The talking point on Tuesday night and again Wednesday from the American media and political left is that Israelis reelected Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu because they’re a bunch of nasty racists. The evidence for this is this 30-second Facebook video, released on election day, in which the Prime Minister implores his voters to get to the polls to counter Arab voters “coming out in droves” who are being taken to the polls in buses funded by left-wing organizations and foreign governments.

CNN’s Christiane Amanpour noted the dismay of “Arab-Israeli parliamentarians” who, she said, were “incredibly upset” by the video. Amanpour claimed she spoke to one member of the Joint List – a coalition of three parties who will, almost assuredly, splinter in the near future – who said that the Prime Minister was “scaremongering.”

At the New York Times, Jerusalem correspondent Isabel Kershner claimed that Netanyahu had “railed against Israeli Arabs – because they had gone out to vote.”

Over at Talking Points Memo, Josh Marshall noted that “the big news of the day is a final day series of racist invocations from Prime Minister Netanyahu and the Likud campaign begging right-wing voters to turn out.” The headline, subtly, claiming “Netanyahu closes hard right and racist.”


Meanwhile, in an email sent to supporters, left-wing lobby J-Street Executive Director Jeremy Ben-Ami found Netanyahu’s remarks to be merely “tinged with racism.” Ben-Ami went on to write of Netanyahu’s victory that, “we fear that the cost to Israel in the long-run will be steep in terms of support here in the United States and internationally.”

When one’s raison d’etre is to foment a diminution of support in the United States and internationally, it doesn’t pass the smell test to simultaneously claim to fear such an outcome. But I digress.

The emotional investment of the American media and the American left in promulgating allegations of racism against not only the Prime Minister of an allied country, but also his voters, is truly appalling.

That said, there is, in fact, nothing remotely racist about the Prime Minister’s charge that left-wing NGOs receiving funds from foreign governments were heavily engaged in the elections. A bipartisan panel of the U.S. Senate is looking into just such a claim. And the background of politically involved Israeli NGOs operating with foreign funding is well-known.

Israel has 1.7 million citizens who are Arabs. Many are proud Israelis while many others are ambivalent about politics but, if pushed, probably don’t love living in a Jewish country. In fact, the Israel Democracy Institute (they have one in Israel…still waiting for the Syrian equivalent) publishes a bi-annual index of public opinion including attitudes among the Israeli Arab population. The indexes clearly point to progress that is yet to be made – but the same can be said for minorities in other Western countries, no?

But there is also a significant portion of the Israeli Arab population that loathes the Jewish state and wants to see it undermined. And, among those Israeli-Arab parliamentarians who keep Christiane Amanpour on speed dial, there are people like Haneen Zoabi who says that the Israeli Army is more of a risk than an Iranian nuclear weapon, who acted as a human shield for terrorists when she rode on a ship that tried to break the blockade on Gaza, and who says she leaves the room when the Israeli national anthem plays. This is a woman who sits in Israel’s legislature. Think about what might be said about a member of our Congress who behaved that way.

The sovereign citizens of Israel didn’t do what the American left wanted them to do and the price to be paid is that the left will now spend the next several weeks telling everyone how racist Israelis are. Some on the Israeli left, addicted to the warm embrace of their Western comrades, will usefully parrot the accusation. And J-Street’s “fear” will come a little more true as Israelis are slandered around the world.

Unfortunately, not only is the charge false and defamatory, it treats Israelis and their vibrant political system as two-dimensional cartoons. There are many reasons Netanyahu was reelected. There were many surprises and last minute maneuvers in the closing days of the campaign. Israelis have to be racist. It can’t be that the Zionist Camp ran an awful campaign centered on a milquetoast politician. Israelis have to be racist. It can’t be that former Justice Minister Tzipi Livni’s last-second renouncing of her premiership-sharing plan with Labor leader Isaac Herzog backfired. Israelis have to be racist. It can’t be that the vaunted efforts of foreign-funded groups to turn out left-wing voters just failed.

Israelis have to be racist. Not because they actually are racist. But because it’s the best narrative available to explain away a crushing defeat for the left.

Greenberg is a Middle East analyst, public policy expert, and former staffer at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee. He is a senior fellow with the Salomon Center.