Image Credit: Niño Jose Heredia/©Gulf News

When the tragic events of Charlottesville unfolded recently, US President Donald Trump got flak for failing to unequivocally condemn white supremacists in the country.

His lacklustre response was not unexpected given that a large portion of his support base comes from such white nationalist groups. But, perhaps what was more revealing was the muted response from Israeli leaders — supposedly the champions of Jewish rights.

The white nationalist militias marching in Charlottesville were not only openly protesting against blacks, gays and immigrants, but were also chanting anti-Semitic slogans and giving Nazi salutes.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, considered a close friend of Trump, failed to criticise the president for his delayed response in openly condemning such groups.

This speaks volumes about the true nature of the Jewish state, supposedly created to be a refuge for the Jewish people, who faced unspeakable suffering in the Holocaust and lost their lives in the waves of anti-Semitism that swept Europe and Russia in the 20th century.

The leaders of the Jewish state should have been at the forefront of groups condemning anti-Semitic groups in America and subsequently the US president for his pathetic response.

Netanyahu’s son, Yair, went even further than his father when he took to Facebook, calling leftist groups such as Antifa and Black Lives Matter as “thugs” who posed an even a greater threat than white nationalists.

“To put things in perspective. I’m a Jew, I’m an Israeli, the neo-Nazi scums in Virginia hate me and my country. But they belong to the past. Their breed is dying out,” the 26-year-old Netanyahu said.

“However the thugs of Antifa and BLM who hate my country (and America too in my view) just as much are getting stronger and stronger and becoming super dominant in American universities and public life,” he said.

The Black Lives Matter movement has previously levied harsh criticism against Israel for its policies toward Palestinians, connected with Palestinian activists and supported the Boycott, Divest and Sanction (BDS) movement that seeks punitive measures against the state for its actions.

Many leftist movements have long criticised the human rights situation in Israel.

Netanyahu also issued a condemnation of the anti-Semitism displayed at the Charlottesville rally and the neo-Nazi presence, stating on his official Twitter account that he was “outraged by expressions of anti-Semitism, neo-Nazism and racism.” But unlike several other world leaders and politicians, Netanyahu waited days before issuing a statement on the events and received some criticism over his silence.

This proves that Israel fears academics and non-violent grassroots movements more than neo-Nazi, anti-Semites who championed Hitler’s mass murder of millions of Jews.

Israel recognises the threat and has dedicated massive resources through its powerful lobby group, American Israel Public Affairs Committee (Aipac), which has paid off US Congressmen, to ensure that such groups such as BDS be stopped, fearing their campaigning could have a catastrophic effect on the Israeli economy and Israel’s image on the world stage.

This year, Aipac lobbyists declared an open war against BDS, designating it as its top priority.

The US Congress has historically been pro-Israel, given the resources and effort that Aipac pours into its lobbying efforts but this year, it seemingly has taken the most draconian step against BDS, when the Senate introduced bill S720, known as the Anti-Israel Boycott Act, which aims to bar the boycott of Israel for its oppressive policies against Palestinians in the Occupied West Bank.

The bill, drafted almost entirely by Aipac itself, so far has the backing of 43 Senators and 234 House members.

Needless to say, the bill is viewed by civil rights groups as an egregious attack on the First Amendment, which guarantees free speech, and if passed, will have a chilling effect on anyone who dares to speak out against Israel’s illegal actions in Occupied Palestine.

The law proposes fines ranging from $250,000 to $1 million (Dh3.67 million), and 20 years in prison, on anyone deemed to be critical of Israel and its policies or speaking in favour of Palestinian rights.

Since 2014, when Aipac began its campaign, 11 US states already passed legislation criminalising boycott efforts against Israel.

Omar Barghouti, a Palestinian human rights activist and the author of Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions: The Global Struggle for Palestinian Rights penned an opinion piece in 2014 in the New York Times, where he states, “The Israeli government’s view of BDS as a strategic threat reveals its heightened anxiety at the movement’s recent spread into the mainstream.”

He further goes on to say that Israel is deeply apprehensive about the increasing number of American Jews who vocally oppose its policies — especially those who are joining or leading BDS campaigns. “Israel is also threatened by the effectiveness of the non-violent strategies used by the BDS movement, including its Israeli component, and by the negative impact they have had on Israel’s standing in world public opinion.

All of this definitively puts to rest any claims that Israel is acting in the interest of Jewish people and exposes its sinister and failing subjugation policies against the Palestinians.

Israel’s biggest fear is not the neo-Nazis, it is its illegal occupation of Palestine and the gnawing fear that it may not be sustainable in the long run, if such activist movements like BDS are allowed to speak up.