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Why won't Jewish leaders condemn Netanyahu's racism?

The silence of our communal leaders signals that remaining silent in the face of prejudice is legitimate, as long as it isn’t happening to Jews.

By Emily Hilton

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meets with British Prime Minister Teresa May in London, England, June 6, 2018. (Haim Zach/GPO)

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meets with British Prime Minister Teresa May in London, England, June 6, 2018. (Haim Zach/GPO)

One of the first things we are taught when as children is that racism is wrong, and that when we see it, we must call it out. As Jews, especially diaspora Jews, we know the perils of racist language, laws, and deeds that go unchallenged.

The Board of Deputies of British Jews, which styles itself as the representative body of the Jewish community in the United Kingdom, has not made a single public statement on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s recent declaration that “Israel is a state for Jews only.” This is the same Board of Deputies that blamed the killing of 52 Gaza protestors during the Great Return March on Hamas, praised the decision to move the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem, and put out a formal statement congratulating Donald Trump on his election win.

Even organizations such as AIPAC and the American Jewish Committee have raised concerns about Netanyahu’s recent coalition with the Kahanists of Otzma Yehudit. Meanwhile, the Board has justified its silence by claiming that it does not “comment on Israeli elections,” a decision that comes across not only as completely arbitrary, but also highlights a true lack of moral leadership for diaspora Jews.

It is important to recognize that when Netanyahu says Israel is for Jews alone, he is merely voicing the reality of what the Jewish state has become: a two-tiered system between Israeli Jews and Palestinians. Meanwhile, the anger , which argue that Netanyahu’s comments do not reflect the equality enshrined in Israel’s Declaration of Independence, now rings hollow. The declaration’s commitment to equality lost any virtue of relevance or meaning decades ago, compounded by legislation so overtly racist, it raises questions as to whether anyone can really believe such ideals are on the agenda of Israel’s leading politicians.



Like many other Jewish institutions, the Board is clearly in a bind, having spent the better part of a century scrupulously defending nearly every political decision Israel has made, all while ignoring almost 52 years of occupation. Such uncritical support of Israel is not only immoral, it shows how out of touch the Jewish establishment in Britain is with large facets the community, particularly amongst young people.

Like in the U.S., these decisions to remain silent on Israel’s increasingly incendiary politics are alienating to young Jews, whose commitment to anti-racism means bringing about an end to the occupation and promoting equality for all in Israel-Palestine. The Board’s silence on the most blatant forms of racism by Israeli politicians makes it clear who’s side they are on.

We must call out this silence and name it for a what it is: complicity in the continued support for the oppression of Palestinians, which has been allowed to flourish both in Israel and Jewish communities worldwide. Now is the time for young British Jews to fight for the moral future of our communal institutions — to unapologetically challenge the notion that Jewish security or supremacy is more important than equality.

What the leaders of the British Jewish establishment don’t seem to understand is that their silence is a political choice that contributes to the dehumanization of Palestinians in our community. It is this silence that denies Palestinians their human dignity by signaling that when it comes to Arabs, there is no real need to speak out against racism. It is a silence that says to Britain’s Jewish community that is legitimate to remain silent in the face of prejudice, as long as it isn’t happening to Jews. Perhaps Netanyahu is in good company.

Emily Hilton is an anti-occupation activist living in London. She is fellow of the Center for Jewish Nonviolence and a founder of Na’amod: British Jews against the Occupation.

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    1. Lewis from Afula

      As Israelis continue to vote for Bibi, could it be your analysis is wrong ?
      Maybe its the Jordanian (ie fakestinyan) aggression that is racist and Bibi is simply responding.
      Maybe the problem is in Islam itself ?

      Reply to Comment
    2. itshak Gordine

      Mr. Netanyahu said in essence that Israel is a Jewish state where minorities who respect Israeli laws can live in peace. How is this racist? Except perhaps for assimilated Jews who would like to assimilate even more and blend into the mass, which is absolutely forbidden by our Sages

      Reply to Comment
      • Bruce Gould

        Adalah’s discriminatory law database:


        Adalah’s Discriminatory Laws Database (DLD) is an online resource comprising a list of over 65 Israeli laws that discriminate directly or indirectly against Palestinian citizens in Israel and/or Palestinian residents of the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT) on the basis of their national belonging. The discrimination in these laws is either explicit – “discrimination on its face” – or, more often, the laws are worded in a seemingly neutral manner, but have or will likely have a disparate impact on Palestinians in their implementation…These laws limit the rights of Palestinians in all areas of life, from citizenship rights to the right to political participation, land and housing rights, education rights, cultural and language rights, religious rights, and due process rights during detention. Some of the laws also discriminate against other groups such as gays, non-religious Jews, and Palestinian refugees.

        Reply to Comment
      • Ben

        Halevy, in its muddled primitiveness this expostulation of yours is a kind Trump-like abuse of language. One scratches one’s head and tries to find meaning and logical connections. What are you talking about? Are you, as linguistics professor Don McWhorter says about Trump, like a pre-literate, pre-neolithic guy sitting around the campfire jabbering with the guys? (I know, your “Sages” don’t tell you about life before the Neolithic, but bear with me.)


        McWhorter calls Trump’s speech “pre-neolithic” and “unadorned.” The way we all used to sound before literacy and education. And that he sounds adolescent and just says things, things he hasn’t thought about before he says them? Unlike any president in history.

        You always add, as an empty filler, your patented creepy, sinister Orwellian euphemism:

        “The minorities who respect our laws can live in peace.”

        There is absolutely nothing, zilch, in “a Jewish state where minorities who respect Israeli laws can live in peace” that precludes racism, counters racism, or is at odds with being racist. Nothing. Quite the opposite. It promotes racism. It looks like a perfect creepy formula for racist supremacism for someone who wants it but doesn’t want to admit in public to wanting it.

        So why do you throw in this empty, creepy euphemistic filler as if it in even the slightest way made sense as a rebuttal of the charge that Netanyahu is racist?

        And then the coup de grace: In your protest that Netanyahu is not being racist when he says that Israel belongs only to Jews, you throw in for good measure a Lehava-esque diatribe against “assimilation” aka miscegenation aka racial impurity. Bizarre.

        A phenomenon. Worthy of linguistic analysis.

        Reply to Comment
        • itshak Gordine

          I’m sure almost everyone does not care what Professor McWorther says or thinks.
          Trump is a brave man with his outspokenness and we love that in Israel.
          We are fighting here in Israel to defend our historical, national and religious heritage. All the rest is just blah blah

          Reply to Comment
          • Ben

            Your blithe, uncomprehending endorsement of Trump (on behalf of yourself and “we in Israel”) in this manner confirms my point as well as anything could. Nice work. Thanks.

            Reply to Comment
          • Lewis from Afula

            Trump has done more to Israel than most US Presidents.
            He has moved the Embassy to Jerusalem.
            He has removed funding to the PLO fascists plus their UNWRA refugees for eternity camp scam.
            He has supported sanctions against the Iranian Mullahs.
            Certianly, he has done more from Israel than that incompetant tosspot Obama who preceded him.

            Reply to Comment
          • Ben

            Dumbing it all down are we? Obviously Trump has done these random showboating things for right wing extremist Israel/APIAC//his yawning pathological personality needs/”the base.” (You misjudge Trump if you think *anything* he does is for anything but himself–this is true about Trump even more than about Bibi, and that is saying a lot.) Without the slightest higher order coherence or long term strategy whatsoever except to give the middle finger to smart people who know better (a pattern with Mr. Trump) and curry adulation from people whose adulation he craves (his need for this is bottomless) and to play to the base.

            President Obama did far, far more than Trump for Israel–a manipulative, crass, ungrateful, disrespectful, offensive, blatantly racist-towards-him Israel. More then any president in history from an objective standpoint about Israel’s real needs versus the interests of the Yesha Council and the Afula Real Estate and Housing Council. You “forgot” how different was presidents’ management of Israel-Palestine prior to Bush-Cheney-Rumsfeld-Wolfowitz and revise the historical goal posts by this sleight of hand.

            Surely you’re not going to tell me Trump & Bolton = competence? If, besides them, the phrase “incompetent toss pots” should be applied to any president and his accomplices, then it should be applied to that incomparable championship team, Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz, for their utterly harebrained invasion of Iraq, the worst foreign policy decision plus the worst execution of a decision in US history by far (egged on by Israel, so let’s include those guys on the team). Of which harebrained invasion Obama spent 8 years competently trying to contain the damage; and competently killed bin Laden for good measure.

            I think, Lewis from Afula, that the main thing is that you couldn’t give a fig about American boys dying overseas, but try to understand for a moment that Obama did. I mean, you do realize, do you, that he was President of the United States, not of Israel? It might have escaped your notice.

            Reply to Comment
          • Lewis from Afula

            Nope. Obama was a naive tosspot who did very little compared to Trump who made those 3 major positive decisions I outlined above.

            Ben has no answer to Trump’s victories except to waffle on about Trump’s selfish desires and the impurity of his motives. He then adds something about Obama’s obvious brilliance.

            Reply to Comment
          • Ben

            Obama has more brains in his left little toe than Trump has in his whole orange colored cranium. You know it and I know it. That is what you hate about Obama—he couldn’t be made a freier. And that’s just brains. We won’t even talk about integrity. Trump is nothing narcissism and bullshit. You don’t care much about narcissism because your Dear Leader Bibi soaks you in it and your right wing wallows in it. (Halevy for example is an interesting case study in narcissism. The settlers are narcissists par excellence. Narcissism is the water you swim in, the air you breathe, it seems normal to you, hence right wing Israel’s high five to Trump. It’s like, severe narcissism? So? What’s the problem? Been there, done that, do that. Isn’t it normal?”)
            The Jerusalem move was bullshit. The Iran move was bullshit. The refugee move was bullshit.
            Again, your problem is you think Obama was the Acting Head of Likud, or was supposed to behave that way, and the nerve of that man to actually look out for American interests and the lives of Americans. Who does he think he is?

            Reply to Comment
          • Lewis from Afula

            The Rantings of the Lunatic “Ben”:
            “The Jerusalem move was bullshit. The Iran move was bullshit. The refugee move was bullshit.”

            Yes, You do not recognize that it is important:
            1. to keep Yerushlayim as Israel’s Undivided Capital.
            2. to stop the Mad Mullah’s from building A-bombs so they can blackmail the World.
            3. to stop keeping an ever-increasing group of people as “Eternal” refugees is bad.

            Reply to Comment
          • Lewis from Afula

            Theodore Roosevelt got a Nobel Peace Prize for having negotiated peace in the Russo-Japanese war in 1905 plus resolving a US-Mexico dispute via arbitration.
            Woodrow Wilson got a NPP for creating the League of Nations after WW1.
            Jimmy Carter got a NPP for mediating Peace between Israel and Egypt.

            Your hero “Obama” got his NPP in 2009 for….
            For being Black ? Having a peaceful, trendy Arab Middle name ? For being a naive tosspot ?

            Reply to Comment
          • Ben

            1. Yerushlayim as Israel’s “eternal” Undivided Capital is ahistorical bullshit pretending Jerusalem is not already a divided city and was not always a multi-ethnic, multi-faith city. Historical Disneyland fakery.

            2. None of Bibi’s pseudo-Churchillian blather about Iran is taken seriously by serious geostrategic or security thinkers, inside or outside Israel. Enough said.

            3. Your statement on refugees is not coherent English so I can’t respond to it except to say that the problem of the refugees is easily solvable by compromise arrangements, but to set the stage for that Israel would have to give up territory. Since Israel’s overriding goal, indisputably by now, is to never give up territory and to grab it all, it feigns helplessness and poses the refugee problem as a fake sticking point.

            4. Regarding Obama and his blackness, you’re confused. What Obama got for being Black was the endless racist bullshit of Trump’s birtherism and vicious Republicans’ “send him back to Kenya,” and the endless, condescending, hostile racism of Israelis. (I know what Israelis really said and say about Obama, in Hebrew, Russian and English, and you and I both know it is very ugly, mindless, hostile racism. Anti-Black. Anti-Gentile. Israel is one of the most racist and reactionary countries on Earth. Right wing Israelis are very ugly, uncouth people in this regard—I have witnessed this uncouthness first hand, so don’t think you’re talking to someone who hasn’t been around the Israeli block. You can’t tell me I have not heard the things I have heard and heard them often and in diverse Israeli places and stations and in all Israeli social classes.

            Reply to Comment
          • Lewis from Afula

            By delivering his confused, waffly rant, Ben has conveniently “forgotten” to explain why Obama deserved that Nobel Peace Price.

            If Obama had any guts, he would have refused to collect the Nobel on the basis that he did nothing. But being a corrupt tosspost that he was, the guy took the Nobel Proze and pretended he did something marvelous somehere.

            Reply to Comment
          • Ben

            Just hilarious. The mountains of actual corruption and sleaze Trump and Netanyahu are known to be guilty of. Mountains. Huge. And the obvious fact that if Obama had actually done 0.0000001% of the sleazy things Trump or Netanyahu has openly done, Obama would be pilloried unmercifully and there would be a deep racist angle to the pillorying. So all you could scrounge up is the deep, deep, appalling corruption of accepting a Nobel Peace Prize.

            OMG, Lewis, why do you make this so easy? Because you are desperate?

            Reply to Comment
          • Lewis from Afula

            No real answer from Ben.
            I can only assume that Ben believes Obama deserved his Nobel Peace Prize.

            Reply to Comment
    3. John Launer

      Thank you and mazal tov for this. The silence of our communal institutions in the UK – the BoD, our shuls, media, cultural organisations etc – is beyond unacceptable. Jewish schools and youth movements continue to promote a selective view of Israeli history and politics that is frozen in the past, takes little or no account of the narratives of other peoples, and would be regarded as naive and tendentious nowadays even by Israeli historians. Most British Jews continue to believe it in one form or another because of their lack of exposure to any other account. We urgently need to support any members of the community, and especially the young, who are willing to call this out as directly as you have.

      Reply to Comment
      • Lewis from Afula

        Your Communal Organizations have not bought the BS story of a “fakestinyan” non-people.
        Apparently, they have the common sense to grasp that a nation with:
        No King
        No Royal Palace
        No Capital
        No Borders
        No native currency
        No official language
        No official religion
        No archaeological record
        No historical record
        No distinctive cuisine

        Reply to Comment
    4. Carmen

      You expect condemnation from these criminals? There’s no daylight between most israelis and netanyahu – they can’t get enough of his massacres and ethnic cleansing. If that weren’t true, he’d have been run out of town with the last election. You might think that tRUMP’s party would end his idiocracy but they love it too! I imagine that netanyahu, like tRUMP, will never leave office quietly, there won’t be a smooth transition of power and civil war will be the result. Cheers!

      Reply to Comment
      • itshak Gordine

        What massacres? What ethnic cleansing? Israel shows restraint in the face of the massive Arab terrorism that is hitting the Israeli population indiscriminately, burning wheat fields, etc. Despite this, the State of Israel is constantly supporting the economy of Gaza terrorists and that of the entity of Ramallah. It would be enough for Israel to block the entry of Arab workers into Israel so that these two artificial entities collapse. You’d better thank Mr. Netanyahu because people on the far right side are prepared to take drastic action against the enemies of the Jewish state.

        Reply to Comment
      • Lewis from Afula

        Bibi is very popular in Israel.
        The fact that American Jews can’t see it just proves they’ve lost the plot.
        But then what would you expect from a Reform & Conservative Community where the number of Jews born to 2 Jewish parents is only 16% ?
        These people are on the one way street to demographic disappearance.

        Reply to Comment
        • Carmen

          Lewis from afula –

          ‘The fact that American Jews can’t see it just proves they’ve lost the plot. But then what would you expect from a Reform & Conservative Community where the number of Jews born to 2 Jewish parents is only 16%? These people are on the one way street to demographic disappearance.’

          It’s a religion lewis, nothing more. And you’re talking about zionism, which is not judaism at all. If the religion of zionism disappears, hallelujah.

          Reply to Comment
          • Lewis from Afula

            Exactly, Carmen.
            That is the difference between us. You believe that being a Jew is just being a member of a religion. If tomorrow, you were to undergo a sudden spiritual chamge in your theological outlook, you could easily become something else.

            For me, being an Israeli Jew, is much more than a religion. It is the Songs of Arik Einstein, Ofra Haza, Naomi Shemer and Yoram Goan, Yom Hatzma’ut Parties during cool spring evenings, the setting sun reflected on the cream-colored limestone buildings of Yerushalyim, the heat building after Shavuot and looking forward to spend summer nights at the beach. All that and much more.

            That is why you don’t give a damn about this country. Indeed, you have LOST THE PLOT and forgotten who you are.

            Reply to Comment
          • Carmen

            @lewis – last one
            ‘For me, being an Israeli Jew, is much more than a religion. It is’ – being the upper caste of an apartheid enterprise, the freedom to come and go wherever I please, no checkpoints, no toy bitch ass ‘soldier’ breaking into my home in the middle of the night because occupation, to plant my ass on palestinian land and claim it belongs to be because the bible said so and no one’s stopping me, it’s the knowledge that I can kill without impunity because the law is on my side and doesn’t see palestinian lives – only mine and people like me because this is the nation-state of the jewish people, blah, blah and blah.

            It’s hard to understand how you can only feel happiness and security at the expense of others. Except you aren’t that fucking happy and definitely the most insecure motherfuckers I’ve ever known.

            Reply to Comment
          • Lewis from Afula

            Before 1967, there was no occupation, no military checkpoints, no settlements, none of these things, Yet there was constant nurderous terrorism from the Arab bastards.
            I rest my case.

            Reply to Comment
          • Tommy Goldberg

            “Before 1967, there was no occupation, no military checkpoints, no settlements”

            Patently untrue, all of it. Palestinian citizens of Israel lived under martial law for almost the entire time, from the founding of the state to 1966. And they lost a lot of their land through settlements in the Galilee and elsewhere.

            Reply to Comment
          • Lewis from Afula

            Yes, we are now getting at the truth aren’t we ?
            The checkpoints, settlements and “occupation” of Judea & Samaria are NOT the real reason for the Israeli-bashing.
            Israel commits a crime……………..because it exists.
            How dare these Jews win the War of Independence ?
            They should have stayed good little Dhimmis and submit to the friendly Arab Jihadis.
            57 Islamic States
            None for the Jew.

            Reply to Comment
          • Ben

            “None for the Jew.”

            “All for the Jew” is your real credo. That’s the truth. All the other blarney is rationalizations, selective accounting and victimhood-mongering.

            Reply to Comment
          • Lewis from Afula

            I tend to agree with Ben.
            Israel commits a crime………………..because it exists.

            Reply to Comment
    5. carmen

      Young american jews haven’t lost the plot; they finally read the zionist narrative for themselves and realize there is nothing in their judaism that aligns with the zionist state. Playing the continual victim isn’t helping either. It’s also very hard to get that victimhood act to stick when the zionist state is a trader in arms and weapons of mass destruction all over the world, tests its latest acquisitions on an imprisoned population in Gaza and then sells them as ‘battle tested’, and has nuclear weapons to boot, but has yet to have a UN inspection. What a victim!

      Reply to Comment
      • Lewis from Afula

        Carmen’s thinking is interesting.
        When I pointed out data that US Conservative / Reform Jews are well on the way to demographic collapse, Carmen said “Judaism is just a religion, nothing more”
        For Carmen, being Jewish is like some part time, personal hobby. She does not mind at all, if in the future, nobody will participate in this hobby.

        In her mind, Israel is some far off, foreign construct inhabited by evil people. The shear existence of this evil construct interferes with her part time hobby. Hence, Carmen pines for the time this deviant construct vanishes, so she will be able to practice her part time hobby in peace.

        Its life, JIm.
        But not as we know it !

        Reply to Comment
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