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I WITNESS: Benjamin Netanyahu must go

Here’s the thing about strongmen: They really don’t care about protecting or enhancing the lives of their countrymen; they care about the acquisition and deployment of personal power.

The wholesale butchery and kidnapping of Israeli citizens by Hamas on October 7, 2023 was, sadly, both horrifying and inevitable. While there is no question that Hamas was responsible for that hideous and unspeakable event, there is also no question that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was equally responsible for what happened that day.

It was Netanyahu who advocated sealing the border between Gaza and Israel after he was elected to the Israeli parliament in the 1990s, in the name of peace and security for Israel. At the time, it did not seem unreasonable: Israel was vulnerable, over and over again, to the terrorism perpetuated on Israelis by Hamas suicide bombers. Netanyahu’s cardinal mission as the leader of the Likud party was to ensure the security of the Jewish homeland, and he appeared to take that charge seriously. Thus, the border fence.

But he was not content to stop there. It was also Netanyahu who placed ridiculous embargos on the Palestinian people after walling them off, forcing an entire population into poverty and perpetual food insecurity. It was Netanyahu who consistently refused to consider a two-state solution, when a two-state solution was, and is, the best way forward to a permanent peace. And it was Netanyahu who secretly funneled hundreds of millions of dollars directly into the pockets of Hamas through third-party proxies in Qatar, from 2018 until October 7 of last year.

That money, of course, never reached the citizens of Gaza. Schools were not built; roads were not maintained; hospitals were not staffed or supplied; and food and water were not distributed to the Palestinian people. Instead, Netanyahu lent a helping hand to a terrorist organization that did what all terrorist organizations do: They armed themselves to the teeth, built who knows how many miles of tunnels and bunkers under the streets of Gaza, trained with the Iranian military, and victimized their own people by using them as human shields.

But wait—there’s more. Netanyahu continued to build Israeli settlements mere feet from the fenced perimeter with Gaza, further inflaming resentments on both sides of the border and putting his own citizens at risk. And then, after setting the table for Armageddon, Mr. Netanyahu turned his attention elsewhere.

Why was he so distracted? He was distracted because he was busy trying to knee-cap the high court of Israel so that he could side-step accountability for his own history of personal and political corruption. In November 2019, Netanyahu was officially indicted for breach of trust, accepting bribes, and fraud—a trial that has not yet concluded. That indictment, and trial, served as the impetus for his attempt to constrain and disempower the Israeli judiciary.

Long before the attack of October 7, the Israeli government had received urgent warnings and exceptionally accurate intelligence from military personnel stationed at the Gaza border foretelling, exactly, what was to come. They were ignored. Not only were they ignored, but Netanyahu apparently allowed the entire military to be off duty on October 7, during a Jewish holiday—because, as we all know, terrorists never attack Israel on Jewish holidays—unless it’s Yom Kippur, of course. But otherwise, never. That would be terribly impolite.

Here’s the thing about strongmen: They really don’t care about protecting or enhancing the lives of their countrymen; they care about the acquisition and deployment of personal power. That is what strongmen do in Russia; that is what strongmen do in Asia; that is what strongmen do in Africa; that is what strongmen do in Hungary and in Venezuela and in Turkey; and that is what strongmen do in Gaza, and in Israel, and in the United States as well.

Without exception, strongmen really have only one tool in their box: the hammer of aggression. They are so myopic and angry that they are incapable of nuance, which means that they are not much interested in diplomatic solutions except as a vehicle for the consolidation of more power. To a one, they lack human empathy and are unperturbed by the suffering of others. The Hamas negotiators are strongmen. Netanyahu is also a strongman. They can’t play in the sandbox together without trying to steal each other’s buckets and shovels.

Strongmen really only care about one thing: themselves.

The obvious responsibility for the attack on October 7 lies with Hamas, a malevolent terror group that, yes, must absolutely be dismantled and destroyed. They are a danger not only to Israelis, but to their own people. But the person most responsible for creating the conditions for the attack on October 7 was Benjamin Netanyahu. He has done more to sow the seeds of resentment in Gaza and the West Bank than any one of his predecessors. He built the fence and, for good measure, made life a living hell for ordinary Palestinians. He handed Hamas plenty of money to fund the infrastructure, training, and weaponry that would be required to launch an attack, and then he returned to subverting the Israeli judiciary for his own ends.

The dereliction of duty to the Israeli people was both stunning and appalling.

And now, after setting the stage for what would become an unimaginable act of carnage on October 7, Benjamin Netanyahu is compounding his disgraceful legacy by killing the Palestinian people. Under the guise of destroying Hamas—the terror organization that he deliberately provided with all the means necessary to succeed in their October 7 attack—he has imposed even tighter embargoes on the people of Gaza and has engaged in the indiscriminate bombing of their cities and villages and towns. Women, children, the elderly, and the disabled are, in his mind, collateral damage and largely irrelevant, just as they are to Hamas. Aid workers delivering humanitarian assistance are also, it seems, expendable.

That he is doing this under the guise of rescuing hostages still being held in underground bunkers—if they are still alive at all—is nonsense. No one is fooled. The United States, with some of the most highly trained and disciplined special-ops forces on the planet, has made clear that if the goal is to rescue those hostages, alive, then the operation should be small, surgical, and swift. But that is not really Netanyahu’s aim. Netanyahu seeks the utter destruction of an entire people.

Let’s call it what it is: a genocide.

There are few people on earth who believe more ardently in Israel’s right to exist than I do. How pathetic, then, that Benjamin Netanyahu has helped to make the Jewish homeland one of the most unsafe places in the world, at present, for Jews to reside.

And just to be clear, it doesn’t matter if the goal of Hamas and its regional enablers is the destruction of the Jewish people. That has been the goal of tyrants and antisemites since the dawn of Judaism, and it will likely be ever thus. Nevertheless, there is a difference, both on Earth and in heaven, between self-defense and murder.

When, in the name of defending ourselves against the barbarians, we engage in the wholesale slaughter of innocents, then we become the barbarians ourselves.

One of the reasons I have always been proud to be Jewish is because I have believed, deeply, that Jews adhere to a higher standard of human decency and compassion. We not only gave the world the Ten Commandments; we gave the world Jesus Christ. We joined the Civil Rights Movement in America to stand against racism and have been on the forefront of the global struggle for human dignity and human rights. In every generation, Jews are the first to say, “Ahni po” (“I am here”).

We admonished ourselves to “repair the world” following our near annihilation at the hands of Adolph Hitler. The admonition was not to “destroy the German people,” or to “exact revenge,” or to “kill them all,” to but to “repair the world.”

Benjamin Netanyahu is not a good Jew. Benjamin Netanyahu is not a good person. Benjamin Netanyahu is an authoritarian, opportunistic stain on the Jewish people, engaging in the heedless slaughter of innocents to distract from his own deficiencies and failures.

Benjamin Netanyahu makes me feel ashamed to be a Jew.

Israel deserves better.

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