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.