Bibi is still running the show – and what a show!

Over the past few weeks, as Benjamin Netanyahu has been cobbling together his coalition government, a series of unrelated events has highlighted the true substance of the country that the fourth reincarnation of Netanyahu will be leading, at the head of a reshuffled pack of the same old faces.

It is a nation incapacitated by decades of fear-mongering and brainwashing.

Holocaust Remembrance Day and Memorial Day were sad and somber affairs, as befits the memory of the fallen. They were also artificial and stage-managed spectacles – as befits a country in which memory and commemoration are political tools.

Far be it for Israelis to be left to mourn and commemorate as they see fit. Mourning in Israel is the prerogative of the state, which manipulates such occasions to deliver blunt, emotion-sodden messages.

Namely, that the invariable and inevitable fate of Jews is eternal hatred, if not outright extermination. Anyone who even contemplates compromise with Israel’s enemies – be it the leftists and Arabs inside Israel who proceed in droves to the voting stations or the bleeding-hearted Obamas of the world – is himself or herself an enemy of the Jewish people; a fifth-columnist opening the gates to the hordes of anti-Semites with bloody knives clenched between their teeth.

It is a nation in which a bloated and continually-nourished sense of victimhood suffocates empathy for others.

Shortly after Israel remembered the Jewish genocide, the global Armenian community commemorated its own genocide at the hands of the Turkish Ottomans, starting in 2015. No official Israeli representative deigned to attend the memorial ceremony in Jerusalem’s Old City, though two anonymous Knesset backbenchers represented Israel at the ceremony in Yerevan, Armenia.

Worse than that, all Israeli statements on the Armenian issue – including that of President Rivlin – carefully and deliberately avoided the use of the word “genocide,” using instead such palliatives as “tragedy” and “massacre.” Israel demands that the rest of the world remember and honor the Holocaust, but when it comes to other genocides it can’t bring itself to call a spade a spade.

In the Israeli weltanschauung, there is only one victim and that is the Jew. We don’t take kindly to pretenders and competitors.

It is a country that chooses its humanitarian causes with political precision and is incapable of acting humanely without an ulterior motive.

Israel was among the first countries to send medical and rescue teams to Nepal following the earthquake that devastated that country. It would – and should – have been a moment of quiet pride, had government spokesmen not gone overboard with their overtly self-congratulatory statements and egregious scoring of political points. (“Have you seen any Iranian rescue planes?” was one such comment.)

For the Israeli government, any opportunity for PR is a blessing, even if its manipulation of the situation for its own glory is tasteless in the extreme. But the back-slapping is pathetic. More than anything else, it points to Israel’s insecurity and troubled conscience. As T.S. Elliot wrote in “Murder in the Cathedral,” “That is the greatest treason – doing the right deed for the wrong reason.”

Beside which, where were the Israeli rescue and medical teams when Gazan children were being dug out of buildings just last summer? Why do we weep for the Nepalese but remain unmoved at the wholesale deaths of Palestinian civilians?

The easy answer is that it’s simply hypocrisy, but it goes deeper than that. (Not that Israel is incapable of hypocrisy, mind you.) When it comes to Palestinians – and Muslims in general, probably – Israelis are in denial. We don’t see them and we don’t hear them. Even when we see pictures of utter devastation in Gaza, we manage to file them away in some impenetrable corner of our national subconscious before they are processed by the small part of us that remains humane. For us, Palestinians are not our problem, even when we’re the ones doing the killing.

Which brings us to the Ethiopian protest of the last few days.

It is a country in which decades of racism and casual brutality have permeated deep into the society and are now being turned inwards.

A video of an Ethiopian Israeli soldier being beaten up by policemen brought thousands of Ethiopian immigrants and their children into the streets, first in Jerusalem and last night in Tel Aviv. The Tel Aviv protest turned violent, prompting police to use stun grenades, water cannons and batons in an attempt to restore order. Some 40 people, including policemen, were injured in the clashes, according to news reports, none seriously.

The video may have been the catalyst but it certainly was not the underlying cause. Ethiopians interviewed by Haaretz newspaper told of lives blighted by institutionalized racism, police harassment, casual, everyday discrimination, forced religious education and a society that has never bothered to listen to the Ethiopians and deal with their specific needs.

For Israel, the Ethiopians who began arriving in the late Eighties were cannon- and Zionist-fodder, just like the Jews of North Africa and the Arab countries who arrived in the late Forties and Fifties. Their role was to serve the state; the state has never regarded itself as being under an obligation to serve them.

More immigrants means more money for the various government departments, municipalities, religious institutions, NGOs and all the other components of the infrastructure that lives like a gigantic parasite  off the poor, confused immigrants it is meant to serve. The immigrant serves the Establishment, or a significant part of it, not the other way around.

When it comes down to it, Ethiopian Israelis simply want dignity, a commodity that has never been easy to come by in a country in which dignity is the monopoly of the state. Norwegians can live in dignity; in Israel the job of the citizen is to be a foot-soldier for the dignity of the state.

Netanyahu is Israel’s longest-serving prime minister since David Ben-Gurion. Much of what the country has become is due to him. Israel may not have been created in Netanyahu’s image, but he’s done a pretty good job of molding it into the paranoid, self-obsessed, self-righteous and racist country it is today.

It’s not rational to expect the next Netanyahu government to do anything to change that.


3 replies on “Bibi is still running the show – and what a show!”

Roy, we are on the same page. I am totally depressed. Israelis reelected Netanyahu and the country seems to have bound itself to more settlement building. Last night Daniel Seidemann spoke in Montreal. It seemed clear to him ands to me there will be no peace if there is no willingness to re-divide “Israel’s indivisible capital”. The biggest irony is that the city is more divided than it has ever been since the Six Day War. Totally depressing.

I’ve been following the The Kibbitzer’s writing for a while, and I must admit that I have become somewhat confused about what he’d actually like to see happen in Israel. I get the distinct impression that, should he be asked what the Israeli government could do that would make him happy, he’d be dumbstruck. Or, explain how they should pack up everything and leave for Europe, so that the holy and innocent Palestinians can finally establish Shangri La on the land stolen from them by people who apparently look too European.
In any case, I’d like to talk about some of the points in his latest piece in detail.

1. He complains about the state’s use of mourning for political aims, but this is nothing new or specific to Israel. Governments all over the world use the past in stage-managed, propandistic ways. It may not always leave a good taste in the mouth, but it’s hardly a uniquely Israeli or Jewish problem. And this brings us to an issue that crops up again and again throughout the piece: singling out Israel as especially terrible for doing just what everyone else is also doing. Why should Israel and Jews in general be held to a higher standard than everyone else? Complain about what you don’t like, fine, but don’t pretend that the run-of-the-mill pro-nationalism tactics used by the Israeli government is any different from that engaged in by tons of other countries considered respectable by the UN Human Rights Council and social progressives who shun Israeli agricultural produce. I’m not saying that two wrongs make a right; I’m saying that what is being presented here as quintessentially Israeli sins are nothing of the sort.

2. Following on the first point, I don’t think anyone looking at the news, and at history, can claim that there is an overreaction to the threat of antisemitism. It’s been only a few decades since the Holocaust, for God’s sake! Then there are the many more centuries of violence, murder and pogroms. Jews may be safer today than at many other points in history, but it would be astonishingly naive to imagine that antisemitism is no longer a threat. Once again, I don’t see how the feelings about antisemitism and the holocaust, and the way they are used by politicians, is in any way different from how other countries and nations view and use their historical and national tragedies in helping to fashion how they see themselves and in formulating their policies and national consciousness.

3. I’m afraid I don’t get the point about the Armenian Genocide at all. Again, Israel is being singled out for selective opprobrium. There are a lot of countries that have behaved in a very cowardly and unethical fashion in dealing with the matter, including America. This is not to excuse the behaviour of countries who won’t call a genocide a genocide, but in the greater scheme of things, the Israeli refusal to do so is really no very little consequence. Once again we’re dealing not with especially odious behaviour found only in Israel, but something that is a problem in many countries.

4. “The Kibbitzer writes of Israel that “[i]t is a country that chooses its humanitarian causes with political
precision and is incapable of acting humanely without an ulterior motive.” I’d argue again that every country chooses its humanitarian causes with such precision. As for none of the humanitarian action being taken without an ulterior motive, that would require some amazing mind-reading powers to confirm. In any case, I don’t believe a child whose life is saved by an Israeli surgeon cares if it’s being done for PR purposes or not. And, yet again, I ask how any of this makes Israel worse or different than any other country? Especially the ones who engage in little or no humanitarian work?

5. Then we are asked “where were the Israeli rescue and medical teams when Gazan children were being dug out of buildings just last summer?”. As it turns out, Israeli medical personnel and hospitals treated many wounded Gazans. But that’s not even important. The whole point that’s trying to be made here is patently ridiculous. Why aren’t the Saudis helping to dig up the children left under the rubble caused by their bombing campaign in Yemen? Did the Brits help dig out the Germans they bombed during WW2? It’s such a stupid question that nobody should even attempt to dignify it with an answer.

6. “Why do we weep for the Nepalese but remain unmoved at the wholesale deaths of Palestinian civilians?” Quite obviously a great many people are moved by these deaths, but as so often happens with anti-Zionist authors, the context is left out. It must take some really amazing, superhuman people to be more concerned about the victims on the other side of war they are involved in than with their own safety. But, as we’ve seen, The Kibbitzer demands of Israelis and Jews a restraint and moral behaviour on par with that of the angels not expected of the rest of the nations of the world. It’s a sort of reverse antisemitism, really…

What I’d love to see from people of The Kibbitzer’s persuasion is, when dealing with Israel, just a little bit of the same empathy and awareness of context they always seem to have in spades when dealing with the Palestinians and everyone else.
For them, it’s perfectly understandable that a frustrated youth can strap a bomb to himself and kill women and children, but it’s not understandable why a government would put up a security wall to make it harder for such bombers to reach their targets.
It’s understandable for Palestinians to demonise Jews, but it’s not acceptable for Israelis to even think mean things about enemies who are explicit about their desire to kill them.
I also wonder how these people decide when history ends? Why are the Palestinians somehow more entitled to the land than Israelis? We’re told it’s because they only recently arrived there, and from Europe. So? As I just asked, who draws the line that separates now from history? There’s barely a country on earth whose population didn’t get where they are today by displacing someone who was there before them. Somehow the Jewish claim on the land is less valid, because they arrived their recently and took it by force, but the Palestinian one is valid, just because they took it by force much longer ago. Why is the cutoff date the Muslim invasion of Jerusalem, and not, say, during the time of the First or Second Temples? It’s a question that can be asked about many world conflicts, where Western liberals always seem to employ arbitrary rules on who is entitled to land.

The Kibbitzer is happy to publish intelligent and well-argued comments expressing opposing points of view.
To answer the question about what the Israeli government could do that would make me happy, it could scrap the occupation and dismantle the settlements. That would make me very happy. However, that is a lot easier said than done, of course. After close to 50 years of occupation, not to mention the ethnic cleansing of 1948, the occupation is deeply entrenched and its consequences probably irreversible. The possible contours of a settlement are impossible to predict today. But the absolute minimum that can – and should – be done is for Israel to acknowledge its crimes against the Palestinians, withdraw its troops from the occupied territories (with an international force replacing them) and begin negotiating seriously toward a resolution.

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