Amid the widespread condemnation of the neo-Nazis and Klansmen who marched in Charlottesville, Va., and the justified criticism of President Donald Trump for his inability to clearly join in the condemnation, Israel has become a target.
Initially, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was attacked, with some justification. After all, Netanyahu likes to present himself as the leader of all the Jewish people, not just Israeli citizens (Jewish or not).
In addition, he has not hesitated to wade into American political debates or to criticize the U.S. president when he viewed Israeli or Jewish interests at stake, as in the struggle over the Iran nuclear deal in 2015. Netanyahu’s justification for criticizing President Barack Obama and for taking his opposition to the deal straight to Congress rested not strictly on Israel’s security needs, but on the refusal to let the Jewish people fall victim to another Holocaust.
So when brown-shirted thugs marched through an American city while chanting anti-Jewish and Nazi slogans, with a few stopping to terrorize a Jewish congregation at Shabbat prayer, the “never again” logic called for swift, vociferous condemnation from that same Israeli leader.
But just as outrage at Trump shouldn’t be conflated with criticism of the United States — or anger at any other democratically elected leader extended to his or her entire nation — so the criticism of Netanyahu should have gone no further.
Leading Israelis did condemn the neo-Nazis and their parade of hate. Jewish Agency Chairman Natan Sharansky declared horror at the death of counterdemonstrator Heather Heyer and offered support for any threatened Jewish college student through Jewish Agency Israel fellows working with Hillel. Yad Vashem emphasized the need for vigilance against the hatred, xenophobia and anti-Jewish ideology that led to the slaughter of 6 million Jews.
President Reuven Rivlin sent a letter to the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations to express solidarity with American Jews, shock at the scenes from Charlottesville, determination to oppose Nazi evil, and faith in democracy, justice and humanity.
They did not call out Trump, but there’s no reason they should have. His failure to respond to a domestic issue as we would prefer is an internal issue and not the business of Israeli politicians — just as it is not the concern of the leaders of other Western nations.
British Prime Minister Theresa May, Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni, French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, all of whom lead nations that know the destructive power of fascism, were unequivocal in their condemnation of racism, hatred and violence.
None said anything about Trump’s tepid response. None inspired columns criticizing that silence or analyzing supposed rifts between their nations and the American citizens who see themselves as ethnically tied to them.
Once again, Israel finds itself held to a different standard, to the extent that an official of the anti-Israel Jewish Voice for Peace wrote a foul column comparing Zionism to the racist white nationalism of alt-right leader Richard Spencer.
Americans, Jewish or not, have the overwhelming support of Israelis and other freedom-loving people around the world against the advances of hatemongers. Don’t let anyone convince you otherwise.