The Jewish state chooses its battles carefully
ISRAEL has long seen itself as the protector of Jews everywhere and a bulwark against global anti-Semitism. It has brought prominent Nazis such as Adolf Eichmann to justice and it rescued Ethiopian Jews threatened by war and famine in the 1980s and 90s. Just last week it denounced a crass notice in a Swiss hotel telling “Jewish guests” to shower before entering the pool. So Israel’s government could reasonably have been expected to condemn the protests in Charlottesville, Virginia, which featured neo-Nazis chanting “Jews will not replace us”, and to criticise the mealy-mouthed response by Donald Trump, whose presidency has energised the white-supremacist movement in America.
Instead, the anti-Semitic rally, which descended into violence, and Mr Trump’s tepid early comments were met with silence by the government in Jerusalem. Only after Mr Trump’s carefully scripted denunciation of “the KKK, neo-Nazis, white supremacists and other hate groups” did Binyamin Netanyahu, Israel’s prime minister, issue a tweet saying, “Outraged by expressions of anti-Semitism, neo-Nazism and racism. Everyone should oppose this hatred.” Mr Netanyahu made no reference to where or when these expressions were made, or to who was making them. Nor did he react to Mr Trump’s later comments, which pinned blame for the violence on both the neo-Nazis and the people who turned out to oppose them... his reluctance to speak out against anti-Semitism in America is about more than that. Mr Netanyahu and his supporters seem to believe that the people opposing the white supremacists are at least as dangerous to Israel as the neo-Nazis. Take Mr Netanyahu’s son, Yair, who condemned the neo-Nazis on Facebook, but added that the counter-protesters of Antifa and Black Lives Matter “hate my country (and America too in my view) just as much” and “are getting stronger and stronger and becoming super dominant in American universities and public life”... Even Rabbi Marvin Hier, who recited a prayer at Mr Trump’s inauguration, blasted him last week. “No one could ever compare neo-Nazis, the Klan and white supremacists to demonstrators that are demonstrating against them. To equate the two sides is preposterous,” said Rabbi Hier... Mr Netanyahu and his Likud party have won three elections, in part by accusing the left and the media of undermining Israel’s security. This, along with the prime minister’s co-operation with Orthodox Jewish parties, has alienated those American Jews who identify with the opposition in Israel. To some it looks as if Mr Netanyahu only sees anti-Semitism in those who oppose his policies... Consider his treatment of Viktor Orban, Hungary’s populist prime minister. Mr Orban’s government has been accused of running an anti-Semitic poster campaign against George Soros, a Jewish American financier with Hungarian roots who funds liberal causes, and organisations that are critical of Mr Orban... Mr Orban, on the other hand, is one of Mr Netanyahu’s closest allies in Europe.