Benjamin Netanyahu’s trip to Paris has become a source of controversy back in Israel, where he is campaigning for March elections. The Times of Israel reports that Netanyahu lectured French Jews that their complacency about living in Paris recalls the Jewish position in Spain before the inquisition.
During a closed meeting with the heads of France’s Jewish organizations Monday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu likened the complacency of French Jewry to the state of Jews in Spain prior to the Spanish Inquisition of 1492, which led to their expulsion from the Catholic kingdom, The Times of Israel has learned…
This meeting with the Jewish leaders was described by participants as “harsh” and “deeply insulting.”..
“Imagine if following a terror attack in Netanya the French president would arrive in Israel and call on Jews to leave for France,” he said. “As it is, Jews are perceived by some [in France] as a fifth column.”
Netanyahu then went back to Israel and gave a speech to young Diaspora Jews visiting on “birthright” trips, telling them to move to Israel, because it is “their land” and they are unsafe elsewhere.
I listened to what the French citizens said, and they rightfully proclaimed, Je suis Charlie… But the relevant question for us tonight is this: Can Jews everywhere march in the streets and proclaim proudly, I am a Jew? Because you see this is the real test, and as the prime minister of Israel I can tell you that every Jew in Israel can say, “Ani Yehudi… Je suis Juif… I am a Jew.” [applause]
And we proclaim this without any fear, without any hesitation, with great pride… And this is what makes Israel unique. Because all Jews can feel that they belong in Israel, and Israel belongs to them.
I call on all of you and call on young Jews from the world over. Come to Israel, make aliyah, this is your land, this is your birthright…
Come visit Israel! Come stay in Israel! Come make aliyah to Israel. This is your land!
Moving from the pathos to the bathos, Haaretz says that Netanyahu’s Paris performance was a pr “disaster,” beginning with the march, “which supplied Netanyahu’s political rivals with a enough images, videos, gifs and memes for four election campaigns, not one.” Reporter Ascher Schechter notes that Netanyahu is being mocked for pushing past Ibrahim Boubacar Keita of Mali to get to the front of the march and for his “gauche waving” during the march, when others were solemn.
Netanyahu’s biggest humiliation was a video that has since gone viral, in which he is seen waiting for a bus to take him to the rally, after missing the bus that ferried other world leaders to the march.
The footage, captured by a French TV station, is remarkable: The prime minister of Israel looks nervous, dejected, beaten down, surrounded by his security detail yet still standing in the middle of the street, looking exposed to danger in a way world leaders should never be. Netanyahu appears furious, annoyed, confused, trying to busy himself with talking on his phone or fixing his hair, constantly looking over his shoulder to check whether his bodyguards are still there. Even the French news anchors had to sympathize with his distress.
Here is that video. Notice at 1:40 or so how agitated and nervous the Prime Minister is.
Yesh Atid chairman Yair Lapid joined the criticism that was flooding towards the Netanyahu camp after his visit in Paris and said on Monday that while it was good that Israel had representation in Paris, Netanyahu represented the “impolite” and “pushy” Israeli.
“The prime minister’s behavior in Paris shows the world the impolite Israeli, the pushy Israeli, and it is unfortunate,” said Lapid at a conference in Tel Aviv on Monday.
Here is the Loonytunes video that is getting wide play.
The music is even better here– a mock video game put out by the Labour Party called “Push the Bibi,” in which the goal is to get a cartoon figure of Benjamin Netanyahu to the front of the march.
Ynet says that Yair Lapid sees this loutish behavior in all of Netanyahu’s dealings.
“A prime minister who pushes his way in line is a type of behavior that is not polite,” said Lapid. “This is how Netanyahu acted with the Americans when he slowly started to destroy our relations with the US, and I do not want this to happen to us with Europe,” said Lapid in an interview with journalist Niv Riskin
Finally, here is a wonderful piece in the Daily Star by Michael Young, rebuking Netanyahu on the place of Jews in the world, and showing that the Paris show will only undermine the premises of Zionism. Remember that Netanyahu’s view of Jews in the Diaspora is heavily influenced by his father’s studies of the Spanish inquisition.
If Netanyahu is counting on Jewish solidarity, he should wake up and realize that most people in the West, Jews or otherwise, remain reluctant to live in unmixed societies. The emancipation of Europe’s Jews under Napoleon was a historic moment in which they exited the ghetto and became full-fledged citizens of their countries. It opened the door for their gradual absorption into the societies where they lived, despite the differences….
Is this Israel the culmination of Jewish aspirations? Do the world’s Jews really want to be part of a state associated with conquest, hiding behind an iron wall of remorseless self-protection, as the Zionist leader Ze’ev Jabotinsky, Netanyahu’s spiritual father, dreamed? But Jabotinsky’s vision was static. It assumed Arabs would remain forever reconciled with Jewish military superiority and domination, and would not seek to reverse their own weaknesses.
Most people, including many Jews, can increasingly see this is an illusion. For Jews of the diaspora, their salvation and that of their children, is not to relocate to a country embodying such an illusion.