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Finkelstein: Despite Racist Policies & Corruption Scandals, Netanyahu Holds on to Power in Israel

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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is facing a domestic political controversy after an Israeli TV station aired a secret audio recording of his son from outside a strip club in 2015. In the recording, Yair Netanyahu can be heard talking about prostitutes and demanding money from the son of an Israeli gas tycoon. Yair implies his father—Prime Minister Netanyahu—helped push through a $20 billion deal to benefit the businessman, saying, “My dad arranged $20 billion for your dad, and you’re whining with me about 400 shekels.” This comes at a time when Benjamin Netanyahu is facing multiple corruption investigation

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This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to ask you about Benjamin Netanyahu and the corruption investigations he’s facing. Of course, Benjamin Netanyahu recently speaking about his very close relationship with the Kushners, sleeping in Jared Kushner’s bedroom when he visited the United States, when he was a little boy. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu facing a domestic political controversy after an Israeli TV station aired a secret audio recording of his son from outside a strip club in 2015. In the recording, Yair Netanyahu can be heard talking about prostitutes, demanding money from the son of an Israeli gas tycoon. Yair implies that his father, Prime Minister Netanyahu, helped push through a $20 billion deal to benefit the businessman, saying, quote, “My dad arranged $20 billion for your dad, and you’re whining with me about 400 shekels,” this coming at a time when Prime Minister Netanyahu is facing multiple corruption investigations.

In September, Yair Netanyahu also faced controversy when he posted an anti-Semitic cartoon on Facebook. White supremacists, including former Klan leader David Duke, praised Yair Netanyahu, posting an image depicting billionaire investor George Soros at the top of a food chain, dangling the world in front of both a reptile and former Prime Minister Ehud Barak, a frequent critic of his father, Benjamin Netanyahu, and then being tweeted praise by David Duke. It’s an astounding story, written about in Slate and other places.

Can you talk about what is happening now? And does this—do the corruption investigations jeopardize Netanyahu? And what about his son?

NORMAN FINKELSTEIN: Well, I’ll just look at the last point briefly and then get to the heart—in my opinion, the heart of the questions you’re asking. The relationship between his son and Netanyahu, Yair and his father, Benjamin Netanyahu, is very similar to Jared and Donald Trump. These are privileged, spoiled and remarkably unremarkable individuals.

But the question you asked about the corruption, in general, it’s an interesting question. You’re not quite as old as me, but you can go back far enough to remember that when we were growing up, Israel was a very austere, it was a simple, and it was a pretty honest place. And that’s the image of Israel that retains in the minds of many American Jews, say, over the age of—over the age of 50. And so, back then, let’s say you take, in the 1970s, Yitzhak Rabin, who was the prime minister. He had to leave office. He was forced out of office because his wife had opened up a bank account—one bank account—in the United States. And apparently there wasn’t even any money deposited in it, if my memory is correct. But nowadays, it’s just one scandal after another scandal after another scandal after another scandal. And the remarkable thing is, it doesn’t really affect Benjamin Netanyahu’s standing. You can have a succession of scandals, but he has been in office for a remarkably long period of time.

And then the question is: Why? And I think the answer is: Because, whether one likes it or not, Benjamin Netanyahu is the true face of Israel. He’s an obnoxious, loudmouth, racist, Jewish supremacist. And that’s the whole population now. Now, I’m saying it’s in their DNA. I’m not saying it’s genetic. But it is a very sorry thing that the state of Israel has degenerated into. And that—

AMY GOODMAN: I mean, it’s clearly not the entire population. You have so many critics. You have a peace movement there.

NORMAN FINKELSTEIN: Well, no, I would say—you know, Amy, I would wish that were the case. I would wish that were the case. But if you ask the critics themselves, if you ask a Gideon Levy, you ask an Amira Hass, you ask a—

AMY GOODMAN: Who write for Haaretz.

NORMAN FINKELSTEIN: Right—you ask B’Tselem, you ask—

AMY GOODMAN: The human rights group.

NORMAN FINKELSTEIN: Right—Breaking the Silence, the soldiers’ group, they’ll tell you they represent nobody. They’ll tell you they don’t represent anymore. There was a period where they represented at least a factor in Israeli life. But it’s no longer true. And the fact that Benjamin Netanyahu endures, despite the succession of scandals, is a manifestation of how much that society has degenerated.

So, Gideon Levy, I think, the columnist, he made a comment the other day which I found very interesting. He said, the Israelis, they see a fellow in a wheelchair—he lost both his legs—in Gaza. He’s holding a flag. They shoot him right between the eyes, a sharpshooter. Everybody sees it on video. He says, no Israelis cared. Then another kid is killed. In this case, the second case, a kid is killed. A third is killed. Nobody cares. One thing they care about: The young girl, Ahed Tamimi, smacked an Israeli soldier. That causes hysteria. How dare a Palestinian smack an Israeli soldier? But the daily atrocities—

AMY GOODMAN: And this, again, the smacking of the soldier, after her 14-year-old cousin, who was shot at very close range in the face, just coming out of a coma right now, by Israeli soldiers.

NORMAN FINKELSTEIN: And living through an occupation, living through the ransacking, the ravaging of your home, your neighborhoods, these soldiers constantly harassing you, hectoring you, browbeating you, threatening you. But the only question for Israel is: How dare this girl smack a soldier in the face? But the killings are meaningless.

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