Politics of Humiliation
2016 is best characterized as a paean to the politics of humiliation. America’s candidates for President didn’t hit on issues as much as the characters of one another. It’s been no different in Israeli politics, at least since I moved here. I worked for more than two decades in the campaigns and administrations of US governors and one Senator. I don’t recall the current perverse name-calling subsuming political discourse in both countries.
Biggest Losers of 2016
The messengers are the biggest losers. Print and broadcast media are “reporting” with unrelenting partisanship and mean-spirited incredulity. Pundits are enervating journalism, as if opinion is news.
Another big loser is social media. Once a harbor for fun, silliness and information, the content is sinister beset by fake news organizations promoting fake news. Worse still are revelations about intentional manipulations of news stories and sites by social media moguls. They employ algorithms that censor content to conform to their biases resulting in calls for government regulation, political censorship and in Israel government dominion.
Israel Supporters launched an onslaught of hateful name-calling against President Obama following his “New Beginning” speech in Cairo, 2009, making enemies among African Americans, young liberals and young liberal Jews supporting Sanders regardless of his pro-Palestinian agenda. The apparent favoritism of the right wing Israel government and its supporters for Donald Trump widened the American rift.
Hatred for President Obama morphed into a pandemic of taxonomic epithets. Hitler and Amalek (a biblical enemy of the Jews who slaughter women, children and stragglers as the Hebrews marched to the Promised Land) are heard frequently along with racist sobriquets. They relentlessly scream Barak HUSSEIN Obama unashamedly.
It is de rigueur since the John Kerry speech explaining America’s UN vote abstaining on the resolution condemning Israel and settlements. Both Kerry and Obama are anti-Semites, enemies of the Jewish people. A designated appointee of Israel’s Prime Minister Netanyahu portrays Obama and Kerry as incarnations of “modern anti-Semitism…(and Kerry’s) mental age doesn’t exceed 12.”
When the Democrats rise from ashes of the 2015 election, as they surely will one day, Israel’s right wing supporters may never again influence Democratic-party platforms. Ideologues never forget.
Winners from the Kerry Speech
Donald Trump, is the modern day redeemer like Alexander the Great. Israel advocates (certainly not all) see Trump riding into Jerusalem not on his steed but on tweets blasting messages of hope and salvation. Trump is ginning up them and Israel’s leaders. Predictably, there will be a slew of Jewish newborns given the name Donald.
Prime Minister Netanyahu withstood the insults and bad behavior of Obama over the years beefing-up Netanyahu’s image as a tough guy. For example, French President Sarkozy, in November 2011, lamented to President Obama in an open microphone that Prime Minister Netanyahu is a liar, petulant and ungrateful. Instead of defending Netanyahu, Obama decried the daily phone calls from Netanyahu producing an unbearable ennui.
The home front reaction was ballistic. Netanyahu’s image as no pushover, but a relentless advocate for Israel’s security was extolled. The more Netanyahu pushes-back against Obama the more frequent and loud are the charges Obama is anti-Israel.
Losing the vote on the Iran deal enhanced the admiration of Israel’s leading commentator: Netanyahu achieved a “triumphant victory,” she wrote. Though Netanyahu (and presumably Mr. Trump) persuaded Egypt to withdraw the recent anti-Israel UN Security Council resolution indefinitely, Netanyahu failed again to out-maneuver Obama. It was introduced on Friday night, and passed unanimously. Chastising President Obama, Netanyahu deflected his loss with a stern finger-pointing message, “Friends don’t take friends to the Security Council.”
President Barak Obama is a winner at home. He is portrayed as a victim of Jewish racist attitudes and Israel’s unending demands for financial support. He is the victim of Israel’s powerful Jewish lobby, and Jewish control of the media. President Obama is showing “them” who is the boss.
Obama is leaving office with an image among most Americans as a statesman alongside Tony Blair, Jimmy Carter, and Desmond Tutu. They are moral guides and peace-seekers. A relatively young Obama is replacing Democratic-party leadership lurching toward senectitude. He alone has the years ahead and gravitas to reshape the party and its platform in his image. That began at the 2012 Democratic convention when the party failed to renew its support for the Jewish state and Jerusalem as its capital. Obama’s constituency as party leader is the Sanders’ party young and minorities demanding progressive social policies, human rights for Palestinians, and weaning Israel off American support.
Jimmy Carter and Foreign leaders (e.g., Scandinavia, the Dutch, South Africa, Germany, and France) are winners. The Kerry speech justifies their years of vilifying Israel, calling her the apartheid state, and a demonic violator of human rights. Kerry casts them as true guardians of the world’s moral compass, Godly, and on the right side of history.
Palestinians are losers once again. They never miss a chance. They are delusional believing the UN resolution and Kerry’s speech are a sockeroo, and “the world is standing with us.” They call Israelis murderers and criminals. I call them dead men walking.
Democrats Supporting Israel are fearful if not hopeless. Israel faces a future sans bipartisan support. We will be homeless if the party has no place for Israel supporters. Democrats simply considering a Louis Farrakhan acolyte for DNC Chair exacerbate the fears. Israeli politicians and advocates pandering to the notion of a Republican chiliasm will rue the day. A writer and Israel lover writing in the Huffington Post laments, “We’re done… BDS may be rapidly becoming the default political position of many of the young, Bernie Left.”
Diaspora Jewish leaders are facing a young generation with only ephemeral attachment to Israel. “Jewish” is seldom on their minds. Campus Hillel and Chabad university centers draw miniscule numbers of students. Israel advocacy programs fare little better.
Diaspora Jewish leaders need Israel to keep their leadership relevant, exciting and engaging young Jews. It’s not belief in God or the camaraderie of Friday night dinners that excite young people consciously Jewish. It’s ultimately only the Jewish state. Loosing that raison d’être leaves Jewish leaders in the lurch. I asked my daughter to justify her vote for Sanders. “Free education and free healthcare,” was her response. What about his anti-Israel platform? “Israel is strong and arrogant enough to support itself.”
In sum, we are in an age unlike the dishonesty and blunt force of the 1930s and ’40s, or the age of dirty tricks prevalent in the 1960s and 70s. Ours is an age when you know a person’s position on most issues when you know their position on any one. There is no effort in politics to conceal folly, blunders or political incorrectness. Today, intelligence and substance are drowned by the screams of wailing keeners engaging in the politics of humiliation.