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Netanyahu’s Christmas message: More anti-Muslim public diplomacy

Netanyahu Christmas message

Does Netanyahu’s message extend to what Israeli policies do to Palestinian Christians at all? (h/t: Avi. H)

Netanyahu’s Christmas message: More anti-Muslim public diplomacy

By Barak Ravid (Haaretz)

Every year, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu publishes a Christmas message for Christians in Israel and abroad. One of the message’s objectives is hasbara, or public diplomacy, to the Christians of the world. But this year’s greeting was especially political. Netanyahu chose to radicalize his traditional greeting into an attack on Muslims in Arab countries.

In his December 2011 greeting, Netanyahu made do with pointing out the fact that in the Middle East “Christians are persecuted in a routine manner, and there is little tolerance toward them.”

In his 2012 greeting, Netanyahu, who continuously cautions the world that Israel is under existential threat from Iran, asserted that the Christians in the Middle East are in danger of extermination. No less.

“Today Christian communities throughout the Middle East are shrinking and many of them are in danger,” said Netanyahu, according to the announcement published by his bureau in Hebrew and English. “…this is of course not true in Israel. Here there is a strong and growing Christian community that participates fully in the life of our country.”

Netanyahu did not specify in his greeting exactly who is threatening to annihilate the Christians, but it’s clear from the wording that he means the Muslims. As he did last year, he emphasized that the Christian community in Israel is large and that it enjoys freedom of religion and freedom to worship, but this year he added a hinted reference to the “Judeo-Christian heritage.”

The reference is to a sensitive term taken from the conceptual world of the rightist-evangelical anti-Muslim wing of the Republican Party. After the 9/11 attacks, U.S. conservative politicians and intellectuals used this term in criticizing American multi-culturalism and claimed that the Muslims were engaged in a culture war against Judaism and Christianity.

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  • Chameleon_X

    “Perhaps Sarka was prescient or making an educated guess at that point, but at the end of the day, the statement that 1DrM “was only criticizing Zionism” and not Jews turned out to no longer be true.”

    Point taken. However, DrM’s previous sentence focusing on the “Zionist liar” interpretation seems to imply that these are the same “chauvinist Jews” to whom he is referring, which is how I interpreted his words. That said, I agree that his word choice was not clear, and certainly not how I would put it (i.e., the word “Jew” implies a possible generalization beyond just Zionists, whereas I prefer to keep these terms very distinct). I think only DrM can clarify what he meant there.

    With respect to the other issue, I also agree that Sarka has mellowed in terms of word choice, as I already acknowledged, which is why I consider this issue a dead horse. However, it is troublesome that s/he still has not similarly acknowledged how the original word choice was academically overreaching and clearly offensive — intentional or not — with respect to at least three separate statements/claims invalidating Islam as being derived from God without any evidence.

  • Just_Stopping_By

    Chameleon:

    Since you refer to my comments, let me make a few points. First, 1DrM responded to Sarka with, “Only chauvinist Jews insist that Judaism is the starting point with ‘borrowing and lifting theories’ nonsense.” Perhaps Sarka was prescient or making an educated guess at that point, but at the end of the day, the statement that 1DrM “was only criticizing Zionism” and not Jews turned out to no longer be true. I agree that Sarka jumped the gun in the assumption, but s/he was ultimately correct with regard to one individual, though not with regard to any generalization to all Muslims. Agreed?

    Second, at least I am okay with Sarka’s most recent comments. Sure, s/he could add in “from a secular view” every now and then, but as you say, the tone has mellowed. I think once one has noted that they are speaking from a secular point of view, it is not necessary to keep repeating that caveat. I found the word “lifted” particularly problematic, but I’ll agree with you that that is more a poor word choice for this forum than a deliberate attempt to be offensive.

  • Chameleon_X

    “I haven’t stated any views here concerning the relationship between Zionism and Judaism.”

    My point exactly. I think you missed the punch line, so let me walk you through it. You said to DrM after he strongly criticized Zionism (not Judaism), “Well, you nicely illustrate why no Muslim leaders are going to be talking about “Judaeo-Islamic culture” soon.” By doing so, you were implying that a criticism of Zionism is a criticism of Judaism, when in fact Zionism is an anti-Judaism ideology based on racism, which I assert that Judaism rejects. That is why I said, “And thank you for nicely illustrating how you and so many others can’t differentiate between Zionism and Judaism.” You were conflating the two by implication of your criticism of DrM when he was only criticizing Zionism. As I emphasized on another thread, this is a very common error, since even many Jews themselves don’t differentiate between Judaism and Zionism as they indeed should.

    Islam has very much in common with Judaism, but both of these noble religions reject the racism inherent in Zionism. I am still waiting on a single person to debate me on this topic if they disagree. If we don’t point the finger at the political ideology of Zionism to explain such massive patterns of injustice, then we will end up pointing the finger incorrectly at Judaism, Jews in general or the entire state of Israel, which I believe are all wholly incorrect and bigoted views because they cannot be rationally supported. That is just my claim, and I welcome anyone to try to persuade me otherwise with relevant evidence.

    You say, “Islam owes a lot to Judaism in terms of ideas”

    You also say, “Both Christianity and Islam are “derived” from Judaism in the sense that they take over this idea – which was highly specific to Judaism in the ancient world – but of course both do not just “derive it” but reinterpret and add to it – often with ideas from other sources”

    You are softening your prior offensive claims with these backtracked and contorted interpretations of your prior words, but it is still incorrect to assert, since Islam owes everything to God, not Judaism, and because both come from the same source. To assert that Islam is “derived from Judaism” is at best a very poor and logically incorrect choice of words if you were intending to mean that both religions could still be contemplated to come directly from God with this phrase. I think you need to reread JSB’s comments to help you clarify what is an academically correct way to state something when you don’t have evidence vs. what is an offensive way to assert something as if it were true rather than merely an academic possibility. In the rest of your comment, you are just repeating the same straw man arguments (that nobody is going to dispute) about what you really meant to say.

    Let’s just leave it at this on this topic: What you originally claimed, as I quoted you word for word above, was indeed offensive, and I think others expressed agreement with this as well. However, given that you are making what appears to be a sincere effort not to be offensive and to restate your meaning, however contorted that may be, I will let it pass and just consider it a very poor choice of words. There is no point in either of us repeating the same arguments over and over. Let’s move on.

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