Do you see anything offensive in this Facebook posting of Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu?
Well if you are a rabid hater of Israel like Richard Silverstein, you did.
Bibi Netanyahu is the son of a noted Jewish historian. But unfortunately, neither the lessons nor substance of Jewish history has rubbed off on him (the son). He published today an execrable screed denouncing the Syrian people as blood-swilling heathen. It is beyond offensive.
But the racism and Islamophobia, while disgusting, doesn’t plumb the depths of this posting. Not content to denounce the supposed barbarity of Syrian Muslims, he contrasts it with the supposed civility and stability of the State of Israel.
No, Bibi says, we will never be like them. We will never kill each other in the thousands. We will never be uncivilized brutes like our fratricidal Muslim neighbors. We will be a light unto the nations. A villa in the jungle, to quote Ehud Barak’s inimitable phrase.
Notice Silverstein’s claim of racism and Islamophobia. When Bibi says “We will never be like them”, he does not mention Islam or Muslims. The simple meaning is ‘We will never be like these Syrians slaughtering each other.” I posit it is Silverstein who is showing Islamophobia by ascribing this meaning to Bibi’s words.
But it gets even worse, with Silverstein launching into a diatribe about the brutal crimes of Jews throughout history.
Except that it’s all a crock. Jewish history is replete with fratricide. It begins in the first pages of Genesis when Cain kills Abel. In the Book of Judges, the Tribes of Gilead and Ephraim engage in a civil war in which the text says over 40,000 were slain. Then there was a civil war between the Tribes of Benjamin and Israel in which 25,000 Benjaminites were slaughtered. The story of Hanukah is about another bit of fratricide in which the Maccabees led by Mattathias, overthrew the Jewish Hellenists and High Priests with blood and slaughter. This led to the Hasmonean Dynasty, a particularly nasty and corrupt bunch whose fate didn’t end well.
During the Roman siege of Jerusalem, the Sicarii targeted those deemed traitors, for execution. They roamed through the crowds on the grounds of the Temple, whipped out their dreaded knives and made off with the life of yet another victim.
That brings us to the modern age. Modern Zionism has also brought fratricidal carnage. There was the assassination of prominent Yishuv anti-Zionist leader Jacob deHaan (the first prominent Palestinian Jew assassinated, at the hands of the Avodah-Labor). In the 1930s, Revisionist thugs murdered Chaim Arlosoroff, who had just returned to Palestine from a round of negotiations with the Nazis. In 1973, a settler killer threw a hand grenade into a group of Peace Now’s key leaders killing Emil Grunzweig. In 1995, Bibi himself inveighed against Yitzhak Rabin to a crowd that held aloft signs with the prime minister wearing an SS uniform. For those who’ve watched the scene of Bibi, his eyes shining with hatred and blood lust, and the crowd below him whistling and jeering, know in their hearts that it was Bibi who helped murder Yitzhak Rabin. Within weeks, Yigal Amir, an Orthodox settler extremist, found himself inspired to shed the blood of a prime minister and fellow Jew. We can bring it to the present day with the heroic deeds of Jewish terrorist, Jack Teitel, coming within a few inches of killing Prof. Zeev Sternhell.
The majority of these examples are of individuals or small groups. So far in Syria, at least 70,000 people have been slaughtered. But leaving aside the asymmetry of the comparison, Bibi is speaking in the present and future tense. “We will never be like them. We will never lift our hands against our brothers with unfettered enmity.” Bringing up a laundry list of killings throughout Jewish history only serves to show Silverstein’s disdain for his own culture and history.
Of course, he has the chutzpah to claim he is standing up for it.
That’s why I wrote this post. I will not let them destroy my religion, my traditions, my history. They will not take it and make it theirs. They will not steal it from me. They do not own it. They are interlopers. They are charlatans. They will kill not just Israel, but all of our traditions if we let them.
Update: And good point. Cain and Abel weren’t Jewish.