Why I oppose Netanyahu

Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu visited Australia at the end of February. The human rights violations perpetrated by this man must be called out.

By David Rothfield
Thursday, February 23, 2017

Netanyahu is bad news. I say that not only as one who fully supports the Australian Greens’ policy on Israel and Palestine but as a Jew with a strong emotional and cultural attachment to Israel, who looks forward to the day of mutual reconciliation between Israelis and Palestinians and of them building a future in harmony and mutual respect as two neighbouring peoples.

Israel was established by the United Nations as a refuge for Jews fleeing persecution. Today that act might be viewed as another product of disregard by the colonial powers in retreat, leaving their stamp on the countries they had ruled for their own narrow interests.

Be that as it may, the fact of Israel cannot be altered today any more than the colonial borders of Africa can be redrawn, or white settlers from Southern Africa or Australia removed.

Most Palestinians today recognise those facts. But recent Israeli governments, emboldened by support from neo-conservatives in America and lack of any effective international opposition, continue with their expansion of Jewish colonisation of occupied Palestinian land — all done whilst acting the victim of Arab intransigence. 

Netanyahu is the successful exponent of this stance. Replacing Yizchak Rabin as PM, after his assassination in 1995, and riding a wave of fear in Israel about a new surge of terrorism, Netanyahu immediately set about undermining the trust that had been built with the Palestinian Authority, by stalling on a commitment to withdraw Israeli troops from Hebron. In and out of office since then, he has steadily undermined the Oslo Accords and overseen the building of the separation wall that extends across Palestinian land as well as approving the expansion of Jewish colonisation on both sides of the separation wall, much of which is on stolen private land. 

A dream denied

Many progressive Jews, in Israel and the diaspora, once hoped for an Israel that would live in peace with its Palestinian neighbours on a basis of mutual recognition and respect. Netanyahu has put paid to those hopes. His dream is different. He wants a strong Jewish Israel ruling the lands of biblical Israel where a Palestinian presence will be tolerated with certain conditions. With agility and resilience, he has pursued that vision for 20 years with great success. Shockingly, he may now have an ally in the White House. 

It seems Prime Minister Turnbull was unwilling to raise these issues while Netanyahu was here. 

As a Jewish member of the Greens, I appreciate the strong statements of our Greens MPs Scott Ludlam and Lee Rhiannon criticising Netanyahu and the human rights violations his government is committing. 

It’s important for all of us, regardless of ethnicity, that Greens supporters of Palestinian national rights understand that this man's discriminatory and degrading policies are rejected by many Jews, inside and outside of Israel — in exactly the same way that we as Greens here reject the inhuman and degrading treatment of asylum seekers held on Manus and Nauru. 

David Rothfield is a Jewish member of the Australian Greens Victoria. Image: Mural on the Israeli West Bank Barrier. Picture taken by Justin McIntosh, August 2004.