Netanyahu India Visit Sandwiched Between Protests in Tel Aviv and Delhi: Bibi Go Home!
January 15, 2018
That all is not right at home was made resoundingly clear as Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu boarded the flight for India with reporters asking why he was not taking his son Yair with him. All of course knew the reason for the question, as thousands took to the streets in Tel Aviv against Netanyahu for corruption and his son Yair’s anti-women comments made while attending stripper clubs with his friends.
Several protests, against the Israeli PM’s state visit, were held in Delhi. The hashtag #NoToNetanyahu is making the rounds of the Internet. Protestors marched chanting slogans echoing calls for freedom for the Palestinians, and later dispersed closer to the Israeli embassy. Their voices echoed against the usual din of traffic, but all the individuals that this writer had a chance to talk to, spoke about the need for recognition of crimes and atrocities against the Palestinian people. The answers were based in nostalgia for the Gandhian support of the Palestinian cause, and extremely critical of the defense deals signed between the two countries in the wake of the Israeli military atrocities against the people of Gaza.
The protests against the Netanyahu family have been increasing in strength and frequency over the past two months, with the Prime Minister already under a probe for corruption that includes bribery and fraud. His son Yair Netanyahu who has been speaking loosely of government deals, is now again in the eye of an even bigger storm with his disparaging remarks about women while touring stripper clubs with a state provided bodyguard and driver in tow. The tape in wide circulation has the son telling his friend, who is the son of business tycoon Kobi Maimon, not to argue with him over 400 shekels (approximately $118) meant for a prostitute when his father received $20 billion from Netanyahu. Maimon is a real estate mogul and shareholder in Isramco, a company that owns owns Israel's offshore Tamar gas fields. Netanyahu signed this natural gas deal in 2015.
In Delhi at least two major protests were held, covering most of the day coinciding with Netanyahu’s arrival here. Prime Minister Narendra Modi welcomed Netanyahu at the airport proclaiming it “historic and special” in a tweet sent out with the hashtag ‘ShalomNamaste,’ a play on the Hebrew and Hindi salutations. Modi, through another tweet, posted a few hours later, officially renamed Delhi’s prestigious Teen Murti Chowk, to Teen Murti-Haifa Chowk,as a tribute to the “brave Indian soldiers,” who fought at the Battle of Haifa, during the last months of the Sinai and Palestine Campaigns of the First-World War.
In a statement signed “Left parties, All India Peace and Solidarity Organization, Palestine Solidarity Committee, India,” the first march today hit out at “the profits made through trade and defence relations (that) go directly into funding further oppression of Palestinians and more theft of Palestinian lands.”
Students from Ambedkar University and Delhi University mentioned the imperial forces in power, and referred to the colonisation of Palestine, juxtaposed against Kashmir, recognising both lands as occupied territories. Burhan, a masters student from DU, said, “Palestine deserves to be recognised and given the right to self-determination. We are also here to protest the growing convergence between Fascism here[India] and the right-wing there.” He spoke in length about the manner in which several Palestinian and Arab citizens of Israel are made into second-class citizens, or non-citizens, similar to the treatment of Muslims and Dalits in current-day India.
Detailing the convergence, Komita, a theater practitioner from Jana Natya Manch, mentioned that while there were obvious similarities, it would be unfair to club these together because the model of execution followed in India is still painted as informal mob-lynchings, and those in Israel are publicly known to be state-sponsored. Hindutva, in her opinion, was still in its initial stages.
Moloyashree Hashmi, from the Jana Natya Manch, also spoke about the economic causes behind this growing affection. She noted that the two schools of Zionism and Hindutva were only two applications of the larger Right-wing philosophy. She spoke about the absolute lack of labour reforms. The Capitalist motivations behind the relationship, associated with the United States of America, and its brand of neoliberal imperialism was central to the gathering.
Meanwhile back home in Tel Aviv the media is full of reports about the protest and Yair Netanyahu’s tape. The son lives with his father in the official residence, and as Israeli commentators have pointed out, this makes the Prime Minister responsible.
The Israeli assault on the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Movement that has grown acrossthe world was also spoken of at the protests.
There were protests in Kargil, Nagpur and Mumbai as well. A second protest in the national capital by citizens drew large crowds.
Netanyahu told reporters before boarding the flight to India, "My wife and I stand here as the mother and father of our son. He is a young man who loves the State of Israel with all of his soul," said Netanyahu. "I want you to think about how you would feel if they were trampling your kids with unbridled, malicious aggression. I'm saying this not only to the media, but also to the public figures who are turning up their nose sanctimoniously, with an absurd level of hypocrisy."I want to take this opportunity to thank the many, many citizens of Israel, who this week supported us despite the inhumane treatment we've seen. I want to tell the nation tonight how much we appreciate them. And I want to say something else – you give us strength to continue." Yair Netanyahu, according to local papers, was dropped from the PM’s entourage to India because of the leaked audio tape.
The Israeli Prime Minister has been questioned seven times in a corruption probe that was converted into charges of bribery, favourities and fraud. All of December there were weekly protests against him in the country, with a demand to resign amidst chants of “Shame” and “Bibi Go Home”.
Independent reported in December 2017, “Police have already grilled him (Netanyahu) six times regarding gifts he received from Hollywood and business figures. In a separate probe he has also been asked about secret talks with the publisher of a major Israeli newspaper in which Mr Netanyahu allegedly requested positive coverage in exchange for reining in a free pro-Netanyahu daily. One of his closest former aides has become a state’s witness against him.
Mr Netanyahu has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing and calls the accusations a witchhunt orchestrated by a hostile media.
Another investigation has engulfed his close associates and dominated news in Israel. The investigation relates to a possible conflict of interest involving a $2bn (£1.5bn) purchase of German submarines.
Mr Netanyahu’s personal attorney, who is also his cousin, represented the German firm involved and is suspected of trading his influence over the Prime Minister in return for a hefty cut of the deal. A former Cabinet minister and top former navy and security officials have been questioned by police.”
First published in The Citizen.
Donate to the Indian Writers' Forum, a public trust that belongs to all of us.