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‘NY Times’ says Netanyahu is ‘appealing to racists,’ but continues to discount Palestinians

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At first, today’s New York Times article on the role of Palestinian citizens of Israel in the endless post-election maneuvering there looks like an improvement. But on closer inspection, the report maintains most of the paper’s chronic bias.

Thera are some positive signs. There’s a valuable quotation from Yuval Diskin, a former head of Israel’s security agency, who criticizes Benjamin Netanyahu’s use of anti-Arab racism against the Joint List, the political grouping that represents Arab citizens and just won 15 parliamentary seats in the latest election. Netanyahu has been trying to torpedo efforts by the centrist Blue and White alliance to form a coalition government against him with outside votes of the Joint List, the 3rd-largest political force in the country. Diskin says: 

Dismissing more than half a million citizens by rendering the 15 members of the Joint List illegitimate, coupled with incitement against anyone who engages with them, crosses a red line.

Diskin’s former position gives his words greater impact; if the 15 Palestinians were truly a security threat, he would know. Times reporter David Halbfinger also quotes Dan Meridor, an old political warhorse from Netanyahu’s own party, who says flatly that the prime minister is “appealing to racists.”

Unfortunately, on balance the Times article is still biased. It quotes 6 Israeli Jews, but only 2 Palestinians in the report and the first Palestinian doesn’t come on stage until paragraph 15. Even worse, the Times repeats Netanyahu’s charge that the Joint List “includes lawmakers who support terrorism”— without giving any of the 15 Palestinians a chance to respond to the libel. 

Ayman Odeh, the charismatic lawyer who heads the Joint List, has been described as a political “superstar,” but he appears nowhere in this article. Anyone who meets Odeh learns right away that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. is his hero, but the Times has yet to tell that to its readers. And when will the paper finally get around to doing a profile of this remarkable man, who is more important than ever on the Israeli political scene? 

Another failure is that Halbfinger barely mentions the deep grievances felt by Palestinian citizens of Israel. Their status as second-class citizens might help explain why they enthusiastically voted for the Joint List.

But the Times article’s biggest failure is that it once again whitewashes widespread anti-Arab racism among Israeli Jews. Benjamin Netanyahu is a master at using dog whistles to reach his potential voters. The Times does quote some of his coded language, but it sounds relatively mild to an American audience, and the paper never provides an honest translation. 

I would bet that I could go to Israel, conduct some man-in-the-street interviews among Israeli Jews, and within minutes get some hair-raising racist quotes. That’s the reality that the Times ignores, and it explains why Netanyahu’s strategy may work one more time — and force a fourth election. 

James North

James North is a Mondoweiss Editor-at-Large, and has reported from Africa, Latin America, and Asia for four decades. He lives in New York City.

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  1. Misterioso on March 13, 2020, 3:33 pm

    “Ex-general likens Israel to Nazi Germany”
    “Israel could end up like Nazi Germany”,

    Middle East Monitor, Oct. 4/2019

    “Former Israeli army General, yesterday, Yair Golan compared Israel’s right-wing politicians to the Nazis.

    “In an interview with Radio Darom, the newly elected member of the Knesset, representing the Democratic Union alliance, said: ‘I’m reminding people that the Nazis came to power democratically, so we have to be careful, very careful, so that extremist figures with a messianic view won’t exploit Israeli democracy to replace the system of government.’

    “This is not the first time Golan has likened Israeli policies to those of the Nazis, in May 2016 during a speech to mark Holocaust Day, he claimed ’the horrific processes which developed in Europe’ and led to the Nazi genocide were present in Israel today.

    “His comments angered many Israeli politicians with head of the right-wing Yamina bloc, Ayelat Shaked, saying: ‘Maybe give up already on this obsession with comparing us to Nazis? It’s not even annoying at this point, just pathetic.’”

    “Israel’s Right Wing Is Worse Than Europe’s” by Zeev Sternhell, Haaretz, July 19/2019

    “From the end of the 19th century, radical, anti-liberal nationalism – after serving as a basis for fascism throughout Europe and Nazism in Germany, and despite calling itself an ideology of national unity – essentially became an ideology of civil war. Hostility toward different categories of citizens, not just ethnic minorities but ideological adversaries, became a primary tool of nationalists. So it was in the past and so it is today in countries where vicious nationalism rules: From ostensibly democratic India, which abuses its minorities, to Poland and Hungary, to Benjamin Netanyahu’s Israel, which is consciously moving toward becoming an apartheid state.

    “In truth, the Israeli right, which maintains the settlements with their racist, backward rabbis, is much worse that the European nationalist right, which is wary of displaying open racism and anti-Semitism, lest it be accused of fostering an ideology akin to Nazism. Here we have no such problem because hey, we’re all Jews, and who would dare accuse a Jew of approximating the kind of Nazi ideology that preceded World War II? Therefore we get an education minister who is ignorant, not just on sexual matters but also of history, feeling no qualms about calling for the annexation of millions of Arabs while cynically denying them of political rights.

    “In all Europe, the pre-fascist and pre-Nazi nationalists were united in their hatred of human rights and enlightened principles, of socialists, intellectuals, pluralism and democratic government based on a division of authority. The Polish government and the Netanyahu government are similar not only because both foster hatred among their citizens as a tool of governing, but because they are both promoting a historical fabrication industry on a colossal scale.”

    Zeev Sternhell is a Polish-born Israeli historian, political scientist, commentator on the Israeli–Palestinian conflict, and writer. He is one of the world’s leading experts on fascism. Sternhell headed the Department of Political Science at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

  2. edwardm on March 19, 2020, 11:44 pm

    Clearly the NYT appeals to racists as well – look who they hire. Bari Weiss, the Bret Bug Stephens…

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