You are going to shake his hand, aren’t you, Prime Minister Netanyahu?
How could you?
I am referring to Israel’s welcome of Rodrigo Duterte, the president of the Philippines.
And why is he coming to Israel?
Because during the Holocaust, the Philippines offered sanctuary to Jews fleeing the Nazis (irony alert). Also, because the Philippines supported the 1947 partition plan. There is also the opening of a direct flight route from Tel Aviv to Manila. There will be an agreement to bring in Filipinos to work in hotels in Israel. And, because many Filipino Christians will want to visit Israel. And, it’s the sixtieth anniversary of the beginning of diplomatic ties between the two countries.
To which I say: big deal.
Why? Because Duterte has compared himself to Hitler. He has said that he wants to kill three million drug addicts in the Philippines.
“Hitler massacred three million Jews,” Mr. Duterte said. (Check your math and your history, you unspeakable…) “Now there are three million drug addicts. I’d be happy to slaughter them.”
In fact, the Philippines has cracked down on drug dealers, with some estimates of the death toll going as high as 3,000.
Then, this past Thursday, Duterte analyzed the sensitive issue of gender by proclaiming that rape will continue to be a problem as long as there are beautiful women.
On the one hand, we should not be surprised. Like Trump, Bibi has a proclivity for strong men, tyrants, and bullies, such as Hungary’s Viktor Orban and Russia’s Putin.
Israeli human rights organizations are aghast. They have urged President Reuven Rivlin not to meet with Duterte.
Writing on behalf of at least 24 other human rights activists, Israeli lawyer Eitay Mack argued that Duterte “poses a threat not just to Philippine citizens but also the peace of the whole world…There is no doubt that when the international community stands idly as a leader calls for massacres, and in fact commits massacres, against specific population groups, it legitimizes other murderous leaders.”
Bibi is welcoming, with supposedly open arms, a tyrant who compares himself to Hitler. That would mean that this miscreant admires Hitler.
Help us understand this, Bibi.
You throw the doors open for Duterte.
And yet, critics of Israeli policy like Peter Beinart — an observant Jew, a Zionist, albeit a critical Zionist — get harassed upon entry into Israel.
I respect Peter. He is way smart, even if I don’t always agree with him. But, this is a man whom your officials choose to detain at Ben Gurion Airport — and a Hitler wannabee gets a free pass?
Here’s another thing I don’t understand.
Duterte said that he admired Hitler.
You know who else has said that he admires Hitler?
Um — that would be Louis Farrakhan.
We American Jews have made principled decisions — not appearing with Farrakhan, and criticizing our black allies of appearing with Farrakhan, even going nuts over an old photo of President Obama, before he was president, with Farrakhan.
Now, you welcome Duterte to Israel. Whom, as you know, also admires Hitler — and precisely, because of Hitler’s genocidal policies, which Duterte envies and would like to try out on drug users and drug dealers.
So, thanks, Bibi. You just went and did it again. You shot us all in the foot.
Here we are, refusing to hang with Farrakhan — and even refusing to hang with people who hang with Farrakhan — and you go throwing the gates open to a detestable human being like Duterte.
You realize, of course, that you’ve just blown apart our whole “we are not doing anything that associates us with Farrakhan” argument, don’t you? Because if you can welcome Duterte for all of your subtle and not so subtle political reasons, and file those reasons under realpolitik and the need to create allies and relationships, we might as well say to our black allies: “Who are we to micro-manage your relationship with Farrakhan?”
Because, Bibi: next time we protest Farrakhan’s presence at an event with which we might otherwise agree, someone is going to raise his or her hand and say: “Wait a minute. Didn’t Netanyahu welcome a killer to Israel?”
And when that happens, we will have nothing to say.
Finally, let’s realize something else.
As with everything that we do in Jewish life, and in life in general, our young people are watching.
When they ask us: “Why did the Prime Minister of Israel — a state built, in part, on the memory of the Shoah — welcome someone who wants to be a local version of Hitler?” — what are we supposed to say?
The last time an Israeli action made me this nauseous was on a particular bumpy flight on El Al.
At least when that happened, the pilot apologized — for something over which he had no control.
Prime Minister Netanyahu: in this season of repentance, I urge you. Apologize to the world for inviting Duterte to Israel.
For your sake. For Israel’s sake. For world Jewry’s sake.
For God’s sake.