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Why are we surprised that Netanyahu courts right-wing extremists?

November 28, 2022 at 8:00 pm

Former Israeli Prime Minister and Likud party leader Benjamin Netanyahu speaks at on November 1, 2022 in Jerusalem, Israel [Amir Levy/Getty Images]

Why is anyone surprised that Israeli Prime Minister-in-waiting Benjamin Netanyahu has been courting right-wing extremists in his bid to cobble together a coalition government? His track record in this respect is both long and infamous.

In January 1998, for example, the Guardian carried the headline, “Netanyahu meets US far right” and pointed out that he “met leaders of the Christian Coalition, including its founder Pat Robertson” in advance of an interview with the right-winger on his Christian Broadcasting Channel. According to the Guardian, the “prominence of Mr Robertson” on Netanyahu’s schedule was “especially remarkable”, not least because the Christian extremist was a “leading exponent of the theory that American life is in the grip of a Jewish-Masonic-Satanic conspiracy”.

We all know that Netanyahu is close to Donald Trump, and that he ignores or overlooks the former US president’s “long history of anti-Semitic tropes” about Jewish Americans. According to Aaron Blake’s analysis in the Washington Post, Trump has “attacked American Jews” for not supporting him enough. Trump’s comments, wrote Blake, “lean heavily on the familiar anti-Semitic trope that American Jews have a dual loyalty to Israel.” Indeed, the commentator pointed out, “Trump has regularly spoken about American Jews as if Israel is their country, rather than the United States.”

As an arch Zionist, of course, Netanyahu probably agrees with Trump, because he wants Jews to migrate to the occupation state, so anything that persuades them that Israel is indeed “their country” to which they should move must be agreeable to the Israeli leader. This explains why anti-Zionist Jews are treated so badly by the pro-Israel lobbies in Western capitals, which would rather seek favour with deeply unpleasant right-wing individuals prone to anti-Semitism rather than protect the interests of all Jews, in whose name the state claims to exist and act.

Netanyahu is a product of the “Revisionist Zionism” of Ze’ev Jabotinsky who, wrote Raphael Magarik in Haaretz, “believed that Arabs would never willingly accept Jewish settlement, and… straightforwardly advocated forceful conquest of the land, beginning an ideological tradition carried today by Moshe Feiglin and Naftali Bennett.” However, Dr Gil Samsonov has claimed that the revisionist leader also favoured “the political over the military approach” and this has been followed by his “ideological grandson”, Netanyahu. “Hence, he opts for conflict management with the PLO, Hamas and Hezbollah while concentrating his efforts on containing Israel’s foremost current enemy, Iran. There, too, Netanyahu has preferred the path of political struggle, in cooperation with the US and with the use of harsh sanctions over war.”

This does not explain how Netanyahu can convince Western leaders that he is an advocate for peace — they all know that he is anything but — nor why he builds links with far-right and totalitarian figures around the world. In 2018, for example, it was reported by Associated Press that he had described Hungarian Prime Minister Victor Orban as a “true friend of Israel”, despite Orban’s record of making anti-Semitic statements. Protesters greeted Orban when he made a visit to Israel’s Holocaust Memorial, Yad Vashem. “I don’t think that you have to be a Holocaust survivor or a Hungarian to be here to say that Orban has no business coming here,” said Veronika Cohen, a Hungarian Holocaust survivor.

READ: Netanyahu coalition deal with extremists will ‘recognise’ settlement outposts

Current Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid “scorned” Netanyahu ahead of his 2018 meeting with Orban. “[Today] Netanyahu will pay honours to [Orban] who hailed and praised the anti-Semitic ruler who collaborated with the Nazis in destroying the Jews of Hungary,” tweeted Lapid. “Shame!”

Opposition politician Tamar Zandberg added on Facebook, “Netanyahu has a thing about anti-Semitic leaders around the world, from Hungary and Poland, to the head of the Philippines, [Rodrigo] Duterte, who compared himself to Hitler, and instead of suffering condemnation, was invited as well for a state visit with the prime minister of Israel.” As the proverb says, a man is known by the company he keeps.

Anti-Semitism, of course, is repulsive racism and should be called out whenever and wherever it rears its ugly head. Racism, however, goes hand in hand with the kind of Zionism espoused by Netanyahu which underpins the state of Israel. “Racist, genocidal chants by Israeli marchers… were buried in western news coverage, pointing to blatant double standards,” wrote Chris Doyle after the so-called Jerusalem Day “Flag March” through the occupied Old City in June this year. The march, added Doyle, “cemented its reputation as a showcase of anti-Palestinian hatred, bigotry and violence.”

The veteran campaigner pointed out that, “Palestinians need not be told any of this. It is their lived experience… Yet, to the outside world, Israel is presented as a freedom-loving democracy based on values shared with the West.” That tells us as much about the twisted moral compass of the West as it does about the Zionist state of Israel.

In 1975, UN General Assembly Resolution 3379 “determined that Zionism is a form of racism and racial discrimination.” Some people have called for the “de-Zionisation” of Israel if we are to see peace break out in occupied Palestine. After immense pressure from Israel and the US, this resolution was revoked in 1991.

Nevertheless, it was on Netanyahu’s watch as prime minister that B’Tselem, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch all declared that Israel is imposing apartheid on the Palestinians. The crime of apartheid is akin to a crime against humanity. It is, of course, a system rooted in far-right racism.

As we sat and watched Netanyahu put together a coalition government including some of the most extreme right-wingers in the Israeli parliament we had no excuse to feel any sense of surprise. Extremism is in his blood and he will, no doubt, take pride in leading what has been described in the New York Times as the state’s “most right-ring government”.

READ: Israel seizes 79 acres of Palestinian land in occupied West Bank

So please, let’s not hear claims from Netanyahu that “there is no partner for peace”, which he has promoted over recent years. The evidence mounts up daily that it is the Palestinians who have no partner for peace in the Zionist occupation state of Israel, and never have, despite the Oslo Accords signed by Yasser Arafat but pushed by his successor, the current Palestinian Authority, Fatah and Palestine Liberation Organisation leader Mahmoud Abbas.

As talk turns increasingly to who shall succeed the octogenarian in Ramallah, we can only hope that it will be someone who has sufficient self-respect to stand up for the people of occupied Palestine and call out the Israeli government and its brutal military occupation for what it is: a racist enterprise pursuing a far-right extremist agenda, at the core of which stands Benjamin Netanyahu.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.