My preview of Netanyahu’s speech to the U.N. General Assembly is now up at The American Prospect:
… Returning to the U.N., Netanyahu is going back to an easier time in his life, when he did not have to worry about an unsteady coalition in parliament, constant resignations from his feuding staff, or hundreds of thousands of demonstrators opposing his economic policies. In comments to his cabinet this week, he said he would “represent… the truth” to an organization capable of deciding “that the sun rises in the west and sets in the east.” His truth, he said, would include “The fact that [Jews] are not foreigners … that we have rights in this country that go ‘only’ 4,000 years”—an argument not likely to convince U.N. delegates that the Palestinians do not also have a right to self-determination. Nor will his claim that “the Palestinians are doing everything to torpedo direct peace negotiations” erase his own refusal to stop settlement construction. His rhetoric, like his presence, fits the 1980s better than today.
But Netanyahu is playing to a different audience. He may hope that his speech, like U.N. ambassador Chaim Herzog’s response to the “Zionism is racism” resolution, may become part of the Israeli canon. He certainly hopes that among voters, it will appeal to the legitimately scarred side of the Jewish psyche that says that the whole world is against us, that we must demand our rights, but that any recognition of them is really only the smile before betrayal.
The historical traumas that produced these fears are entirely real. The problem with post-traumatic stress is that it alerts you not only to real dangers but false ones. For the mugging victim, every friendly wave of a hand may look like the prelude to the blow of a fist. …
Read the full column here.
3 thoughts on “A Place Against the Nations”
America is hated for what it does, but Israel is hated for what it is: a “Western” settler state in which a “Western” people rules over a non-Western, Muslim people. There is nothing Israel can do to change that fact other than to cease to exist. Even a full withdrawal to the Green Line and the establishment of a Palestinian state would not change that fact one iota.
Obviously, that’s a simplified formula, and Israeli actions can make foreign relations better or worse over the short term. But Western antipathy towards Israel is due more to changes in Western attitudes towards nationalism and, especially, towards the non-Western “Other” than to the occupation or any other aspect of Israeli policy.
The “post-traumatic stress” cliche is easily falsified. Who are the Israelis who suffered the greatest trauma in recent history? The Ashkenazim. Who are the Israelis who are the most dovish, who are the most trusting of our enemies, who constitute almost all of the peace camp? The Ashkenazim.
Aaron that’s hasbara.. the line.
GG- excellent essay …
He [Netanyahu] certainly hopes that among voters, it will appeal to the legitimately scarred side of the Jewish psyche that says that the whole world is against us, that we must demand our rights, but that any recognition of them is really only the smile before betrayal.
The historical traumas that produced these fears are entirely real. The problem with post-traumatic stress is that it alerts you not only to real dangers but false ones. For the mugging victim, every friendly wave of a hand may look like the prelude to the blow of a fist.
I don’t know how Israel gets out of this self-destructive mode. Trauma victims are caught, here collectively, trying to reenact history. I hear it from the USSR refugees as well as some 1st and 2nd generation Holocaust survivors.
Judith Herman’s book “Trauma and Recovery” might help, at least with understanding. I may also give some clues about individual recovery. But here we are seeing a collective stuck in this pit… sadly and to national destruction.
But if you walk into a party—or a region, or the United Nations—with an angry look and the assumption that everyone dislikes you, they might just prove you right.
Of course. That’s just what he did and they will. But they cheered him at home- his popularity went up.
Thanks for another great post. Based on your knowledge of the conflict, would you say that the facts in this point by point rebuttal to netanyahu’s speech are correct?
Would you say that the facts
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