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When racism isn’t a cause for shame

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When Benjamin Netanyahu was re-elected as Israeli Prime Minister in January 2013, many political pundits predicted that we could now expect to see a kinder, gentler Knesset. Other analysts, myself included, feared that the new crop of legislators would be even crueler and more racist than their predecessors. An overview of the past six months would sadly seem to confirm the prognostications of the pessimists.

To believe that with the ultra-Orthodox parties cut out of the coalition, level-headed leadership would ensue requires one to consciously ignore the endless stream of supremacist statements by top politicians from the largest parties in the government: Likud, Yesh Atid and HaBayit HaYehudi. Public comments made by parliamentarians in the last 24 hours alone perfectly encapsulate the frightening lows that this country’s leaders have sunk to.

Yesterday, on July 29, 2013, Israeli daily Yediot Ahronot reported that the leader of HaBayit HaYehudi, Israel’s Minister of Industry Trade and Labor and of Religious Affairs Naftali Bennett said, “I’ve killed many Arabs in my life and there’s no problem with that.” Asked to clarify his statement, Bennett’s spokesperson told 972 Magazine that he was speaking not of all Arabs, but of Arab militants who are captured — in other words, prisoners of war.

Today, July 30, 2013, the ultra-Orthodox website BeHadrei Hadarim reported that David Lau, who began a ten-year term as the Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi of Israel less than a week ago, castigated Jewish youth for watching sports broadcasts, since the players are just “niggers”. News site Maariv NRG uploaded a YouTube video that contained an audio file of Lau making the racist statements.

The first English-language Israeli news site to run the story, Ynet, completely buried the lead of the story — the rabbi’s revolting racism – and focused instead on his aversion to sports. Worse still, they intentionally mistranslated the word he used, “kushim”, which means niggers, as “black men”, which in Hebrew is actually “shchorim”, or “anashim shchorim”.

Bennett saw fit to respond to Lau’s statement over Facebook, not condemning him for saying them, but rather condemning “the media” for “hounding” Lau. Bennett termed the comments “jovial”, “marginal” and “insignificant” and announced his support for Lau.

The anti-Arab and anti-African racism of Israel’s top political and religious leaders is not reserved for the realm of words alone. The government continues apace with its dual human removal projects: the Prawer-Begin plan to dispossess Bedouin Palestinian Arab citizens of Israel of their lands, so that they can be appropriated for Jewish settlements; and the Yishai-Saar plan to expel all African asylum-seekers from the country.

The objectives of the Netanyahu government are no secret: to reduce the number of non-Jewish people living in the country and to reduce the amount of land that the remaining non-Jewish people live on. Confident of the ability to carry out these plans, Israel’s political and religious leaders make no attempt to hide the hate that lies behind them.

David Sheen

David Sheen is an independent journalist and film maker who lives in Dimona. His website is

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29 Responses

  1. Justpassingby on July 30, 2013, 3:57 pm

    Good article. Just take the poll past year showing israelis had no problems with racist policies.

    • miriam6 on July 31, 2013, 12:31 am

      [email protected]:

      It is highly appropriate your username is suggestive of one who doesn’t bother to stop long enough to check the actual facts..

      The word Cushi, also spelled Kushi (Hebrew: כושי‎) is a Hebrew term generally used to refer to a dark skinned person usually of African descent. Initially, the word was used by Hebrew-speaking Jews to simply refer to individuals of African origin, or as a term of endearment for people with dark skin as in the case of Cushi Rimon.

      “Cush” is the name of an ancient ethnic group who come from the land of Cush (Today’s Sudan, and practically the entire southern Egypt, though some scholars point to the Beta Israel Ethiopian Jewry as remnants of the ‘Cushite’ tribe).

      In the first Hebrew translation of the play “Othello”, by William Shakespeare, the hero of the play was named Ithiel the Cushite (איתיאל הכושי)

      David Sheen is just projecting America’s racist history onto Israelis by claiming , erroneously that Kushim means nigger.

      Cushi/Kushim just means a dark-skinned/black person.

      It was the dismissive context in which Lau spoke that gives rise to accusations of racism rather than the word Kushim.

      Justpassing, you appear in your comment to be referring to the infamous Dialog poll of last year, the findings of said poll were distorted by Gideon Levy to suit his agenda..
      Which was gleefully reported on this site too, – however Mondoweiss didn’t bother to alert it’s readership to Haaretz’s clarification of Gideon Levy’s distortion of the poll-findings..

      Actually , Haaretz were forced to publish THIS;

      CLARIFICATION: The original headline for this piece, ‘Most Israelis support an apartheid regime in Israel,’ did not accurately reflect the findings of the Dialog poll.
      The question to which most respondents answered in the negative did not relate to the current situation, but to a hypothetical situation in the future: ‘If Israel annexes territories in Judea and Samaria, should 2.5 million…

      According to the survey, 69% of Israelis oppose the granting of voting rights to Palestinian Arabs if the territories are annexed.

      Sounds scary.
      The real reason that most Israelis oppose the annexation of the territories, however, is, most likely, that they would like to avoid a bi-national state or the risk of an apartheid one.
      But Haaretz pulled off an extraordinary feat of deductive logic, stating that most Israelis support apartheid.
      It’s like a survey indicating that most Israelis are opposed to violence — but that if they were to be attacked by a mugger, they would react violently – breeding a report with the title “Most Israelis support violence.”
      This is the story of the Haaretz headline.
      It’s based on a purely hypothetical, or, more precisely, manipulative situation.
      Meanwhile, CAMERA has published the full survey, and it turns out that the famed reporter and commentator may have committed full-fledged fraud.

      For instance, on the issue of separate roads for Israelis in the West Bank, 50% of respondents answered that having separate roads is “not a good situation but there is no alternative,” while another 17% said it was just “not good.”

      What appears in Levy’s version?

      Only “no alternative.”

      The “not good” response was simply omitted.

      And there are other examples there.
      Baron of the Falsehood Industry indeed.

      A survey conducted by the “SIKUY” association, which no one can accuse of harboring any right-wing inclinations, found that “60% of [Israeli] Jews believe that promoting the equality of Arab citizens is in the interest of the state.”
      Sixty percent!
      In addition, the survey found that “53% of the Jewish population in Israel is bothered by the inequality of Israeli Arabs,” and that “40% of Jews are willing to pay a personal price in order to achieve the goal of civil equality in Israel.”
      Indeed, a personal price for equality, for a sense of partnership.
      This survey was more comprehensive and thorough than the survey ordered by a political organization that probably marked its goal on advance.

      However several questions in the original poll — commissioned by the Israela Goldblum Fund, conducted by pollsters Dialogue under the supervision of Dr. Camil Fuchs of Tel Aviv University, and made available to The Times of Israel — point to different conclusions from those headlined and reported by Haaretz.

      Rather than backing an apartheid regime, one critic intimated, they seem to indicate that most Israeli Jews want to keep the Israeli government from becoming such a regime.

      This mindset emerges even though aspects of the poll itself appear to be problematic, and one key question, according to a leading Israeli pollster, is skewed.

      “The poll actually shows that Israelis want to separate themselves from the West Bank, not even annexing the major settlement blocs,” Noam Shelef, deputy communication director for the dovish New Israel Fund (whose involvement in the poll was first claimed and later retracted by Haaretz), wrote in the Daily Beast.

      “Only in a hypothetical situation — whereby their preference that Israel not annex the West Bank is ruled out by the pollster — do most Israeli Jews show a willingness to rule over non-voting Palestinians and thus tolerate apartheid.

      ‘Apartheid’ poll: Errors that traveled round the world

      A well-constructed public opinion survey in terms of the Israeli public’s attitudes on racism and of the corrosive effects of 45 years of ruling another people could do much to advance a mature discussion of the problem. The recent Dialog survey, and Gideon Levy’s poor reading of it, gave us neither.

      This is a de-bunking by Natalie Rothschild of the smear story about Ethiopian immigrants in Israel , another smear story covered by M.W.

      According to the doctor in charge of the medical programme in Ethiopia, ‘injectable contraceptives are the most desired throughout [Ethiopia]. They are easy, culturally preferred, and offer the ability to be on birth control without a woman informing her husband, which is an issue here.’

      It is particularly baffling that anyone would take seriously the idea that Israel sterilises Ethiopians.
      The Depo-Provera jab is effective for three months and the women have to return to clinics for booster shots, which they do voluntarily because, contrary to what some seem to believe, Ethiopian women can actually think for themselves.

      If Israel really wanted to stop the growth of its Ethiopian community, there would be more effective means to do so than administering contraceptive jabs, never mind running large-scale programmes to bring Ethiopian Jews to Israel in the first place.

  2. wondering jew on July 30, 2013, 5:42 pm

    Cushim is a derogatory term. But to say that it means “niggers” is false. There is no direct translation function machine that equalizes “cushim” to the most derogatory word in the American vocabulary. It is not mathematics. It is not translation. It is propaganda.

    (See the SNL tape of Chevy Chase and Richard Pryor for a possibly more appropriate translation.)

    • OlegR on July 31, 2013, 4:23 am

      /Cushim is a derogatory term/
      No it ain’t , it can be used as derogatory in some context and using some intonations like Rusim or Marokaim Romanim :)
      but it’s not derogatory in general and obviously it’s nowhere near the US born and bread Nigger.

  3. MHughes976 on July 30, 2013, 6:28 pm

    Moses was, per Numbers 12, married to a ‘Cushite’ woman. It caused trouble even then.

    • Snakepit on September 8, 2014, 2:05 pm

      Nope, the so-called “trouble” was that the wife wasn’t a Hebrew, not because she was a Kushite (which is a pretty loose term, since Kushites are also NATIVE to Arabia/Canaan) ..
      Do you remember that Moses passed for an Egyptian? They were all BLACK people so it had absolutely NOTHING to do with “race” whatsoever. In fact, the Ethiopian Hebrews are the ONLY Hebrews living in the state of Israel today. The rest are impostors with no relation to Jacob whatsoever. Heck, they aren’t even Shemitic people!

  4. OlegR on July 30, 2013, 6:30 pm

    Kushi is not the hebrew equivalent of a nigger.
    It’s a biblical word that means originally a man from the land of kush
    And now refers to blacks in general.
    It carries no derogatory meaning.

    • amigo on July 31, 2013, 9:40 am

      “And now refers to blacks in general.
      It carries no derogatory meaning.” oleg r.

      Reminds me of??

      I am not a racist “BUT”.

  5. a blah chick on July 30, 2013, 7:18 pm

    “I’ve killed many Arabs in my life and there’s no problem with that.”

    No, no, Nafi, baby, give me dates, places and times. Really, I want to know all about your glorious career as a commando. No doubt you could tell me all about how much of a fight a five year old can give a grown man!

  6. tokyobk on July 30, 2013, 8:41 pm

    The word nigger is singular in its history and usage. As the author knows, the word kushim can be used in other contexts in a completely neutral fashion making it much more like “Negro” or “black,” that is inappropriate based on the context and tone and not in itself.

    “kushim” as the rabbi used it would be the equivalent of the yiddish “shvartzeh,” “the blacks,” “some colored guys,” quite rude for which he deserves all the derision he will get. “nigger” is an extreme translation for effect. I don’t say this in defense of the rabbi, who is a jerk, but in defense of the uniqueness of the “N word” and the crimes it reflected and reinforced.

    • Marco on July 30, 2013, 9:23 pm

      The simpler version of your argument: white Anglo racism is beyond redemption but anti-black racism in Hebrew is merely impolite.

      • tokyobk on July 30, 2013, 11:15 pm

        No the simpler version of my statement is the word Kushi is like the word “Negro,” it is quaint but understood in the context of an old speech by Dr. King or “The United Negro College Fund” or “Negro Leagues” but unacceptable in everyday usage. The rabbi’s -racist-usage of the term is also akin to the Yiddish “shvarzah,” which also has a literal usage but by tone is easily made in to a bigoted slur.

        The word “nigger” here is an extreme translation for effect. And the word Nigger has a four hundred year history that is very particular. When someone calls someone the bigoted term “kurombo” in Japanese, I would not translate it as “nigger” either.

        Fix your decoder ring.

      • just on July 30, 2013, 11:33 pm

        Why call attention to “color” or “race” or “differences” at all, except to celebrate them? How about making all of us much more alike than different? The “esteemed” Ashkenazi Rabbi Lau and Naftali Bennett are racists and supremacists.

      • Marco on July 31, 2013, 12:01 am

        Are you seriously arguing that Jews are as foreign to African Americans and blacks as Japanese are?

        No, you aren’t. You’re just making this outrageous and incredible claim to dismiss the stigma of racial bigotry.

        As it is, students of history know that Jewish Americans, like indeed Jewish Latin Americans, were implicated in slavery and segregation like other white Anglo Americans, and cannot escape the collective blame for centuries of exploitation and injustice.

      • tokyobk on July 31, 2013, 12:39 am

        Marco, you need to read more carefully. I am typing as slow as I possibly can.

    • annie on July 31, 2013, 12:17 am

      I don’t say this in defense of the rabbi…… but in defense of the uniqueness of the “N word”

      and its ‘uniqueness’ requires defending? we’re not all idiots. you’re defending use of the word “kushim”, we all see that.

      • tokyobk on July 31, 2013, 12:37 am

        Then you are all blind or nuts. I have never seen a place where so many people feel they know what you are “really” saying.

        I was the only African American kid at my all Jewish day school and one of three at my all Jewish summer camp.

        I venture I am the only person reading this who actually knows what it is like to be called an anti=black racist term by a Jewish person. I know what Kushi means and I don;t defend its use as a slur.

        Words matter to me, especially in an area that I have lived, study and write about.

        The word Kushi is not translated as “nigger” except to sensationalize.

        The rabbi is a bigot and an idiot who said the equivalent of “a bunch of black guys.”

        I wish you would reflect on this and stop telling me what I really mean.

      • Snakepit on September 8, 2014, 2:09 pm

        My uncle is an Iranian/Persian-jew. He grew up in Hareda in Israel, he told me it was equivalent to “nigger” so I don’t really care about what you think. You’re just in denial, at best; but it’s more likely that you’re delusional..

    • braciole on July 31, 2013, 7:15 am

      tokyobk – you really talk crap some times. Nigger was only a pejorative term in the United States. In the United Kingdom, where the English language developed, nigger was a neutral term for blacks and also anything black such as Wing Commander Guy Gibson’s black Labrador dog. Don’t get me wrong, the British were as racist and made as much money from slavery as anybody, but a man like Guy Gibson would not call his dog Nigger if it had a pejorative meaning or even as a knowing joke.

    • Citizen on July 31, 2013, 7:34 am

      I dunno; I lived among Jews in Chicago for decades, and they used the yiddish term shvartzeh (which literally means “black” in my presence in the same way/tone non-Jews of rural and working class backgrounds used the term term “nigger” in my presence.

    • Ecru on August 1, 2013, 12:58 pm

      Literal translation doesn’t work more often than not, you might want to keep that in mind. So “kushim” doesn’t translate exactly the same meaning as the American English term “nigger” – so what, who’d expect it to.

      But a word, any word, can be given similar meaning and intensity by how it is said, by whom and in what context – that’s how words gain and change meaning. If the Grand Kobold (or whatever) of the KKK only ever referred to black people as “those teapots” guess what? “Teapot” would eventually take on the vilest of definitions.

      You’re splitting hairs for no reason and I have to wonder at your motives for doing so. This person is a disgusting bigot, beginning middle and end of discussion. You’re trying to minimise the fact of his bigotry (even while admitting he’s a bigot) by “oh that word he used doesn’t have the exact same meaning as another word in a completely different language” and it aint working.

  7. thetumta on July 30, 2013, 9:56 pm

    “but in defense of the uniqueness of the “N word” and the crimes it reflected and reinforced.”
    But not the “P” word now. As if the word “nigger” was never uttered by Jewish slave traders and their partners in the old South. They profited as well.
    Just what is the current equivalent in the Zionist lexicon for nigger? Goyium?
    You would have us believe there is no such word amongst the racist Likud?
    We may be Goyium, but we’re not blind!
    Hej! Tumta

    • tokyobk on July 31, 2013, 1:07 am

      I am continuously amazed how any statement refining any aspect of anything on this board is taken as Zionism or the endorsement of Zionism.

      I don’t use the word “goyim” as you are so if you do please don’t drag me into it. Though “goy” would be similar to “Kushi” in that it has a neutral function used quite often in that manner and is easily made derogatory.

      Jews in the South were, regarding slavery and racism, in no way distinct from other whites, perhaps less interested in abolition in the early 1800’s than their Christian neighbors for a variety of social and theological reasons (by the mid 1800’s there was on abolitionism in the South). So, yes Jewish slave owners probably use the word Nigger as much as non-Jewish slave owners.

  8. just on July 30, 2013, 10:01 pm

    My goodness, the usual suspects are busy defending racism yet again…………………..

    May Someone finally get through to all Zionist apologists and racists.

    • OlegR on July 31, 2013, 4:29 am

      No it’s the usual suspects trying make another story about evil racist Israel out of thin air.

  9. Mondowise on July 31, 2013, 1:38 am

    does it even matter what the ‘true’ translation of the word ‘Kushim’ means? even if it does mean ‘nigger’ that is certainly not the only aspect that makes what Lau said utterly racist.

    he “castigated Jewish youth for watching sports broadcasts, since the players are just ‘niggers’.” …….or black, Negro, green or purple…whatever! the point is: the youth were ‘castigated’…because the players WEREN’T JEWISH. the players could’ve just as easily been Oriental, Indian, Latino, any non-Jewish race, and imo, THAT is fundamentally and sickeningly racist.

  10. braciole on July 31, 2013, 6:54 am

    I’ve often wondered why organizations like ADL seem to do nothing to combat racism in the USA, after less racism all round would be good for Jews living in the United States who are still victims of racism. I suspect that it’s because if Americans became more aware of racism and constantly checked and corrected their behaviour to reduce racism, they would realize that Israel is a racist state and Zionism a racist ideology and withdraw their support for both.

  11. amigo on July 31, 2013, 7:13 am

    ” Israel’s Minister of Industry Trade and Labor and of Religious Affairs Naftali Bennett said, “I’ve killed many Arabs in my life and there’s no problem with that.” Asked to clarify his statement, Bennett’s spokesperson told 972 Magazine that he was speaking not of all Arabs, but of Arab militants who are captured — in other words, prisoners of war.”

    So he has killed unarmed Prisoners of war,????.

    This should be sent to the appropriate person at the Hague.

  12. SQ Debris on July 31, 2013, 5:30 pm

    Some years ago I had a camera assistant who happened to be a woman of African American origin working with me in Palestine. We needed to get a repair on a piece of equipment she owned and went to Tel Aviv to try to “giter done.” As we walked down the street a group of teenagers started yelling “Kushi” pointing and laughing. I don’t think anyone on the crew had any question of the meaning of their taunt. In the end the Israelis working in the Sony headquarters Tel Aviv refused to even try to repair the piece of Sony equipment she handed them. It felt so .. old school.

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