Following a collapsed effort to sanction Israel at the international soccer association, FIFA, on Friday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has taken his most aggressive—and outlandish—tone yet against critics by accusing them of being from the same ilk of those who use anti-Semitic tropes.
“They said that we drink the blood of little children,” and “They said that we are the poisoners of the wells of humanity,” Netanyahu claimed of his adversaries in the soccer campaign. Speaking to Knesset today Netanyahu reiterated that his country’s “actions are being twisted,” telling his parliament those who speak against Israel are initiating “false libels.”
A steadfast and somewhat boastful Netanyahu then added the international community is practicing a double standard, where Israel is judged more harshly than “dictatorships” and “less challenged democracies” that “could learn something from the standards we uphold.”
Yesterday Netanyahu’s comments had even more bite. This is where he compared his opponents with charges of blood libel, and labels of his country as “the focus of all evil in the world.” The remarks, though not stated outright, were directed at Palestinian officials for their attempts to oust Israel from FIFA on Friday, a move he said was part of “a long campaign” that his country must prepare to squash. “We will not allow ourselves to be ousted from important sports organizations nor from those which are not important,” Netanyahu said.
On Friday Palestinian Football Association head Jabril Rajoub folded his effort to suspend Israel from the soccer league, hours before a vote by the organization was scheduled. Rajoub was thought to have failed to gain enough support from member delegates needed to vote out Israel. When he mounted the campaign, Rajoub cited Israel’s soccer clubs located in settlements in the West Bank, and detention and delay of Palestinian players when traveling internationally for competitions.
Netanyahu intimated that these criticisms were a cloaked call to “blacken” the name of Israel.
Addressing Palestinian complaints over settlements and civilian casualties during the summer war in Gaza, Netanyahu launched into loaded defamations:
“We are in the midst of a great struggle being waged against the State of Israel, an international campaign to blacken its name. It is not connected to our actions; it is connected to our very existence. It does not matter what we do; it matters what we symbolize and what we are. Now, this is a phenomenon that we have known in the history of our people – what hasn’t been said about the Jewish People? They said that we are the focus of all evil in the world. They said that we are the poisoners of the wells of humanity. They said that we drink the blood of little children. All of these things are being said about us today as well. It was not true then and it is not true today. This does not have a shred of truth.”
Switching gears to settlements and Operation Protective Edge, Netanyahu then dismissed these issues as the basis for criticism. “We have done nothing wrong and we have not erred,” he affirmed, with a detailed accounting of why Syria and Boko Haram are more deserving of condemnation:
“I think that one must ask how can it be that Israel is accused over homes in Gilo [a settlement in South Jerusalem], or over this or that action that we take to defend ourselves from terrorists, but that when a hundred times more victims – a hundred times more, not twice or ten or 50 times as many, but a hundred times – more people are being slaughtered in Syria, just in Syria – there are no protests, no condemnations, no 80% of decisions by UN human rights committees, against Syria. It is we who are accused, IDF soldiers who are accused of killing children. I saw the IDF delegation to Nepal which rescued Nepalese children and brought babies into the world. I did not see a delegation from Boko Haram. I did not see delegations from Iran there. I did not see delegations from Al Qaida and I did not see delegations from Syria. There is no justification for the campaign of delegitimization being waged against the State of Israel, in which they are trying to suspend us from international organizations. The last thing we need to do is to bow our heads and ask where we went wrong, where we erred. We have done nothing wrong and we have not erred. We are not a perfect country; we do not pretend to be such, but they are setting standards for us that are both twisted and higher than those for any other country, any other democracy. There is no democracy that is more challenged than the State of Israel, which respects human rights, which respects pluralism, which respects humanity even in the most difficult war situations, even when thousands of missiles are being fired at our cities. Therefore, here we are not dealing in justifications, here we are telling the truth.”
With the new Netanyahu government filling out its cabinet only last week, Israel is just wetting its feet for what will come in Netanyahu’s fourth term leading the country. Questions are still open on how the new right-wing heads of major sections of government, and activism in the high court, will change the reputation of the state. Although if Netanyahu’s shrill remarks to advisers and Knesset over the past few days serve as foreshadowing, the future Israel will be a prickly one. There will be major lobbying campaigns against its critics and boycotters, with the prime minister throwing in his weight too.