Exile and the Prophetic: Benjamin Netanyahu’s self-constructed hologram

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Thinking about ‘A Phony Hero for a Phony War’ – the title of an Op-Ed by Lucian Truscott for the New York Times last week. It’s a biting commentary on David Petraeus. Reading it I couldn’t help but think of Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu.

Listen to Truscott referring to Petraeus, the war ‘hero’ of Iraq and Afghanistan:

No matter how good he looked in his biographer-mistress book, it doesn’t make up for the fact that we failed to conquer the countries we invaded, and ended up occupying undefeated nations.

How, then, did Petraeus assume his vaunted hero status?

The genius of General Petraeus was to recognize early on that the war he had been sent out to fight in Iraq wasn’t a real war at all. This is what the public and the news media – have failed to see. He wasn’t the military magician portrayed in the press; he was a self-constructed hologram, emitting an aura of preening heroism for the ever eager cameras.

When I read this essay, Netanyahu leapt off the page. Netanyahu certainly hasn’t conquered the Palestinians. The occupation/blockade he leads is still being resisted in the West Bank and Gaza. Sure Netanyahu has moved the expansion of Israel forward. Yet his bluster has yielded little more than threats of war in Gaza and Iran.

The image that struck closest to the Petraeus/Netanyahu comparison was that of the preening, self-constructed hologram. A hologram appears to be three dimensional but isn’t. Its depth is illusory. Thus the information we glean from a hologram is inscribed on its surface. Any better description of Netanyahu?

For my purposes, for hologram via Netanyahu, read – illusory, unserious, posturing, surface, interplay of what light is needed to shine on him, preening and self-constructed.

You get the image I’m aiming at. Netanyahu is an egotistic illusion. Unfortunately his image, backed by Israeli power, has real life consequences.

So Netanyahu is heading for yet another go-round as Prime Minister. Does he strike anyone in the international community as a serious political strategist who might bring Israel – thinking only of Israel for a moment – to safety, security and stability, with some kind of ethical posture that speaks to Israel itself and the world? In his many years in political power, I haven’t come across anyone that takes him as seriously as he takes himself.

Instead we get the visage of a low-ranking politician, more or less like someone running for Mayor of a reasonably sized American city, say Cleveland or Milwaukee, but with aspirations to go higher, say to become a member of the House of Representatives. Rather than Petraeus, would the better comparison for Netanyahu be Newt Gingrich?

Right after the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin, I wrote an essay on the Holocaust historian, Daniel Goldhagen, who had just authored the controversial best-seller, Hitler’s Willing Executioners. Goldhagen’s main theme is that anti-Semitism in Germany had more than prepared Germans for perpetrating the Holocaust. The Germans – almost every German – had been waiting for the chance to murder Jews. Hitler and the Nazis simply provided the opportunity.

Goldhagen is a story unto himself but my take on Goldhagen was to pair him with Netanyahu. The title of my essay: ‘Reading Goldhagen in the Era of Netanyahu.’ I asked for Jews to think about the vantage point from which we interpret – and invoke – the Holocaust. My conclusion: the Holocaust has to be thought within the context of contemporary Israeli and Jewish power.

The Holocaust event remains the same. Our interpretive lens, especially when we ponder the lessons of the Holocaust, has to change.

For Jews, it’s scandalous to think that Jews are willing executioners of Palestinians. Is it scandalous for Palestinians to think this of Jews?

Remember though it is Israel that carries out the killing of Palestinians, the American Jewish establishment have been their enablers par excellence.

‘Reading Israel in the Era of Netanyahu.’

‘Reading Jewish Philosophy in the Era of Netanyahu.’

‘Reading Jewish Theology in the Era of Netanyahu.’

‘Reading the Torah in the Era of Netanyahu.’

‘Reading the Prophets in the Era of Netanyahu.’

Benjamin Netanyahu is a self-constructed hologram. He emits an aura of preening heroism for the ever eager cameras.

Yes, it has come to this.

About Marc H. Ellis

Marc H. Ellis is retired Director and Professor of Jewish Studies at Baylor University and author of The Heartbeat of the Prophetic which can be found at Amazon and www.newdiasporabooks.com

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3 Responses

  1. justicewillprevail
    November 25, 2012, 9:42 am

    Robert Fisk, in another fine piece, emphasises how Yahoo and his little coterie of mobsters have led Israel into isolation, and convinced a brainwashed public that they can pretend they don’t actually live in the Middle East, and thus can ignore their neighbours and the history of the region they inhabit.


    • AhVee
      November 27, 2012, 2:01 pm

      I’ve met quite a few Israelis who actually speak of Israel being in the “Mediterranean”, refusing stoutly to use the term ‘middle-east’. And of course, it’s in Europe too, apparently (as evidenced by the fact that the Israelis play in the European leagues for some bizarre reason).
      Just please Brussels, don’t admit them into the EU formally, or we’re gonna have to pay for them next. (Thankfully that doesn’t look like it’s going to happen anytime soon, since Israel are too busy being posing as the 51st U.S. state…)

  2. pabelmont
    November 26, 2012, 8:30 am

    All that said, Y-hu and Israel generally have massively grown the settlement-wall regime in West Bank, made it ever more costly to roll back, and have NOT YET generated the sort of willingness-to-act on the part of disapproving governments which could result in nation-state-level BDS aimed at rollback of the entire settlement program.

    For no reason I can divine, the nations follow the USA in regarding all already-established settlements as satisfactory faits-accomplis. Thus no demand for roll-back need be made.

    So, to the extent N-hu is responsible for this settlements-wall regime, how can we (quite) call him a mere hologram? If he were replaced with a government not so boisterously and preeningly ready to attack Iran — the settlements would still be there. The siege of Gaza — not yet lifted — would still be there. The vastly unfair sharing of naturally-occurring water resources (surface water and aquifers) would still be there.

    The settlements are not a hologram. What does it profit us to “dis” N-hu?

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