Kerry on his last visit to Israel in May with (l to r) Defense Minister Yaalon, Intelligence Minister Steinitz, PM Netanyahu and Justice Minister Livni
This post is part of Marc H. Ellis’s “Exile and the Prophetic” feature for Mondoweiss. To read the entire series visit the archive page.
It’s the next time already. The Secretary of Pandering has arrived for yet another visit to Israel and Palestine.
Where has Prime Minister Netanyahu been spending time preparing for the Secretary’s visit? In a West Bank settlement, Barkan, where he dedicated an elementary school named for his father who died last year.
Did I leave out the announcement of new settlement construction on eve of the Secretary’s visit? The Daily Beast reports approval of final plans for 69 houses in Har Homa outside of Jerusalem beyond the green line.
Meanwhile, speaking to the settlement students about the Holocaust and the Inquisition – a subject his father wrote a scholarly book about – Netanyahu reflected on Jewish history before the state of Israel:
“All sorts of bad things happened to the Jews. Why? Because they did not have a country. They did not have a land of their own, they did not have an army of their own. This is what my father saw. If you understand, remember it.”
Netanyahu’s father, Benzion Mileikowsky, was born in Warsaw and changed his name to Netanyahu in the 1930s. For his entire life he was a revisionist Zionist and an unreconstructed follower of Ze’ev Jabotinsky. Just a few years before his death, he commented about the Arab personality in an interview with Maariv:
“The tendency to conflict is the essence of the Arab. He is an enemy by essence. His personality won’t allow him to compromise. It doesn’t matter what kind of resistance he will meet, what price he will pay. His existence is one of perpetual war.”
Like father, like son, as the saying goes.
Like Arab, like Jew?
How does this sound? “The tendency to world domination is the essence of the Jew. He is an enemy by essence. His personality won’t allow him to compromise. It doesn’t matter what kind of resistance he will meet, what price he will pay. His existence is one of perpetual will to world domination.”
Essence – the Arab as, the Jew as.
Doesn’t bode well for our Secretary of Pandering.
So back to the son. whatever he believes about essences, it is true that all sorts of bad things have happened to Jews in history. Or is this, too, back to the father? His father’s New York Times obituary in 2012 carries a caution about his history of the Inquisition: “Though praised for its insights, the book was also criticized as having ignored standard sources and interpretations. Not a few reviewers noted that it seemed to look at long-ago cases of anti-Semitism through the rear-view mirror of the Holocaust.”
We can’t always account for our father’s rear-view mirror. We can account for ours. Benjamin Netanyahu is his father – with power.
When you have a state your grievances become empowered. That’s when memory has to be disciplined. Seeing anti-Semitism through the rear-view mirror of the Holocaust is one thing. Imposing that view on others is another.
That’s the lesson of the Holocaust and the Inquisition. Imposing state, ideological or religiously sanctioned views on others creates other rear-view mirrors that reverberate through history.
It’s a lesson many Jews and the state of Israel haven’t learned.
When Benjamin Netanyahu looks in the rearview mirror he sees his father. What he should see is what his father’s ideology in an empowered state he leads has done to Palestinians.
What do Palestinians see through their rear-view mirror? The Nakba. But they also see it up the road as well.
Our Secretary of Pandering doesn’t have a clue.