Anointing Netanyahu

Anointing Netanyahu
8 min read
16 Mar, 2015
Comment: In praising the Israeli leader, US Congress members and leading journalists are showing their overwhelming bias regarding events in the region.
Netanyahu received dozens of standing ovations from the US Congress [Getty]
"Officials from all parts of Israel's political establishment," read a recent report in Haaretz, "sharply criticised the statement of artist and commentator Yair Garbuz at the left wing's rally in Rabin Square on Saturday night."

Garbuz had evidently "expressed amazement at how 'amulet-kissers, idol-worshippers and people who prostrate themselves at the graves of saints' were controlling Israel."

These remarks were criticised by the Zionist Union who took them as racist and anti-Sephardic.

"Deputy Minister Ofir Akunis (Likud)," according to this report, "called the artist's address 'the second chakh-chakhim speech' - referring to the speech by the late entertainer Dudu Topaz during the 1981 election campaign in which he used the anti-Sephardi slang term chakh-chakhim ["rabble"] to disparage Likud voters."

Is "amulet-kissing", "idol-worshipping", and "prostrating" something specific or peculiar to the Sephardic, or the "chakh-chakhim", as they say? Really? Let's see now.

Standing ovation
     More than a quarter of Netanyahu's speech to Congress consisted of applause and standing ovations.

There was more bending, bowing, prostrating, and putting your hands obediently together in front of Binjamin Netanyahu in the joint session of the US Congress than Muslims do on a typical Friday prayer to their Almighty God.  

While there are only two such ritual gestures required of a Muslim in any unit of prayer to their Creator, there were 29 of them - in what native worshippers in the US Congress dubbed a "standing ovation" - offered up to Netanyahu.

More recently observed was that more than "a quarter of Netanyahu's speech to Congress consisted of applause and standing ovations". So what about the "chakh-chakhim"?

Televised and globally available on the internet, I am watching this sacramental worship as I write these lines, as the US Congress performs its ritual prayers to the Israeli Golden Calf during their Apis Bull Worship of 3rd March 2015. 

It is something to behold to believe.

The ritual took a long time to prepare. "Israeli ambassador to Washington Ron Dermer, in the service of his master," as Yossi Sarid of Haaretz puts it, "is rallying his troops and launching a combined assault on Capitol Hill. Benjamin Netanyahu is determined to show the president once and for all who really rules in Washington, who is the landlord both here and there."

The ritual prostrations and "amulet-kissing", "idol worshipping", and "prostrating" raise a critical question for the priestly order of "enlightenment modernity", and perhaps are even worthy of the gang of "new atheist" Zionists as they call themselves.

Who really rules Washington DC? The highest ranking elected official of a dysfunctional democracy, or the chief warlord of an apartheid settler colony, and what ritual "amulet-kissing", "idol-worshipping", and "prostrating" are the clear signs of it for the whole world to see?

Idol-worshipping of legislators in the US Congress, however, has a deeper genealogy. 

Praise be to Netanyahu

That a leading US columnist for the New York Times, David Brooks, has a son serving in the Israeli army has become something entirely ordinary and seemingly acceptable in the US.

Imagine if a Muslim American had a "jihadist" (as the term is now used and abused in the US) son or daughter joining the Islamic State group (IS) or any other foreign military outfit in Syria, Iraq, or Afghanistan. 

Now imagine this parent having a regular column in the New York Times, and proudly citing that fact as a sign of paternal pride. Just imagine that.

While Brooks Jr is hunting more Palestinians to kill and helping more Palestinian land to be stolen from them, his father goes to Israel and writes a column in pious praise of its chief warlord.  What is the column about?  Well it is about "Bibi" as he joins the chorus of Israeli and US amulet-kissers in praising the Israeli chieftain. 

More specifically, in what particular terms does he praise this "Bibi"?
     'Netanyahu is surpassingly brilliant,' Brooks begins his panegyrics on his favorite Israeli settler colonist.

Filing from "Metula, Israel", Brooks begins by wishing he was a novelist so he could write a political novel on Netanyahu. "The story would be partly Nixonian," he says first by way of his first canonical approximation of his favorite Israeli warlord into the pantheon of US iconography.  

"Netanyahu is surpassingly brilliant," Brooks begins his panegyrics on his favorite Israeli settler colonist, "as even his opponents here concede. He knows the minute guts of Israeli politics and has read deeply into big history and grand strategy."

Then he proceeds with his sacerdotal canonisation of the Israeli politician: "The story would be partly Kennedyesque." How so? "The Netanyahu clan was presided over by Benjamin's brilliant father Benzion, the great medieval historian."  

Indeed. The short column is so inundated with adjectival "brilliant" and "great" that it would make a medieval hagiographer blush.

But the US is not enough. "The story would be partly Churchillian." We now move to European history. 

"He has been a pessimist about the Arab world. As the Arab Spring has deteriorated, as Palestinian democracy led to Hamas, as run of the mill extremists have lost ground to IS, Bibi's instincts have basically been proved correct."  

Indeed. As far as the senior New York Times columnist fuses his own naked racism with that of Netanyahu and Churchill, we have Nixon, Kennedy, and Churchill competing for approximation to "Bibi". Let's move on and see who is really in the business of amulet-kissing and idol-worshipping.  Ashkenazi Jews or US Zionists?

From here, Brook takes us away from the mundane realm of politics to the sublimity of literary masterpieces: "The story would be part Shakespearean." From there we visit the site of cinematic masterpieces, for "the story would be part 'Citizen Kane'." And before you know it: "Finally, the story would be part Machiavelli. The great Renaissance philosopher argued that it is best to be both loved and feared, but if you have to choose one, it is better to be feared."

Now put all these figures together - Nixon, Kennedy, Churchill, Shakespeare, Citizen Kane, and Machiavelli - and what do you get? A reverent anointing of Netanyahu as the towering figure standing like a totem pole right in the centre of "Western" political, literary, and artistic metaphysics.

Brook is cautious not to lose his liberal constituency - so he comes up with this jab: "No one has a simple view of him. To some he is a monster who has expanded settlements on the West Bank, which are a moral stain, and which have done immense damage to Israel's efforts to win support around the world. To some he is the necessary man in hard times, the vigilant guardian as the rest of the Middle East goes berserk".  

"The Middle East goes berserk" is of course a reference to the Arab revolutions, where we are witness to a universal uprising to become the agents rather than victims of a history Brooks and his ilk write.

"I'm visiting Israel for the 18th or 19th time," Brooks interjects, adding parenthetically: "(My son is currently a member of the Lone Soldiers' Program, which allows people from around the world to serve in the Israeli military)."

Really? Israel is a racist apartheid settler colony that recruits Zionists young and old from around the world to sustain an amoral, bankrupt, and systematically murderous armed robbery of Palestine. That is a political fact.

But for a father to make a public record of seeing his own son sent to harm's way to sustain and further that armed robbery without a blink speaks of a much larger malady.

People such as Brooks are deaf, dumb, and blind to the realities of the world at large. When people rise to claim their agency of history he and his favourite warlord see them as going "berserk".

They commute in a tunnel between New York and Tel Aviv. They have branded the global uproar against the criminal atrocities of the Israeli settler colony under the pigeonhole of "terrorism" here or "anti-Semitism" there - and they go on deluding themselves.

In that delusional stupor they not only endanger the lives of their own children but become instrumental in the murder and mayhem visited upon other people's children - from Iraq to Syria to Palestine. 

Delusions gentle and harsh
     The crisis of Zionism is not the crisis of identity, but a crisis of alterity.

The crisis of Zionism is not the crisis of identity, but a crisis of alterity.

Who and what exactly is it that is supposed to be the Zionists' "others"? Arabs, Muslims, anti-Semites, Europeans, Christians? 

All of these alterities are historically meandering, dodging any fixed place for the Zionists to define as their alterities.

There is no particular "other" against which Zionists can locate and define themselves. The historic natural habitat of Jews is with Iranian, Arabs and Muslims, as their prolonged histories testify - and yet European Zionists have categorically posited all these people as their enemies.

"The Villa In The Jungle" metaphor that Ehud Barak and other Zionists love to invoke places Zionists against the lived experiences of Jews. Not a single metaphor David Brooks can pick to celebrate Netanyahu comes from Jewish history.

That is where Zionism faces it own historic cul de sac - it alienates Jews from Judaism precisely at the moment when it promises them a Zionist liberation.

Zionism is not unique in this predicament. In fact, it shares the problem with militant Islamism, which has alienated Muslims from the cosmopolitan disposition of their own faith precisely at the moment that it turned a multifaceted worldly religion into a singular site of ideological resistance to European colonialism.

As fate would have it, Islamism has historically depleted and discredited itself almost at the same time as Zionism has. Thus Israel, as a historical incident, shares a bizarre (or perhaps natural) concurrence with the Islamic State group - two outdated oddities refusing to yield to the inevitable force of history.

As for "amulet-kissers, idol-worshippers and people who prostrate themselves", we need to learn how to be an equal opportunity employer of our critical judgment and not racialise our political anthropology.

A New York Times columnist and scores of US Senators and Congressmen and Congresswomen have a hearty share in their idol-worshipping too. Just head over to YouTube and watch the last two times Netanyahu was at the US Congress - and behold the spectacle.

Hamid Dabashi is the author of "Post-Orientalism: Knowledge and Power in Time of Terror". He lives in New York.

Opinions stated in this article remain those of the author and do not necesarily represent those of al-Araby al-Jadeed, its editorial board or staff.