Benjamin Netanyahu Draws Fire After Saying Palestinians Support ‘Ethnic Cleansing’

Source: The New York Times

By

JERUSALEM — In the absence of any prospect of peace with thePalestinians, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel has started a video war.

His latest, and so far the most provocative, two-minute video in a recent series is titled “No Jews.” In the video, Mr. Netanyahu accuses thePalestinian leadership of demanding a Jew-free Palestinian state by opposing Israeli settlements in the West Bank. He adds, “There’s a phrase for that: It’s called ethnic cleansing.”

A storm of international and domestic criticism followed the release of the video on Friday, with some calling Mr. Netanyahu’s arguments divisive and delusional. The State Department described the language in the video as “inappropriate and unhelpful” and said it had taken the issue directly to the Israeli government.

But many have cheered for him, saying Mr. Netanyahu is exposing the hypocrisy of Israel’s detractors, whose concern for human rights, they feel, seems to apply only to the Palestinians.

Days after the release of the video, Israelis and Palestinians were still debating the effects of Mr. Netanyahu’s “hasbara” offensive, using a Hebrew term for pro-Israeli advocacy. Was Mr. Netanyahu destroying Israel’s international relations, ties already strained over the continued settlement construction in the Israeli-occupied West Bank that much of the world considers illegitimate? Or was he a public relations genius, using the world stage to score points with his home audience?

“There is something ridiculous about Netanyahu’s claim against ‘ethnic cleansing of Jews,’” Ben-Dror Yemini, a political columnist often critical of Israel’s opponents, wrote in Monday’s edition of the newspaper Yediot Aharonot.

Mr. Yemini wrote that population transfers were historically intended to ensure the right of self-determination and to establish nation states. He maintained that Mr. Netanyahu has turned that concept on its head. Israelis settling in the heart of Arab-populated areas of the West Bank were, he wrote, “the antithesis of the idea of self-determination and a Jewish and democratic nation state, because instead of separation there is a mix-up of hostile populations.”

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