In his controversial speech before Congress on March 3, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, anointing himself as leader and representative of all Jews, said he’s coming to Washington “not just as the prime minister of Israel but as a representative of “the entire Jewish people” – including the majority of American Jews who oppose his politics on Iran.
Witness the chutzpah:
“I went to Paris not just as the prime minister of Israel but as a representative of the entire Jewish people,” Netanyahu said, during a conference for French-speaking Likud Activists. “Just as I went to Paris, so I will go anyplace I’m invited to convey the Israeli position against those who want to kill us.”
There is much to unpack here, and I will attempt to do so in a point-by-point response below:
1) From a purely political perspective, Netanyahu’s claim to be the voice for world Jewry, by virtue of being Israel’s leader, is preposterous. In Israel alone, only 23 percent of the 6.1 million Jews who live there voted for Netanyanu (Likud), while the world’s remaining 7.7 million Jews did not cast a ballot for the man as citizens of other nations. For those keeping score, that’s 1.3 million Jews out of the world’s 13.8 million who voted for Netanyahu.
On the issue of Iran – the issue Netanyahu will speak upon before Congress on behalf of “the entire Jewish people” – 52 percent of American Jews embrace President Obama’s diplomacy with Iran and reject Netanyahu’s approach, including those Jewish members of Congress who have boycotting Netanyahu’s address. Not only that, more global Jews (4.6 million) voted for President Obama than global Jews (1.3 million) who voted for Netanyahu.
In other words, this (via Occupy Judaism) if you’re feeling snarky:
2) From a socio-religious perspective, what Netanyahu has done is not just offensive, but dangerous. Conflating Israel with World Jewry can use Israel’s disastrous policies (such as its ongoing occupation & oppression of Palestinians) as occasions and motivations to target and attack non-Zionists Jews.
Netanyahu, by casting himself as the leader of “the entire Jewish people” due to his seat in Israel’s government, simply strengthens disdain towards Jews.
Is it any wonder that such a conflation can happen when Israel’s leader feeds into it for perceived political gain?
3) When Netanyahu went to Paris to represent “the entire Jewish people” at the Charlie Hebdo march, he did so as an uninvited, unwanted guest who, in the most undignified of ways, pushed himself into the limelight. Both figuratively and literally. All of it to promote his political standing domestically as a serious world leader.
Now, after breaking diplomatic protocol and scheduling his visit behind Obama’s back, he will be speaking before Congress on March 3 as an unwanted guest by the President and much of Congress. And again, he will be doing so to promote his political standing domestically as a serious world leader while simultaneously harming Israel’s relationship with the U.S. by turning the country into a political football.
Netanyahu has a history of claiming to speak for all Jews by virtue of being Israel’s leader. In his mind, Israel is the Jew amongst the nations, and as such can stand in for all of the world’s Jews. This is the exact same idea the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) has been promoting for years to shield Israel from reproach.
Netanyahu will never speak for most of America’s Jews simply because he is Israel’s Prime Minister. Not with regard to Iran. Not with regard to Israel’s continued occupation of the Palestinians. Not with regard to Israel’s expansion of settlements. Not with regard to Israel’s disproportionate destruction in Gaza and continued blockade. Not with regard to Israel’s rejection of diplomacy.
Israel and the entire Jewish people are not one and the same. This is something Israel’s own Declaration of the Establishment of the State of Israel recognizes.
J Street, an American nonprofit liberal advocacy organization, has kicked off a campaign against Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s planned speech to Congress, under the hashtag #BibiDoesntSpeakForMe.
J-Street’s campaign is intended to send a clear message that Netanyahu and his actions are not representative of all Jews, particularly those living in the United States.
The campaign is gaining traction on Twitter under the hashtag #BibiDoesntSpeakForMe, with some users sharing photos of themselves using the slogan.
Disagree? It’s time to speak up.
SIGN OUR PETITION NOW