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A small-time Stalin in Jerusalem

There was something vaguely Stalinist about Bibi Netanyahu’s reaction to the drama in Zurich last week – not the arrest of a bunch of venal soccer officials of course (Israelis have a pretty laissez faire attitude when it comes to bribery,) but the last-minute compromise that averted a vote on whether Israel should be suspended from FIFA for restricting Palestinian soccer in the occupied territories.

“The last thing that we need to do is hang our heads and ask where we erred, where we went wrong,” Netanyahu told the cabinet on Sunday (as reported by Haaretz newspaper.) “We did not err, we did not do wrong. We are judged according to standards that no other democracy must face. We do not need to justify ourselves. We just need to say the truth.

“It doesn’t matter what we do, but rather what we represent,” Netanyahu continued. “What hasn’t been said about Jews in history – that we are the source of evil in the world, that we drink the blood of small children – all this has been said about us. It was not true then, and it is not true now. As long as we reject this and refrain from self-flagellation, we will be stronger and more solid.”

There you have it; the Zionist songbook in two paragraphs. Our truth is the universal truth, our mission is sacred and anyone who doesn’t see it like we do is an anti-Semite.

It sounds trite, but it’s not. For Netanyahu and many like him, it’s the only reality they have. A reality of their own making, no doubt, but one in which they are so deeply invested that, for them, there truly is no other alternative.

Questioning whether Netanyahu actually believes the nonsense he spouts is irrelevant. He has to believe it. His entire life – not to mention that of his father – has been predicated on the one Zionist truth. Human beings can’t survive in an environment without oxygen and Netanyahu wouldn’t survive in an environment in which Israel was revealed as a colonial state with an appalling track record.

Nor does he have to, so long as he is in a position to alter the public perception of reality. That’s why being in power is so important to him. Not that he doesn’t enjoy the trappings and perks of office, but his true mission is to be a manipulator of minds and souls. Reaching a diplomatic compromise with the Palestinians is of absolutely no interest to him; creating a new reality is what he lives for.

That’s where Stalin comes in. The Stalins of this world (and that includes Netanyahu, though on a very minor scale) are not content with creating and living in their own reality. They need everyone to acknowledge it as the reality – and Stalin himself went to gargantuan lengths to ensure that they did.

It’s no coincidence that Stalin’s Great Terror of 1936-1938 (in which he purged the Communist Party and much of the Soviet Union beside) came shortly after the total decimation of Soviet agriculture and the deaths of up to 10 million people (estimates vary) during the famine created by the dictator’s collectivization effort.

Collectivization was both an enormous failure (probably the greatest man-made disaster in history) and a shocking repudiation of Leninist dogma. It could not be portrayed, or seen, as it truly was, so Stalin set about creating a new reality in which few would survive who knew the truth – and those who did would be far too scared to open their mouths. Hence the purge, which deliberately included all those who had contacts outside the Soviet Union. Stalin’s new reality didn’t tolerate dissent, whether inside or outside the country.

Bibi is not Stalin, of course. But his dedication to a mythological, Zionist-centric truth, his attempts to inculcate it into the population and his smearing of all dissent as anti-Semitism (Stalin called them “Trotskyite wreckers”) are all extracted from Stalin’s how-to manual. Unable to accept the failure of the dream (Stalin regarding collectivization and Bibi regarding the colonial nature of Israel’s occupation of Palestine,) Bibi has set out to convince Israelis and the world that their brains and their senses are deceiving them; that only Bibi sees the real truth.

Historians have long questioned why Stalin needed the victims of his purges to write confessions. Why not just kill them and be done with it? The reason, I suspect, lies in Stalin’s insecurity – in his mad need not only to create a new reality but to get everyone, particularly those most opposed to it, to acknowledge his rightness. A raging paranoid, Stalin needed constant reaffirmation.

Bibi doesn’t kill those who oppose him (unless they’re Palestinians, Iranians or members of Hezbollah,) but he, too, is highly sensitive to all criticism and quick to lash out in terms evoking the Holocaust, pogroms and old blood libels. That’s the ghetto Jew in the prime minister. Not only must the rest of the world condone and support Israeli wrongdoing, but they must do so with love; they must do so while abasing themselves and apologizing abjectly for all the wrongs done to the Jews over the centuries.

Netanyahu’s truth is no truth at all. It is a delusion, born of ideological rigidity and the incapacity to acknowledge historical and ongoing mistakes. It is a self-made and self-perpetuating invention that gains its currency from the wide acceptance of other myths going back to the earliest days of Zionism. So long as we are unable to see reality as it really is, peace in this region will be as ephemeral as a dream.