Israel Pulse

Israeli right campaigns on Paris terror attack

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Article Summary
When calling on Europe to stand by Israel and when calling French Jews to immigrate to Israel, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is harnessing the Paris terror attacks for his electoral needs.

As I sat writing this article, a message popped up in my mailbox from a public relations firm of someone whose name I had never heard. It said that Uri Bank, secretary of HaBayit HaYehudi party’s Knesset faction, proposes that Israel mount “a heavy, armored international public information and diplomacy campaign” to explain to the world that Islamist terrorism is “a real danger to the entire world, and not just a problem in Israel.”

Bank, according to the message, was running in his party’s primaries. He, too, wants to benefit from the series of Paris terror attacks. Are only the big boys allowed? One can compare the reactions of Israeli politicians to a producer of fire extinguishers, who runs an ad featuring a house that burned down the previous day with all its tenants.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was quick to announce on Jan. 7 that “Israel stands by Europe’s side — and Europe must stand by Israel.” He added, “Above all, we must support each other on a united and determined front.” Is this not an implied reprimand of Europe for not supporting Israel in its occupation and settlement enterprise, especially France, which is behind the initiative for recognition of a Palestinian state?

Netanyahu took advantage of the Paris-wide terror attacks by global jihad activists to regurgitate his baseless claim that the Islamic State and Hamas are one and the same. But Hamas is a Palestinian Sunni organization that acts against the State of Israel and is careful to keep its distance from global jihad and from challenging Arab regimes and the culture of the West. Just like other representatives of the right, the prime minister ignored that among the victims of the attacks — both editorial staff and policemen — there were Muslims, too.

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Netanyahu uses the terror attacks to sting the Europeans (and the Israelis) who advocate a two-state solution based on the 1967 borders. He declares that “the main aim of Islamic terrorism is not an arrangement and is not borders and is not Israel, either.” This claim, too, is rubbing salt in Europe’s wounds. True, Israel is not the main target of global jihad. Nonetheless, its ongoing conflict with the Palestinian-Arab-Muslim people and the undermining of the status quo in East Jerusalem provide high-grade fuel for the engines of radical Islam. The helplessness of the Arab regimes and the incompetence of the Western world in the face of the Israeli occupation play into the hands of the clerics of Daesh and al-Qaeda, as well as those of the ayatollahs in Iran and of Hezbollah in Lebanon.

In his zeal to make the most of the Paris tragedy’s contribution to the growing Islamophobia in Europe, Netanyahu invented a common denominator between Europe and Israel. According to him, “our” culture is based on freedom, tolerance and a culture of free choice. Could the prime minister have forgotten that Europe bade farewell to all its colonies in the previous century and that Israel is the only state in the Western world that deprives millions of people of freedom and prevents them from enjoying a culture of free choice?

Economy and Trade Minister Naftali Bennett, the leader who never apologizes, took advantage of the tragedy for his election campaign, without making much of an effort to hide it. “The blood continues to be spilled and the left simply doesn’t see,” the chairman of Habayit HaYehudi party lashed out at his political rivals, and was rewarded with bold headlines. “What else has to happen in the world, in Israel, in Gaza, for you to wake up? How many rockets have to fall for you to wake up?” he asked. Bennett explained to the clueless leftists that “a terrorist who runs over a baby in Jerusalem and the terrorist in Paris is the same terrorist — fundamentalist Islam.” And after all that, he reminded us that “we are in the Middle East, not in Scandinavia.” So is there or isn’t there a difference between terrorism in the Middle East and terrorism in Europe?

To make the most political capital, Bennett derided former Minister Tzipi Livni when he suggested that the former chief negotiator with the Palestinians fly to Paris and explain to the French that one makes peace with enemies. Livni did not resist the opportunity to answer him in the same cheap vein: “The terror attack in Paris reinforces the need for a strong international coalition against terror,” she said and expressed regret that Bennett and his allies were distancing Israel from this coalition. She ended her reaction with a promise that things would change after the coming elections.

Having made the most of riding the murky wave of terrorism that struck France, the representatives of the right took time out to reap a small public relations bonanza from the Jan. 9 murder of the Jews at the kosher supermarket by issuing a public call for the Jews of France to move to Israel. The head of the Likud’s Knesset slate, who also happens to be the prime minister, promised, “We will help you in your absorption here in our state that is also your state.”

It is not hard to imagine what Netanyahu would have said had the prime minister of France called on France’s Jews to return to our state/their state following an attack in a neighborhood of French immigrants in the town of Netanya. From an interview he granted to The Atlantic magazine on Jan. 10, as well as from his speech at a memorial rally outside the supermarket, one can guess Prime Minister Manuel Valls’ opinion of Netanyahu’s call to France’s Jewish citizens to immigrate to Israel. “If 100,000 Jews leave France, this will no longer be France,” Valls said. “They need reassurance that they are welcome here, that they are secure here.”

The overtone of “now they, too, understand what Muslims are like,” and the attempt to score points at the expense of the tragedy of others, are highly reminiscent of the anti-Semitism provoking reactions of the right to the 9/11 terror attacks in the United States. Two years later, the Anti-Defamation League published a report stressing that Israel’s portrayal as the main beneficiary of the results of Muslim terror attacks against Western targets contributed to amplification of the conspiracy theory effect. The unfounded theory spread at the time was that the Jews/Israelis plotted the attacks to deflect attention from the Palestinian issue and to divert US anger toward the Muslim world.

The attack in Paris, like attacks that occurred in the past in New York, Brussels or Buenos Aires, will not make the conflict with the Palestinians go away. Islamic radicalism, like the extreme right wing, is vehemently opposed to a diplomatic arrangement of the Palestinian issue. The difference between them lies in the original points of view: One comes up with Islamic theological justification for their murderousness, the other offers a distorted explanation of Judaism and presents it in the guise of global defense. Coexistence based on freedom, equality and fraternity, to quote the slogan of the French Republic, is a mutual enemy of both of them. Fundamentalist nationalism cannot be the answer.

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Found in: terrorist attacks, right wing, politics, political opportunism, knesset, israel, france, charlie hebdo, benjamin netanyahu

Akiva Eldar is a columnist for Al-Monitor’s Israel Pulse. He was formerly a senior columnist and editorial writer for Haaretz and also served as the Hebrew daily’s US bureau chief and diplomatic correspondent. His most recent book (with Idith Zertal), Lords of the Land, on the Jewish settlements, was on the best-seller list in Israel and has been translated into English, French, German and Arabic.

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