Column One: Yair Netanyahu and the angry Left

Yair Netanyahu's actions have caused an uproar in Israel and abroad.

Yair Netanyahu (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Yair Netanyahu
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Yair Netanyahu, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s 26-year-old son, has been getting some harsh press in recent weeks.
Yair walked (or toddled) onto the stage of public life when he was five years old as he and his then two-year-old little brother Avner accompanied their parents, Bibi and Sara, into the Prime Minister’s Residence for the first time in 1996.
For nearly 20 years, the Netanyahu boys were little more than a silent presence standing to the side of their parents on election nights. But while Avner remains on the sidelines while serving as a combat soldier, Yair is no longer a stage extra in his parents’ story.
In recent years the older Netanyahu boy has taken to Facebook. And it works out that he is quite an iconoclast.
Yair’s iconoclasm is unsurprising. The Israeli establishment has been bludgeoning his parents since Yair was learning to finger-paint. It would be bizarre if he sought its approval.
Not only does he not seek acceptance from the leftist elite, he clearly hold its members in contempt.
And he’s happy to tell everyone what he thinks about them. Indeed, over the past month, as the criminal probes against his parents have dominated the news cycle, the frequency of Netanyahu’s controversial postings has steeply intensified.
In the last month alone, Yair’s posts have caused media furors three times.
At the beginning of August, Molad, a far-left NGO that supports the BDS movement, published a scathing attack on him on 61, a satirical website it runs.
Titled “Five things you didn’t know about Crown Prince Yair Netanyahu,” the piece attacked him for his political views, for continuing to live with his parents and for having publicly funded security guards, and a publicly funded car and driver.
In response, after pointing out that Molad never criticized the children of any other premier despite ample reason to do so, Yair referred to Molad as a “radical, anti-Zionist group financed by the Fund for Israel’s Destruction, and the European Union.”
Molad, which is funded by the New Israel Fund, European EU-funded foundations, anti-Israel, Jewish- born billionaire George Soros’s Open Society Foundation and the Rockefeller Brothers Foundation, responded in fine democratic form.
It filed a libel suit against Yair Netanyahu.
Two weeks after the Molad brouhaha, there was the face-off between the neo-Nazis and the violent leftists from Antifa at Charlottesville which left one leftist demonstrator murdered by a neo-Nazi.
The Israeli political and media classes stood as one with the US political establishment and condemned the neo-Nazis while ignoring the violent far-left protesters.
In so doing Israel’s national leadership incidentally or, in some cases deliberately, lent support to the US establishment’s condemnations of President Donald Trump for his decision to condemn “both sides” for their resort to violence rather than just the neo-Nazis.
Just as the conventional wisdom that only the neo-Nazis were to blame was getting set in stone, along came Yair Netanyahu and his Facebook page.
In a post in English, Yair condemned the neo-Nazis as “scums” who “hate me and my country.”
But, he said, “Their breed is dying out.”
Netanyahu continued, “The thugs from Antifa and BLM [Black Lives Matter] who hate my country (and America too in my view) just as much are getting stronger and stronger and becoming super dominant in American universities and public life.”
Netanyahu’s view of the neo-Nazis as a spent force is probably incorrect. True, their numbers aren’t very big, and to be sure, they do not hold sway in either major political party. But they do have the capacity to incite Jew-hatred on both sides of the ideological divide.
At the same time, his assertion that antisemitic groups on the Left are a “getting stronger and stronger” is entirely accurate.
Netanyahu said what Israel’s political leaders didn’t say. In so doing he blew the lid off the Left’s self-righteous lather over right-wing antisemites by asserting, accurately, that the bigger problem is in their political camp.
Not surprisingly, his statement enraged the leftist establishment. MK Micky Rosenthal, for instance, referred to Netanyahu as “Hitler Youth.”
This brings us to last weekend and Yair Netanyahu’s most recent media storm.
Last Friday the news broke that Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit is about to indict Sara Netanyahu for ordering take-out from restaurants even though one of the cleaning ladies at the Prime Minister’s Residence was doubling as a cook.
The next day, Yair Netanyahu published an extraordinary cartoon on his Facebook page.
Under the headline “Food Chain,” the cartoon featured Soros holding a globe and pulling the strings controlling a lizard.
The lizard in turn is pulling the strings controlling the Literati – or in current parlance – the elite.
The Literati image is pulling the strings controlling the prime minister’s arch-rival, former defense minister and prime minister Ehud Barak.
Barak is pulling the strings controlling Eldad Yaniv, Barak’s former political strategist. Yaniv is now leading the weekly protests outside Mandelblit’s home demanding that he indict Prime Minister Netanyahu.
Finally, Yaniv’s image is pulling the strings controlling Meni Naftali, the former manager of the Prime Minister’s Residence. Naftali was fired from his position in 2014 and turned against Netanyahu ahead of the 2015 election, alleging that Sara Netanyahu is guilty of multiple acts of graft and breaches of faith.
Naftali’s testimony against Sara Netanyahu forms the basis of what will likely become the criminal indictment against her.
As soon as Yair posted the image, Haaretz published it as a news story. Haaretz, like the rest of the leftist universe, condemned the image as antisemitic and condemned Yair Netanyahu for trafficking in antisemitic incitement. Conservative and Reform American Jewish leaders were quick to join the anti- Yair bandwagon.
The truth is, they have a point. It is hard to deny that the cartoon he posted is antisemitic in effect if not in substance.
In the face of the onslaught against Yair, some right-wing commentators and political allies of his father have come to his defense. The general argument made by a dozen or so Netanyahu defenders was that it is rich, to say the least, that the same leftists who call their political foes Nazis and fascists on seemingly a daily basis, have the nerve to take offense at young Netanyahu’s post. And there is a great deal of truth to the claim.
Haaretz, which has been leading the charge against Yair, and against his parents, cannot seem to stop calling members of the nationalist camp fascists and Nazis.
Haaretz writers constantly attack Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked, for instance, as “Mussolini” or a “Nazi” or a “fascist” for trying to advance a judicial reform agenda that is supported by the vast majority of the Israeli public.
So indeed, it is absurd that Haaretz can dare to wail about antisemitism from Yair Netanyahu, whose parents have been subjected to pathological attacks, for decades, by the far-left publication.
But again, while the Left’s wounded cries are hypocritical, they aren’t wrong.
True, George Soros is a major engine behind the worldwide campaign to delegitimize Israel’s right to exist generally and the BDS movement in particular.
True, George Soros is a major engine of a parallel campaign within the American Jewish community to convince American Jewry to abandon its support for Israel.
And true, in an interview with 60 Minutes in 1998, Soros proudly admitted that he collaborated with the Nazis during the Holocaust.
But despite all of this, it is undeniable that some of the attacks against Soros over the years have been antisemitic. During the Asian currency crisis in 1997, for instance, then-Malaysian prime minister Mahathir Mohammed accused Soros of leading a worldwide Jewish conspiracy to harm the Muslims.
And then there is David Duke, the white supremacist leader behind the Charlottesville riot. After Haaretz reported and published Netanyahu’s Facebook post, Duke republished the Haaretz article and proclaimed that it gave credence to his claim that Soros controls America.
The thing is, Yair Netanyahu is smart enough to know an antisemitic image when he sees one.
So how did he dare to publish it? And this brings us back to the Left’s favored mode of public discourse.
The purpose behind the Left’s constant use of loaded terms like Nazi and fascist to describe its political foes is not to win a substantive policy dispute.
Rosenthal didn’t call Yair Netanyahu a Hitler Youth because he wanted to prove that Antifa and Black Lives Matter are not powerful engines of antisemitism on the Left.
Leftists use terms like these to demonize their political opponents and render them toxic so that the public will be too embarrassed to support them or agree with them.
These assaults are not limited to one issue. They span the spectrum of all the Left’s hot button issues, from women in combat to gay marriage to climate change to public funding of anti-Israel movies and plays to judicial reform and the Palestinians.
Anyone who rejects the Left’s positions is subjected to a campaign of demonization that is unrelenting, unsubstantiated and always over the top.
These campaigns have delivered two results – both of which are far different from the ones the Left intended.
First, they have made a very large portion of the public hate the Left. Whereas in the past the public sympathized with the Left but voted Right because it believed the Left was well-meaning but misguided, today little of that goodwill remains.
The other, deeper, consequence is that terms that should be deeply meaningful have now become virtually meaningless.
If Shaked is a Nazi for trying to advance a wildly popular judicial reform agenda, then the term “Nazi” is meaningless. If attacking Soros, one of Israel’s most dangerous and powerful enemies in the Western world, is antisemitic, while endemic, genocidal Jew-hatred throughout the Muslim world is strategically insignificant, then antisemitism is an empty term. And so on and so forth down the line.
In other words, Yair Netanyahu could use antisemitic imagery to attack the people he believes are persecuting his mother because as far as he is concerned, the concepts behind the images more powerfully evoke the Left’s campaign against his parents than they resonate centuries of antisemitic imagery.
Again, this isn’t to say that Netanyahu was right to use the image. He was wrong. But his decision is no mere personal failing. Rather it is a symptom of a far greater problem.
The Left’s constant misuse of intrinsically important terms has caused these terms to lose their meaning.
And as a consequence, our national discourse is becoming more irresponsible, crass and untethered from substance, to the detriment of our society and our future.