That Netanyahu cartoon wasn’t anti-Semitic

A contrary view by the Israeli comedian, Zeev Engelmayer:

The New York Times’ cartoon of Benjamin Netanyahu as a guide dog for Donald Trump that angered the “Jewish world” is actually a clichéd cartoon, though well-designed and certainly not anti-Semitic. It describes two leaders, one blind being led by the other. It’s a caustic image with a vicious tone, exactly what a political cartoon should be.

Netanyahu is depicted as a dachshund, which maybe is a compliment because these dogs are great hunters, and despite their natural suspiciousness, they boast an innate ability to make friends. Behind Netanyahu the dachshund walks his good friend Trump, sullenly, a kippa on his head, symbolizing the strength of his ties with Netanyahu. Trump has been photographed wearing a skull cap — near the Western Wall, for example — so it’s not something an artist has put on him without any justification.

The choice to illustrate Netanyahu and Trump walking with determination, and even against a blood-red background, hints that they’re not just taking an innocent morning walk. They’re on a survivalist hunting trip. What are they hunting? Foreigners? Leftists? The hostile media?

The media said Netanyahu was drawn with an unusually large nose, but a very superficial look confirms that Netanyahu’s nose hasn’t been distorted, certainly not in a way reminiscent of anti-Semitic cartoons, as has been alleged. The complaint that the illustration is anti-Semitic reinforces the feeling that the Foreign Ministry looks for every possible justification to play the victim to silence critics.

Images depicting politicians as blind people with guide dogs is as old as the advent of political cartoons. James Akin’s infamous one from 1804 shows Thomas Jefferson with the body of a dog. Richard Nixon has also been drawn as a dog, and Tony Blair as a dog wearing an American flag as his collar. American patriots have been depicted as a herd of blind horses.

Meanwhile, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has been portrayed as a wild dog biting Barack Obama’s hand. His nose was made to look a lot longer than Netanyahu’s in this week’s cartoon. Was there any outcry against the Ahmadinejad cartoon or demands to outlaw it as anti-Semitic?

Theresa May was depicted by the graffiti artist The Pink Bear Rebel this year, was she not? She’s seen blindfolded being led by a blindfolded bulldog wearing a British-flag doggie jacket. You can only guess what the Foreign Ministry would say about a cartoon of a bulldog wrapped in an Israeli flag.

Under pressure from the Israeli consul general in New York and the Foreign Ministry, the Trump-Netanyahu cartoon was removed from the internet. The newspaper published a clarification, a half apology, and described the cartoon as offensive and an error in judgment.

A cartoon is by definition an exaggeration that looks for weak points. Sometimes it’s a warning sign: It provides strong, exaggerated images to shock and awaken. That was the case this time, a moment before this duo drags us along with them on a leash on a nighttime stroll.

Source: That Netanyahu cartoon wasn’t anti-Semitic | Opinion

Identity politics, Israel style: Treat Israeli Arabs As People, Not Things

Good post on Ottomans and Zionists:

If there was a silver lining to the deal brokered by Prime Minister Netanyahu between Bayit Yehudi and Otzma Yehudit to run as a joint electoral list and the immediate furor that ensued, it is that it focused a spotlight on the most abhorrent prejudice and racism that is exhibited toward Israel’s Arab citizens. What made Meir Kahane, his Kach party, and his Kahanist followers so repugnant and led to Israel outlawing Kach was its advocacy for discrimination and glorification of violence toward Israeli Arabs. Kahane’s heirs in Otzma have continued in his footsteps, calling Arabs a fifth column with whom there can be no coexistence, proclaiming that less than one percent of Israeli Arabs are loyal to the state, advocating that Arabs who “speak out” against Jews be executed, working to prohibit Arabs from public life, and attempting to criminalize relationships between Jews and Arabs. It is evident – or should be – to anyone with an ounce of moral fiber that this type of incitement should not be welcome anywhere in Israeli society. But the new focus on Otzma has a downside in that it threatens to obscure a much bigger problem, which is the routine delegitimization of Israeli Arabs that takes place as a matter of course.

The most familiar example of this constant message that shunts one fifth of Israeli citizens into a rhetorical leper colony is Netanyahu’s infamous 2015 election day warning that Arabs were being bused to the polls in droves. The clear implication was twofold; first, that there was something untoward or dangerous about Arabs having a say in the composition of Israel’s next government, and second, that true Israeli patriots should come vote in order to counter Arab influence. It not only portrayed actual full citizens of Israel as being ominous but did it on the basis of their ethnicity alone. After all, Netanyahu did not say that his political opponents were going to the polls in droves, nor did he call out any individual parties. His message was straightforward: Arabs are voting, and no good result can possibly come out of that because they are Arabs.

In the current campaign, this same message is alive and well. But it is not just Netanyahu who is utilizing it. Across the political spectrum, there is a rush to assure Jewish Israeli voters that nobody is looking to form a government that includes Arabs; not Likud under Netanyahu, and not Kachol Lavan under Benny Gantz. Netanyahu, naturally, has made this pledge a centerpiece of his campaign. In the Likud party campaign kickoff on Monday, Netanyahu repeatedly trotted out the catchphrase “Tibi or Bibi,” referring to Ta’al chief Ahmad Tibi, who has been an MK for two decades. Netanyahu argued that the only way for Gantz to form a coalition is by including Arab parties, making the choice for voters one between Bibi – the current prime minister running for reelection – or Tibi – who is not running for prime minister and is not even the top person on the Hadash-Ta’al list but is Israel’s most recognizable Arab politician. It’s an effective rhyming catchphrase, and despite the fact that its logic is absurd, it works precisely because it plays on this notion that Arab parties, which overwhelmingly garner Israeli Arabs’ votes, are inherently non-kosher.

There are now two Arab party lists with very different politics, and the one that includes Tibi is the one that is more moderate, endorses a two-state solution (inherently accepting Israel’s legitimacy), and is a willing participant in Israeli institutions. But in singling out Tibi rather than the actual Arab extremists in the Balad party – whose representatives have called for Israel’s dissolution, have supplied intelligence to Hizballah, and have been convicted for smuggling cell phones to imprisoned terrorists – Netanyahu is purposely casting a wider circle of aspersions on Israeli Arabs as a group.

Sadly, Netanyahu is not alone, though he stands out in his bluntness and willingness to embrace the most extreme position. Gantz on Monday ruled out forming any coalition with Tibi as well, and lumped him in with Kahane, which is an unfair comparison by any measure. Unlike Netanyahu, Gantz and Yair Lapid have not explicitly ruled out using Arab parties to form a blocking coalition, as Yitzhak Rabin did, and it is to their credit – factoring in the soft bigotry of low expectations – that they have not definitively closed that door. But they are also obviously trying to walk a tightrope in their avoidance of directness on a host of issues so as not to be cast as leftists, and making any overtures that legitimize Arab participation in Israeli political life is a quick route to the dreaded leftwing moniker.

Politicians have not come up with this strategy out of nowhere. It is an unfortunate reality that Jewish Israeli society prioritizes the Jewish aspect over the Israeli aspect in this regard, and politicians understandably believe that their voters will respond to using Arabs as an electoral foil. It is certainly the case that there are Arab parties, such as Balad, that are anti-Zionist in a genocidal way, and there have been Arab MKs who are not only anti-Zionist but have actively committed treason against their country. Much as Kahane violated Israel’s Basic Law on racist incitement and was banned from serving in the Knesset and his party outlawed, I have no problem with that standard being used on Balad – which yesterday was banned from running by Israel’s Central Elections Committee – or on MKs like Hanin Zuabi (who is not running for the next Knesset but has been the subject of disqualification petitions in the past). But portraying Israeli Arab participation in governing Israel as something that shocks the conscience in its extremity should itself shock the conscience in its extremity. That it does not is a poor statement about Israel’s commitment to its Arab citizens, who should not be delegitimized as a category of people.

One of the most familiar pro-Israel talking points is that Israel is the country in the Middle East where it is best to be an Arab, since they are full citizens who not only vote but serve in the Knesset and on Israel’s High Court. There is a popular formulation of this idea that the strength of Israel’s democracy can be demonstrated by an Arab justice (Salim Joubran) sending a Jewish president of Israel (Moshe Katsav) to prison. But it is hollowly cynical to use Israeli Arabs’ participation in political life to tout Israel’s greatness, and in the next instance portray Israeli Arabs’ participation in political life as something that must be negated and combated. The entire spectacle of using Israeli Arabs as props, raising them up for geopolitical benefit and keeping them low for domestic political benefit, is ugly and should stop. The best thing that Israel’s current election campaign could accomplish would be to demonstrate that this tactic does not work.

Netanyahu’s Negotiating With Neo-Fascists for a ‘Consensus View’ of the Holocaust

Seeing more commentary like this:

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has chosen an improbable way of celebrating the 70th anniversary of Israel’s founding: He’s palling around with neo-fascists and coddling Holocaust revisionists.

The year 2018 has seen Netanyahu embracing a parade of such leaders and, in a no less perplexing twist, we’ve had the Jewish state blatantly dismissing the needs of Diaspora Jews as they face mounting antisemitism and insecurity in Western countries roiled by social unrest.

Consider the past week.

On Thursday, Netanyahu acknowledged that he is negotiating with Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán for an acceptable “consensus narrative” in which the Hungarian state’s part in the Nazi crimes that wiped out half a million Hungarian Jews during World War II will be minimized, if not erased, in a new revisionist Holocaust museum to be opened in Budapest.

On Tuesday Netanyahu was welcoming Matteo Salvini, Italy’s new, nationalist interior minister to Jerusalem.

Salvini, you guessed it, is a close European ally of Orbán. He acceded to his post last summer and has become Western Europe’s de facto leader of the populist anti-immigration movement since.

Italian Jews are not thrilled by the visit. A statement written by philosopher and painter Stefano Levi Della Torre and circulated among Italian Jewish communities says it is “alarming that Netanyahu is about to provide Salvini with a pro-Israel license [that would] exonerate him from the suspicions of anti-Semitism while he carries on with his xenophobic, racist campaign and with his alliances with anti-Semitic forces in Italy and Europe.”

A few hours ahead of his arrival, an irritated Salvini told Israel’s Foreign Press Association that “the growing anti-Semitism goes together with Islamic extremism, to which no one is paying attention.” Thus letting old-fashioned European fascist anti-Semitism off the hook. Salvini added, “I don’t have to justify myself every time I go to Israel.”

Protests were planned for Salvini’s visit to Yad Vashem, Israel’s Holocaust memorial, and Israel’s President Reuven Rivlin, who opposes Netanyahu’s cozy rapport with neo-fascists, announced he would not be receiving Salvini.

If you scratch beneath the surface of Netanyahu’s new friendships, the picture becomes clear: Like Britain’s UKIP and possibly like U.S. President Donald Trump, Netanyahu hopes to destabilize what has come to be known as “the international order.”

One way he is trying to do this is by encouraging European nations to break EU ranks and move their embassies to Jerusalem, as Trump has. Last month, Netanyahu welcomed Czech President Milos Zeman to Israel and accompanied him as Zeman opened a “Czech House” in the Israeli capital.

Jerusalem is burbling with rumors that Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz, who visited Israel in October and hopes to defeat Israel’s boycott of his Freedom Party ministers who represent a onetime neo-Nazi movement, may move his embassy to Jerusalem.

In September, Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte was embraced by Netanyahu, even though he is a self-professed fan of Adolf Hitler who said he’d “be happy” to emulate Hitler by exterminating 3 million drug users and vendors.

Netanyahu recently announced his plans to attend the inauguration of Brazilian President-elect Jair Bolsonaro, another figure on the nationalist far right who is dangling the possibility of moving his embassy to Jerusalem as an enticement for Netanyahu.

President Rivlin, who has become more vocal on the subject, told CNN last weekthat “you can’t say we admire the State of Israel and want ties with it, but we’re neo-fascists.”

In July it was Orbán’s turn for a whirl around Jerusalem, and that is when they may have discussed plans for the House of Fates, an institution intended to instill in the public a revisionist interpretation of Holocaust history, a “consensus narrative” in which the murder of more than half a million Hungarian Jews, enabled by the Nazi-allied government of Miklós Horthy, will be reconfigured.

The Israeli foreign ministry holds that any new Holocaust museum should stick to the historical record “as it is depicted in Yad Vashem and in Washington’s Holocaust Museum,” but was overruled by Netanyahu, who is also Israel’s foreign minister, and its representatives were shut out of talks between Orbán and Netanyahu officials last week in Jerusalem.

Yair Lapid, leader of the centrist opposition party Yesh Atid, and the son of a Holocaust survivor, described Netanyahu’s action as “appalling.”

Netanyahu’s agreement “to Hungary’s attempt to eliminate its part in the Holocaust is appalling,” he tweeted. “The Hungarians were deeply involved in the destruction of Hungarian Jewry as part of the murder machine. The only response to Orbán’s is that the museum should reflect the truth and nothing else. No negotiations, no consensus, just truth.”

Orbán has appointed Maria Schmidt, an historian and the leader of a movement to rewrite the Holocaust, to lead the House of Fates. Schmidt first made her name whitewashing history as the founder of Budapest’s House of Terror, a pseudo-museum advancing the theory that the suffering of eastern European nations who fell into the Soviet sphere of influence after WWII was worse than the suffering inflicted by the Nazi régime in Germany.

Schmidt, one of Orbán’s closest associates, was most recently associated with an overt act of political antisemitism Orbán has refused to condemn: last week’s cover of Figyelő, the “conservative Christian” business magazine owned by Schmidt, showed the face of Hungarian Jewish community president András Heisler surrounded by banknotes.

An Orbán spokesperson told World Jewish Congress president Ronald Lauder that any comment would “be contrary to freedom of the press.”

The Netanyahu high-wire act on Holocaust revisionism has reached an apex just as the European Union is grappling with a frightening upswing in European antisemitism.

On Thursday, rejecting several points Netanyahu had advanced, the EU adopted a new working definition of antisemitism.

Some EU states fear that the definition issued by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) that has been adopted by over 20 countries and that Israel pushed for, could stifle criticism of Israeli policy in the occupied Palestinian territories.

The IHRA states that some criticism of Israel can be considered anti-Semitic, including “denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination, e.g., by claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavor, or by applying double standards to Israel not imposed upon other nations.”

The EU chose to use the IHRA definition merely as a “guidance tool.”

A second EU survey published Monday reported that an astonishing nine out of 10 European Jews believe anti-Semitism has worsened in their countries over the past five years and more than one third are considering emigration.

The report prepared by the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA) was based on a poll of 16,000 respondents in 12 member states.

Almost 30 percent of the respondents said they had experienced some form of anti-Semitic harassment in the past year, and 2 percent reported having been physically attacked, with a further 2 percent saying their property had been deliberately vandalized in the past year because they were Jewish.

In October, following the deadly attack against the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, Netanyahu biographer Anshel Pfeffer said that whereas “Netanyahu wants the right to speak as the representative of all Jews, in America and Europe he’s abandoned all pretense of solidarity with them.”

In 2015, upon returning to Israel from a memorial ceremony for French Jews murdered in a terror attack, Netanyahu said, “I went to Paris not just as the prime minister of Israel but as a representative of the entire Jewish people.”

In fact, Pfeffer notes, “the elected leader of a country in which less than half the Jews of the world live (and only a quarter of them actually voted for him in the last election) wants the right to address the world as the representative of all Jews. And he won’t even check with them first.”

Source: Netanyahu’s Negotiating With Neo-Fascists for a ‘Consensus View’ of the Holocaust