On Saturday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s party issued a campaign ad that chides the ‘left’ for siding with ‘Arabs,’ by which it means Palestinian citizens as well as Palestinians in general. The ad suggests that Netanyahu’s chief rival, Benny Gantz, is depending on the support of the left and Palestinian political parties.
הצבעתם גנץ – קיבלתם טיבי pic.twitter.com/vygm3hXQk5
— Benjamin Netanyahu (@netanyahu) February 9, 2019
The video features Palestinian lawmaker Ahmed Tibi saying that in the 1990’s there was a “blocking bloc” against the right. The text then goes:
It happened already twice in the past – the Oslo agreement passed because of the Arab voices – the former Chief of Staff Barak won the support of the Arabs and Raed Salah [leader of the Islamic Movement] – the former Chief of Staff Gantz will do it again.
The heading at the top is:
You voted Gantz – you got Tibi.
This is a reminder of the “Arabs are coming to vote in droves” claim that Netanyahu made at the eve of the 2015 election. It is also a reminder of the “us-or-them” race-bating Likud ads in the recent municipal elections, inciting against both Palestinians as well as African refugees.
Let us first do the reality check on Gantz, and recall his own murderous election campaign, where he has boasted of killing Palestinians (while inflating the number of “terrorists” killed in the Gaza 2014 onslaught) when he was Chief of Staff, with the slogans “Only the Strong Wins” and “Israeli Before Everything”. This is an Israeli version of “America first” in Hebrew, really.
While Gantz has arduously portrayed himself as “neither right nor left”, the Likud has tried to portray him not only as a leftist, but as a weak leftist. To bolster this claim, they cite him saying that he wouldn’t rule out a meeting with the Arab parties.
It’s necessary to pause once again, in order to internalize the ease in which this blatant racism is mainstreamed: Palestinian citizens must be kept outside of the political spectrum at all costs, and any indication of willingness to engage with them is a weakness.
The new leader of Labour, Avi Gabbay, has attempted to curb such ‘weakness’, and made clear last year when he was elected to lead the party, that he “couldn’t cooperate with this composition” (of Arab parties). He then chided the left for “forgetting what it means to be Jewish” – parroting Netanyahu.
Anyway, the Israeli Labor Party appears to be on the verge of disappearing and is now hovering only a few seats above the Blocking Line of winning four Knesset seats in the upcoming election. The real challenge to Netanyahu appears to be from this new center represented by Gantz, who is seen as matching Netanyahu in being suitable for Prime Minister among the Israeli public.
It’s hard to see any hope in such a scenario, where the competition is really about who is the most anti-Arab and where both Netanyahu and Gantz fight over the mantle of “Israel first”.
This racism against Palestinians is very reminiscent of Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign for president, and that’s not an accident.
Last week Likud launched a campaign with huge billboards featuring Netanyahu and Trump side by side, with the slogan “Netanyahu – in another league – the Likud”.
עכשיו בכניסה לירושלים pic.twitter.com/XwuA4UFrA1
— הליכוד (@Likud_Party) February 3, 2019
That was preceded by a video which seemed to boast of how Netanyahu managed to get Trump to do his bidding with moving the Embassy to Jerusalem last year:
The short video begins with the heading “They said it’s impossible”, followed by Netanyahu saying in a cabinet meeting that “The US Embassy needs to be here, in Jerusalem”. Then Trump appears, saying: “Today, we officially opened the US embassy in Jerusalem. Congratulations”. It ends with that slogan “Netanyahu – in another league”.
While Netanyahu applies Trump as his alter-ego, another Likud Minister, Deputy Environmental Protection Minister Yaron Mazuz, has brought in another mascot for his campaign towards the Likud primaries: none other than the soldier-medic-murderer Elor Azarya, who was filmed shooting an incapacitated, wounded Palestinian in the head at point-blank (he got 18 months prison but came out after 9). In a campaign video, Mazuz says:
I am sitting next to my friend Elor Azarya, whom we enlisted to our primaries campaign, and with God’s help, together with him, we will succeed.
While 2/3 of Israelis were polled as supportive of immediate pardoning of Azarya, the confidence in Trump is at a staggering 82% amongst Israeli Jews, who have confidence in Trump’s handling of global affairs, as featured in a PEW research in October.
Netanyahu is also making a parody of the allegations of corruptions against him, in a very Trumpian way. A new Likud campaign has launched a parody “Likud TV”, which claims to “kick the fake out of the news”.
The parody series is hosted by Israeli actor Eliraz Sadeh. In one video, also featuring Netanayhu himself, Sadeh plays the role of a news tycoon negotiating with the Netanyahu, who urges him to publish a “real report” that the prime minister would strive to make “positive.”
“So you’re asking me for positive coverage?” Sadeh asks.
“Real coverage,” replies Netanyahu.
“But if I do real coverage, it could accidentally come out positive,” quips Sadeh.
“Walla!”, says Netanyahu finally with the Arabic word that is used in Hebrew slang to mean “really” but is also the Israeli news site implicated in one of the corruption cases against the premier. The investigation dubbed as “Case 4000” is considered the most serious and substantial of the various cases against Netanyahu, where police suspect that both Netanyahu and his wife Sara influenced regulatory decisions in favor of the telecommunications concern Bezeq in exchange for positive coverage in major shareholder Shaul Elovitch’s media outlet Walla.
“You only cover reality, and I will make sure it’ll be positive,” Netanyahu quips, with the premier offering to “like” Sadeh on Facebook in exchange.
The video came out just after Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit announced that he has concluded his corruption investigations against the prime minister and intends to announce his decision before the April 9 elections, prompting the Israeli Prime Minister to accuse Mandelblit of caving to the left.
This heap of Trumpian, populist racism, can really be overwhelming. Yet it is important to maintain focus on the prime Zionist element of Jewish supremacist racism, so as not to be swayed by people like Gantz, who point to Netanayhu’s corruption as a weakness. Because both share the weakness of being Israel-firsters. And the Jewish State anno 2019 simply has no effective cure for this malady.