From the archive (legacy material)

Lawrence Davidson | June 2005

The Israeli government has chosen Finance Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to “lead the campaign targeting Israeli academic institutions.”(1) It is an interesting choice. Perhaps it indicates that Israel is concerned that the academic boycott can do damage to its already shaky economy. Or, perhaps the dapper Netanyahu was chosen because he has such a good track record communicating with and rallying the rabid right in the USA. Whatever the reason, there can be no doubt that those ruling Israel are worried. As the Finance Minister has recently put it, “The attempt to boycott Israeli academia isn’t a boycott of academia at all. It is an attempt to boycott the entire state of Israel.”(2) Well, considering that the academic boycott is but one part of an comprehensive international boycott of Israel, Netanyahu has gotten it right for once.
We already have intimations of the sort of tactics that Netanyahu will employ. “The international campaign [against the boycott] will focus on the public [relations] and legal spheres.”(3) Slander will also be a weapon in the Finance Minister’s arsenal. “Everything must be done to foil any attempt to harm Israel and the Jewish people.”(4) There it is again! The purposeful confusion of a state that has been condemned for multiple violations of international law and an entire religious group scattered around the globe. One can expect Mr. Netanyahu to fling about the charge of anti-Semitism indiscriminately and, in all other ways, paint the boycott movement as bigoted and himself as the enemy of bias and prejudice.
Since this is predictably the case, it might be useful to take a look at Netanyahu’s recent record in terms of promoting fair play and open mindedness.
1. In December of 2003 Finance Minister Netanyahu attended the annual Herzliya Conference where he proclaimed that “we have a demographic problem, but it lies not with the Palestinian Arabs, but with the Israeli Arabs.”(5) According to Netanyahu the natural population growth of Israel’s major minority group “will undermine the [state’s] democratic fabric.”(6) It would seem that just as Bibi confuses Israel and the Jewish people, he also confuses Jewishness with democracy. This is an argument that would make perfect sense to white racists in the American south, supporters of apartheid in South Africa, boosters of Mugabe in Zimbabwe, and right wing conservatives in Germany and Austria. After his speech the Association for Civil Rights in Israel wrote a letter to the Finance Minister telling him that “Comments like these fan the flames of hatred, racism and discrimination that are the daily reality of Israeli Arab citizens….”(7)
2. In his capacity as Finance Minister Netanyahu has also sought to put into place an “emergency economic plan” that would “cut services to Arab Israeli children, women, and the unemployed.”(8) The Finance minister has decided that in order to preserve the “democratic fabric” of the state, the 20% of Israel that is not Jewish is only entitled to 5% of the government’s urban development budget. The per capita income for Arab citizens of Israel is only 60% that of Israeli Jews and Mr. Netanyahu’s plans are just going to make that situation worse.(9) Nonetheless, these moves were part of his “convalescence for the economy.”(10) And this, in turn was necessary because “a good economy is necessary to attract Jewish immigrants.”(11)
What we have here is a man who, by word and deed, has acted in a racist and discriminatory fashion against his country’s major minority group. Simultaneously, he is about to lead a campaign that will attempt to paint those who seek to promote a non-violent campaign of pressure against Israel’s illegal and destructive behavior as purveyors of bias and anti-Semitism. I hope when Benjamin Netanyahu shows up in your neighborhood, you loudly and publically point out the contradictions.
1. Quoted in Haaretz, “Netanyahu To Lead Campaign Agaisnt Academic Boycott,” June 6, 2005
2. Ibid.
3. Ibid.
4. Ibid.
5. Quoted in Haaretz, “Sowing Conflict and Division,” December 19, 2003
6. Ibid.
7. Quoted in Haaretz, “Israel Should Clamp Down On Muslim Birthrate,” December 18, 2003
8. Report of the Mossawa Center (The Advocacy Center for Arab citizens of Israel), “Netanyahu’s Economic Plan Targets Arab Children Women and the Negev Bodouin,” See also Haaretz, “Taking An Economic Knife to Arab Israelis,” 27 April 03.
10. Ibid.
11. Ibid.