Israeli Leaders Peer Through Covered Binoculars

Netanyahu ostensibly viewing the Gaza border through binoculars that remain capped. (20 October, YouTube)

Following the fiasco resulting from his remark about Haj Amin al-Husseini, Netanyahu rounded out the week by bungling a military photo op. The Israeli prime minister traveled with a group of reporters to a military outpost overlooking the Gaza border in order to “survey” the situation and reassert Israel’s military might in the face of Palestinian “terror.” In a photo that went viral, Netanyahu is seen peering through a pair of binoculars with their black lens caps still on. His assurances to the journalists that the situation was “under control” therefore strained credibility.

The incident made the premier an easy target for the press and social media users. Many commented on the incident as a metaphor for Netanyahu’s alarmist rhetoric and propagandizing. As David Grossman put it in the Guardian, “anyone, in Israel or abroad, could see the manner in which Netanyahu gazes, when all is said and done—only internally, only within himself.” Earlier in the week, Netanyahu had blamed Hitler’s decision to exterminate the Jewish people on the Palestinian leader, Haj Amin al-Husseini. After the daily Yedioth Ahronoth reported the incident, the prime minister felt compelled to burnish his credentials by tweeting a photo of himself at age eighteen, dressed in military uniform with a pair of binoculars hanging from his neck. Reminding the publication of his years as a captain in the Sayeret Matkal commando unit, Netanyahu tweeted: “I want to reassure you Yedioth, I have some experience with binoculars.” His tweet, however, did not quiet the opposition. Labor Party Knesset member Stav Shaffir responded, “I’d like to reassure you, Mr. Prime Minister, that no one ever had a doubt. We have always known that you are, at most, just an observer on the sidelines, never actually acting to improve the situation.”

Binoculars 2
A photo of Netanyahu as a young soldier, which the Israeli PM tweeted to buttress his military credentials. (20 October, Twitter)

This was not the first time an Israeli leader had neglected to remove the obstructing lens caps. Former defense minister Amir Peretz was caught in a similarly embarrassing moment in February 2007. Just months after Israel’s war with Hezbollah in 2006, which tarnished his standing, Peretz was photographed ostensibly watching military maneuvers in the occupied Golan Heights through covered lenses. Finally, former prime minister Ariel Sharon was also photographed looking through capped binoculars in 2002 during the second intifada.

Hezbollah supporters carry a huge billbo
Across the border from the Israeli settlement of Metula, a crew in southern Lebanon raising a billboard that depicts Israel’s then-defense minister, Amir Peretz, looking through still-capped binoculars. “Who’s blind . . . ?!” reads the Arabicmessage. (1 May 2007, Ramzi Haidar/AFP/Getty Images)

Published in each issue of the Journal of Palestine Studies and updated regularly on Palestine Square, this section strives to capture the tenor and content of popular conversations related to the Palestinians and the Arab-Israeli conflict. Increasingly, these conversations are held on new and dynamic platforms unbound by traditional media. Therefore, items presented in this section are from a variety of sources and have been selected because they either have gone viral or represent a significant cultural moment or trend.

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