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Netanyahu tells the truth: ‘Israel is not a state of all its citizens’

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A spat has been taking place in Israel for a couple of days now between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Rotem Sela, a celebrity host-model-actress.

Responding Saturday to the Likud’s constant anti-Arab rhetoric, with their warnings that voting other than Likud is voting for Arabs, Sela wrote on Instagram:

[Culture Minister] Miri Regev is sitting and explaining to [Channel 12 news anchor) Rina Matsliah that the public needs to beware, because if Benny Gantz is elected he will have to create a government with the Arabs. Rina Matsliah is silent. And I ask myself: why doesn’t Rina ask her in shock: ‘And what’s the problem with the Arabs???’ Dear God, there are also Arab citizens in this country.

That’s all good and true. But then Sela continued with the following claim:

When will anyone in this government tell the public that this is a state of all its citizens, and all people are born equal. The Arabs are also human beings. And also the Druze, and the gays, and the lesbians and… gasp… leftists.

This brought Prime Minister Netanayhu to respond, on Facebook:

Dear Rotem, an important correction: Israel is not a state of all its citizens. According to the Nation-State Law that we passed, Israel is the nation-state of the Jewish people – and its alone. As you wrote, there is no problem with the Arab Israeli citizens – they have equal rights like everybody and the Likud government has invested in the Arab sector more than any other government.

Rotem Sela

Netanyahu is being factually correct here, concerning the citizenship and Nation-state issues (when it comes to ‘equal rights’, Palestinian citizens suffer institutional discrimination). Sela’s wish that someone would tell the government and the public that Israel is a “state of all its citizens,” is not merely wishful thinking – it is a wish that they would lie. As Netanayhu says, Israel is simply not a state of all its citizens. In the end, it is a nation-state of Jews, and Jews alone. Only Jews have national rights in Israel, while others may have citizenship rights (at best). Shockingly to some perhaps, an Israeli nationality doesn’t exist in the Jewish State. This was in fact the case long before the Nation State Law passed last year. That law only made this construct more overt and official.

But Netanyahu didn’t stop with the correction to Sela. He continued:

The Likud merely sought to emphasize the central question in these elections: It’s either a strong right-wing government under my authority, or a left government of Yair Lapid and [Benny] Gantz with support of the Arab parties. Lapid and Gantz have no other way of forming a government and such a government would weaken the security of the state and the citizens. The result will be determined in a month in the ballot box. Good day.

Netanayhu’s claims that Lapid and Gantz’s Blue and White party would have to rely on the ‘Arab parties’ to form a government is not necessarily true, and Lapid has expressed himself unequivocally that they would not do so. But this is the race-baiting that has been coming from the Likud – it is essentially an “Arabs coming to vote in droves” as a regular rhetorical trickle. And Gantz and Lapid are not fighting it at all. Notice how the “Arabs” are used as a symbol of weakness, a threat to national and civil security .

This is ironic. Sela is trying to be morally right, but she is factually wrong. Netanyahu is being factually right about Israel not being a state of all its citizens, but is being morally reprehensible and appallingly racist. He is, alas, portraying the racism inherent in the Zionist concept, and Sela wants to give it better makeup. This story shows the mire of Zionism, in which the ultimate question is cosmetic: who can make it look better?

The problem is, those who try to make it look better are misrepresenting it, while those who are more true to its values inevitably expose its racism.

But the Likudniks also use some makeup. That is the claim that ‘Arabs are equal’ because some Palestinians have citizenship rights (if they’re lucky), and that makes them equal, although they have absolutely no national rights.

Miri Regev also used this makeup, in a subsequent response to Sela on Facebook:

Rotem, we have no problem with the Arabs. We have in our party many Arab, Druze and Christian members. We have a problem with the hypocrisy and the masquerade ball of Lapid and Gantz, who are trying with all their might to hide from the public the fact that they’re left-wing, and are dressing up as centrists.

Regev then added that her interviewer, Matsliah, “didn’t stop me because it’s the truth. It’s either Bibi or Tibi.”

The “Bibi or Tibi” racist slogan is a refrain from Likud, referring to Netanyahu’s nickname and the Palestinian-Israeli lawmaker Ahmed Tibi from Ta’al.

This is really the usual spat between ‘liberal-Zionists’ and more hardcore Zionists.

It is completely natural that Sela’s friend, the actress Gal Gadot, came to her defense:

Love thy neighbor as thyself. It’s not an issue of Right or Left, Jew or Arab, secular or religious. It’s an issue of dialogue. Of dialogue for peace, for equality, for tolerance between one another. The responsibility to grow hope and light for a better future for our children is on us. Rotem, my sister, you are an inspiration to us all.

Once again, that might all sound great, but it doesn’t stand the test of reality.

Notice now how the Anti-Defamation League’s Israel office director, Carole Nuriel, is concerned about the anti-Arab rhetoric (cited in Jerusalem Post):

This anti-Arab rhetoric is a deeply troubling trend that, if it continues, could undermine Israel’s vibrant democracy. The representation of Israeli Arabs in the Knesset has historically been a source of pride for Israel, highlighting its democratic character, despite the enduring conflict with its Arab neighbors, and attesting to its genuine efforts to include the Arab community as equal citizens. If the very exclusion of Arab parties becomes a litmus test for a legitimate coalition in the Knesset, Israel’s democracy undoubtedly will suffer.

Read: Israel’s image is at risk. It is supposed to be known as a “vibrant democracy”, and that little problem, of “Arabs” in fact being second-class citizens (at best), as well as their systematic exclusion from government coalitions and real political influence, is not supposed to be something that we speak too overtly about. It’s far better to keep it low-key. Isn’t it just enough to keep excluding them without overtly inciting against them? Can’t we just be closet-racists?

It would be a whole other story, if Sela were to face the actual truth, which Netanayhu, with all of his shortcomings, actually told her: Israel is not a state of all its citizens. Another memo here is, that those who actually call for a state of all its citizens, are excluded by law from running for parliament. All people are indeed “born equal”, as Sela points out.

But in the Jewish state, if they happen to be born Palestinian, they will be… less equal than others… So if Sela really wants a state of all its citizens, she needs to confront Zionism, not just Regev or Netanyahu.

H/t Ofer Neiman

About Jonathan Ofir

Israeli musician, conductor and blogger / writer based in Denmark.

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11 Responses

  1. Gryfin
    Gryfin on March 11, 2019, 10:54 am

    Bibi just gave BDS the biggest boost it could have hoped for.

  2. Maximus Decimus Meridius
    Maximus Decimus Meridius on March 11, 2019, 11:01 am

    “It is completely natural that Sela’s friend, the actress Gal Gadot, came to her defense:

    Love thy neighbor as thyself. It’s not an issue of Right or Left, Jew or Arab, secular or religious. It’s an issue of dialogue. Of dialogue for peace, for equality, for tolerance between one another. The responsibility to grow hope and light for a better future for our children is on us. Rotem, my sister, you are an inspiration to us all.”

    The not so wonderful woman wasn’t exactly thinking in terms of ‘dialogue for peace’ when she went on Twitter with her little daughter to offer her support for the most recent massacre nearly 5 years ago. She took those pictures down from her social media, but the Internet never forgets and nor should we.

    But what do you expect from an ‘actress’ who posed half-naked in “Maxim” as part of an official propaganda push to sexualise the Israeli army?

    • Marnie
      Marnie on March 11, 2019, 2:42 pm

      Gal Gadot ‘acting’ like a comic super hero giving advice to her ‘sister’ Rotem. Phony ass zionist whores. Yikes. Where were they before? Lighting shabbat candles and praying for the IOF.

      • Maximus Decimus Meridius
        Maximus Decimus Meridius on March 11, 2019, 3:54 pm

        Exactly. “Wonder” Woman has clearly been told to tone down the militancy – even in Hollywood, that ain’t quite as chic as it used to be back in the day when Barbara Streisand and Barry Manilow held benefit concerts for Israel – and dial up the vapid ‘co-existance’ nonsense.

        But we all know she’s no different from the vast, vast majority of Israeli Jews, in that she doesn’t see Palestinians as quite human. Some super-hero.

  3. YoniFalic
    YoniFalic on March 11, 2019, 12:41 pm

    Netanyahu correctly explained that Zionism demanded and created an organic nationalist state. No European Zionist leader defined the goal of the Zionist movement to be a civil or voluntary nationalist state like the USA. They all insisted on some form of organic nationalist state. Even Buber and Brit Shalom, were only willing to grant the native Palestinians a dependent organic nationalist state within a binational state in which the (fake) Jewish organic nationalist state dominated.

    From his writings I can assert that Mufti Husseini seems to have been perfectly willing to accept a civil nationalist state in which all citizens were equal. It appears that if the Zionists had been willing to have a serious discussion with him, he would have accepted the immigration of all “Jewish” DPs from the Holocaust, for without expulsion & murder of the natives, such immigration would only have brought “Jews” to 45% of the population.

    The demographic numbers more than anything else explain why the Zionists committed genocide in 47-8.

  4. eljay
    eljay on March 11, 2019, 1:58 pm

    … As Netanayhu says, Israel is simply not a state of all its citizens. In the end, it is a nation-state of Jews, and Jews alone. …

    King Bibi tells it the way it’s been since Day 5 (Iyar, 5708): Israel…
    – was envisioned and established as – and it exists as – a religion-supremacist “Jewish State” primarily of and for Jewish Israelis and non-Israeli Jews;
    – was not envisioned or established as – and it does not exist as – the secular and democratic state of and for all of its Israeli citizens, immigrants, expats and refugees, equally.

    Jewish supremacism in/and a religion-supremacist “Jewish State” in as much as possible of Palestine, now and forever (or maybe only a Thousand Years!).

    Nothing new here.

  5. amigo
    amigo on March 11, 2019, 4:58 pm

    Breaking News.

    The PM of Squireland , today declared his nation to be the National Homeland of the Squireish People , (Those that adhere to the ancient Religion of Squireism )and that they and they alone , have the right to Self Determination.He also claimed that all Non Squireish citizens have the same rights as their Squireish fellow citizens and added that Squireland , albeit a Constitutional Monarchy is a perfect example of a Secular Democratic Society.To suggest otherwise is racist and a trope against the Squireish people and amounted to vile AntiSquireism.

    This immediately prompted a condemnation by the WZO , (World Zionist Organization ) in which they stated that this endangered all Zionists –all of whom are Jews as it would relegate them to second class citizens in the nation in which they were born .

    The Squireish PM was quick to respond by pointing to the State of Israel and it,s Nation State Laws.The WZO immediately called him an AntiSemite and a hater of Jews/Zionists and singling out Israel the Historic Homeland of the Jewish/Zionist people.

    He also reminded them that Squireland has many Jewish members in Government and are Judges in the Courts and suggested they stop whining and get on with the task of making their nation a Light unto all other nations.

  6. Talkback
    Talkback on March 11, 2019, 5:07 pm

    Thank you Bibi!

    It’s just great that you reaffirmed that Israel has not been only a de facto from the get go, but now is de jure and officially an Apartheid state instead of a state of all of its citizens.

    Many people didn’t believe us when we argued that Israel is an Apartheid state. Israel always had its Rotem Selas and Gal Gadots to claim that it isn’t.
    But this will be your legacy: That we can all and officially call Israel a de jure Apartheid state and quote you if any (pro-) Israel’s Hasbara trolls and character assassins claim otherwise and cry antisemitism (Sorry, DaBakr). That’s much easier than citing South African’s or academics.

    And it will be very helpful if any of your lackeys wants to draw us to court for “hate speech”. We just quote you! One quote after another after another!

    Keep up the good work!

    P.S. I sincerely wish you that you win the elections with your even more fascist and racists co-parties. You have done more to undermine Israel than any other prime minister so far!

  7. HarryLaw
    HarryLaw on March 11, 2019, 6:14 pm

    What has John McDonnell to say about the IHRA now that Netanyahu has spoken

    Mr McDonnell, the shadow chancellor, told the BBC’s Politics Live the posters, which have been seen in locations including Westminster and Waterloo, should be taken down, adding: “It is not the right thing to say. Posters on Bus stops ‘ ISRAEL IS A RACIST ENDEAVOR’ https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-45435365

    “It is against the examples that we set out and linked to the IHRA definitions.”

  8. Sid
    Sid on March 12, 2019, 2:32 am

    So Netanyahu is saying that Israel is not a state of all its citizens, but the nation state for all Jews worldwide, including American Jews. So according to him, Israel is the nation state that American Jews belong to and to which they owe their primary allegiance, while the United States is merely their “host nation” where Jews can only enjoy certain limited citizenship rights, similar to the rights that some Palestinians enjoy in Israel. So basically he is claiming that American Jews have dual loyalties (or worse, sole loyalty towards Israel). Doesn’t that make Netanyahu anti-Semitic?

  9. Kay24
    Kay24 on March 12, 2019, 6:59 am

    An interesting Editorial by the Guardian UK:

    “This election is a referendum on Mr Netanyahu. Yet there are already signs of voters are swinging back, and the right generally under-polls; it will almost certainly do better at turning out the vote. Even if Blue and White pulls ahead of Likud on seats, Mr Netanyahu has stitched together a coalition. In any case, Mr Gantz has positioned himself as the not-Netanyahu rather than anti-Netanyahu candidate. Campaign videos boast of his role in bombing parts of Gaza “back to the stone age” in 2014. Neither of the two main parties openly support a two-state solution to the ongoing crisis with the Palestinians.

    Mr Netanyahu’s supporters believe he has provided security and prosperity despite the region’s turmoil, and are prepared to overlook or reward his bigotry. Israeli institutions could yet do what voters should have done long ago. Regardless of the outcome on election day, Mr Netanyahu still faces legal proceedings – though he could to change the law so that sitting prime ministers can’t be indicted. But neither the courts nor Mr Gantz will reverse the country’s rightwards lurch and the damage it wreaks upon Palestinians, including Palestinian citizens of Israel, and Israel itself. That will only happen when the electorate develops the appetite for the change so desperately needed.”

    https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2019/mar/11/the-guardian-view-on-the-israeli-elections-netanyahu-debases-his-office-again

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