Yair, the son of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu tweeted his outrage on Monday about a disturbing double-standard in the public discourse regarding relationships, noting the media storm surrounding his former Christian Zionist girlfriend as compared to the quiet acceptance of Jewish-Muslim matrimony.
“Why is it okay that the whole country made a big deal about me at the time when I dated a Norwegian Christian who loves Israel and is a Zionist (with the Israeli flag and her menorah at home in Norway), and it is not okay to say anything about Gideon Sa’ar’s daughter who is about to marry a Muslim Arab?”
למה זה בסדר שכל המדינה התעסקה בזמנו איתי , כאשר יצאתי עם נורבגית נוצריה אוהבת ישראל וציונית (עם דגל ישראל וחנוכיה אצלה בבית בנורווגיה), ולא בסדר להתעסק בבת של גדעון סער שעומדת להתחתן עם ערבי מוסלמי?
— Yair Netanyahu (@YairNetanyahu) November 25, 2019
Yair is referring to an episode in 2013 when he dated Sandra Leikanger. At the time, it was reported that Leikanger’s older sister lives in Israel and converted to Judaism. Leikanger’s family reportedly belongs to Norway’s Evangelical community. Yair has since ended his relationship with Leikanger.
Much ado was made in the media about religious Jews who expressed concern with the story being widely covered outside of Israel. Many media turned it into a partisan political issue. The Atlantic wrote that the relationship “would be a sweet story if it was not threatening the peace and stability of an entire nation,” stating that Yair’s choice in paramours upset the “right-wing.” The article noted that like other couples in Israel, Yair and Sandra could hop off to Cyprus and get married.
“So conservative ballyhooing, in addition to being upsetting and xenophobic and a grimy way to gain political traction against an opponent, is largely irrelevant,” The Atlantic wrote.
As Yair rightly pointed out in his tweet, the media was substantially less titillated when Alona, the daughter of Gideon Sa’ar, Netanyahu’s competitor for the leadership of Likud, announced her betrothal in May to the Arab Muslim actor, Amir Khoury. When the press inquired about the relationship, Sa’ar responded on Twitter, “Alona, my beloved daughter, is a private person – get out of her private life!” And for the most part, his request was granted.
In his recent tweet, Yair Netanyahu also noted that at the time of his inter-religious relationship, the furor over his relationship raged at a time that social media was not nearly as well developed.
“And just as a reminder to all the wiseguys who say it’s different because I speak my mind publicly, we’re talking about 2013, when I didn’t have Twitter, and I had a private, blocked Facebook with a pseudonym that I didn’t post anything political about,” Yair wrote.
Yair’s claim of anti-Christian bias in these matters may not have gone far enough. Bentzi Gopstein, who was a Knesset candidate for the Otzma Yehudit party, criticized Yair Netanyahu for his relationship with a non-Jewish woman. Gopstein based his criticism on Jewish law which determines Jewish status according to the mother’s identity. He correctly noted that should the couple wed without the bride converting, the Israeli Prime Minister’s grandchildren would not be Jewish.
Gopstein was equally critical of the engagement between Gideon Sa’ar’s daughter and a Muslim Arab.
“This is not a matter of racism, God forbid, but of the existence of the Jewish people,” Gopstein wrote in a letter to Sa’ar when the engagement was announced last May. “Sometimes it happens that in the name of love there are those who forget where they came from and where they are going. It seems to them that [Jews] are a people like all the nations, and love is blind and above all.”
It is significant to note that Gopstein was indicted on Tuesday on charges of incitement to terrorism, violence and racism. Though he has openly criticized Christian missionary work that targets Jews in Israel, the indictment was for his anti-Arab/Muslim comments. Among the comments for which Gopstein was indicted was his description of the Dome of the Rock monument on the Temple Mount as “a cancer,” and that as long as the “cancer” remained in place “the redemption will not come.”
Gopstein was one of three right-wing candidates from that party whose candidacy was banned by the Israeli Supreme Court.
“Gopstein presents the entire Arab public as an enemy with which no contact should be made that could be interpreted as coexistence,” the Supreme Court stated in its judgment.
At the same time, the Supreme Court threw out a petition demanding the disqualification of the Joint Arab List.
It should be noted that Yair may have inherited his love of Christians from his father. Benjamin Netanyahu’s second wife, Fleur Cates, converted to Judaism and a 1996 Vanity Fair article reported that Cates’ father was Jewish.