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Monday, November 14, 2011

Demonizing Bibi

Here's why all Israelis should be upset about the way that Presidents Obama and Sarkozy maligned Prime Minister Netanyahu last week.
The trouble here is that we are rarely exposed to slander at such an official level. One would expect more deference from these two statesmen when talking about their Israeli counterpart, a man who studied in the same university as Obama, who was a captain in Israel’s elite Special Forces, and who was elected twice through a democratic process. If anything, his recent gestures towards his neighbors are a token of his willingness to come to an understanding – quite a change from his oft-sported status quo stance.

In fact, these gestures – the 10-month settlement freeze, the release of hundreds of Palestinian prisoners, including some with blood on their hands, and the perpetual hand outstretched to Mahmoud Abbas – present a far different picture of Bibi earnestly seeking a tough peace.

This “secret” conversation about the Israeli PM is a dangerous precedent, especially when the character assassination bears the echoes of the demonizing accusations spread with such success during one of the darkest pages of history and still a fixture in the 21st Century. To the watchful mind, it recalls the horrendous epithets thrown at Jews by Nazi ideology, the “liar” libel being the first slander in a long line of verbal humiliation that led the way to actual dehumanization and massacre.

Hearing today’s most influential and powerful leaders capitalizing on such a prejudice carries the danger of conflation, double standard and demonization which can lead to a slippery slope of unfounded hatred.

Of course, Netanyahu was not called a liar because he is a Jew. So why was he called a liar? What did he do to deserve such an epithet? Was it the same thing that he did to deserve being ushered through the back door of the White House in early 2010? What lie/s does Mr. Sarkozy speak of? The qualification for this humiliation was not given, nor did Obama, a trained lawyer, seem to require one – quite the contrary.

Our leaders bear a great responsibility in the accusations they decide to make in public or in private - these have real consequences. This unfortunate but dubious eavesdropping has had the merit of exposing if not a lie, an embarrassing political hypocrisy which demands to be redressed.

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