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Time for world leaders to stop inflating Israel’s bubble of denial

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Angela Merkel and Benjamin Netanyahu

Angela Merkel and Benjamin Netanyahu

The 24-hour visit by German chancellor Angela Merkel to Israel this week came as relations between the two countries hit rock bottom. According to a report in Der Spiegel magazine last week, Merkel and Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu have been drawn into shouting matches when discussing by phone the faltering peace process.

Despite their smiles to the cameras during the visit, tension behind the scenes has been heightened by an diplomatic bust-up earlier this month when Martin Schulz, the president of the European parliament and himself German, gave a speech to the Israeli parliament.

In unprecedented scenes, a group of Israeli legislators heckled Schulz, calling him a “liar”, and then staged a walk-out, led by the economics minister Naftali Bennett. Rather than apologising, Netanyahu intervened to lambast the European leader for being misinformed.

Schulz, who, like Merkel, is considered a close friend of Israel, used his speech vehemently to oppose growing calls in Europe for a boycott of Israel. So how did he trigger such opprobrium?

Schulz’s main offence was posing a question: was it true, as he had heard in meetings in the West Bank, that Israelis have access to four times more water than Palestinians? He further upset legislators by gently suggesting that Israel’s blockade of Gaza was preventing economic growth there.

Neither statement should have been in the least controversial. Figures from independent bodies such as the World Bank show Israel, which controls the region’s water supplies, allocates per capita about 4.4 times more water to its population than the Palestinians.

Equally, it would be hard to imagine that years of denying goods and materials to Gaza, and blocking exports, have not ravaged its economy. The unemployment rate, for example, has increased 6 per cent, to 38.5 per cent, following Israel’s recent decision to prevent the transfer of construction materials to Gaza’s private sector.

But Israelis rarely hear such facts, either from their politicians or media. And few are willing to listen when a rare voice like Schulz’s intervenes. Israelis have grown content living in a large bubble of denial.

Netanyahu and his ministers are making every effort to reinforce that bubble, just as they have tried to shield Israelis from the fact that they live in the Middle East, not Europe, by building walls on every side – both physical and bureaucratic – to exclude Palestinians, Arab neighbours, foreign workers and asylum seekers.

Inside Israel, the government is seeking to silence the few critical voices left. The intimidation was starkly on display last week as the supreme court considered the constitutionality of the recent “boycott law”, which threatens to bankrupt anyone calling for a boycott of either Israel or the settlements.

Tellingly, a lawyer for the government defended its position by arguing that Israel could not afford freedom of expression of the kind enjoyed by countries like the US.

Illustrating the point, uproar greeted the news last month that a civics teacher had responded negatively when asked by pupils whether he thought Israel’s army the most moral in the world. A campaign to sack him has been led by government ministers and his principal, who stated: “There are sacred cows I won’t allow to be slaughtered.”

Similarly, last week it emerged that a Palestinian from East Jerusalem had been interrogated by police for incitement after noting on Facebook that his city was “under occupation”.

Outside Israel, Netanyahu is indulging in more familiar tactics to browbeat critics. Tapping European sensitivities, he accused those who support a boycott of being “classical anti-semites in modern garb”. Netanyahu justified the allegation, as he has before, on the grounds that Israel is being singled it out.

It looks that way to Israelis only because they have singularly insulated themselves from reality.

Western critics focus on Israel because, unlike countries such as North Korea or Iran, it has managed to avoid any penalties despite riding roughshod over international norms for decades.

Iran, which is only suspected of secretly developing nuclear weapons, has been enduring years of savage sanctions. Israel, which has hidden its large stockpile of nuclear warheads from international scrutiny since the late 1960s, has enjoyed endless diplomatic cover.

Contrary to Netanyahu’s claim, lots of countries around the world have been singled out for sanctions by the United States and Europe – whether diplomatic, financial or, in the case of Iraq, Libya and Syria, military.

But the antipathy towards Israel has deeper roots still. Israel has not only evaded accountability, it has been handsomely rewarded by the US and Europe for flouting international conventions in its treatment of the Palestinians.

The self-styled global policemen have encouraged Israel’s law-breaking by consistently ignoring its transgressions and continuing with massive aid handouts and preferential trade deals. In Germany’s case, one of the most significant benefits has been its decision to supply Israel with a fleet of Dolphin submarines, which allow Israel to transport its rogue nuclear arsenal around the high seas.

Far from judging Israel unfairly, Schulz, Merkel and most other western leaders regularly indulge in special pleading on its behalf. They know about Israel’s ugly occupation but shy away from exercising their powers to help end it.

The reason why popular criticism of Israel is currently galvanising around the boycott movement – what Netanyahu grandly calls “delegitimisation” – is that it offers a way for ordinary Americans and Europeans to distance themselves from their governments’ own complicity in Israel’s crimes.

If Netanyahu has refused to listen to his external critics, western governments have been no less at fault in growing impervious to the groundswell of sentiment at home that expects Israel to be forced to take account of international law.

Both Merkel’s diplomatic niceties and her shouting matches have proven utterly ineffective. It is time for her and her western colleagues to stop talking and to start taking action against Israel.

A version of this article first appeared in The National, Abu Dhabi

Jonathan Cook

Jonathan Cook won the Martha Gellhorn Special Prize for Journalism. His latest books are “Israel and the Clash of Civilisations: Iraq, Iran and the Plan to Remake the Middle East” (Pluto Press) and “Disappearing Palestine: Israel’s Experiments in Human Despair” (Zed Books). His new website is

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9 Responses

  1. HarryLaw on February 26, 2014, 1:09 pm

    This is an excellent article, it may be that Germany will be reluctant to upset Israel, they should take a leaf out of tiny Luxembourg’s policy..Luxembourg’s general pension fund (FDC) has decided to boycott five Israeli banks due to their illegal activities in West Bank settlements.
    The Israeli website Walla reported that the state-affiliated pension fund of Luxembourg has decided to boycott all major banks in Israel.
    The website pointed out that despite the small size of the state of Luxembourg in Europe; it constitutes a major hub in the world’s investment and finance.

    • Bumblebye on February 26, 2014, 2:10 pm

      Now that all this is really starting to take off, I keep expecting to hear the call from the zio-state for all good zionist businessmen/businesses around the world to boycott all these ‘anti-semitic’ investors themselves.

    • Shingo on February 26, 2014, 3:45 pm

      Great news Harry.

      Let’s hope we don’t see an official denial like we saw from Deutsche Bank.

  2. agog on February 26, 2014, 3:30 pm

    Naftali Bennett comes across as being completely unhinged in this Feb. 14 BBC HARDtalk interview with Stephen Sackur who does a pretty good job of giving Bennett as much rope as he wants.

    His thinking and speech has a cult-like quality which is quite creepy to behold.

  3. ivri on February 26, 2014, 5:19 pm

    The writer here ignores the broader perspective in regard to the US and EU moves on Israel – perhaps because Israel has been for decades now his only real focus. There is little question that the US and Europe leadership is hundred times more concerned now about what goes on in Syria, Lebanon and Egypt, or Ukraine, or Turkey, or potential financial collapse of Greece, Spain, Portugal and Ireland and then the Euro – and that`s just the main headlines. Israel is a footnote in today`s long list of real big problems. And besides would they really want to add yet another big REAL problem (as different from a subjectively bloated one) to the list?

  4. anthonybellchambers on February 26, 2014, 5:24 pm

    Merkel’s Momentous Middle-East Mistake

    German Chancellor, Angela Merkel’s ill-timed visit to Israel is made notwithstanding that German-Israeli relations are at their lowest ebb as a result of Israel’s illegal settlement activity that continues to cause anger throughout the EU as it negates the US brokered, Mideast peace agreement negotiations.

    Merkel has a difficult relationship with Israel’s Prime Minister, Binyamin Netanyahu. However, this did not prevent her inexplicable decision to increase to six the supply of Dolphin Class, nuclear-powered, diesel-electric, AIP submarines developed and constructed by Howaldtswerke-Deutsche Werft AG., for the Israeli Navy.

    Israel has modified those war vessels already delivered, each now being armed with long-range, (SLCM) cruise missiles equipped with nuclear warheads, plus a maximum of 16 torpedoes: a naval task-force capable of destroying most of the Middle East. It also gives the Israeli state an offshore, second strike, nuclear capability.

    Germany itself has no such offensive nuclear armament, neither has either France or Britain, of such size and power, for Israel is estimated to also possess up to 400 nuclear warheads. All of which means that Merkel has effectively made Israel into the most powerful nuclear weapons state outside of the US and Russia!

    The rationale for Merkel’s strategic error in altering the balance of power not only in the Middle East but also in Europe with consequences yet to be determined, is unknown.

    In the meantime, the German Chancellor would have been well-advised to follow the example set last week by the British Prime Minister, David Cameron, and to have cancelled her visit to the Middle East.

    It is too late, of course, to reverse her inexplicable decision to deliver a fleet of (now) SLCM-armed, nuclear-equipped, undersea, war machines to the most contentious piece of land on earth.

    • ivri on February 27, 2014, 9:02 am

      “The rationale for Merkel`s strategic….. is unknown”
      Not so difficult to figure out. It in fact, as well summarized here, acts towards ensuring Israel`s very existence – one that has been explicitly challenged in the Mid-East by various parties (because those who may attempt to undo it can fully realize the associated prices). This is clearly a wish to counteract a repeat of the Holocaust scenario for which, as a German leader, she feels a responsibility.

  5. just on February 26, 2014, 8:39 pm

    A wonderful summation, Jonathan!

    “It is time for her and her western colleagues to stop talking and to start taking action against Israel.”

    How I hope that this comes to pass. Sanction the heck out of Israel! BDS on steroids with an enormous apology to all in the region……..but mostly, every single Palestinian.

  6. gingershot on February 27, 2014, 9:01 am

    ‘Israelis have grown content living in a large bubble of denial’ –

    J Cook is a favorite of mine and I don’t want to miss the main point of his article regarding the whole ‘groveling before Israel’ and puffing up Israelis at every moment, LEST THEY BE PUNISHED with a simple whisper or two to the US and 70 Senators signatures on a napkin saying punish the offender for ‘not loving Bibi or Israel enough’

    I totally agree with Cook on this.

    Surprise, surprise – Israel would like to be treated INTERNATIONALLY just like Israel has managed to have AIPAC treated in the US – just like GODS in other words.

    So what does Israel or Bibi have that every other soi-disant ‘exceptional’ Diva DOESN’T HAVE? – the answer is ‘Apartheid’. ‘Neurotic Drama Queen’ doesn’t begin to adequately describe Bibi or Israel

    Like AIPAC – which I suspect can’t stand NOT having the spectacle of the entire US political administration kowtowing and competing to Outlove Israel (- it’s just too many jollies) despite the unseemliness of it all to more and more Americans.

    Israel puts a Hitler mustache on EU Pres Schulz deliberately – then a few days later puts a Hitler mustache on PM Merkel, accidentally. That’s a real ‘Hitler Mustache Two-fer’ that Israel just managed to pull out of her pants. It’s a PR disaster for the Pro-Apartheid crowd of course

    SO WHAT’S NEW? – when does Israel NOT put a Hitler mustache on EVERYBODY – that’s their FIRST impulse. Air is more common that being called an Anti-Semite by Israel or Dershowitz or other American Zionist supporting the Apartheid state.

    They just called Kerry an anti-Semite, Schulz, Obama, Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, Hamas, the PLO, Debbie Wasserman-Schulz, Count Bernadotte, Finklstein, Freeman, Hagel, etc etc etc – you name it. They are calling BDS anti-Semitic and according to them, NOT wanting to attack Syria and Iran (and the entire Neocon Clean Break Agenda) is anti-Semitic. These clowns just need to be REMOVED from their stage.

    Israeli puts a Hitler mustache on EVERYONE – just like the Knesset did to EU Pres Schulz, just like Bibi did to Merkel. That is the cover for all of Israel in one magnificent accidental ‘art imitating damn straight real lief EXACTLY what Israel just did to Schulz, and what they ‘ALWAYS DO’ to everyone. Anyone trying to stop Israel is Munich, Chamberlain, or Hitler – within 15 seconds. It’s the logically ultimate desirable (for Zionists) conclusion of ‘Godwin’s Rule’ –

    Bibi and Israel are the SOURCE of Godwin’s Rule of Nazi Analogies’ – IT’S THEIR ONLY PLAYBOOK – ‘Anyone trying to stop us gets ‘Godwin’s Rule’ as the FIRST THING OUT OF OUR MOUTHS ‘

    I think it’s very insufficient and frankly wrong to cover it all over with ‘denial’ – I think using the word ‘denial’ allows these Zionists to pretend ‘they didn’t know’. American Zionists do know – they just don’t care. They actually think that ‘Never Again’ applies only to Jews – not to anyone else. They just don’t want to be charged with the crime.

    Jews doing ANYTHING to defend themselves and should be LOVED for it, rather than castigated with having their Apartheid state ‘taken away from them by BDS’

    Israel and her defenders are frothing at the mouth-aggressive and jump at the chance to immediately destroy the careers of anyone who tries to stop her, or hasn’t demonstrated sufficient skills at enthusiastically fellating Bibi or the Israeli donkey (the same thing, obviously, according to Bibi) , as any worthwhile Goy should be REQUIRED to demonstrate his proficiency at on the Congressional casting couch

    If most of the German citizenry ‘didn’t know’ what was going on during the Holocaust – American and Israeli Zionists -if there is a difference – know FULL WELL. The implications of this are staggering.

    Time to take the American Zionists OFF.AT.THE.KNEES-Dershowitz Style. Bibi-Style. Israeli-Style

    American and Israelis Zionists are so far beyond words like ‘complicit’ or ‘denial’ – this is so much more clearly looked at as a natural extension of hostile, aggressive narcissistic impulses that Israelis and American Zionists have built deliberate lie by deliberate lie and brick by brick. Denial gets in the WAY of such careful construction.

    Nope – ‘Denial’ just doesn’t cut it AND YOU DON’T NEED IT – you don’t need it because YOU GOT what you DO NEED – just a skull-full brimming over with righteous triumphant narcissism to stay in the groove of running the Apartheid state – consciously and cynically indoctrinating generation after generation with ‘The Apartheid Cause’. THAT AIN”T DENIAL

    There ain’t no ‘denial’ – sorry — because these guys DON’T NEED IT – they have BETTER defense mechanisms than that – it’s called the JOLLIES of Triumphant ‘Supremacist’ active and continuing CRIME

    Threaten their impunity to get their jollies anyway they see fit and you will get an torrent of the most vile, primitive narcissitic rage imaginable. A dog question the right of a HUMAN BEING? – off with it’s head! (and the THRILL or JOLLIES of being able to ‘successfully manipulate’ 100’s millions of people with Zionist drivel like that

    Is Netanyahu ‘in denial’ with Merkel? – or is he more like a sociopath who laughs his ass off about how he’s pulling this enormous con on the entire world – Long Live King Bibi, Ruler of the Entire World – both Free and Not So Free (like Palestinians)

    He says ‘you don’t love Israel enough’ and presidents and nations quake – as if THAT were enough to have the whole world supporting this drama queen and his drama queen state.

    Bibi and Israel is ‘to hell with the world and we’re making sure America goes down BEFORE Israel, DEFENDING this shit for brains Apartheid state. Bibi and Israel have laid the American state on the tracks and say ‘any train hits America first before it hits us’. Anybody still think this sounds like ‘denial’?

    False Flag the US into a war with Iran, Iraq, Syria or 911? – without a SECOND THOUHT. That ain’t denial – that’s long, careful, decades long plan after plan after plan. Premeditation and an active con game? – that ain’t ‘denial’ – denial is far too sweet a defense mechanism compared to what we have with an hyper-aggressive insane ‘let the world or at least America die for Apartheid Israel first’ – because then Israel will feel safe and can try to run away if America takes Israel’s bullet as people try to defend themselves against Israel and HER ISRAELI LOBBY IN THE US

    That ain’t ‘denial’, folks. The POWER of an Alan Dershowitz or Bibi, and the obvious THRILL/JOLLIES/CHARGE they get out of it as they are world famous for declaring Jews have a right to Israel as an Apartheid fascist state and anybody DARING to speak to the organizers of this lethal farce will either be character-assassinated, hyper-aggressively attacked and destroyed by the ‘Enforcers’ (Enforcer David Brooks, Enforcer Tom Friedman, or Enforcer Mort Zuckerman – all the Tribal Helpers/Sayanim/Enforcers)

    If you had a ‘Magic Word’ that instantly pulled the rug out from anyone trying to stop you –

    Time to use a different kind of ‘Magic Word’ – a ‘Magic Word’ that vanishes the impunity with which a Dershowitz, Zuckerman or Bibi can grab a microphone – but where every word out of their mouth is seen as the hatecrime it is – where Dershowitz’s career is DESTROYED simply and only because he is a known supporter of the Apartheid state.

    Dershowitz doesn’t get to ‘change his mind’, he doesn’t ‘get a voice’, American Zionism doesn’t get to say ‘We Didn’t Know’

    EVERY American Zionist who CURRENTLY supports Israel as an Apartheid State gets his career INSTANTLY DESTROYED.
    Dershowitz is NOT ALLOWED a forum – he has COMMANDED the forum (destroying all others with every lie he can dream up – which he thinks qualifies him as ‘smart’ and undoubtedly as the ‘natural leader of the goy’

    Dershowitz gets HIS CAREER DESTROYED simply for being a Zionist — THAT RAW

    actually found a niche where he can spew his own internal demons?

    That ain’t ‘denial’ – that’s something A LOT MORE JUICY

    Dershowitz gets HIS CAREER DESTROYED simply for being a Zionist — THAT RAW

    Zuckerman gets HIS CAREER DESTROYED simply for being a Zionist — THAT RAW

    David Brooks gets HIS CAREER DESTROYED simply for being a Zionist — THAT RAW

    Andrea Mitchell, David Gregory, Krauthammer, Kristol, the Kagans, Max Boot, Raouel Gerecht all get their CAREER DESTROYED simply for being a Zionist — THAT RAW.

    Supporting Israeli Apartheid – BEING A ZIONIST AS PRACTICED – needs to be made as RADIOACTIVE as being an ‘ANTI-SEMITE’ (according to a Dershowitz, Bibi, or Stein )

    THAT is the END of Zionist Impunity.

    They get their academic, financial, and social lives destroyed NOT BECAUSE THEY ARE JEWS – but because they are ZIONISTS. Just like any Anti-Semite would

    Merkel and Obama and the entire world need to STOP INFLATING the Narcissistic defenses of psychopaths like Bibi and Dershowitz – Bibi and Dershowitz and Apartheid Israel need to ‘GET SHRUNK’ – or in other words, be disabused of their criminal Apartheid-creating and supporting narcissism

    These are cynical criminal sociopaths – and they know exactly what they are doing and the evil is not just that they don’t care – which THEY DON’T – the evil (Apartheid) is their plan

    Apartheid is evil and American or Israeli Zionists forcing it to stay alive it are exactly that. It’s important to me that we NOT pretend that American Jews ‘didn’t know’ or that they were too busy being LAUDED and loved (a special kind of ‘required love’ or explicit punishment ‘any way they can’ immediately follows) and feted for their successes

    Don’t celebrate Apartheid Israel – destroy it. Totally agree with J Cook on that.

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