There are certain racist expressions that you’re not supposed to use, even in Israel. One of them is referring to Jews as a “race”. Even if you’re speaking favorably about Jews. But a rightwing lawmaker did that the other day.
“The whole Jewish race is the greatest human capital, and the smartest and the most understanding,” Miki Zohar said Wednesday. The member of Knesset for Likud was debating the Benjamin Netanyahu corruption scandals together with Haaretz journalist Dan Margalit, on the 103 FM radio station (owned by the centrist Maariv daily).
Here Miki Zohar went into unabashed race-supremacist talk about Jews. He literally referred to it as the Jewish race (not nation or people). The Hebrew term he used is “GEZA”. It’s the literal parallel of ‘race’ in English, no doubt there.
The thing is, that there was hardly any interruption to it, nor any rebuttal or expression of shock or anything. Not even from Dan Margalit who was representing a ‘leftist’ point of view. Here is the section of the interview, which I have translated:
Miki Zohar: I’ll tell you one basic thing, so that maybe someone who’s sitting there at home would listen to me well, and maybe those who are sitting at the studios and at editorials would listen well to me:
The public in the state of Israel is a public which belongs to the Jewish race [sic], and the whole Jewish race is the greatest human capital [sic], and the smartest and the most understanding, and sometimes also the most educated…
(Host) Anat Davidov: No no, this is not serious…
Zohar: And that’s why you can’t fool us, the Jews, you can’t, and it doesn’t matter what you’ll write in the media, and it doesn’t matter what you’ll report all day. The public knows what the Prime Minister is doing for the state of Israel, how excellent a Prime Minister he is, and how this state is prospering and blooming…
(Host) Yinon Magal: Dan Margalit, a final statement.
(Dan Margalit talks about Netanyahu corruption scandals).
Now, you would think there would be a big storm about such unabashed racist talk. But there isn’t.
The settler outlet Israel National News (Hebrew) says in its headline that “Miki Zohar causes a storm” and quotes a small part of the above, but the article doesn’t say what the storm is, it’s focused on Netanyahu. Zohar’s quote is buried, and it’s just a line. Maariv did the same. No ‘storm’.
I asked journalist David Sheen if he saw a storm. “Barely a breeze”, Sheen tells me. He went on to tweet:
This same Israeli lawmaker from Netanyahu’s ruling Likud party states that Israel is not a democracy, and that democracy is in fact “an existential threat” to Jews. Combine that with his recent comments about race, and you can decide for yourself what his political ideology is.
The Radio 103 podcast page says journalist Anat Davidov was amazed by Zohar’s words. “It’s not true”’, is the subtitle.
But Anat Davidov actually said, “no no, that’s not serious”, and she didn’t sound particularly amazed. The racist words are a mere sentence in a long discussion.
So let’s face it: – this is not really a storm. And that’s the story. This was very clear from the interview itself. This talk does not cause any real stir. It’s like a bit of political incorrectness. There’s no shock-horror response really – and wouldn’t you expect something like that from a “leftist” journalist like Dan Margalit at least? But then again, Margalit is the one who recently opined that mass shooting of Palestinians is good for them.
What Zohar was really doing, was voicing a perception of Jewish racial supremacy in a way that you’re not supposed to, because it’s too overt. You’re not supposed to use the word “Jewish race”, it can be watered down to “Jewish nation” or “Jewish people”. But truth be told, the application of ‘Jewish’ in Israel is a racial one. The consideration of whether Jews should be called a “race” or a “people” was present already a century ago, as seen in the final draft of the Balfour Declaration of 1917 – the draft before the final version actually called Jews a “race” rather than a “people” (the wording was “His Majesty’s Government views with favor the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish race”…). But it was changed to “people”. Perhaps they thought it more politically correct already at that time.
Yet Zohar was saying race. And he was making it utterly clear that this is a superior race. And that perception, unfortunately, is one that is central in Zionism. It’s the one that allows the utter dehumanization of “others”, it’s the one that allows ‘liberals’ like Dan Margalit to say that shooting people is good for them – and to be silent when the most explicit racist bile is uttered.