Netanyahu’s Actions Reflect Bigotry

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Netanyahu’s Actions Reflect Bigotry

Prime Minister Netanyahu has been condemned for including an Islamaphobic group in his coalition, AIPAC. (Courtesy of Flickr)

Prime Minister Netanyahu has been condemned for including an Islamaphobic group in his coalition, AIPAC. (Courtesy of Flickr)

Prime Minister Netanyahu has been condemned for including an Islamaphobic group in his coalition, AIPAC. (Courtesy of Flickr)

Prime Minister Netanyahu has been condemned for including an Islamaphobic group in his coalition, AIPAC. (Courtesy of Flickr)

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By Tommy Tedesco

On Feb. 20, in a move to rally the right before an important snap election on Apr. 9, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu finalized alliance negotiations between far-right parties Otzma Yehudit and Jewish Home.

The two parties will now join a list for the upcoming election along with the far-right Tkuma party. Netanyahu’s move to incorporate Otzma Yehudit, translated as “Jewish Power,” into the right-wing bloc in the Knesset has unusually come under fire from a number of pro-Israel PACs and Rabbis.

The American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), America’s most influential Israeli lobbying group, endorsed a statement by the American Jewish Committee (AJC) that read, “The views of Otzma Yehudit are reprehensible. They do not reflect the core values that are the very foundation of the State of Israel.”

Members of Torat Chayim, an association of modern Orthodox Zionist Rabbis, issued the following statement: “Otzma is a racist, violently nationalist party, which justifies terrorist activity by Jews, is anti-democratic, preaches hatred toward other Jews and Arabs and glorifies Baruch Goldstein, a mass murderer of Arabs. Its program violates all the true values of Zionism.”

Whether or not the values of Zionism, in practice, are truly at odds with those held by Otzma Yehudit, or whether “true values” of such a generalized ideology can even be isolated from their real-world implementation, Otzma Yehudit has more than earned its criticism.

Often applied to the far-right, ultranationalist party’s ideology is the term “Kahanist,” which refers to the late Zionist Rabbi Meir Kahane, who faced personal accusations of links to terrorist organizations in the ‘70s and ‘80s. Kahane founded the Kach party in 1971, which has been banned from participating in Knesset elections since 1988 and labeled as a terrorist organization by the U.S. State Department since 1994.

Although Kahane was assassinated in 1990, he has left a legacy of hatred. Anti-Arab terrorist operations, dubbed “low-level attacks,” continued in his name well into the 2000s, according to an annual U.S. State Department report on terrorist organizations.

The fact that Prime Minister Netanyahu is promoting ties with the ideological successor to a racist, ultranationalist terrorist leader of the late 20th century should not go unnoticed by the American public.

It goes to show that Netanyahu will do anything to keep a right-wing voting bloc in power; even if that means he must, as Rabbis Asher Lopatin and Yitz Greenburg wrote in an online statement, “give a black eye to Israel and its standing in the world as a moral and democratic state.”

The flaw with the popular attacks on Netanyahu’s decision, is that they place emphasis on the PR loss rather than the moral loss. The real issue, they assert, is that this is a major propaganda victory for Israel’s critics.

This line of thinking is obviously absurd. Those who stand to lose the most from a Likud victory, which Netanyahu promises will yield Otzma Yehudit two cabinet positions, are the Arab citizens of Israel and the Palestinian civilians in the Occupied Territories.

The party’s official platform includes such promises of violence as: “war against the enemies of Israel will be total, without negotiations, without concessions and without compromises.”

Otzma Yehudit talks of population removal of Arabs and full integration of the West Bank and Gaza into the State of Israel, and somehow the real loss is the legitimacy of the State of Israel.

Perhaps if the government of Israel cannot promise a strong, unified condemnation of the brand of Zionism purported by Otzma Yehudit, it deserves to have its legitimacy questioned.

Still, there is hope for the more moderate wing of the Knesset. Recent criminal charges against Netanyahu have seriously hurt his credibility, and an alliance of Opposition Leader Yair Lapid and ex-Army Chief Benny Gatz recently took the majority of seats in pre-election polls.

In this context, Netanyahu’s negotiations with bad actors of the far right can be seen as the cries of a cornered animal.

Even a centrist victory in the Knesset will not transform Israel overnight. In Israel, like in the U.S., the mainstream political parties unfortunately think alike on a number of issues.

If this is a victory for critics of Israeli segregationist and settler policy, it is a small one. The important thing is that this exposes Netanyahu for who he really is – the racist, bloodthirsty face of the Israeli right wing.

Netanyahu erred in a major way by exposing his true face to the Jewish world. On Feb. 20, he revealed (yet again) that his love of power far outweighs his dedication to the principles of Judaism, the welfare of his people or whatever other hollow line his government spits out to justify their hatred.

The Jewish world took note. Hopefully, the rest of the world did too.


Tommy Tedesco, FCRH ’22, is undeclared and from Westwood, New Jersey.