January 20, 2016
A former advisor of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu used the derogatory Hebrew term “Yehudon” – loosely translated as “little Jew boy” to characterize remarks by U.S. Ambassador to Israel Daniel Shapiro .
On a Tuesday morning political panel show, on Israel’s Channel 2, commentator Aviv Bushinsky reacted to remarks Shapiro made in his speech to the Institute for National Security Studies (INSS) conference. Shapiro said “too much Israeli vigilantism in the West Bank goes on unchecked,” adding that “there is a lack of thorough investigations… at times it seems Israel has two standards of adherence to rule of law in the West Bank – one for Israelis and one for Palestinians.”
After viewing a clip of Shapiro’s remarks, Bushinsky declared, “To put it bluntly, it was a statement typical of a little Jew boy (Yehudon).”
When his fellow panelists protested that Shapiro was merely expressing the position of the United States, Bushinsky responded, “Nobody was standing there with a hammer forcing him to say it. He’s his own person … I see a Jew, Dan Shapiro, saying this. I see it as a pattern – it was the same thing with [former U.S. Middle East Envoy] Dennis Ross and now with [former U.S. Ambassador to Israel] Martin Indyk saying his nonsense. It’s the behavior of Jews who are trying to show that they are extra left-wing, more liberal and more balanced.”
The U.S. Embassy spokesman declined to comment on Shapiro’s behalf on Tuesday.
Bushinsky served as media advisor for Netanyahu during his first term as Prime Minister in 1998 and 1999, advised him between political roles, and served as his chief of staff in 2003-2004 when Netanyahu was Finance Minister in Ariel Sharon’s government.
It was not the first time that a U.S. ambassador had the word directed at them. In 1997, the late Rehavam Ze’evi, then a parliament member and head of the Moledet Party had a bitter confrontationin the Knesset with then-U.S. ambassador Martin Indyk after Ze’evi used the word to describe Indyk.
Reportedly, Indyk turned to Ze’evi at the time and said, “The last time someone called me a Jew boy I was 15 years old and he got a punch in the face” and the angry exchange escalated from there. Later, Ze’evi apologized to Indyk for the slight, as did the Foreign Ministry director-general.
Former U.S. Ambassador Daniel Kurtzer was called a “Jew boy” not once, but twice, and by figures far more prominent and powerful than Bushinsky.
In 2002, Knesset member Zvi Hendel called Kurtzer “a Jew boy” on the Knesset floor. Reacting to Kurtzer’s criticism of settlement funding, Hendel said that “irrespective of the fact that this is a representative of a foreign country, who can be Jewish or a Jew boy, religious or not religious, the state of Israel should not ignore the intervention of a little Jew boy who represents the U.S.”
Reaction at the time was swift and strong. Then-Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s office said that Hendel’s remarks should be “roundly condemned,” while Shimon Peres, the foreign minister at the time, said that the remarks “were disgraceful and intolerable. Jews too should not use anti-Semitic phrases.”
The late MK Yossi Sarid, leader of the opposition at the time, said that if “Hendel were to call me a Jew boy, I’d wear the insult proudly.”
Under heavy pressure, which he tried at first to resist, Hendel later apologized.
Two years later, in 2004, Kurtzer received an apology letter from settler leader Adi Mintz, the director-general for the Council of Jewish Communities of Judea, Samaria, and the Gaza Strip for calling him a “Yehudon” in an interview, a slur that was condemned at the time by the Anti-Defamation League.
In 2009, Netanyahu reportedly called top Jewish Obama advisors Rahm Emmanuel and David Axelrod “self-hating Jews.”
Ambassador Shapiro has been a popular figure for the four and a half years he has served in Tel Aviv and thus largely been spared these kinds of personal attacks, with harsh words and attacks from the Netanyahu government usually reserved for other members of the Obama administration.
But Shapiro’s public criticism of the NGO transparency Bill, and his INSS statements appear to have visibly chilled the atmosphere between him and Jerusalem.
The Prime Minister’s office reacted strongly to his Monday statements by referencing the latest terror attacks in the West Bank and saying Shapiro’s remarks “on the day when a mother of six who was murdered is buried, and on a day when a pregnant woman is stabbed – are unacceptable and wrong.”
Before working for Netanyahu, Bushinsky was a journalist, and after leaving public life has worked as a business consultant and media commentator. He is the son of veteran American foreign correspondent Jay Bushinsky and therefore holds U.S. citizenship, which he pointed out during his televised attack on Shapiro.
“When I hear Dan Shapiro speak as he does … it makes me embarrassed to have U.S. citizenship,” Bushinsky said.