“The Arabs lie”, said Daniel Seaman, former head of the Israeli Government Press Office, last Thursday. He was on a panel discussion of i24 News together with Haaretz columnist Gideon Levy and Ruthie Blum of the far-right think tank The Gatestone Institute (in English).
Anchor Ami Kaufman wonders: “All Arabs?”. Seaman responds, “It’s part of the culture”.
Kaufman: “Isn’t that a little bit stereotypical?”
Gideon Levy pointed out that if anyone were to speak about Jews that way, they would be called an anti-Semite. Ruthie Blum qualified that “when you dare to say it about Muslims, you’re called an Islamophobe.”
Seaman then said:
“I am an Islamophobe. Because we have lived here long enough to know what they are capable of doing. I am afraid of people who want to string me up because I’m Jewish and not Muslim.”
This has also been reported by Lisa Goldman on +972 Magazine. Seaman was head of the GPO from 2000-2010, and Goldman was herself subject to Seaman’s abusive behavior in 2006, at which point she lodged an official complaint with Israel’s Civil Service Commission.
I have never in my life, in all my travels around the world, been addressed by a civil servant in such an abusive manner.
When I asked Mr. Seaman why he was speaking to me in this manner, he responded by threatening to initiate a Shin Bet investigation of me. When I asked why he would do such a thing, he gave two reasons: 1) he was enjoying himself (he repeated several times, while smiling, that he was enjoying himself); and 2) I was asking too many questions and he did not allow questions.
Seaman can be seen shoving and pushing a female photojournalist while she was covering the Pope’s visit in 2005 – video clip here). Seaman has called prominent Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung bureau chief Joerg Bremer a “piece of shit” that he’d like to “fuck over” and compared the BBC to “the worst of Nazi propaganda”, for its coverage of the Second Intifada.
So we have this Arab-Muslim conflated bigotry, which as Gideon Levy points out, would not be tolerated if it were about Jews, but since it’s about Arabs and Muslims, it passes. And Seaman is considered a prominent and respected guest in Israeli mainstream media, despite his racist, bullying, bigoted conduct – or is it because of it?
Indeed, this racist, bigoted talk passes from both the right and the left in Israel. As I have recently pointed out about ‘leftist’ former Prime Minister Ehud Barak and his recent ‘heroic’ attempt to redeem Israel from Netanyahu, Barak himself has said things which are quite identical to what Seaman said. In 2002 Barak said:
“They (the Palestinians, and especially Arafat) are the products of a culture in which to tell a lie… creates no dissonance. They don’t suffer from the problem of telling lies that exists in Judeo-Christian culture. Truth is seen as an irrelevant category…”
This is a deeply rooted conviction in Israeli society. Once in a while it comes to the surface, but it’s just the tip of the iceberg. The speakers get to keep their credibility in Israeli mainstream. Maybe they are even considered “honest” for it. This is the bigoted “truth” that so many Israelis love to indulge in: the Arabs/Muslims are basically liars, and that’s our truth. Whenever they challenge us, they are lying, and thus we can never be wrong.
H/t Ofer Neiman