In Their Own Words: Was Every Israeli Prime Minister a Racist?
Similar radical racist ideologies can be found at the heart of both Apartheid South Africa and the Israeli Zionist project (Image source: Mint Press News)
Most nation states in our world today have dealt with their fair share of institutionalized racism and bigotry, and Israel is no exception. However, when it comes to Israel, the volume of racism expressed by prominent political figures is both astounding and concerning.
A compilation of various racist and hateful quotes by Israeli Prime Ministers demonstrating the extent to which racism is entrenched as well as normalized in Israeli political culture.
David Ben-Gurion was the first Prime Minister of the state of Israel, serving his first term between 1948 and 1953, he later served a second term from 1955 to 1963. Other than being a member of – what the British considered a terrorist organization at the time – the Haganah, David Ben-Gurion also notably presided over the ethnic cleansing of an estimated 750,000 Palestinians from their homeland.
David Ben-Gurion made his contempt for Palestinian human rights evident from his actions and therefore giving an example of his hatred for Palestinians would be nothing new. Instead, it is crucial to understand that, from the very first Prime Minister, the Israeli government viewed non-European Jews as “the other” and were very much racist.
On the 11th of June, 1962, David Ben-Gurion made the following statement at a meeting with the head of Israel’s teachers federation, Shalom Levin:
“The danger we face is that the great majority of those children whose parents did not receive an education for generations will descend to the level of Arab children”. (Source: https://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/.premium-1.653134)
The statement was addressing the question as to whether Israel should segregate the “Mizrahi” (Jews of Middle-Eastern origin or “oriental communities”) from the “Ashkenazi” (European Jewish) population.
This quote is crucial to understanding the attitude of the Prime Minister towards Jews who were not of European descent.
This information comes from the Israeli Labour Party archives and was reported upon by the Israeli media outlet Haaretz on the 24th of April, 2015.
Moshe Sharett was Israel’s second and shortest serving Prime Minister (1953-1955) and was perceived by many as a liberal Zionist. Unfortunately for Israel romanticists, the fictional depiction of Moshe Sharett, as the ‘dove amongst hawks’, really came under fire when he revealed his racially charged descriptions of Palestinian refugees.
The following is an entry from Moshe Sharett’s diary on the 15th of November, 1953, where he refers to returning Palestinian refugees as infiltrators:
“In the last three years [Shani reported] 20,000 infiltrators settled in Israel, in addition to 30,000 who returned immediately after the war…. Only because these 20,000 have not been given permanent documents has the brake been put on the flow of infiltration directed toward settlement. To abolish the military government would mean to open the border areas to undisturbed infiltration and to increasing penetration toward the interior of the country. Even as things are, around 19,000 Arabs in Galilee are in possession of permanent permits to move freely around but only to the West and the South and not toward the North and the East…. it is true that the troublesome problem of the evacuees must be liquidated through a permanent resettlement”.
The entry was made addressing a report, which was submitted to the Israeli cabinet, that same day, by the chief Military governor of the Arab minority in Israel, ‘Colonel Yitzhak Shani’.
A leading right-wing Israeli scholar, Benny Morris, in his book Righteous Victims: A History of the Zionist-Arab Conflict quotes Sharett as saying; “We have forgotten that we have not come to an empty land to inherit it, but we have come to conquer a country from people inhabiting it”, confirming that the liberal Zionist isn’t so representative of liberty when it comes to Palestinian human rights.
Levi Eshkol served as Israeli Prime Minister between 1963 and 1969. Eshkol oversaw 1967’s six day war, in which Israel was responsible for attacking a defenseless Egypt and initiating a war in which they would illegally occupy the Golan Heights (From Syria), the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and the Sinai Peninsula.
On the 17th of November, 2017, Haaretz News reported upon declassified documents previously release by the Israeli government. The documents unearth some very revealing opinions and the way in which Levi Eshkol discussed Palestinians.
In December 1967, months after the war, Levi Eshkol discusses the Palestinians of Gaza, labelling them a “problem” that needs to be dealt with by making life so miserable for them that they would just leave, he even began discussing the “luxury” of another war which would deal with the “problem” Israel faces.
Eshkol goes on to state:
“I cannot imagine it – how we will organize life in this country when we have 1.4 million Arabs and we are 2.4 million, with 400,000 Arabs already in the country?”
Evidently someone who declares Palestinians as a “problem” and “cannot imagine” living with them, actively working to violently expel them and/or force their departure, is no friend to any kind of peace in the region.
Golda Meir became Prime Minister of Israel in 1969 and served until the year 1974. Golda Meir notably spoke of non-European Jews in a very demeaning way, perpetuating a very popular European Zionist stereotype, that Jews from parts of the world other than Europe were essentially primitive.
Golda once said, whilst addressing the Zionist federation of Great Britain (in 1964):
“We in Israel need (Jewish) immigrants from countries with a high standard, because the future of our social structure is worrying us. We have immigrants from Morocco, Libya, Iran, Egypt and other countries with a 16th century level. Shall we be able to elevate these immigrants to a suitable level of civilization?”
Golda’s statement speaks for itself as to what she thought of non-European Jewry, hardly holding those from countries foreign to Europe at high esteem.
A notable concept, pushed by the likes of Golda Meir, is the idea that Palestinians don’t exist, that they are just Arabs and that Palestine never existed, an outright denial of history.
Golda Meir stated this idea loud and clear, on the 8th of March, 1969:
“It was not as if there was a Palestinian people in Palestine and we came and threw them out and took their country away from them. They did not exist.”
Although the statement above is one that Golda Meir gave, she seemed to acknowledge the existence of Palestine when she wrote letters, during her time living under the British Mandate of Palestine.
Yitzhak Rabin was Israel’s Prime Minister twice, the first time between 1971 and 1977 and then the second time he served 1992-95. Yitzhak Rabin, for the most part, was seen through the eyes of the West as a liberal president, ultimately facing assassination at the hands of a fanatical right wing Israeli in 1995.
The Yitzhak Rabin known to the Palestinians, however, was the bone-breaker who oversaw mass murder and the brutalization of their people.
Something kept very quiet is Yitzhak Rabin’s greeting of John Vorster in April, 1976. Rabin threw a banquet for the Prime Minister of Apartheid South Africa, expressing that Israel and Apartheid South Africa both face “foreign-inspired instability and recklessness”; he then went on to praise Apartheid South Africa and hailed “the ideals shared by Israel and South Africa”.
Menachem Begin was Israel’s Prime Minister between the years 1977 and 1983. Menachem Begin was once described by Albert Einstein as a terrorist; he and 25 other prominent Jews even wrote an open letter to the New York Times in 1948. Begin was involved in the infamous bombing of the King David Hotel as well as many other terrorist attacks, which claimed the lives of innocent men, women and children.
To point to the language which Menachem Begin used to characterize his Palestine “enemy”, I would simply turn to Ammon Kapeliouk’s article from the New Statesman (June 25,1982). The article entitled ‘Begin and the Beasts’ sums up the dehumanizing way in which Menachem Begin referred to Palestinians, stating that they were “beasts walking on two legs” according to Kapeliouk’s account from the observation of his speech delivered to the Knesset.
Yitzhak Shamir was Prime Minister of Israel twice, first from 1983 to 1984 and then again from 1986 to 1992. Yitzhak Shamir was formerly a leader of the Lehi (Stern Gang), a terrorist group responsible for the Deir Yassin massacre of 1948, along with countless attacks on civilians before this.
Yitzhak Shamir said, prior to the Madrid peace talks (in 1991), “The Arabs are the same Arabs and the sea is the same sea”. With this statement he was insinuating that the Palestinians and Arab neighboring countries had never changed, asserting that engaging with them in a negotiable manner was not something he was so happy about.
Yitzhak Shamir also referred to Palestinian protesters in 1988 as “grasshoppers compared to us”, vowing to crush the demonstrations.
Shimon Peres was elected twice as Prime Minister of Israel, serving the first time from 1984-1986, then again from 1995 until 1996. Peres also served as the ninth President of the state of Israel (2007-2014), taking over from the convicted rapist Moshe Katzav.
Although dubbed as a champion of peace, Shimon Peres was in fact the man who led the initiative to create Israel’s first illegal settlements. He was also the founding father of Israel’s nuclear weapons program.
As Prime Minister, Shimon Peres oversaw the massacre of Qana Massacre (South Lebanon, 1996) in which more than 100 civilians were killed; this occurred after Israel targeted and blew up a United Nations facility where roughly 800 people had gathered to take shelter.
Despite the often used flowery language he chose to consult international media with, Shimon Peres actively enforced the strategic zionist objective of pacifying the Palestinian population through the means of strangling them financially.
During an interview, conducted by al-Jazeera, (published on the 30th of December, 2012) Peres blamed Palestinians for the hardships they endure, stating that; “They are self victimizing. They victimize themselves. They are a victim of they’re own mistakes, unnecessarily .” (Source: https://www.aljazeera.com/programmes/frostinterview/2012/12/2012122610132412135.html)
Benjamin Netanyahu was also Israel’s Prime Minister twice, beginning his first term in 1996, leaving office in 1999; he was then again elected in 2009 where he currently remains to this day.
Benjamin Netanyahu has a large track record of massacring Palestinians, most notably in Gaza during the large scale bombardments in 2012 and 2014. Netanyahu has on multiple occasions announced that settlements will never be reversed and constantly allows the approval of more settler units in the West Bank and Jerusalem.
A sample of things that commonly come from Benjamin Netanyahu’s mouth are as follows:
On March the seventeenth, 2015, in order to urge Israeli Jews to vote for him, Benjamin Netanyahu released a video on Facebook and other social media platforms, where he said:
“The right-wing government is in danger. Arab voters are heading to the polling stations in droves.” (Source:https://www.facebook.com/Netanyahu/videos/10152778935532076/)
As reported by Haaretz News, Netanyahu on the ninth of February, 2016, visited the construction of a concrete wall that was being constructed on the border between Gaza and Israel. In his own words, the wall was necessary to “defend ourselves against the wild beasts”.
Something else that is notable about Mr. Netanyahu is his views on African migrants. Haaretz News reported upon the comments made by the Prime Minister – on the 31st of August, 2017 – in which he referred to African Migrants as “infiltrators”. A portion of what Netanyahu said was:
“We will return south Tel Aviv to the citizens of Israel, they are not refugees, but infiltrators looking for work,” he said. He added: “If needed, we will legislate an amendment to the law or change the agreements with the African countries, or both.”
Ehud Barak was Israel’s Prime Minster between 1999 and 2001, he saw the beginning of the second Intifada during his time in office.
In April of 1973 Ehud Barak entered Beirut, dressed in drag (as a woman), in order to assassinate members of the PLO (Palestinian Liberation Organization), in killing innocent people.
On the 13th of June, 2002, Ehud Barak was interviewed by the New York Review of Books, during this interview he said the following:
“They [Arabs] are products of a culture in which to tell a lie… Creates no dissonance. They don’t suffer from the problem of telling lies that exists in Judeo-Christian culture”.
Serving from 2001 until 2006 as Israeli Prime Minister leaving behind a lengthy trail of blood.
Ariel Sharon was most infamous for commanding the Qibya massacre,along with the massacres at Sabra and Shatila. Sharon also used his death squads to execute people in mass numbers in Gaza during the 50’s, especially upon the strips establishment.
Other than his willingness to massacre Palestinians and Arabs, it is also important to be aware of Ariel Sharon’s stance on stealing Palestinian land. Ariel Sharon said (as Foreign Minister) on Israeli radio in November of 1998; Everybody has to move, run and grab as many [Palestinian] hilltops as they can to enlarge the [Jewish] settlements because everything we take now will stay ours… Everything we don’t grab will go to them.
Prime Minister from 2006 until 2009, Ehud Olmert, inflicted devastating wars of aggression upon the civilian population of Lebanon (2006) and the Gaza strip (2008-2009), targeting and killing thousands of innocent people.
Like former Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, Ehud Olmert also liked to compare Israel to Apartheid South Africa. Olmert spoke to Haaretz News following the Annapolis conference – which ended in an agreement to try and reach a Middle-East peace settlement by the end of 2008 – making the following comments:
“If the day comes when the two-state solution collapses, and we face a South African-style struggle for equal voting rights (also for the Palestinians in the territories), then, as soon as that happens, the State of Israel is finished”.
In 2014 Ehud Olmert was sentenced to 27 months imprisonment, over charges on the grounds of corruption, he served 16 of those months before being released.
Racism and bigotry have been prominent features of Israeli politics since the states very inception. Israeli political leaders have repeatedly expressed dehumanization of Palestinians and Jews of non-European origin across the political spectrum.
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