By David Shasha
The big winner in this past week’s election, as is usually the case in Israel, was the late David Ben-Gurion.
Ben-Gurion has been the guiding spirit of Israel and its political system and social structure is largely a product of his oppressive Ashkenazi ethnocentric vision.
The following article by Avi Shlaim presents a précis of the man for those who are not familiar with him:
Contrary to the view of Ben-Gurion as a benign leader, Shlaim shows us just how contentious a figure Israel’s first political star really was.
Jerome Chanes’ review of Ben-Gurion loyalist Anita Shapira’s biography provides some context to understand his tyrannical domination of the Israeli political system:
In many ways Ben-Gurion was Israel and it was his weltanschauung that defined the country’s political ethos.
The country continues to be mired in a bullying militarism that is reflected in its leadership. The Netanyahu victory represents that continued Ashkenazi supremacy. Even relatively modest gains by the Mizrahi politician Moshe Kahlon, who split from Likud to create Kulanu prior to the election cycle, shows the sheer dominance of the Ashkenazi model as it presents Middle Eastern Jews as a minority faction that is not a formative part of the Israeli leadership structure.
Due to the gradual erasure of the Sephardic intellectual tradition, there are today no authentically Sephardic political parties. What we see in SHAS on the one hand and in the newly-created Kulanu party on the other hand is the integration of Sephardim into the Ashkenazi system where they have largely sublimated their cultural heritage in favor of one or another of the Ashkenazi models. Anti-Sephardi racism and marginalization continues to proceed in Israel with little resistance.
Ben-Gurion did not like Sephardim and their culture, believing that Israel had to be dominated by a European mentality which would set it apart from the Arab civilization. He wanted to marginalize the Orthodox faction in order to better control them while at the same time promoting an atavistic Biblical ethos under the guise of an expansionist policy.
The Orthodox remain under relative control, even becoming progressively more accepting of Zionist authority while the expansionist elements in the neo-Biblical West Bank territories play out Ben-Gurion’s grandiose dreams of ancient Israel. The Arab minorities in the country are moribund and enfeebled as Palestinian militancy outside the Israeli Green Line remains a persistent danger.
Though things are not exactly the way Ben-Gurion would have wanted, the situation is close enough to the way he envisioned things that we can say with some confidence that Israel remains loyal to his vision. It is misanthropic in the usual Ashkenazi way, having successfully transplanted the classic Eastern European Shtetl in the Middle East and promoted the value of Ashkenazi supremacy as both the Palestinian Arabs and the Sephardic Jews remain beholden to that supremacy; unable to assert their cultural and political values in a system that has marginalized them.
It is this failure to “Levantinize” Israel that is Ben-Gurion’s greatest victory and which is embodied in the corrosive figure of Benjamin Netanyahu, the ultimate triumph of the Ashkenazi mentality in Israeli political culture.
For those who mistakenly believe that Israel’s political system is broken, it is important to understand the visionary leadership of David Ben-Gurion and the mechanisms that he put into place at the very beginning of the country’s existence. These elements continue to dominate the country’s socio-political landscape which remains resolutely and militantly Ashkenazi, empowering a certain cultural mentality rooted in Zionist anomie and brutality.
Ben-Gurion was by no means a Liberal Pluralist as some wrongly think. He was a vicious ethnocentric strongman who did not believe in Jewish integration into the global family of nations, but who sought to recreate the ancient Jewish commonwealth in the modern world. His disdain for the classical Jewish heritage, rooted in Diaspora rabbinical ethics, was matched by his contempt for the Arab civilization adopted by the Sephardim.
Israel’s alienated state will in the years to come continue to divide Israel from the American-led Jewish Diaspora which was built on a very different model of Jewish identity. While the American Jewish establishment is firmly in the ultra-Zionist “Bibi” camp, younger Jews who are not beholden to that entrenched leadership will continue to drift further and further away from the prime directive of an alienated Jewish identity.
Another unexpected glitch in the system that Ben-Gurion did not envision was the emigration of alienated Israeli Jews from the country; although, as we have seen repeatedly, these transplanted Israelis do maintain Ben-Gurion’s Ashkenazi-centric culture in their lives. How these émigrés will affect the balance of political power in Israel – they all have dual citizenship and can vote in the country’s elections if they choose to fly back to Israel to claim that privilege – remains to be seen.
In the end the Ashkenazi Zionist paradigm will continue to separate Jews and lead to a contentious struggle seeking to define what it means to be Jewish in the contemporary period. In this Jewish universe the Sephardim have no place and will continue to see their culture and history fading away into oblivion.
Notes on the Benjamin Netanyahu Congressional Address
By David Shasha
For some background on the vile Israeli Prime Minister and his even more vile father, one of the most hardcore of the Sephardi-haters, see the following posts:
- On Monday The New York Times posted no less than three articles on the upcoming Netanyahu speech to Congress:
All the articles were written by Ashkenazi Jews.
Another article focused on Secretary of State John Kerry and his attitude towards Netanyahu:
It appears that the Netanyahu speech is the most important thing to ever happen in Washington!
In all seriousness, the speech has raised the political temperature on all sides as it does appear that the Netanyahu camp has sought to use the opportunity afforded by the Republican do-nothing Congress to make headway in a very tough election campaign back in Israel and in return provide the radical obstructionist Republicans with yet more fodder to attack the current president.
The speech represents an unprecedented insult to a sitting American president and a truly galling attempt by the opposition party to use a foreign leader to undermine his foreign policy initiatives. It is quite a bit of CHUTZPAH concocted by the radical Republicans and a true Zionist fanatic.
- The following articles by Dennis Prager and Dror Eydar provide a strong sense of the mindset of the hard-line Zionists prior to the speech:
Eydar’s article is less about President Obama than about an Israeli journalist named Dan Shilon who most of us have never heard of. The article attacks the “Left” and serves the purposes of Sheldon Adelson’s Israel Hayom as it acts to provide firm support for Netanyahu. For fanatics like Eydar it is Netanyahu who represents the authentic Jewish tradition as he is fighting the idolators.
So it is with Dennis Prager who ignores the history of the Middle East and seeks to create a new category of absolute evil that connects the Communists to the Islamists.
Israel, naturally, has no culpability in the matter. It has not acted as an obstructionist force in the region, refusing to find a peaceful solution to its conflict with the Palestinians.
It is not that Israel is responsible for the chaos that now exists in the Arab world, but it is disingenuous to argue that there has been a rational process that the West has used to deal with the matter.
The idea that the West is trying to impose rational standards on an evil situation is ludicrous and speaks to the hypocrisy of the West and its client-state Israel in dealing with the current unrest in the Arab-Muslim world. For many years Israel has sought to act as an interloper in the region just as it has sought to co-opt Jewish history and the larger religious identity of the Jewish people. Violence has always been the first option and the size of Israel’s military-industrial complex, replete with a massive nuclear arsenal, has factored into the ratcheting up of the conflict with the Arabs and the regional dysfunction.
It is of course the greatest of ironies that we are being lectured by the Zionist bully echo-chamber that we have the duty to speak out in a courageous and critical manner. Those Jews who do speak critically against the Zionist idol are beaten down mercilessly. So let us not forget that at the same time such Jewish extremists lecture us on how we need to speak out, that criticism of Israel is off-limits. We need to speak critically, but never against Israel and Zionism.
Evil, it seems, is always in the eye of the beholder.
It is something that creeps up on us and we must be able to track its development over time. It is certainly true that the Islamist scourge must be dealt with, but it is equally true that we must look at the history of Israel more closely and point out the radical nature of Netanyahu’s Zionism with all its ethnocentric racism and demented alienation. The idea of perpetual war and isolation is not at all a rational way of dealing with things and the continuation of a failed Israeli strategy led by a true Right Wing radical whose fidelity to Judaism is highly questionable spells disaster for the future of the region.
- After watching the Netanyahu speech it can with assurance be said that we received the standard hectoring lecture rooted in nihilism and dystopia that is the Netanyahu(s) hallmark. Iran is intent on destroying the world in order to gain advantage and will use any means to conquer its enemies. The current policy of the Obama administration is not simply misguided, but is certain to create a lethal situation for the entire world.
His tendentious historical use of the Book of Esther in the speech, just in time for Purim, presents us with his fatalistic and violent reading of the Hebrew Bible which is manipulated to suit his Zionist views.
The rhetoric of the speech was further loaded with the Holocaust-based theological fatalism of the Right Wing Zionists that sees Jewish history as an endless series of pogroms rooted in an eternal Anti-Semitism.
To this end, the shameful use of Elie Wiesel (himself an Ultra-Zionist whose human rights concerns are limited by his Zionist orthodoxy) as a prop – reminiscent of the way American presidents treat the visitors’ gallery during State of the Union addresses – displayed clearly how Israel has not gotten past the horrors of the Holocaust.
In the Netanyahu(s) understanding of Jewish history the Holocaust is omnipresent and the idea that the Jewish State might be able to transcend the nightmares of the past deemed impossible. This nihilistic apocalyptic ideology – CNN’s Christiane Amanpour called it “Strangelovian” – has prevented Netanyahu and his supporters from ever seeing Jews as a normal people. Peace is refused as Anti-Semitism is marked as eternal.
It is rhetoric replete with a demeaning Orientalism which harbors – pace the view of the elder Netanyahu – a deep-seated contempt for Sephardic cosmopolitanism and adaptation. Jewish history is painted strictly in black and the Jewish present remains completely tied to this hopeless darkness.
Beyond this – and more important – Netanyahu continues to peddle the same fish when it comes to Iran’s nuclear program. As Fareed Zakaria pointed out prior to the CNN broadcast of the speech, Netanyahu has been sounding the same call on Iran for many years now, and yet the country still does not have the bomb.
This can clearly be seen in Netanyahu’s 1996 speech to Congress:
It has also been noticed by his critics in Israel:
In his severe condemnation of the American-led negotiations to ensure a deal with Iran in the face of great pressure from international actors like China and Russia, Netanyahu expresses a logical contradiction which he does not acknowledge: Iran can walk away from the negotiating table and continue to develop its nuclear capabilities, which Netanyahu believes to be a foregone conclusion.
According to Netanyahu Iran is a rogue state that lies and cheats. So why then would it negotiate with the West and sign a deal? Following the Netanyahu “logic” should Iran not simply continue in its way and do what it wants without entering into negotiations at all?
Although he had nothing new to say, and no real alternative to the American position, he does seem to imply by default that only a military conflict would suffice in dealing with the issue. There is no doubt in his mind that Iran wants nuclear weapons and can get them. Even if the West signs a deal with Iran – at least in Netanyahu’s overworked mind – they will get the bomb. According to this fatalistic nihilism no deal will ensure that Iran will be stopped. Iran will walk away from the table, away from their commitments, and do what they want whenever they feel like it.
Following this “logic” there is no other choice than pre-emption – which many of the idiot Republicans and their Zionist followers have already been saying:
Though Netanyahu never said it, it seems to be the only logical conclusion from his harsh rhetoric and its hopeless mien which ominously deploys the rhetorical threat of genocide at every turn.
And here we once again run into the brilliant doctrine of pre-emption promoted by the Neo-Conservatives after 9/11 and adopted by George W. Bush; a strategy that has served to empower Iran and create a new and even more lethal form of Islamic radicalism in the region.
And here we see the Israeli process being reduplicated: Demonize all Arabs and Muslims and continue to press for disengagement and maintain a violent posture and all will be well. But that process has not worked for Israel and it is not working for America and the West as it struggles with the threat posed by ISIS. Netanyahu’s own words ironically serve to support the failures of his nihilistic militaristic ideology.
It is thus highly ironic that Netanyahu testified in 2002 in chillingly similar end-of-the-world terms on the nuclear problem in the Middle East – this time it was not Iran, but Iraq:
That testimony was not forgotten by John Kerry, the very man negotiating with Iran on behalf of the current administration:
Netanyahu back then assured a fawning Congressional committee that toppling Iraq would provide stability to the region. His penchant for military solutions remains a constant in his thinking.
In spite of Netanyahu’s over-the-top fear-mongering, the move towards a diplomatic solution from the Obama administration is intelligent and might well produce positive results. It is certainly better than maintaining the status quo as Netanyahu insists.
What we do know is that such Israeli belligerency and militarism as Netanyahu and his supporters strongly support has yet to achieve any concrete results – other than an affirmation of insecurity and perpetual war; a matter that ironically feeds right back into the Netanyahu nihilistic fatalism creating an endless loop of recrimination.
We must also note the political aspect to the speech and its role in the current Israeli election; a matter expertly discussed by Gershom Gorenberg:
Changing the subject from “Bottlegate” and the tab for the PM’s ice cream, the speech was a rare moment for the Netanyahus to get away from the Israeli public and lap up the great love of the AIPAC-funded US Congress which seems to be even more supportive of Israel than the Israelis are!
Here is an excellent quote from the Gorenberg article that sums things up well:
In the end, Netanyahu offered only hopelessness, fear, and a quote from Deuteronomy: “Be strong and resolute, neither fear nor dread them.” The strange combination of dread and overconfidence is his real election platform. It stands in place of policy. If he can stir those feelings in enough voters, he believes, he will be re-elected.
This formulation captures the internal paradoxes of the classic Netanyahu PILPUL; Jewish pride with no hope, Jewish history with no pride. It is the rhetoric of a Jew who can see nothing but darkness inside his self-imposed tunnel.
Jews have nothing to be proud of in their historical past; Israel has sought to erase the nightmare of Diaspora. There is never any Jewish acculturation; Jews are the perennial outsiders who are despised by the whole world and are now prepared to “go it alone.”
The idea is to have the Gentiles buy into this dystopian vision rather than help us build a healthy and hopeful Jewish future. It is a recapitulation of the Ashkenazi Shtetl mentality rooted in the dysfunctional Judaism of the Tosafists and their many heirs; a matter that I have discussed in some detail in my article “From Rabbenu Tam to Shabbetai Sebi: The Road from Jewish Pathology to Jewish Degeneracy”:
It is this typological thinking that prevents Netanyahu’s Zionist understanding of Jewish history from freeing itself from the shackles of abnormality. It is very much the difference between Ashkenazi Jewish fatalism and Sephardic Jewish Humanism; one is a closed system that cannot ever achieve normalcy, the other an open system that embraces complexity, pluralism, and tolerance.
Two things must also be added to my criticism of the standard Netanyahu PILPUL: With all of the blather about Anti-Semitism, it is once again interesting to see how the Zionists have embraced the Christian fundamentalists – amply represented in the current do-nothing Congress – whose theological Anti-Semitism and contempt for Judaism is clear enough. The dance that is being played out in this love-fest between Israel and the American Bible Belt is based on a mutual hypocrisy that ignores the basic facts of history and religious tradition. Although both Zionists and Christian extremists want to hasten the Apocalypse, the nature of the end-time is quite different for the two groups.
We can see an example of this Christian “love” for the Jews in the following Jerusalem Post article on the odious John Hagee:
Finally, it is always curious to listen to Israelis speak about nuclear matters given their own intimate history with the subject. Without seeking in any way to endorse the murderous Iran’s nuclear ambitions, I find it fascinating to hear an Israeli official attack another country for doing exactly what it has done in the past. Israel has taught its enemy quite well.
To learn more about Israel’s secret nuclear history and its many subterfuges, I strongly recommend the books of Avner Cohen and Sasha Polikow-Surasky:
In the end the speech showed the current Israeli Prime Minister as he wishes to be seen: a man who embraces the darkest vision of the Jewish past and insists that war is the only answer to the Jewish Question.
Far from resolving the problems of the Jewish people, fatalists like Benjamin Netanyahu continue to promote misanthropy and Jewish dysfunctionalism. The promise of Zionism was the very opposite of what we heard in the speech. The aim of Zionism was to protect the Jewish people and not to present endless doomsday scenarios. And yet we continue to hear these apocalyptic visions from Zionist “prophets” like Netanyahu.
In the context of such Jewish fatalism perhaps it is necessary for our Gentile friends to push the peace process forward and not consign Jews to a bleak future marked by genocide and extinction as Benjamin Netanyahu does.