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Sen. John McCain pictured in 2007. (Staff Sgt. Jim Greenhill/Public Domain)

Sen. John McCain pictured in 2007. (Staff Sgt. Jim Greenhill/Public Domain)

From One Hawk to Another: McCain Defends Netanyahu's Racist Rant

Politicians can't be 'held to everything they say during a campaign,' argued McCain

Sarah Lazare

In an interview with CNN on Sunday, Arizona Senator John McCain (R) defended Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's racist election-day tirade against Palestinians, dismissing criticisms of the head of state as "Orwellian."

Netanyahu's controversial statements were made in a 28-second video posted to his Facebook page on March 17 as Israeli citizens took to the polls for the general election. In his comments, Netanyahu denounced the participation of Palestinian citizens of Israel in the voting process.

"The rule of the right-wing is in danger," Netanyahu said. "Arab voters are going to the polls in droves! Go to the polling stations! Vote Likud!"

The statements were widely perceived as an open endorsement of apartheid and were decribed as a "racist rant" by the New York Times. They also contradicted reports from legal aid group Adalah that the Elections Committee, in fact, refused to provide Bedouin voters who reside in unrecognized villages transportation to the polls.

President Barack Obama said in an interview with the Huffington Post on Saturday that he also took issue with the tirade. Such rhetoric "starts to erode the meaning of democracy in the country," he said.

Speaking with CNN on Sunday, however, John McCain dismissed the president's criticisms.

"If every politician were held to everything they say during a campaign, obviously that would be a topic of long discussion," McCain said. "This is one of the most Orwellian situations I have ever observed."

"The President should get over it. Get over your temper tantrum, Mr. President," said McCain.

But Dr. Hatim Kanaaneh, a Palestinian citizen of Israel, said on Thursday that the prime minister's tirade was not a mere gaffe, but in fact, exposed the underlying reality of the Israeli state.

"The notion that a leader of a country would be complaining that part of the population is voting is extraordinary," said Kanaaneh. "It’s not just an election issue, that’s the pain of our existence in Israel that affects every aspect of our lives."

Robert Naiman, policy director for Just Foreign Policy, told Common Dreams that McCain's comments, likewise, expose a fundamental truth about political players in the United States.

"This counter-attack is coming from a political party in the United States where the number three leader in the House is someone who panders to white supremacists," said Naiman, referring to revelations that House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-LA) spoke at an event organized by white supremacists while serving as state representative in 2002.

Naiman added, "It should come as no surprise that republicans are willing to overlook Netanyahu's racism."


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