This statement last year from Benjamin Netanyahu about how “The weak crumble, are slaughtered and are erased from history” is a revealing glimpse into the mentality of Israel’s government. The fact that Netanyahu talks about conquest and mass murder in such heartless terms, while still trying to make his message appear to be pragmatic—by including the phrase “for better or for worse,” shows the kinds of rationalizations that are behind Israel’s brutal actions towards the Palestinians.
These rationalizations are universal among the ideologies of nationalistic and authoritarian nations, and they involve three things:
- A grandiose view of one’s country
- A rejection of the facts that contradict one’s preferred narratives about that country
- A hostile reaction to all who challenge that country’s power
We see the first trait, grandiosity, in how pro-Israel politicians talk about the country. Supporting Israel is often presented by these figures as a purely virtuous act that’s essential for the protection of the Jewish people, making all of America’s concessions towards it seem like earnest expressions of goodwill towards the Jewish community. According to this narrative, we’re only supporting Israel to fight anti-Semitism, and/or to fulfill the nationalistic goals that Zionism says are part of a divine plan.
This idealized image of the country is reinforced by the characterizations of Israel as “the only democracy in the Middle East,” by the portrayals of the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) as “the most moral army in the world,” and sometimes by appeals to feelings of racial superiority, like Ben Shapiro’s infamous tweet which reads: “Israelis like to build. Arabs like to bomb crap and live in open sewage. This is not a difficult issue.”
The hypocrisy of this grandiosity is shown not just in the morally reprehensible nature of the government that these politicians support, but in the fact that their support for Israel is usually motivated, not by some of kind of cultural enthusiasm, but rather by political self-interest. The Israel lobby is one of the most powerful influences over the U.S. Congress and Senate; billionaires like Sheldon Adelson and Miriam Ochsorn regularly help create America’s pro-Israel policies; we know that the United States and Israel are ultimately partnered because this helps both of them advance their imperialistic goals.
Western support for Israel is about money and power, despite the attempts to pretend otherwise. An especially ironic example of this is when Senator Ted Cruz accompanies his support for pro-Israel legislation with statements like “If you will not stand with Israel and the Jews, then I will not stand with you.” Cruz’ efforts to make his position look like it comes only from a love for the Jewish community are disingenuous, since Cruz has taken ample money from the Israel lobby. The situation is the same for most of the other high-profile figures who benefit from the exploits of the U.S./Israeli/NATO imperialist establishment, while portraying themselves as nothing other than defenders of equality and humanitarianism.
This posturing of righteousness can only be made while denying all of the injustices that the Israeli government commits. This is a very common practice when power is being defended. I’ve often written about how when people support a certain political team, whether it’s centered around Obama or Trump or the American empire in general, they tend to reject information that proves their allegiances to be flawed.
In Israel’s case, facts need to be constantly revised. When Israel has systematically denied citizenship to Palestinian residents, discriminately made indefinite detention apply to all Palestinians in Israel, imposed curfews on Palestinians, and enacted numerous other apartheid policies, Israel’s spokespeople need to blatantly lie by saying that “All people living in Israel have full equal rights.” When Israel bombs hovels in Gaza, Israeli soldiers routinely lure and kill Palestinian children, and Israel deliberately blocks drinking water from Gaza— all while Palestinians are banned from leaving the Gaza Strip, Israel’s response is to distort these facts and blame all atrocities on Hamas and the Arabs. When Israel has settled in Palestinian land against U.N. orders, violently expelled hundreds of thousands of Palestinians from their homes, and illegally demolished 5,000 homes in Palestinian neighborhoods since 1967, the typical defense is to classify all of the victims as terrorists while arguing that the establishment and expansion of Israel is more important than Palestinian sovereignty.
These and the many other atrocities that Israel has carried out are able to be denied through two methods. One of these methods is a casual dismissal of stories about the atrocities as fabrications, which is easy to do when someone is being momentarily shown a negative headline about Israel. When this uncomfortable information is being talked about in detail, though, a direct disconnect forms between what the facts say and how the facts are being interpreted by Israel’s spokespeople. The self-deception that’s regularly involved in the making of pro-Israel news was revealed in this 2014 statement from Chris Hedges:
“All of us reporters who have covered the occupied territories have run into Israel’s Alice-in-Wonderland narratives, which we dutifully insert into our stories — required under the rules of American journalism — although we know they are untrue.”
An acceptance of two different versions of the truth is inevitable when people close to the events in Israel need to paint a favorable picture of what’s going on. And most of the people who come into this situation don’t have the integrity of Chris Hedges, so they stay in their position of being paid to defend Israel’s atrocities. It’s the same dynamic that happens in George Orwell’s 1984, where the people in charge of revising the historical records need to pretend that the fiction they’re writing is true.
This real-life doublethink is the most unsettling when Israeli spokespersons defend the killings of Palestinian and Arab civilians. According to DR Frank Luntz’ 2009 An acceptance of two different versions of the truth is inevitable when people close to the events in Israel need to paint a favorable picture of what’s going on Click To Tweet The official playbook for how Israel’s representatives should publicly talk, these speakers need to express empathy for the victims of Israel’s attacks. Since blaming the victims outright would make Israel look cruel in the eyes of the public, Luntz writes, spokespeople have to act sad that these killings have happened, while at the same time denying Israel’s blame for them. “Persuadables [sic] won’t care how much you know until they know how much you care,” Luntz reasons. “Show Empathy for BOTH sides!”
A never-ending war
These factors—the belief that Israel is infallible and the belief that all critics of Israel are lying—are what fuel a culture of hatred towards everyone who opposes the country’s government. When all Palestinians and Arabs and are seen as enemies of the Jews in conventional Israeli thought, reconciliation becomes impossible, and ethnic and religious warfare looks like the only option. This attitude’s prevalence among many of Israel’s supporters is shown by Abby Martin’s 2017 interviews of random Israeli citizens, which included one man who said: “You can’t deal with these people, there’s no need to try, there’s no need to talk to them.”
So, as Palestinian resistance efforts gain more traction and worldwide public opinion increasingly turns against Israel, Netanyahu’s government is doing all it can to clamp down. Hundreds of Palestinian protesters have been killed since the start of last year’s Great March of Return, a sign that Israel is now resorting to violence more openly than it has before. Israel is becoming a police state, with journalists like Reza Aslan being detained and threatened by the Israeli government for expressing dissenting views. Last July, Israel passed a law which codified its status as an apartheid state and essentially ended its attempts to portray itself as a democracy, with only Jews now welcome to emigrate to Israel under the law and Israel’s settlements being classified as legal.
I’m focusing on Israel so much both because the U.S. is effectively supporting a genocide against the Palestinians, and because it’s important to expose the hypocrisy of those who are behind this effort. Ted Cruz (and the other fascists in our government) support Israel with the supposed goal of “helping America,” while they constantly undermine purported American values such as free speech and equality.
For example, last year Cruz and seventeen other lawmakers signed a letter to the U.S. Attorney General which demanded that Al Jazeera be forced to register as a foreign agent for airing a documentary that exposed the Israel lobby. In the last two years, politicians like Ed Royce and Brad Sherman have supported federal bills that would censor the Boycott Divestment Sanctions movement. South Carolina has already enacted a temporary law that outlaws criticism of Israel’s West Bank occupation as hate speech.
Meanwhile the ruling plutocrats, for whom Israel, the U.S., and all the other countries are only tools in their larger game of maintaining power, are advancing measures to control the world’s lower classes while bringing us closer to a third world war. NATO countries are building up their militaries; America’s threats to invade Venezuela are increasing the risk of a confrontation between the U.S. and Russia; the growing escalations between the U.S. and Iran are making this global standoff even more tense, and Israel has exacerbated these tensions by pushing Trump to sabotage the Iran nuclear deal.
Ultimately, the establishment’s response to anyone who objects to all of this oppression and killing is that we need a brutal society to have order and safety. This is essentially the argument for Zionism, which claims that the creation of a Jewish state—and the conquest and nationalism that this project entails—is needed for the protection of the Jews.
Yet there are Jews who don’t agree with this. As the orthodox Jewish organization Neturei Karta says in one of its statements: “Zionism redefines the true essential nature of the People of Israel, and substitutes for it a completely contradictory and opposite character — a materialistic worldly nation.”
Given all the things I’ve mentioned, doesn’t this argument seem right?