AIPAC Welcomes Bibi. Bibi Welcomes Israel’s KKK. Among those determined to prove the questionable assertion that Zionism is racism, we now have to add Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Which raises the question of why some pro-Israeli American organizations—AIPAC, we’re looking at you—would want to marginalize Americans’ support for Israel by inviting Netanyahu to their conferences. (Bibi is scheduled to address AIPAC’s annual meeting on March 24 in D.C.)
Bibi’s announcement last week that he had prevailed upon three far-right parties to merge, so that together they could win enough votes to make it into the Knesset in the forthcoming Israeli election and thereby vote for him to continue as prime minister, has raised unprecedented hackles among stateside Jews. Most American Jews, of course, have long since had it with Bibi and his anti-two-state, anti-Palestinian, pro-Trump, pro-Orban etc etc policies and demagoguery. But the old line American Jewish establishment has clung like a barnacle to Bibi.
But Bibi’s latest maneuver proved a bridge too far even for that establishment. The establishment’s breaking point was that Bibi’s Gang of Three Far-Right Parties included Otzma Yehudit, which is the new name for the old party of the late Rabbi Meir Kahane, who was behind violent attacks on Israeli critics both in Israel and the U.S., whose members included the murderer of 29 Palestinians at prayer in their mosque, and whose current members favor the expulsion of all non-Jews from Israel, and the criminalization of Jewish-Arab relationships. Under its old name, Kahane’s group made the State Department’s list of terrorist organizations.
This is now the party that Bibi wants to bring into the Knesset so it can vote to keep him in office, even if, as is imminently expected, Israel’s attorney general indicts him for a host of corrupt acts.
This proved too much for groups and individuals who’ve been reflexively pro-Bibi no matter what he’s done. The American Jewish Committee (AJC) released a statement condemning Otzma Yehudit and saying it would have no dealings with its members even if they ended up serving in the Knesset. AIPAC chimed in by saying in a tweet it supported the AJC’s condemnation. Malcolm Hoenlein, a longtime leader of the Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations and a certifiable Bibi Bro, gingerly followed suit by telling the Associated Press that the prime minister’s action had created “a lot of concern” among American Jews.
All that said, all that was said by the above-listed groups sought to have it both ways. The AJC and AIPAC didn’t condemn or even mention Bibi in their statements, just Otzma Yehudit. But there was nothing new or different about Otzma Yehudit that had provoked this controversy. The only thing new and different was Bibi’s decision to try to bring them into the Knesset and, he hopes, his governing coalition. In their statements, however, “Netanyahu” was the name they dared not speak.
By the way, not every American Jewish group condemned Bibi’s maneuver. The Zionists of America, a far-right group one of whose funders is Sheldon Adelson, actually took AIPAC, the AJC and numerous other U.S. Jewish organizations to task, at great length, for their condemnatory blurbs. (This may raise the question of whether condemning the vast majority of American Jewish groups, not to mention that politics of the vast majority of American Jews, is a form of anti-Semitism, but we won’t go there.)
The immediate question before AIPAC is why, given all this, Bibi is still scheduled to address its national conference in March. And for all the American politicians who customarily attend AIPAC’s annual get-togethers, the question is why they would show up at a gathering that features an appearance from a national leader who has brought Israel’s version of the KKK into his political tent.