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Netanyahu says ‘all humanity is in same boat’ fighting virus – except Palestinians

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The global Coronavirus epidemic is bringing about radical measures from various countries. Israel has 157 infection cases counted at the time of writing.

The epidemic, which is unprecedented in the history of the state, also caught Israel at a time of a protracted political impasse. The failure to form a government has so far resulted in three elections within less than a year. Benjamin Netanyahu’s right-wing bloc is just short of the 61-seat majority with 58 seats. The center-left bloc in principle has a 62-seat majority, but that would include the 15 seats of the Joint List (representing mostly Palestinian Israelis) as an external support. So the center-left would create a “minority government” where the Joint List wasn’t actually part. Although it seemed close, hopes were recently dashed by internal dissent – not only from the right-flank of the opposition party, Blue and White, but also from the left Labor-Gesher-Meretz alliance.

But if internal mechanisms can’t bring about a government, essentially because of Jewish-Zionist racism, then maybe the Coronavirus could help. After all, extreme times call for extreme measures, right? The only question is how extreme it can get.

As Israel upped its anti-Coronavirus tactics Thursday, closing down schools and universities, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and rival leader Benny Gantz were reported to be considering a broad unity government joining the two biggest parties, Likud and Blue-White– a prospect that earlier appeared impossible, as Gantz had vowed not to serve under a Prime Minister facing indictment for corruption. Netanyahu’s court case has been set to begin this coming Tuesday.

In an address to the nation, Netanyahu said that the Coronavirus outbreak meant that “all of humanity is in the same boat”. And on that basis, he called for a unity government. “It would be an emergency government for a limited time, and we will fight together to save the lives of tens of thousands of citizens,” he said. Netanyahu has reportedly invited Gantz to meet on this basis. Gantz for his part spoke of a “broad unity government”:

In a conversation I had with him after [his address], I told him that we would continue to back every move [aimed at preventing the spread of coronavirus in Israel] and I suggested that our negotiating teams meet and discuss the need and possibility of establishing a broad emergency government for the forthcoming period.

But Gantz said that Netanyahu was only “addressing me via the media, as usual”:

So far I have not received a serious reply from him. I am still waiting — because an emergency government is the right thing for the State of Israel at this time.

Gantz insisted that the broad emergency government include elements from all political sides – and that means also the Joint List.

But the Joint List means “untouchables” for Likud. Netanyahu’s response:

Terror supporters cannot be part of the government — not in regular times or in an emergency.

The “terror supporter” rhetoric has been a standard for Likud, as a smear of the Palestinian politicians.

Rightwing billboard says Yes to Jewish democracy but no to “terror supporters,”, featuring Palestinians Ayman Odeh and Ahmad Tibi as potential allies to Benny Gantz. Screenshot from Ayman Odeh video.

Of course when it’s Jewish terrorism, it’s a whole other story. Netanyahu can easily embrace Itamar Ben Gvir of Jewish Power party, though the man hangs a photo in his home of Baruch Goldstein, the Kahanist Jewish terrorist who massacred 29 Palestinian worshippers in 1994. That’s not a problem. “Terror” is just a Likud euphemism for “Arabs”, and it’s never “us”. Not even the pre-state Irgun which bombed the King David Hotel in 1946. No, they were “freedom fighters” for Netanyahu. Netanyahu’s father was a private secretary of the Revisionist leader Ze’ev Jabotinsky, whose ideology informed the Irgun and other Jewish Zionist terror gangs.

Likud has been running billboards featuring Benny Gantz with Joint List leaders Ayman Odeh and Ahmad Tibi, saying “Yes to a Jewish and democratic state” and “no to terror supporters”.

The real message of it is “yes to racism” and “no to Palestinians”. This blatant racist incitement is being called out by Ayman Odeh, and the refusal to form a government with the Joint List has been condemned here and there, but that attitude, of treating Palestinians as invalid partners, is a very mainstream attitude which basically cuts across the Zionist political spectrum, and has always meant that Palestinians can come into the public sphere as far as voting – but not as far as governing.

Even Dan Meridor, a former Likud minister, wondered about Netanyahu’s dismissal of the Joint List as being “not part of the equation”:

He’s appealing to racists. And it goes against a basic tenet of Zionism: We strove for a Jewish majority in the land. The assumption was, Arabs vote. Otherwise why would you need a majority?

Nice question – if you’re going to effectively enact Apartheid, why the façade of the vote? Precisely because Apartheid needs a veil, if you’re going to play “Jewish and democratic”. Likud Justice Minister Amir Ohana formulated it quite precisely recently:

The Arab voice is equal to a Jew’s when it comes to the Knesset elections, but not the government.

Ayman Odeh of the Joint List called out the racism and hypocrisy of the refusal to join forces with Palestinians, even in these “emergency” times:

There is not a single hospital staff with a Jewish majority. If we can save lives, we can also make decisions,

he tweeted.

Odeh was referring to the disproportionate representation of Palestinian citizens in Israel’s hospitals. In his citing of the “Jewish majority”, he was indirectly criticizing also the Blue White rhetoric. Gantz as well as Yair Lapid have been applying this racist rhetoric, which suggests racial purity, more than it actually means “majority”.

And Ahmad Tibi, who is a medical doctor, posted a photo of himself in medical gear at a hospital, with the headline:

They’ll hate & divide. We’ll extend a hand, join the fight & take care of EVERYONE.

So, Netanyahu will exploit the Coronavirus epidemic to incite against Palestinians, while making our eyes wet over all of humanity being in the same boat.

It’s a political numbers game, too. Excluding the Joint List would mean that Netanyahu’s loyalist bloc would have a more decisive majority in the “broad unity government”. And if Gantz rejects that deal? Well, then he’d be seen as a rejectionist in times of national emergency, because you don’t go petty in such times. If he’ll insist that the Joint List are also equal humans, he’ll be advocating for the “terror supporters”.

All humanity is in the same boat, but some are apparently considered less human than others.

Jonathan Ofir

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

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5 Responses

  1. JWalters on March 14, 2020, 8:47 pm

    Netanyahu is the terrorist.
    “Terrorism: How the Israeli state was won”

    Zionism teaches the exact opposite of the Golden Rule.

  2. Misterioso on March 14, 2020, 10:57 pm

    “‘Netanyahu, Likud Spread Hate of Arab Israelis,’ U.S. State Department Report Says”

    “Annual human rights report says actions taken by the prime minister’s party negatively impacted equality in Israel; Hamas and Palestinian Authority also criticized for numerous human rights violations

    By Amir Tibon, March 12/2020, Haaretz

    WASHINGTON – “The U.S. State Department accused Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party of promoting hatred against Israel’s Arab citizens in its annual human rights report, published on Wednesday.

    “The report also criticized Likud for placing cameras at polling stations in Arab towns and neighborhoods during the general election in April 2019.

    “The annual report contains a country-by-country breakdown of important events that impact the human rights situation around the world. This year’s report made headlines because of a semantic change in how it refers to Palestinians who live in East Jerusalem – instead of calling them ‘Palestinian residents’ as in previous reports, they are now ‘Arab residents’ or ‘non-Israeli citizens,’ a move that was criticized by Palestinian leaders.

    “However, a deeper read of the chapter devoted to Israel reveals that other parts within it will be less pleasing for the Israeli right wing.

    “The report includes a subchapter on the rights of minority populations in Israel, as it does for many other countries. In the Israeli case, the government receives compliments for a growing trend of hiring Arab citizens to certain government positions, but there is also a direct reference to actions taken by Netanyahu’s party during last year’s election campaigns, which the report states had a negative impact on equality in Israel.

    “The report mentions that ‘In April the ruling Likud Party placed cameras in predominately Arab polling stations in an effort to dissuade Arab voter turnout.’ This line refers to a coordinated attempt to scare Arab Israeli citizens, who comprise 20 percent of the country, from heading to the polls during the first of the three elections that Israel has had in the last year.

    “Two days after the election, the people who orchestrated this effort shared pictures of themselves with Netanyahu at the Prime Minister’s official residence on their social media accounts, and took pride in their actions.

    “’Following the elections, the Central Elections Committee ruled that the placement of recording devices in polling stations is forbidden and would require formal legislation, which the Likud Party was unable to pass in the Knesset,’ the report notes. What it doesn’t mention is that the attempt to pass this legislation took place just two weeks before Israel’s second election last year, in September.

    “While the legislation failed to pass, Netanyahu used it to warn his supported that Arab citizens were going to cheat and ‘steal’ the election.

    “The report notes that contrary to Netanyahu’s claims, ‘during the September elections, observers noted minimal irregularities that had no impact on the final outcome.’ Netanyahu and Likud did not raise this issue again in the run-up to last week’s election, but following the results, which left Likud and the religious parties short of a majority, Netanyahu accused Israel’s non-partisan Central Election Committee of ‘stealing the election.’

    “The State Department report also notes another instance in which Likud promoted anti-Arab messages. ‘During the April and September national election campaigns, the Likud Party deployed messages promoting hatred against Arab citizens, including a chatbot message on Prime Minister Netanyahu’s Facebook page saying, ‘the Arabs want to destroy all of us, women, children and men.’” The chatbot sent this message to hundreds of thousands of Israelis six days ahead of the September 17 election.

    “At the time, rival politicians criticized him for it and mentioned that thousands of Arab Israeli citizens work as doctors, nurses, paramedics and pharmacists in Israel’s health system. The report notes Netanyahu’s chatbot ‘was temporarily suspended by Facebook. Netanyahu stated he was unaware of the message.’

    “Like in previous years, the report criticizes Palestinian terror organizations for launching rockets and carrying out attacks against Israeli citizens. It also criticizes both Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip, and the Palestinian Authority for human rights violations, political censorship and attempts to silence critics and journalists. The report mentions ‘unlawful or arbitrary killings, systematic torture, and arbitrary detention by Hamas officials,’ and the serious problem of corruption within the Palestinian Authority.

    “The report also notes that the last time an election took place in the Palestinian Authority was in 2006, when Hamas won a majority in the now defunct Palestinian parliament, and that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has held onto power despite his term expiring in 2009.

    “The PA and Hamas are also criticized in the report for ‘violence and threats of violence targeting LGBTI persons’ and ‘the criminalization of consensual same-sex sexual conduct between adults.'”

  3. Jonathan Ofir on March 15, 2020, 4:40 am

    Meanwhile… “Netanyahu Trial Postponed as Justice Minister Freezes Courts Over Coronavirus Emergency… On Thursday, Interim Justice Minister Amir Ohana, a Netanyahu appointee, expanded his powers to freeze court activity in case of escalation in coronavirus cases in Israel… Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s trial in three corruption cases has been postponed by over two months, a district court announced on Sunday.
    The trial was set to begin on Tuesday. It has now been pushed back to May 24.
    In the very early hours of Sunday, Israeli Justice Minister Amir Ohana announced that emergency measures will be put in place to counter the spread of coronavirus, affecting the workings of Israel’s courts.”

  4. Vera Gottlieb on March 15, 2020, 10:53 am

    And as irony might have it one day (soon I hope)…a Palestinian saving Bibi’s ass.

  5. Hemlockroid on March 19, 2020, 11:53 am

    Democracy among a guaranteed Jewish majority isn’t democracy. And of course, if any nonJews were poised to be the majority of Israel they’d be shipped out or shot.

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