LAST FRIDAY AFTERNOON, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu uploaded a video to Facebook. It was not good wishes for a nice Shabbat. Instead he asserted that Palestinian authorities are committed to a Jew-free "ethnic cleansing" of Judea and Samaria. What's more, he added, "Ethnic cleansing for the sake of peace is absurd."
At first, response to the video was modest. It is not modest anymore. With almost 700,000 views, it has resonanted, and irritated. Falling in the latter category, the US Obama administration quickly responded with a sharp rebuke.
The same day Netanyahu published his video, US State Department spokesperson Elizabeth Trudeau condemned it. Speaking for President Obama's administration, she said, "We obviously strongly disagree with the characterization that those who oppose settlement activity or view it as an obstacle to peace are somehow calling for ethnic cleansing of Jews from the West Bank. ...We believe that using that type of terminology is inappropriate and unhelpful."
There was no such rebuke after remarks by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in July of 2013. While in Egypt, he was interviewed by that country's press. “In a final resolution, we would not see the presence of a single Israeli — civilian or soldier — on our lands,” he stated in a television interview.
WHAT DID NETANYAHU SAY THAT ELICITED EXPLICIT CONDEMNATION FROM THE USA? SEE FOR YOURSELF. THE ARTICLE, INCLUDING A TRANSCRIPT OF HIS REMARKS, CONTINUES BELOW.
OFFICIAL TRANSCRIPT OF NETANYAHU'S REMARKS:
I'm sure many of you have heard the claim that Jewish communities in Judea Samaria, the West Bank, are an obstacle to peace.
I've always been perplexed by this notion.
Because no one would seriously claim that the nearly two million Arabs living inside Israel – that they're an obstacle to peace. That's because they aren't. On the contrary.
Israel's diversity shows its openness and readiness for peace.
Yet the Palestinian leadership actually demands a Palestinian state with one pre-condition: No Jews.
There's a phrase for that: It's called ethnic cleansing.
And this demand is outrageous. It's even more outrageous that the world doesn't find this outrageous.
Some otherwise enlightened countries even promote this outrage.
Ask yourself this: Would you accept ethnic cleansing in your state? A territory without Jews, without Hispanics, without blacks?
Since when is bigotry a foundation for peace?
At this moment, Jewish schoolchildren in Judea Samaria are playing in sandboxes with their friends.
Does their presence make peace impossible?
I don’t think so.
I think what makes peace impossible is intolerance of others.
Societies that respect all people are the ones that pursue peace.
Societies that demand ethnic cleansing don't pursue peace.
I envision a Middle East where young Arabs and young Jews learn together, work together, live together side by side in peace.
Our region needs more tolerance, not less.
So the next time you hear someone say Jews can't live somewhere, let alone in their ancestral homeland, take a moment to think of the implications.
Ethnic cleansing for peace is absurd.
It's about time somebody said it.
I just did.
In response to Netanyahu's video, the Associated Press reports that Abbas turned the accusion back on Netanyahu, accusing Israel of "ethnic cleansing."