Israeli President Isaac Herzog will address a Joint Session of Congress on July 19th. In his speech, he will undoubtedly trot out the usual pro-Israel bromides about Israel’s robust democracy, symbolized by the pro-democracy protests in Israeli streets. He may even offer a sidelong glance at the two-state solution, despite Netanyahu’s recent comment that his government will “crush” Palestinian hopes for a state. Not to mention that this proposal has been dead on arrival for a decade or more. The only ones who haven’t been told of its demise are liberal Zionists like Biden and most previous US presidents and secretaries of state, who have been flogging this dead horse for far too long.
Biden has deliberately snubbed Netanyahu, refusing to offer him a coveted visit/photo opportunity at the White House, something most previous presidents have done for Israeli prime ministers. It is his administration’s attempt to show its displeasure at the radical extremism of the current Israeli government. The invitation to Herzog is the equivalent of good cop, bad cop. The Israeli president is Good Israel. Bibi is Bad Israel. Biden wants to reward the Good and ostracize the Bad.
To that end, he conducted an interview with CNN’s Fareed Zakaria this week. The portion that dealt with Israel and Netanyahu offered a toned-down, but nonetheless direct criticism of Netanyahu:
ZAKARIA: Mr. President, what will it take for Bibi Netanyahu to get an invitation to the White House?
BIDEN: Well, first of all the Israeli president is going to be coming, we have other contacts. I’ve been, I think it is fair to say, an unyielding supporter of Israel for over — I’ve only been around a couple of years, but for as long as I’ve been around. And Bibi, I think is trying to work through how he could work through his existing problems in terms of his coalition. He has — I’m one of those that believes Israel is almost a security risk for a two-state solution.
I think it’s a mistake to think that as some members of his cabinet and this is one of the most extremist members of cabinets that I’ve seen. I go all the way back to Golda Meir and, you know, not that she was extreme but I go back to that era. I think that the fact that the Palestinian Authority has lost its credibility, not necessarily because of what Israel has done, just because it is just lost its credibility, number one.
And number two, created a vacuum for extremism among the Palestinians. They are — there are some very extreme elements. So it’s not all Israel now in the West Bank, all Israel’s problem. But they are a part of the problem. And particularly those individuals in the cabinet who say, they have no right — we could settle anywhere we want, they have to right to be here, et cetera. And I think we — we’re talking with them regularly, trying to tamp down what is going on and hopefully Bibi will continue to move toward moderation and changing the (INAUDIBLE).
He didn’t mention the chief arsonists, Ben Gvir and Smotrich, by name. But he didn’t have to. In fact, the former offered his own riposte:
US President Joe Biden said on Sunday in an interview with CNN that some of the current Israeli government ministers led by Benjamin Netanyahu are the most extremist since the Golda Meir government, referring extremist ministers Itamar Ben Gvir and Bezalel Smotrich.
Ben-Gvir in… pic.twitter.com/j93LlmxApm
— Quds News Network (@QudsNen) July 9, 2023
In fact, this is a mild version of Ben Gvir, toned down no doubt, out of sensitivity to Biden’s status. Along with the former’s realization that his typical incendiary rhetoric could worsen already sour relations between Bibi and Biden.
Herzog is only marginally better than Netanyahu. He is a typical Israeli politician. His views don’t diverge from the right-wing consensus. In fact, he offered a compromise to the anti-government movement that would have permitted Netanyahu and his capos, Yariv Levin and Simcha Rotman, a path toward enshrining their judicial coup in law. He had a hand in persuading Bibi to agree to a two-month truce during which negotiations between the two parties would happen. That period has come and gone with nothing to show for it. And the governing coalition has just succeeded in the first legislative stage toward enacting the coup.
במקום בו שורפים ספרים ישרפו גם אנשים, כתב היינה. ולא חשוב אם זה קוראן, תנ”ך או הארי פוטר.
שריפת ספרים היא דבר בזוי שהדעת אינה סובלת, קל וחומר כשמאחוריה חבויה גזענות או שוביניזם לגווניו. ראוי היה שהנשיא והממשלה יגנו גם את שריפת ספר הקוראן ולא יתעוררו רק כשלהבות השנאה הופנו לתנ”ך. pic.twitter.com/pM0oYgxbCr
— Ofer Cassif עופר כסיף عوفر كسيف (@ofercass) July 14, 2023
When Bezalel Smotrich made his maiden voyage to the Diaspora earlier this year, he spoke at an Israel Bonds event in Washington DC, where American Jews and Israelis protested the presence of the Judeo-terrorist on US soil. He spoke anyway. One of his other stops was the UK, where he was boycotted by the Board of Deputies, which itself is ardently pro-Israel. Pres. Herzog then denounced the Board for the “insult” it had offered Smotrich. He explained his views by saying he was a: “firm believer in open, sincere communication and dialogue.” Someone will have to explain to me how you have “open sincere dialogue” with a terrorist. Should Jews have had open dialogue with Adolf Hitler? Actually, they did have agreements with the Nazis, but that’s a different story. There should be no communication with odious figures like Smotrich. He should be declared persona non grata by every Jewish community and country he visits.
The Israeli president recently denounced the Swedish police for permitting a planned protest at the Israeli embassy, in which the organizer declared he would burn a Torah scroll and Bible. There are at least two reasons I believe this plan is questionable at very least, if not entirely bogus. First, there is no way this fellow can get a genuine Torah scroll to burn. It’s possible he might burn some facsimile he can find on the internet. Torah scrolls cost tens of thousands (or more) of dollars. And you don’t just go on Ebay and buy one.
The second reason is that this seems to me to be a false flag event. Something planned by those attempting to embarrass and discredit the Palestinian rights movement. I can’t think of a single activist in this movement who would countenance such an act. It is not only a profound act of religious desecration, it is blatantly anti-Semitic because it conflates Judaism with Israel.
But aside from all this, Herzog’s fury is hypocritical. Settlers have been burning Korans (and Palestinians) for years. Israeli Border Police routinely desecrate Al-Aqsa and trash the holy objects, including Korans. Settlers have burned down sacred Christian churches and spat at priests in the Old City regularly. Where was his fury then? Or does he save it up for Jews alone?
VIDEO now with English subtitles: On the day he is named Jewish Agency chair, Isaac Herzog – Israel’s “Leader of the Opposition” for the last 5 years – slams romantic relationships between Jews and non-Jews in the USA as “an actual plague” for which he hopes to find “a solution” pic.twitter.com/NQMMOdUtSi
— David Sheen (@davidsheen) June 25, 2018
In this video, Herzog trots out a decades-old, long-disproven shibboleth that US intermarriage is “a plague” that will lead to the eventual elimination of American Jews. To which he adds that he, as head of the Jewish Agency, will solve the problem. If this isn’t hubris…One can only imagine what he feels about Israeli Jews and Palestinians marrying. Another scourge about which Kahanists obsessed with Jewish racial purity, rail.
As I wrote above, there is little difference between his views and those of the center-right opposition parties. And these supposed moderate parties only differ from the government coalition extremists like Ben Gvir and Smotrich by degrees.
At least four members of Congress have announced a boycott of Herzog’s speech: Reps. Cori Bush, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar and Jamaal Bowman. Rashida Tlaib has not joined them (yet). If she does attend, I’m virtually certain she will stage an act of protest during the event.
There is no way in hell I am attending the joint session address from a President whose country has banned me and denied @RashidaTlaib the ability to see her grandma. A thread👇🏽
— Ilhan Omar (@IlhanMN) July 13, 2023
Omar tweeted her dismay that a senior official of the Israeli government was to be honored in this fashion. She noted that Israel had blacklisted her and denied her entry because of her outspoken criticism. She added that Tlaib too had been declared persona non grata and was prevented from visiting her elderly grandmother on the West Bank. She rightfully declared that she would refuse to attend for those reasons. It seems only fair that if Israel is going to boycott her, that she has the right to return the favor. Predictably, the Israel Lobby and GOP pounced on her declaring she is an anti-Semite and the usual rhetoric. I want to declare as forcefully as I can that as a Jew, I support her decision.
There is no reason to give any Israeli a hero’s welcome. Israel is a nation that has gone off the rails. Not only is it on the verge of becoming a fascist state, rejecting the rule of law and destroying the power of the judicial branch, it is also engaged in what can only be called genocide against Palestinians. Mass violence by both the IDF and settlers acting on behalf of the state, along with numerous other phenomena, justify using this controversial term. This must not be rewarded. Instead, the US should announce a boycott of all Israeli leaders; even prohibit them from entering the US. Or at least the worst of the lot (which is most of the cabinet) should face such prohibition.