In a hyper-sensitive world conditioned to unquestionably accept every accusation of racism, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s legitimate concern that Arab turnout could tip the vote against him in last week’s elections is now cynically used by his adversaries to label him a racist.
Netanyahu’s now infamous Facebook warning, written four hours after polls opened, that “Arabs are flocking in droves to the polling stations” was quickly seized upon in a new smear campaign.
Among the first to flash the racist card was comedian Jon Stewart (pictured), who said a day after the elections that Netanyahu had exploited “racist fears of minority turnout for short-term political gain.”
Suggesting that those heeding this call were racially motivated is to label as racist not only Netanyahu, but all right-wing Israeli voters. Or, put another way, if Israelis elected a racist man to be their prime minister, the logical conclusion is that Israel is a racist state.
This is exactly what the BDS and other anti-Israel movements have been asserting since 2000. And now it seems this deceitful propaganda is infecting government officials from Israel, the United States and Europe.
As an Israeli, I deeply resent this baseless accusation.
If Israelis heeded at all Netanyahu’s warning – and so far no one has provided evidence that they did – right-wing voters flocked to the polling stations because, unlike gullible Jon Stewart, they know that the United Arab List is anti-Zionist to the core. If they drove in hordes to the polls, they did it because they feared those attempting to hurt the Jewish state, be they anti-Zionist Arabs or Jews. Race had nothing to do with the victory of the Likud Party.
When Ultra-Orthodox Jews from the town of Beit Shemesh warned their constituency during the 2013 municipal elections that “seculars are flocking in droves to the polling stations” no one suggested racial motivation.
Likewise, no one suggested that head of the Yesh Atid Party, Yair Lapid, is racist after he stated at the ballot box that “we are here to fight for the State of Israel … it is possible that instead of good government that will bring hope … we will end up with Buji (Labor leader Isaac Herzog) and the Orthodox.”
Most telling is that no one has suggested that head of the United Arab List, Ayman Odeh, is a racist even after he expressed racist views on Israeli radio by stating that every Arab voter choosing a Jewish party is contaminated.
As such, Netanyahu’s alert was, at worst, done in bad taste. And for this he apologized. But this apology was rejected by the same Odeh who more than anyone else in Israeli politics could be labeled as racist.
Knowing full well the effectiveness of the racism canard, Odeh now plays this car aggressively: “The regret of Netanyahu is an empty gesture aimed at justifying the racist regime of Netanyahu and his people,” said he who fears “Jewish contamination.”
This new accusation should not be brushed aside as some unfortunate anecdotal episode. In the epic battle for minds now raging, adding racism to occupation can turn out to be extremely dangerous for Israel. As has been shown, even the Obama Administration is using this card in a new effort to strong-arm Israel into a two-state solution that if implemented would certainly blow up in our faces.