"[T]he truth is that we are a racist country, from the prime minister on down to the grassroots citizen," opines Tal Niv in an Haaretz Op-ed ("The French Muslim ignored by Israel," Jan. 23) castigating Israelis for their supposed lack of praise for Lassana Bathily, the black Muslim immigrant who saved at least six Jews during the terror attack at a Parisian kosher supermarket.
Niv claims that Israel did not give Bathily, 24, the proper respect he deserved for his courageous actions solely because he is a black Muslim. The Haaretz writer acknowledges that the Israeli press did call him a "hero," but "for a single day only." Moreover, Niv attacks Israeli government officials and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in particular for their supposed indifference towards Bathily:
And what about the prime minister, the government ministers in general, who dropped everything to go to Paris for the solidarity march, speak in the synagogue there and bring the four victims, who in their deaths seemingly bequeathed Zionism to themselves and to all Jews, to Jerusalem for burial? Did any one of them have a good word for Bathily? Did any one of them thank him, or anything of the kind?
Perhaps Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu mentioned Bathily and his action during his visit to the scene of the crime in Paris, as was written on an obscure website. But nothing more than that, if that even happened at all. While it is true that Bathily, the black Muslim, is not one of the Righteous among the Nations by the canonical definitions customarily used in the Jewish state, does he not deserve at least thanks, praise, recognition and appreciation for his courageous act in saving Jews?
It would seem that he does not. The prime minister made no speech lauding his act. The Israeli government issued no statement praising him. No Israeli minister went to visit him. No ambassador, not even an ambassadors secretary, was sent to Bathily to convey gratitude, a gift, or anything at all.
Its unclear how Niv makes the leap from speculating "perhaps" Netanyahu did thank Bathily to claiming that "the prime minister made no speech lauding his act." His uncertainty as to whether Netanyahu or not thanked Bathily is also surprising since both the transcript of the speech and the video (at 5:50) are easily found online.
But was the Prime Minister's gratitude only reported on an obscure Web site? It was in fact reported in every major Israeli news site, including Walla, Ynet, Channel 2 News, NRG. International papers also noted Netanyahus recognition of Bathily, with The Washington Post opening its report on his heroism with the line "Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu personally thanked him."
Bathily is indeed a hero, who risked his own life to rescue others. Niv's criticism is legitimate, and Israel perhaps should have done a more to thank Bathily. Nevertheless, had Niv bothered to undertake even the most cursory Google search, he would have discovered that the Israeli press did widely cover Bathily's story for more than one day, and that the Israeli Prime Minister did in fact publicly thank him.
For the Hebrew version of this article, please see Presspectiva, CAMERA's Hebrew site.