A full-page advertisement in the New York Times of November 14 accuses Secretary of State John Kerry of anti-Semitism. The accuser is a Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, who has designated himself as nothing less than “America’s Rabbi.” He ministers to the spiritual needs of the casino mogul Sheldon Adelson, who finances the organization headed by Boteach in whose name the ad was placed. (While Adelson owns many casinos and the Republican Party, he does not own America—at least not yet. Boteach’s claim to be America’s rabbi may therefore be somewhat premature.)
The content of this ad could only have drawn its inspiration from the PR skills perfected by Hitler’s propaganda chief, Joseph Goebbels, whose official title was minister of public enlightenment. The enlightenment offered by Boteach (and presumably by his patron Adelson) in this ad is the slander that Secretary Kerry “devalues Jewish lives,” “appears to justify the spilling of Jewish blood,” and “plans to give Iran billions of dollars to pursue its goal of wiping Israel off the map.”
This, about a man who has been a lifelong supporter of Israel and of progressive and humanitarian causes important to most American Jews. Boteach is far more in sync with Netanyahu’s four governments, which have managed to shape a new moral climate in Israel that accepts cabinet officials like Ayelet Shaked, the minister of justice (justice, no less!), who advocates the killing of Palestinian mothers who “breed little terrorist snakes.”
Boteach leveled his slanderous charges against Secretary Kerry because Kerry said that Palestinian violence was caused, at least in part, by Palestinian frustration over massive increases in Israeli settlement expansion that threaten to defeat the Oslo agreement’s goal of a two-state peace accord. For Boteach, that is an unforgivable moral equivalence of Palestinian terrorism and Israel’s defensive measures. According to the daily Haaretz and B’Tselem, a leading Israeli NGO, these measures now include extrajudicial executions of Palestinians who were not a threat to anyone.
Boteach also charged that Kerry echoed a “virulent anti-Semitic libel” in saying the settlements risk turning Israel into an apartheid state. Boteach fails to mention that this is a danger warned against by such well-known anti-Semites as David Ben-Gurion, Ariel Sharon, Ehud Barak, Ehud Olmert, and Shimon Peres, all previous Israeli prime ministers.
Actually, the suggestion that both sides are equally at fault is a false moral equation, but only because there can be no moral equivalence between the violence of a powerful occupier and the violence of its powerless victim. As pointed out by the Haaretz columnist Amira Hass, Palestinians are fighting for their lives and their continued existence as a nation, while Israel is fighting for its occupation.
Not surprisingly, Netanyahu has tried to exploit the brutal ISIS-sponsored executions in Paris to justify Israeli behavior toward Palestinians in the occupied territories and in East Jerusalem. But there is no comparing the situation in France—a country that is not keeping Arabs imprisoned behind separation walls, roadblocks, and dehumanizing checkpoints—and Israel.