By Jonathan Ofir
The New York Times has published an Op-Ed by Israel’s Education Minister Naftali Bennett, in which he educates the world about BDS activists, saying they are “enemy soldiers”, and making a thinly-veiled comparison of them to Nazis. This is the man who compared Palestinians to “shrapnel in the butt”, said he has “killed lots of Arabs and there’s no problem with that”, has recently coined the term “auto-anti-Semites” (as a new alternative to “Jewish self-haters”), and has called for a prison life-term for Ahed Tamimi and her cousin Nour – for slapping Israeli soldiers.
Bennett’s Op-Ed is titled “My Country Bars Enemies From Entry. Yours Would Do the Same”. It is a disingenuous, and dangerous, piece of incitement.
Bennett seeks to whitewash the recent Israeli ban against various organizations, including Jewish Voice for Peace, for their non-violent, civil and democratic support of Palestinians through Boycotts, Divestments and Sanctions (BDS).
Bennett calls the BDS movement a “new enemy”, which, although lacking “tanks and missiles”, nevertheless “poses a serious threat to the Jewish state”.
Explaining the ban, Bennett poses that BDS activists are simply enemy soldiers:
“The logic behind this new policy is sound: We won’t welcome enemy soldiers into our territory. If you actively work for our destruction, which these individuals most certainly do, you can’t come into our home”, he writes.
But Bennett has just conceded that these soldiers bear no weapons. Thus, even by Bennett’s own admission, they are simply ‘ideological soldiers’ – their power is their political ideas. That’s your ‘only democracy’ talking there…
Now Bennett seeks to dismiss the idea that the ban is a blanket ban of certain groups. The problem is, that it really is. Thus Bennett needs to apply disingenuous straw-man tactics in order to educate us otherwise. Here’s what he writes:
“Some are framing this new policy as a blanket ban of certain groups. But this is another case of the B.D.S. movement spreading lies. The law gives the immigration authorities the option to ban individuals; it doesn’t mandate they do so.”
Bennett thus suggests the immigration authorities can, by law, ban individuals (from those organizations which are on a published list), but they don’t have to. But if a law allows something, the law allows it – and it comes from the lawmakers. Bennett is desperately trying to suggest that the lawmakers are not culpable, since it is the guy at immigration who decides in the end whether to apply the law or not. This is egregiously disingenuous. Anyway, this digression doesn’t refute the claim that this is a “blanket ban”. Because even Bennett’s disingenuous rendering of how this ban is applied, does not refer to the fact that it is blanket upon these organizations. Whether an immigration official, according to Bennett, decides to apply it or not, is inconsequential in relation to the way the ban refers to these organizations. It is blanket in relation to them.
Thus, it is not the “BDS movement spreading lies”, as Bennett claims. It is Bennett who is spreading lies.
As Bennett continues, he now attempts to make a dual case, aimed mostly at Americans, to both garner understanding for this ban (since they supposedly have a similar one at home), and equate BDS activists with Nazis – in one go. Watch how he does it:
“Here is the truth”, Bennett writes. “Similar procedures are common practice in most democratic countries. In the United States, for instance, the I-94W form (issued by the Department of Homeland Security) asks visitors if they have criminal records, if they were involved in espionage or if they helped Nazi Germany. If the answer to any of these questions is positive, that person may be refused entry. The same principles guided Israel’s decision.”
But BDS activists are not criminals nor involved in espionage, per default. Any such activity would be unrelated to their being BDS activists. Hence, the only remaining comparison item which would ostensibly relate to BDS activists, is the one on Nazi collaboration. Bennett is suggesting BDS activists are like Nazi collaborators.
Inciting against Omar Barghouti
Incitement against BDS co-founder Omar Barghouti is a national sport in Israel. Like when in 2016, during an anti-BDS conference sponsored by the Israeli daily Yediot Aharonot, Israel’s Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz called for “targeted civil eliminations” of BDS leaders, especially noting Barghouti. “Targeted civil eliminations” is a play on the Israeli jargon for ‘assassination’, adding ‘civil’ in the middle, as if it really makes it more civil… Interior Minister Aryeh Deri has called for the revoking of Barghouti’s residency permit.
Bennett quotes Barghouti partially, in order to make his supposed case concerning “enemy soldiers” – and provides a supposedly unequivocal statement to prove that BDS is about “eliminating the country”, not about changing Israeli policy. “But Omar Barghouti, one of the founders of the movement, has made its intentions clear”, Bennett writes, and provides the following quote from Barghouti:
“Definitely, most definitely, we oppose a Jewish state in any part of Palestine. No Palestinian, rational Palestinian, not a sell-out Palestinian, will ever accept a Jewish state in Palestine”.
“In other words, B.D.S. leaders themselves make no attempt to hide that their goal is not changing Israeli policy, but eliminating the country.”
But what is Barghouti actually saying? It’s pretty simple and straightforward, if you listen to his context. Barghouti seeks the separation of state and religion, and is also opposed to a “Muslim state” or a “Christian state”:
“A Jewish state in Palestine in any shape or form cannot but contravene the basic rights of the indigenous Palestinian population and perpetuate a system of racial discrimination that ought to be opposed categorically – as we would oppose a “Muslim state”, or a “Christian state”, or any kind of exclusionary state. Definitely, most definitely, we oppose a Jewish state in any part of Palestine. No Palestinian, rational Palestinian, not a sell-out Palestinian, will ever accept a Jewish state in Palestine”.
That’s actually quite logical. Barghouti is advocating for a democratic, non-exclusionary state. But partially quoting him like this is a real hobby of Zionists who seek to frame his advocacy as being about the “elimination of Israel”. He’s simply against Zionism. A video of his talk is here (posted by “Palestinism is Racism,” uncut, to their credit). Though other Zionist sources cut the crucial part of the quote, as Bennett does.
For many, Bennett’s partial quote of Barghouti may sell as the ultimate proof that BDS is about “eliminating the country”. For many Zionists, even the additional qualification to his quote which I have provided will appear somewhat meaningless, because they will view it as a mere politically-correct addition. This is because Zionist propaganda has managed to assert in the minds of many, a notion that if it’s not “Jewish state”, it’s destruction, elimination and death. This is how Zionism has managed to inculcate itself as a survivalist ‘humanitarian’ venture. Zionism or nothing.
Former Zionist leader confirms Barghouti’s point
But some have managed to escape the brainwash. Some of those people are Jews. And some of those Jews are even former Zionist leaders. It’s rare, but it happens – and when it does, the reasoning can be riveting. This is the case with Henry Siegman, as was covered recently on this site. Siegman is a Holocaust survivor now in his late 80s, was himself a Zionist, and head of the World Jewish Congress. In his recent piece in the National, titled “Implications of President Trump’s Jerusalem Ploy”, Siegman bucks the American and Jewish establishment, of which he is a member, to declare that the two-state solution is dead and buried. He is counseling American Jewry to give up its attachment to Zionism as a dead letter, no different from a Christian state here, and so prepare itself for a future in which Israel is isolated as a pariah state and there is a “significant exodus of Israel’s Jews.”
Siegman endorses the Palestinian struggle for equal rights:
“It is the right choice”, he writes, “for their struggle for a state of their own is one Palestinians cannot win, while a struggle to maintain an apartheid regime is one Israel cannot win”.
We need to mirror this against what Bennett is saying about BDS and Barghouti. I must add here, that the BDS movement is not necessarily about a 1 or 2 state solution as such, it is in fact officially agnostic about that. The thing is, that Israel’s violations of international law, its Apartheid policies, its policies of ethnic cleansing, are not limited to its control of territories from 1967 and on. These policies are prevalent throughout Israel. In any case, Israel itself does not make a difference as to whether one is boycotting ‘selectively’ (that is, settlement products etc.) or non-selectively. For Israel, any boycott of it is illegal.
Siegman is knife-sharp in his assessment of what will happen, one way or the other. And who will be “destroying” or “eliminating” the “Jewish state”? Not BDS, according to Siegman – but “Israelis themselves”:
“The outcome is therefore likely to be the end of Israel as a Jewish state. If so, it will be an outcome brought about not by BDS movements but by Israelis themselves, not only because of their rejection of the two-state solution, but because of their insistence on defining Israel’s national identity and territorial claims in religious terms.”
This is huge. Siegman, the veteran Zionist leader, is actually making a point which strongly confirms what Barghouti has been saying, in that same quote which Bennett applies (as one of the only quotes in his quite short piece), where Bennett wishes to use it as the ultimate proof for BDS evils.
Notice – Siegman also reduces the issue of the 1-state or 2-state question to a marginal level. It’s not the rejection of a 2-state solution that is the biggest issue – it’s Zionism – it’s Israel’s defining of it’s “national identity and territorial claims in religious terms”.
So now we may understand, that Bennett is merely fighting to save Zionism. And he’s desperate. He wants to frame it the fight of the Jewish state against “enemy soldiers”, but those enemies turn out sometimes to be Jews, and sometimes even very prominent former Zionist leaders, like Siegman, who turn around and counsel American Jewry to give up its attachment to Zionism as a dead letter.
So what is Bennett going to do with that? Is he now going to publish another Op-Ed in New York Times, calling Henry Siegman an “auto-anti-Semite”?