AIPAC delegates: Stand with Israel, not Netanyahu

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Haaretz, 02.03.2015

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Almost four years ago, 450,000 Israelis took to the streets because they could not afford the cost of living in Israel. The 294-page State Comptroller’s report issued last week, which warns that Israel’s middle class is in danger of collapsing, blames the housing crisis squarely on Netanyahu, who spent six years building homes for West Bank settlers, while apartment prices inside Israel rose by a whopping 36 percent. Much of Netanyahu’s Israel is poor. More than 1.6 million citizens live below the poverty line, including 756,000 children, according to the National Insurance Institute. According to UNICEF, Israel ranks fourth in child poverty in the developed world. Still, Netanyahu always finds money for settlements.

The economic inequalities are nothing compared to the ethnic and social divides Netanyahu cultivates. During last summer’s Gaza War, a wave of unprecedented physical and verbal violence was unleashed against Israel’s Arab citizens, which continued through the fall. President Reuven Rivlin spoke out in horror against the "disease" of racism. But our prime minister kept silent.

If Netanyahu was largely passive while Arab citizens were being assaulted, he led the demonization campaign against the 47,000 African refugees and asylum seekers who entered Israel without permits. Despite reducing the number of refugees entering Israel to practically zero, thanks to the Sinai fence, he continues to lock up thousands of these desperate people – who, like our own Jewish ancestors, sought to escape persecution and poverty. Netanyahu’s policies flout Jewish values, and have been overturned multiple times by the High Court as immoral and unjustified. But they play well to his xenophobic base. 

Likud-led fear and hatemongering hardly stops with our non-Jewish minorities. Progressives, civil rights activists, leftists, the judiciary and anyone who criticizes the occupation have all been accused of being enemies of the state. So much for Jewish solidarity or democratic discourse. 

And oh yes, Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territories will soon enter its 48th year, and the resolution of our conflict has rarely seemed more remote.