Geopolitics

Leadership-By-Paranoia, Why Netanyahu Must Go

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has done great harm to Israel's reputation, and the early elections he's called for March are a perfect chance to end his hold on the nation.

Netanyahu on Dec. 3
Netanyahu on Dec. 3
Yoel Esteron

-OpEd-

TEL AVIV — Benjamin Netanyahu isn't singularly to blame for the turmoil within Israeli government, but he is the prime minister. Thirty years ago, Prime Minister Menachem Begin was diagnosed with clinical depression, which was hidden from the public until he was simply unable to carry on.

Instead, today, nobody is trying to hide Bibi Netanyahu's paranoia. It can be felt in each one of his statements. And sadly, his advisors and others surrounding him cultivate it without shame. Bibi is good for Jews! Paranoia is good for Jews! It might even become a campaign slogan.

Netanyahu's ministers have been saying for a while now that their leader has lost his way — and his senses. And not just ministers from the coalition: key figures from Netanyahu's Likud party are saying very harsh things about their prime minister in conversations that weren't meant to be published.

Even senior government officials in his office are very concerned. There are no longer talks about the very well-known problem of his wife Sara Netanyahu, who has been sued for abusive behavior toward her housekeeper and a former family bodyguard. The problem now is Bibi himself. Those who have resigned from his office and his party have not yet shared their disillusionment with the public. Maybe it's time for that, because it would be a betrayal of the people's trust to remain silent.

Netanyahu must go

All the political commentators are chattering about why the elections that Netanyahu has called early, for March, are completely pointless, bemoaning the fact that they will cost millions of dollars to execute. But I disagree. The 2015 elections are essential for Israel's future. They will probably be mostly anti-Netanyahu, but if it is the will of the people, let them remove a prime minister who is dragging down the country.

Netanyahu has destroyed the special relations Israel previously enjoyed with the United States, isolated Israel internationally, blocked every chance of reconciliation with moderate Mideast actors, sabotaged any economic reform, and ruined any chance of improving life for Israeli workers and taxpayers. Now, in a pathetic attempt to make everybody forget who has led and directed the government, he blames his ministers for failing.

Netanyahu is convinced that he was chosen to save the country and should therefore keep his position forever. He will never say, "I can't do this anymore."

Therefore, it is we who should send him home in the next election. Let him fly around the world to speak at conferences. This isn't about the political left or right. Both sides are equally legitimate. Even the right-wing Likud party deserves better than Netanyahu. There are excellent people in the Likud, and if one of them becomes a candidate, so be it. Let him be prime minister. But Netanyahu must go.

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Society

What It Means When The Jews Of Germany No Longer Feel Safe

A neo-Nazi has been buried in the former grave of a Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender – not an oversight, but a deliberate provocation. This is just one more example of antisemitism on the rise in Germany, and society's inability to respond.

At a protest against antisemitism in Berlin

Eva Marie Kogel

-Essay-

BERLIN — If you want to check the state of your society, there's a simple test: as the U.S. High Commissioner for Germany, John Jay McCloy, said in 1949, the touchstone for a democracy is the well-being of Jews. This litmus test is still relevant today. And it seems Germany would not pass.


Incidents are piling up. Most recently, groups of neo-Nazis from across the country traveled to a church near Berlin for the funeral of a well-known far-right figure. He was buried in the former grave of Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender, a gravesite chosen deliberately by the right-wing extremists.

The incident at the cemetery

They intentionally chose a Jewish grave as an act of provocation, trying to gain maximum publicity for this act of desecration. And the cemetery authorities at the graveyard in Stahnsdorf fell for it. The church issued an immediate apology, calling it a "terrible mistake" and saying they "must immediately see whether and what we can undo."

There are so many incidents that get little to no media attention.

It's unfathomable that this burial was allowed to take place at all, but now the cemetery authorities need to make a decision quickly about how to put things right. Otherwise, the grave may well become a pilgrimage site for Holocaust deniers and antisemites.

The incident has garnered attention in the international press and it will live long in the memory. Like the case of singer-songwriter Gil Ofarim, who recently claimed he was subjected to antisemitic abuse at a hotel in Leipzig. Details of the crime are still being investigated. But there are so many other incidents that get little to no media attention.

Photo of the grave of Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender

The grave of Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender

Jens Kalaene/dpa/ZUMA

Crimes against Jews are rising

Across all parts of society, antisemitism is on the rise. Until a few years ago, Jewish life was seen as an accepted part of German society. Since the attack on the synagogue in Halle in 2019, the picture has changed: it was a bitter reminder that right-wing terror against Jewish people has a long, unbroken history in Germany.

Stories have abounded about the coronavirus crisis being a Jewish conspiracy; meanwhile, Muslim antisemitism is becoming louder and more forceful. The anti-Israel boycott movement BDS rears its head in every debate on antisemitism, just as left-wing or post-colonial thinking are part of every discussion.

Jewish life needs to be allowed to step out of the shadows.

Since 2015, the number of antisemitic crimes recorded has risen by about a third, to 2,350. But victims only report around 20% of cases. Some choose not to because they've had bad experiences with the police, others because they're afraid of the perpetrators, and still others because they just want to put it behind them. Victims clearly hold out little hope of useful reaction from the state – so crimes go unreported.

And the reality of Jewish life in Germany is a dark one. Sociologists say that Jewish children are living out their "identity under siege." What impact does it have on them when they can only go to nursery under police protection? Or when they hear Holocaust jokes at school?

Germany needs to take its antisemitism seriously

This shows that the country of commemorative services and "stumbling blocks" placed in sidewalks as a memorial to victims of the Nazis has lost its moral compass. To make it point true north again, antisemitism needs to be documented from the perspective of those affected, making it visible to the non-Jewish population. And Jewish life needs to be allowed to step out of the shadows.

That is the first thing. The second is that we need to talk about specifically German forms of antisemitism. For example, the fact that in no other EU country are Jewish people so often confronted about the Israeli government's policies (according to a survey, 41% of German Jews have experienced this, while the EU average is 28%). Projecting the old antisemitism onto the state of Israel offers people a more comfortable target for their arguments.

Our society needs to have more conversations about antisemitism. The test of German democracy, as McCloy called it, starts with taking these concerns seriously and talking about them. We need to have these conversations because it affects all of us. It's about saving our democracy. Before it's too late.

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