement:

“At this very moment a 16-year-old girl is fighting for her life at a Jerusalem hospital. She is a student at the high school near the university. That is the high school I attended. It is the school my children and my friends’ children attended.”

This is not the most important point in the world during these awful days — it’s not even close — but still, Netanyahu attended the high school near the university? Really? Didn’t he attend high school in the United States? Could it be that he’s manufacturing an affiliation with an elite school he never attended?

I inquired at the prime minister’s office. They told me that Netanyahu attended grade 7 and half of grade 9 at a school in the neighborhood of Omariya, which later on moved to its present location near the university. Well, I checked with those who are familiar with the school (and I invite Jerusalemites to add the facts they know in the comments) and this is what they told me: the school in Omariya is an elementary school. It never became the high school near the university. The Beit Kerem high school is the one that changed its location and became the one near the university later on. Pupils who finished elementary school in Omariya went on to attend various high schools but not the elite one near the university.

A bit of context: The 16-year-old girl who was fighting for her life was named Shira Banki, and she has since died. She was mortally stabbed by the ultra-Orthodox man who went on a rampage with a knife at the Jerusalem Pride parade on July 30, stabbing six people altogether. One day after the attack in Jerusalem, masked men believed to be extremist West Bank settlers entered the Palestinian village of Duma late at night and threw firebombs into homes while its inhabitants were sleeping. An 18-month-old baby named Ali Saad Dawabsha died in the fire, while his parents and four-year-old brother were severely burned and remain in hospital, in critical condition. That is what Drucker means with his reference to “these awful days.”

The school near the university is commonly called “Leyada” (“leyad” means “near”). Its official name is The Hebrew University Secondary School and it is a semi-private school that has produced some notable graduates. Among them are former Supreme Court president and Yale Law School professor Aharon Barak, renowned author David Grossman, and former president Yitzhak Navon. The great Jewish intellectual Yeshayahu Lebowitz was once on faculty at Leyada.

It is  common knowledge that Netanyahu spent his high school years in the United States. It’s a fact he has mentioned on several occasions, usually in order to ingratiate himself with American audiences. It’s even on his Wikipedia page (attended and graduated from Cheltenham High School in Philadelphia). That’s what makes this particular lie, even from a man who is notorious for his uneasy relationship with the truth, so interesting and telling. On the one hand he demonstrates  narcissism and insecurity in his rush to make the tragic story of Shira Banki a bit about him, while also asserting that he, too, attended the famous Jerusalem high school that all the smart kids went to. And on the other hand it demonstrates contempt for the people he’s addressing.

Because surely Raviv Drucker is not the only person to remember that Netanyahu attended high school in the United States, and certainly anyone who grew up in West Jerusalem during the 1950s and 1960s knows the name and location of every elementary and high school in the city. This relatively insignificant lie of Netanyahu’s is just so telling.

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    1. Marnie

      He recently visited his alma mater, Cheltenham High School in Philadelphia. Since he attended school there, it is no longer a predominantly white high school but has a number of African Americans in attendance. He had noted “it’s changed”. Yes, it’s called PROGRESS.

      Reply to Comment
      • Mars Mercury

        Wow Marnie! You sure can tell an interesting story.


        And since when does lower educational performance mean progress? Oh, I get it! Everything you say should be taken in opposite. Now I get it!

        Reply to Comment
        • Gustav


          I would not have said what you said. I don’t see why you automatically assume that educational performance has been lowered.

          But even if it would have been. Educational performance is not the only measure for progress. It is just ONE measure.

          Reply to Comment
          • Mars Mercury

            Hi Gustsv,
            Thanks for pointing this out, I can see what you mean,

            Marnie is referring to an old article from Mkmdowweis that stupidly called BN a racist.
            The point is that anyone on the planet who visits their high school after only 10 years would comment on how different it looks. Imagine doing so after 50 years, That is what BN did and that does not make him a racist.

            Reply to Comment
          • Gustav

            Fair enough.

            Reply to Comment
    2. “In my office in Jerusalem, there’s a — there’s an ancient seal. It’s a signet ring of a Jewish official from the time of the Bible. The seal was found right next to the Western Wall, and it dates back 2,700 years, to the time of King Hezekiah. Now, there’s a name of the Jewish official inscribed on the ring in Hebrew. His name was Netanyahu. That’s my last name.”

      Benjamin Netanyahu (Son of Benzion Mileikowsky) Speech to UN in 2011

      Reply to Comment
    3. Soleil

      I dont understand how his comment “demonstrates contempt for those he is addressing”. Please clarify.

      Reply to Comment
    4. Noevil9

      I wish that could have been his worst / biggest lie! Things might have been better if it was!

      Reply to Comment
    5. marnie

      Mondoweiss, you sure about that?

      By Larry Derfner
      |Published January 25, 2015
      Netanyahu on how his old U.S. high school ‘changed’

      More evidence that his racism doesn’t stop at Arabs.

      I’ve never written about a particular comment Bibi Netanyahu made when I interviewed him in the summer of 1993, because as objective evidence of anti-black racism, it’s not exactly slam-dunk.

      But this weekend Netanyahu accused Israel’s friendliest, most unthreatening Arab public figure, broadcaster-turned-candidate Zohair Bahloul, of “praising Hezbollah” in a court testimony. What Bahloul actually said was the exact opposite. For Netanyahu this was a personal low in terms of anti-Arab racism, which takes some effort. And recently I saw a Washington Post account of the blatant anti-Hispanic racism Netanyahu showed in a 2002 speech to white Texans, which was perfectly in line with the anti-Hispanic attitudes he expressed in his 1993 book “A Place Among the Nations – Israel and the World.”

      So even if the evidence I’ve gathered of Netanyahu’s anti-black racism is not conclusive, not undeniable, it was a tell-tale sign as far as I’m concerned. And between his documented disdain for Hispanics and his ever-deepening contempt for Arabs, Netanyahu is coming into focus not just as an Israeli Jewish hater of Arabs, but as an old-fashioned white bigot. So I want to put that comment he made to me in early summer 1993 on the record.

      Netanyahu had just been elected leader of the Likud, and I was doing a magazine profile of him. The interview, conducted in English, took place in his Jerusalem office. Before we started, we made small talk, and I mentioned the high school he’d gone to, Cheltenham High, just outside Philadelphia. He said it had been a very good school when he was there in the mid-60s. Then, with a conspiratorial expression on his face, he added:

      “It’s changed.”

      His meaning was clear to me: Cheltenham was a good, white school when he was there, then the blacks moved in and it went to hell. There’s no other reasonable interpretation of those words in the mouth of a person who lived in America in the 1960s and 1970s, when they’re directed in private, presumably off the record, to an American immigrant of roughly the same age, and when they’re accompanied by a conspiratorial look on one’s face.

      The Wikipedia entry on Cheltenham High School, one of the oldest in Pennsylvania, says that as of the 2011-12 school year, the student body there was 49% Black, 40% White, 7% Asian, 3% Hispanic, and 1% Native American.

      In the mid-1960s, high schools in traditionally white, wealthy suburbs of big American cities like Philadelphia didn’t have that sort of ethnic breakdown – they were all or nearly all white. Later, many of them, including Netanyahu’s alma mater, “changed.”

      Why did he make that remark with that expression on his face during the warm-up for our interview? I figure it was because he wanted to gauge whether he was going to be talking to his kind of Jewish immigrant to Israel, or to a liberal. (As I remember, I nodded without expression in response to his remark.)

      Netanyahu’s supporters can easily dismiss this anecdote as meaningless, as the purely subjective interpretation by an inveterate Bibiphobe of a two-word comment and a facial expression. But for those who aren’t Netanyahu supporters, and who know something about “changing neighborhoods” and “white flight” in America from the 1970s on, what else could he have meant? In the context of his views of Hispanics, not to mention his bottomless contempt for Arabs, together with his generally superior, cynical, narrow, rigid worldview and character, the logical – not to say obvious – way to understand what he was saying about his old high school was that it “changed” from white to black, or to racially integrated; i.e. from a good school to a bad school.

      With all that’s known about Netanyahu, I think that taking those words to be innocent and unassuming would be a stretch. Instead, I think it’s fair to conclude on the basis of that anecdote that Netanyahu holds racist attitudes towards blacks.

      To what extent, though, is an open question. For instance, his loathing of Obama – does it stem partly from white racism? I don’t think it’s fair to conclude that it does, but I do think that the question, in light of the above, is an interesting one to ponder.

      Reply to Comment
      • Gustav

        What a load of BS. This is pure character assassination with a political agenda in mind. As if Netanyahu hasn’t got enough problems to contend with at home. As if he would concern himself with petty racism half way around the world. Twaddle!

        Reply to Comment
      • Knesset

        Thank you for the 972mag.com article from January, Marnie.

        Reply to Comment