Michael Berkowitz
Michael Berkowitz

‘Earthquake in Tokyo – Netanyahu Denies Responsibility’

I’ve told people for years that I stopped reading Haaretz when they ran that headline.  It’s a joke, of course, but if it’s funny it’s only because of its proximity to the truth.

Everyone in the country, except perhaps Liberman, is disappointed with the outcomes of the two recent elections, but I’m upset also over the way we got here.

It looks to me like Blue and White sprang up as a home for people – and they are, it seems, legion – who don’t have any real problem with the current government but cannot, will not vote for Netanyahu.  “Anyone But Bibi”.  Now that’s not an inherently wrong position – it’s easy to imagine candidates who under-no-circumstances should be allowed to wield power or to represent the country.  Hell, I feel much the same way about Trump (though only for his boorishness, not because I believe he’s the Devil Incarnate).

The problem here is that, as far as I can tell, the “ABB” crowd doesn’t know him to be such a candidate.  Yes, of course, The Indictments.  Leaving aside what I think of the indictments (and it has nothing to do with politics – I think Olmert was railroaded and I really didn’t want him as PM), how many “ABB”ers didn’t hate him already years before the indictments?  Now, of course, they have a ready answer for their hatred:  Corruption.  But I’ve been asking people to explain this hatred since long before any talk of corruption, and not once did I get a real explanation.

Which leads me to the conclusion that this aversion is manufactured, and that a big chunk of the people exhibiting it have simply absorbed it from their environment, much like the latest food fad, health scare, management technique or parenting philosophy.  And that is what ticks me off.

Nor are we limited to inferring this manufacture from its effects.  It was observable in real time, as my fictitious-but-not-really-so-far-off headline indicates.  Ari Shavit wrote a long piece about it in, I think, ’95.  He spent some time shadowing Netanyahu and came back saying “I don’t know what everybody’s on about.”  But they were on about it and continued to be so for the next quarter-century.

But to be clear, I don’t blame the papers or the politicians or the academics who worked so hard to slam the Overton Window shut on Netanyahu.  They’re all within their rights.

No, the real culprit is people’s susceptibility to these influences, and this is my opportunity to adjure people to consume their news (and their essays and their conversations) the same way they need to look at a “10.99” price tag and remind themselves “that’s not around 10, it’s 11.”

I know, I know.  Telling people that they don’t realize why they’re doing what they’re doing, but I do – how condescending can one get?  But come on, we all know that we absorb attitudes and opinions from the environment.  Even aesthetics (do you remember what we wore in the 70’s?).  The behavioral economists have done great work in recent years to make us more aware of our innate biases and how they lead us to think we know things that we really don’t, and I’m just trying to bring some of that home to this specific issue.

Here’s praying we make some headway come March.

About the Author
Michael and family moved from NYC to Alon Shvut in 1986. He works in Software; blogs sporadically on education, public policy and whatever else comes to mind; chairs the boards of two educational institutions and practices philosophy in the ancient tradition of corrupting the minds of youth.
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