On behalf of the Israel Institute For Strategic Studies (IISS) – a policy center this blog is honored to assist (www.strategic-israel.org/ ) – we are proud to feature a most timely and prescient analysis by Daphne Netanyahu, PM Netanyahu’s sister-in-law.
‘ISRAEL’S OWN TYRANNY OF CLICHES’
by Daphne Netanyahu
(Daphne Netanyahu is editor in chief of the Israeli on-line Hebrew weekly Maraah
“It turns out that Israel and America share something in common, beyond moral
values, strategic interests, and way of life. It’s a tyranny of clichés, which with
regards to America Jonah Goldberg describes in his recent book of that name.
In Israel, as in the United States, important segments of the news media and the
thinking “elite” seek to direct public discourse by imposing glib concepts through
constant repetition, turning them into accepted truisms. It’s a type of thought
control which typifies the essential lack of free market of ideas in Israel,
especially with regard to the Arab-Israeli conflict.
One of the labels that our home-grown moderators of public discourse frequently
attach to their opponents’ positions is “extremism.” The opposite of extremism is
of course “moderation”, which in turn brings on such wonderful things as
“reasonableness” and ” even handedness.” All are worthy of entry into the Israeli
Hall of Fame of tyrannical clichés. They all sound nice and good, yet in the
political context, what do they really mean? More often than not, they are simply
a front for radical ideologies.
In Israel, political views, in particular those labeled “extreme,” are not examined
in relation to real world situations and problems . Similarly, solutions being
proposed are not seriously examined with regard to their quality and
effectiveness. Instead, all are discussed in accordance to a seemingly arbitrary
scale of “values” which exist in the market of ideas at any given time. The
spectrum of such values extends from the “right-wing” (“extreme” right wing is the
proper connotation), through “moderate positions” to the “left” (absent, of course,
the title “extreme”). But the distinction of what is politically on the “right” versus
what is “moderate” is not made according to examination of actual facts and
actual problems, and thus such titles are left without any inherent value.
What is so “reasonable” about such positions?
Immediately after the 1967 war, then-defense minister Moshe Dayan announced
that he would be willing to give to the Arabs the Judea and Samaria territories
(relabeled the West Bank) in return for a negotiated peace. Since then, our
accumulated experience of 45 years has shown that this idea has no basis in
reality. Not only do the two parties not share a common goal, they in fact have
opposite ones: Whereas Israel seeks to live and thrive, the Arabs want it to be 2
annihilated, preferably disappearing along with its Jewish inhabitants.Nevertheless, for the last four and a half decades, the ideas of “land for peace” and later, “a Palestinian state for the sake of peace,” are widely called “reasonable” and their promoters “flexible.” In fact, the degree of praise for this “flexibility” rises in direct proportion to the percentage of land one is willing to surrender.
If this were only a question of a kind of twisted branding of political views, no
great harm done. But in a world of tyrannical clichés, “flexibility” – especially
when it comes to negotiating with the Palestinians – has become king. Before
Israel’s currency of clichés took hold, there were very few Israelis, in the days
following the Six-Day War, who were willing to give the Arabs the entire West
Bank for peace. moreover, those who were willing to include Jerusalem in this
transaction could be counted on the fingers of one hand; they were considered to
be almost delusional. Yet, not so long ago – despite all that the Palestinians
have shown us about their real intentions through violence, public praise of
slaughtering of Jews, and their non-stop hate-indoctrination – this same deal was
offered to the Arabs by two Israeli prime ministers who belong to what is now
often described as the political center: Ehud Olmert and Ehud Barak.
When the mistakes made by the neighborhood grocer always turn out in his
favor, it’s not too farfetched to assume that they are not accidental. The same
can be said about the so-called “flexibility” that for years has been taking over the
Israeli marketplace of ideas. For it is always heading in one direction, towards
demanding more and more concessions from Israel, never mind even recent
developments such as the “Arab Spring,” Hamas’s control over Gaza, or
Hezbollah’s domination of Lebanon. Since the demand for flexibility always aims
to bring about a leftward shift of public opinion, one could easily conclude that
this demand is no mere accident, but is deliberate and the result of someone’s
According to the evolved labeling principle, yesterday’s radical views are now
granted the status of “moderation” held by the “political center,” thus allowing
room for more radical views in the left. But in truth, it is unclear what is so
moderate about the idea of “two states for two Peoples” in the very narrow strip
of land west of the Jordan River. Nor is it clear what is so reasonable about
giving a state to a terrorist authority which not only declares suicide bombers to
be national martyrs, but also denies the very existence of a Jewish people, not to
mention their right to statehood.
There is no point in trying to pinpoint the reasons why such views are considered
“moderate.” But there is a certain logic in the methods and goals of those
promoting them . By using tyrannical clichés, they exploit the natural desire of
human beings to be considered “moderate” and “reasonable.” Such desire
stems not only from the generally positive connotation that the word “moderate”
has in non-political daily use, but also from a simple human need to be comfortably surrounded on all sides by others, or in other words to be in the “center.”
This kind of “moderation” in stance can be achieved more easily when the facts
themselves become irrelevant as a yardstick by which people measure their
political views, when their position relative to others becomes their only
guideline. Meanwhile, their position from the edge of the body politic prevents
them from noticing that the entire body – like a swarm of bees – is shifting
steadily to the left. Those “centrists” may not notice the swarm’s movement, and
they certainly don’t admit that behind the scenes there may have been someone
who has maneuvered them leftward.
How good to be in the “center”?
In Israeli politics, when the absence of ideology and a stated worldview is merged with a desire to be “moderate,” two things result. The first is the convergence towards the center by parties that were once identified with clear and differing positions, such as Likud and Labor. The second is the creation of a “centrist” party prior to each election for the last 35 years – whether Shinui (Change), The Democratic Movement for Change, The Center Party, Kadima (Forward), or the current Yesh Atid (There’s a Future), to name a few. Such “centrist” parties often win quite a large number of seats, usually giving them the balance of power in any coalition, only to fade away before the next election.
Those promoting the political “center” usually boast that their moderate positions
are in alignment with the principles of the “rule of law.” But in truth, the rule of law
is the exact opposite of a pragmatic centrism. For the law does not necessarily
reflect the opinion of the majority of the population, even though it was voted
upon by a majority of representatives. Rather, it is often the outcome of a
thoughtful deliberation, of accumulative experience and of contributions by
experts. As such, it is not influenced by fleeting popularity of issues, but
addresses the problems at hand. Thus, the law also serves to protect the
citizens of the state from the vagaries and, often, the stupidity of its leaders.
The same is true about party platforms and the subjugation of their leaders to
them. Their ostensible purpose is that the leader will abide by the spirit of the
party and will represent the will and intentions of its constituency. The party
platform, too, is the result of thought and experience, and its purpose is to
minimize the chance that the party leaders will make grossly wrong decisions.
But the necessity of a guiding platform is exactly what the “centrist” parties
reject. They take pride in the fact that their leaders aren’t bound by ideology, and
that based on their past performance – whether in the military, academy or media
– they should be allowed to act according to what common sense tells them
about oncoming events. These parties in fact consider it a form of great wisdom
in not having a specific agenda in place. Thus, the platform of such centrist
parties is phrased in general terms, making it almost impossible to bind the
leader to any specific guidelines, unless doing “good” (or bringing “hope” or a
“better future”) is considered a guideline and platform.
In this way, the voters of the centrist party actually put the country’s future in the
hands of someone who will navigate the ship without having committed himself to
any specific course or to avoiding crossing any red lines. Voting for such a
leader practically means giving him unlimited power of attorney to do whatever
he likes, provided he cloaks his actions in a semblance of legality. In Israel,
unfortunately, we have already experienced the undesirable results of this kind of
leadership, which in the absence of clear ideology has succumbed to the
pressure imposed on it by the left-leaning media and the slew of others who
dominate the public debate.
There is, of course, a limit to the extent to which the Israeli public can be
manipulated, which is why virtually all of these centrist parties exist for only one
term. It is simply that reality, i.e., actual events, bringing forth issues and problems
which demand real answers and solutions – and those that have been offered by
the “centrists” have clearly been shown to have failed.
All leaders need guidelines which will enable them to see the trail in the dense
forest called the state. But the meager tools that are available to the heads of
the centrist parties, together with constant pressure for “centrist” and “moderate”
positions , virtually guarantee the failure of these elite-led “leaders”. This is all
the more so because these positions are in fact not “moderate” at all, when
taking into account reality. In fact, one can say that they are “extreme” in the
degree of harm they do. For in fact, these centrist party heads are led in their
thinking not by some imaginary “center,” but by a focused and determined
minority who exploit the pro-“centrist” atmosphere which they themselves create.
It is thus that they promote their radical ideas, always wrapped in terms such as
pragmatism, flexibility, social justice, democracy, and the rule of law. They all
promise not only improvement in Israel’s international standing, but also peace,
equality and justice. Too bad (for them, and for us) that things haven’t quite
turned out that way.
In light of the repeated failures of the centrist parties and the policies they
promote, the Israeli public should have long ago done some soul-searching
about them. Yet true soul-searching is impossible as long as there is no
recognition that the public discourse is led by a biased ideological minority. But
this minority – which due to its public positions controls much of public debate –
allows discussion of issues only along the lines set by the tyrannical clichés
which it has established for us. Their terminology sanctifies obscurity,
pragmatism, and non-commitment to any policy or to the setting of real national
goals – unless those goals are those of “peace” and “social justice”.
In praising a lack of commitment to ideology, the radical minority (which in fact
does have an ideology of its own) orchestrates a new worldview, by which the
course that the elected leader may have initially committed himself to becomes
irrelevant. In the name of a false loyalty to supposed “democracy” and the “rule
of law,” they get us used to berating any ideology other than theirs. This not only
stifles the political discourse; it pollutes it. With regards to Israel, when the
political debate is thus contaminated and disconnected from reality, such
pollution can result in disaster.”
In no small measure, this blog has been steadily hammering home the same overall theme as Daphne Netanyahu. It is heartening to be in such esteemed company. And ‘The Paradox of Israeli Politics:Vote Right, Get Left’ – www.americanthinker.com/2012/06/the_paradox_of_israeli_politics_vote_right_get_left.html directly points to Israel’s electoral dysfunction, which in more ways than one lends to the above morass. Heck, it is designed to elicit said results, thereby, cementing the power within leftist cliques.
And heaven forfend that Jewish nationalists speak up…they are tarred and feathered as worse than extremist…all for the “crime” of nationalist/Zionist ethos.
Let us place the onus squarely where it belongs, amply evidenced herein – www.jewishpress.com/indepth/opinions/post-zionist-academics-further-israels-delegitimization/2012/02/08/. For if not for their indoctrination/hegemony, with the added mischief-making attributed to lock-step media forces, “koshered” by a leftist, Arabist-bent legal system, all of the above would be moot.