Bibi Netanyahu told a Knesset committee yesterday that ten IDF battalions were training to suppress a possible uprising by Israeli Palestinian citizens during a multi-front war against Arab frontline states. This is sheer racist insanity. It “others” Palestinians by viewing them not as Israelis, but as allies of foreign Arab powers. It’s the same mentality which imposed martial law and a military government on them from 1948-1966. It’s no different than how the US treated Japanese-Americans during WWII when tens of thousands were forced into internment camps. Then they were viewed as disloyal and a Fifth Column, instead of as loyal Americans.
No Palestinian citizens have ever engaged in an armed uprising. Except for a few individuals, none have engaged in any act of violence on this scale. There have been mass protests. There were even peaceful ones in which Border Police murdered Palestinians in cold blood. But not a single Israeli Jew has ever been killed in mass protests.
This is yet another example of the Israeli Jewish political elite using Palestinians to score political points. It’s not even a dog whistle. It’s a ferocious bark. No different than Donald Trump railing against “illegal immigrants” in order to fill his campaign coffers. Or European politicians bemoaning the influx of foreign refugees purportedly threatening their civilization.
Such statements have implications far beyond the Knesset Committee before which Netanyahu was testifying. They normalize hatred of Palestinians. They normalize racism. They normalize violence. In May 2021 after Netanyahu directed Israeli police to restrict Muslim access to Al-Aqsa, Palestinians protested. They were angry and justifiably so. Imagine if a Palestinian government restricted Jewish worship at the Kotel. In response, Jewish vigilante thugs swarmed through Palestinian towns and neighborhoods seeking victims to beat and houses to burn. It was a frightening and unprecedented spate of inter-ethnic violence never seen in the country’s history. And it was a portent of what could be to come if Israel’s Jewish leaders continue to mistreat their fellow Palestinian citizens.
It is part of a long history of anti-Palestinian racism. Perhaps the most egregious example is the Nation-State law, which eliminates Arabic as a national language and proclaims that Israel is not a state for all its citizens, but rather for its Jewish citizens. When Hitler decided to target Jews as part of his march to power, it was critical that he first had to deprive them of their citizenship. The Nation State law is one step in the same process. In case anyone believes this is an exaggeration, a Likud MK once declared that Israeli Palestinians should be forced into extermination camps.
Such racism also infests Israeli media. In its report on the Netanyahu leak from Kan linked above, no one thought to ask an Israeli-Palestinian their opinion. After all, who would care what they think about anything?
An Israeli security source who I questioned about Netanyahu’s testimony said that the IDF force is nowhere near 10 battalions and that its main mission will not be to suppress a Palestinian revolt; but rather to keep the main highway (Route 65) leading to the north open for military vehicles in the event of a war with Lebanon and/or Syria. In other words, his testimony to the Knesset Committee was yet another example of his huffing and puffing and bluffing.
There is a real danger in underestimating the destructive power of such statements. German Jews underestimated Hitler. Americans underestimated Donald Trump’s candidacy in 2016. They couldn’t believe their fellow citizens would fall for the hatred, incitement and ignorance he spewed. But they did. It happened here. And it can happen there.
As for Israeli Palestinians, they are loyal to a fault. Polls show that they strongly identify with the Israeli state. They oppose violence against it. Despite what it has done to them, they believe in it. Israeli Jews should be encouraged and even grateful for such solidarity. Instead, they heap hatred on their fellow Palestinian citizens. Treating them as if they were traitors in their midst prepared to throw in their lot with foreign enemies.