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Bibi talk: ‘New York Review of Books’ trivializes Israeli fascism

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on 37 Comments

The latest New York Review of Books includes this excellent piece on Netanyahu’s victory by David Shulman in which the word fascist appears twice. Shulman writes that the election shows that

the Israeli electorate is still dominated by hypernationalist, in some cases proto-fascist, figures.

Later:

As Zvi Barel has cogently written in Haaretz, “Netanyahu has succeeded in overturning the principle that the state exists for the sake of its citizens and putting in its place the Fascist belief that the citizens exist for the state.”

The New York Review of Books sells this piece to its readers with two headlines that call Netanyahu “Bibi.” The cover line is here:

Cover line for David Shulman piece in latest NYRB

Cover line for David Shulman piece in latest NYRB

And the actual piece is titled: Bibi: The Hidden Consequences of His Victory.

But guess what: Shulman never calls Netanyahu Bibi in the piece. He uses his actual name, Benjamin Netanyahu. Just what you’d expect from a serious voice on the conflict (Shulman is a Ta’ayush activist and a Sanskrit scholar.) Why would you ever call a leader of proto-fascists “Bibi”? Do Palestinians call Netanyahu “Bibi”– the man who complained that Arabs were voting in “droves”?

James North first explained what the diminutive does for Netanhayu on our site three years ago:

When they call him Bibi, it gives the impression that this is a goofy guy who holds up a Wile E Coyote picture of a bomb at the U.N.; he seems a little bit of a bumbler;  he seems the equivalent in the political sphere of those two thieves who were foiled by Macaulay Culkin in Home Alone —  bad but inept and goofy.

Instead of a liar who presides over a nuclear powered colonial state that people are killed for opposing, where thousands are imprisoned and many of them, according to international human rights agencies, are tortured, and where the death of Rachel Corrie, a 23-year-old innocent young woman, was recently whitewashed.

Why call him Bibi? Because a good number of your older Jewish readers feel affection for him; and the editors of the publication are themselves unable to see him as altogether other than harmless. They should get over this. By the way, David Corn, Howard Fineman and Chris Matthews are also guilty of Bibi talk..

P.S. Shulman’s piece is also remarkable for its quiet call for one vote for all persons between the river and the sea and its announcement of the inevitability of mass violence. On violence:

It seems ridiculous to have to write this, but in case anyone has any doubt: there is no way a privileged collective can sit forever on top of a disenfranchised, systematically victimized minority of millions. We can expect mass violent protests of one sort or another (maybe, with luck, some large-scale nonviolent protest as well). Sooner or later, the territories will probably explode, and the Palestinian Authority may be washed away. At that point Netanyahu will complain loudly that you can never trust the Arabs.

Here is the idealistic statement about the political future:

Perhaps hope lies in a vision of all the territory west of the Jordan River as somehow more than one state but less than two, under conditions of true equality. Already there are groups within what is left of the Israeli left that are thinking creatively, and practically, along these lines. One thing is certain. The demand to fully enfranchise the Palestinians now suffering under Israeli rule will eventually prove irresistible.

 

 

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37 Responses

  1. just
    just
    April 3, 2015, 10:45 am

    1S1P1V!

    I like this gentleman, David Shulman. A lot.

    I also appreciate that he calls Benjamin Netanyahu (f/k/a Benjamin Ben Nitai, Binyamin Mileikowsky) by his full name .

    I agreed with James North’s explanation three years ago, and I still do.

    • JWalters
      JWalters
      April 3, 2015, 7:49 pm

      How about a “just state” solution? I never hear the Zionists or neocons use the term “justice”.

  2. seafoid
    seafoid
    April 3, 2015, 11:05 am

    I like Shulman. He is a scholar for whom the certainties of Zionism are cheap and meaningless. He understands power and the madness of crowds and how far Israel is from Jewish concepts of morality. He reminds me of Akiva Orr, RIP.
    For Yossi I the failure of the system is unthinkable but for someone like Shulman the imbalances make it very likely.
    The pity of it all.

  3. PeaceThroughJustice
    PeaceThroughJustice
    April 3, 2015, 11:25 am

    Hederman and Silvers at NYRB are stuck. If it turns out “the leader of the Jewish people” is not essentially bumbling but well-intentioned, then what happens to the gentiles’ “antisemitism”?

  4. Pixel
    Pixel
    April 3, 2015, 11:39 am

    Hmm… in every Comments section I read, “Bibi” is used as a term of derision.

    • pabelmont
      pabelmont
      April 3, 2015, 12:29 pm

      Pixel, You are right and so are they. In broad America, which knows only what MSM tell them (not much about Israel’s misbehavior, and that little not characterized as crime), “Bibi” seems charming, “our friend”. Here, the enemy is known by many names but none are lovingly applied. It is probably not the nickame “Bibi” that is used here derisively but the discussion of the name and his doings and sayings.

    • Krauss
      Krauss
      April 3, 2015, 3:49 pm

      Yeah, I call him Bibi in that way as well, pixel, and I will continue to do it.

      I don’t think either I or the vast majority of commenters here have any particular sentimental attachment to the guy or view him as “harmless”.

      I understand where North is coming from, but I largely disagree with the puritan take.
      Most people say Bibi because it is just faster and most of the people on the left do so with a lot of sarcasm attached.

      • Donald
        Donald
        April 3, 2015, 4:34 pm

        I understand North’s point, but the article, or rather the earlier shorter blog entry I read a few days ago, is very critical. I much prefer substance which is critical and a title which is dubious to the other way around.

        My complaint is that the article is behind a subscription barrier. That makes it nearly useless, though in this case there is that earlier version at the NYR blog one can read.

  5. wondering jew
    wondering jew
    April 3, 2015, 12:33 pm

    For headline writers Bibi (four letters) is much easier to print than Netanyahu (9 letters). In fact it need not imply anything other than convenience. (I use the term Bibi rather than Netanyahu for that reason. in regards to Pals rather than Palestinians, I push myself and use the longer word, but it is traditional to avoid using shortened terms for peoples, when shortened terms are considered an insult. I personally prefer Yehudim to Jews, for this reason, but succumb to the easier terminology.)

    • annie
      annie
      April 3, 2015, 1:54 pm

      it’s a nick name for a first name implying familiarity with a touch of an endearing quality. i’m trying to think about who else if referenced this way in the press and coming up blank.

    • echinococcus
      echinococcus
      April 3, 2015, 3:22 pm

      In that case call him Yahoo. Two syllables and to the point. Can’t go wrong.

      • JWalters
        JWalters
        April 3, 2015, 7:51 pm

        Perhaps “Yeti”?

      • bachan
        bachan
        April 4, 2015, 1:55 pm

        How about “Gollum”? Unbridled pursuit of power by any means? But I still prefer “Bibi” for its total disconnect with his essence which I think “Gollum” more accurately represents.

    • wondering jew
      wondering jew
      April 3, 2015, 7:39 pm

      Other famous world leaders referred to by their first names: Saddam Hussein. Hillary Clinton. Although I’m sure the NY Review of Books would use their first names reluctantly compared to such media outlets like the NY Post. Then there’s the use all three names phenomenon as in Barack Hussein Obama. Or the acronym usage of JFK, RFK and LBJ.

      • annie
        annie
        April 3, 2015, 8:11 pm

        any nick names?

      • eljay
        eljay
        April 4, 2015, 8:36 am

        || y.f.: … in regards to Pals rather than Palestinians, I push myself and use the longer word … ||

        That’s very nice of you, seeing as how the shorter “Pals” is intended to be offensive.

        || … but it is traditional to avoid using shortened terms for peoples, when shortened terms are considered an insult. I personally prefer Yehudim to Jews, for this reason, but succumb to the easier terminology. ||

        Until now, I’ve never heard or read of anyone – not even Bibi, King of all Jews – considering the term “Jews” to be offensive. Interesting.

        || Other famous world leaders referred to by their first names: Saddam Hussein. Hillary Clinton. … Then there’s the use all three names phenomenon as in Barack Hussein Obama. Or the acronym usage of JFK, RFK and LBJ. ||

        Bibi “King” Netanyahu

        (with apologies to Riley)

      • Mooser
        Mooser
        April 4, 2015, 11:32 am

        “any nick names?”

        Well, when we talk on the phone, I call him “Barry”! Yes, Barry! Barry is the President’s name! Although the media flacks, and other hacks, will say, “Barack” But I call him “Barry”. And there’s something there, which sounds so, well, ‘square’. It’s a grand old name!

    • RoHa
      RoHa
      April 4, 2015, 2:43 am

      “avoid using shortened terms for peoples, when shortened terms are considered an insult. I personally prefer Yehudim to Jews, for this reason”

      If you wrote “Yehudim” very few people would understand what you meant.

      I didn’t know “Jew” was an insult. I thought it was just the ordinary English word. What should I say instead?

      • wondering jew
        wondering jew
        April 4, 2015, 6:08 am

        Roha- My reaction to the word “Jew” is a personal one rather than something that I have read as a commonly held notion. You can keep calling us Jews, as in the theoretical sentence, “If only the Jews would have acceded to the czar’s demands that they behave like good Russian citizens and would have given up their identity then history would have treated them better.” Like that.

      • Mooser
        Mooser
        April 4, 2015, 11:25 am

        “avoid using shortened terms for peoples, when shortened terms are considered an insult. I personally prefer Yehudim to Jews, for this reason” – See more at: http://mondoweiss.net/2015/04/trivializes-israeli-fascism#sthash.Pl6Mmjxt.dpuf

        Gee, maybe Hophmi was right about “internalizing anti-Semitism” and “Jewish self-hatred”!
        Sad, when it happens, isn’t it? Poor Yonah. Must be hell to feel like the very name of your peoples is an insult.

      • RoHa
        RoHa
        April 4, 2015, 6:54 pm

        So “Jew” (as a noun) is not widely regarded as an insult. Thanks.

        The theoretical sentence should, of course, be:

        “If only the Jews had acceded to the czar’s demands that they behave like good Russian citizens and had given up their identity, then history would have treated them better.”

        “Would have” in the “if” clause is simply wrong, regardless of whether one is writing American or British/Australian English. It’s even wrong in New Zealand.

      • Mooser
        Mooser
        April 4, 2015, 7:26 pm

        “You can keep calling us Jews…”

        Just don’t call us late for supper!

      • Stephen Shenfield
        Stephen Shenfield
        April 5, 2015, 6:50 am

        Yes, to be called a Jew causes me some discomfort. I have no such feeling about being called “Jewish”. Why is that?

        “Jew” sounds abrupt and harsh, while the final “sh” in “Jewish” softens the overall impression. But there is more to it than that.

        To be called a Jew implies that being a Jew is the crucial part of my identity. And it isn’t, so it sounds wrong. Being called Jewish doesn’t carry the same implication. Similarly, I feel discomfort if I am called an Englishman or Britisher, but the adjectives — English or British — are fine.

        I suppose that if Judaism were really important to my sense of who I am, as it used to be, I would not feel that way. As it is, I associate use of the word Jew with fanaticism of various kinds — Orthodox Judaism, Zionism, anti-Semitism, etc.

      • Mooser
        Mooser
        April 5, 2015, 9:35 pm

        “Yes, to be called a Jew causes me some discomfort.”

        You know, with me, it’s not the “Jew” that causes discomfort. I’m used to that. I just wish people wouldn’t put ‘typical’ in front of it quite so often when describing me. Oh well, “Az tzvei zuggen shiker, leigst zich der driter shloffen”.

  6. Henry Norr
    Henry Norr
    April 3, 2015, 1:04 pm

    Shulman’s 2007 book Dark Hope doesn’t seem to get much attention in Palestine-solidarity circles, but I found it among the most moving of the scores (or maybe hundreds) I’ve read about Israel and Palestine.

  7. gamal
    gamal
    April 3, 2015, 1:41 pm

    one of the absurdities of Arabic is that the diminutive is mostly longer than its proper form, both Husayn (Hussein) and Sulayman are diminutives of Hassan and Salman respectively,

    many words in Arabic can be diminuted, like blood, rib, dead, in Arabic adjectives are noun like.

    diminution in Arabic is achieved via some rather strict rules of infixation, depending on the tri- or quatri-lateral root, in Arabic even the infinitive is not exempted from being diminuted.

    even relative and demonstrative pronouns can be diminuted, I’d never use Bibi though its disgusting.

  8. JLewisDickerson
    JLewisDickerson
    April 3, 2015, 3:09 pm

    RE: As Zvi Barel has cogently written in Haaretz, “Netanyahu has succeeded in overturning the principle that the state exists for the sake of its citizens and putting in its place the Fascist belief that the citizens exist for the state.”

    SEE: “Neocons: the Echo of German Fascism”, By Todd E. Pierce, Consortiumnews.com, March 27, 2015
    Exclusive: The “f-word” for “fascist” keeps cropping up in discussing aggressive U.S. and Israeli “exceptionalism,” but there’s a distinction from the “n-word” for “Nazi.” This new form of ignoring international law fits more with an older form of German authoritarianism favored by neocon icon Leo Strauss, says retired JAG Major Todd E. Pierce.
    LINK – https://consortiumnews.com/2015/03/27/neocons-the-echo-of-german-fascism/

    • JLewisDickerson
      JLewisDickerson
      April 3, 2015, 5:35 pm

      P.S. I would never speak ill of the dead, but wasn’t Bill Kristol’s father (Irving Kristol) a commie before he bumped his head on something and became a fascist? Enquiring minds mimes want to know!™

      • lysias
        lysias
        April 3, 2015, 5:51 pm

        Irving Kristol was a Trotskyist, which means he was a kind of heretical Communist, a kind that the Stalinists particularly hated. A lot of the future neoconservatives were Trotskyists in their youth.

      • JLewisDickerson
        JLewisDickerson
        April 3, 2015, 6:22 pm

        Yes, I knew Irving Kristol was a Trotskyite, but I wanted to hit below the belt (despite my aversion to speaking ill of the dead, LOL) and “commie” (as in “dirty commie”) fit the bill!

      • traintosiberia
        traintosiberia
        April 4, 2015, 10:13 am

        Its in the DNA . So appearance doesn’t matter. One can be secular,atheist,anti or pro gay ,even converted to ” Islam or Hindus” but would still be considered a Jew by the Zionist as long as the fealty to the Zionism were observed .
        On the same platform,one Zionism can have the same person fascist or communist or religious conservative making cameo appearance on different occasions as long as he or she doesn’t deviate from the fundamental principle of upholding the interests of the Zionism. Its the loyalty to the cause. He or she can wear all and any colorful hats to fit with the Zeitgeist .

  9. gracie fr
    gracie fr
    April 3, 2015, 4:19 pm
  10. lysias
    lysias
    April 3, 2015, 5:53 pm

    For only his closest friends, like Roehm, was Hitler “Adolf”. For the Wagner family, he was “Onkel Wolf”. But for almost everybody else, he was “mein Fuehrer”.

    I think a lot more people called Stalin “Koba”.

  11. Kay24
    Kay24
    April 4, 2015, 7:01 am

    What’s in a name? Take a look at his father, and where he comes from. Benjy might dismiss such talk, but his actions speak loudly, just look at what he is doing right now to the Palestinians, it is exactly what his father suggested:

    “Netanyahu comes from a highly accomplished family. Related to Rabbi Eliyahu of Vilna (the Vilna Gaon) on his paternal side,[220] Netanyahu was born in Tel Aviv,[221] to Prof. Benzion Netanyahu (original name Mileikowsky) and Tzila (Cela; née Segal). His mother was born in 1912 in Petah Tikva, part of the future British Mandate of Palestine that eventually became Israel. Though all his grandparents were born in the Russian Empire (now Belarus, Lithuania and Poland), his mother’s parents emigrated to Minneapolis in the United States.[222]

    Netanyahu’s father, Benzion, was a professor of Jewish history at Cornell University,[223] editor of the Encyclopaedia Hebraica, and a senior aide to Ze’ev Jabotinsky, who remained active in research and writing into his nineties. Regarding the Palestinian people, he stated: “That they won’t be able to face [anymore] the war with us, which will include withholding food from Arab cities, preventing education, terminating electrical power and more. They won’t be able to exist, and they will run away from here. But it all depends on the war, and whether we will win the battles with them.”[224] Netanyahu has dismissed those who note similarities between his relentlessly hawkish views and those of his late father as “psychobabble”. For example, David Remnick has written: “To understand Bibi, you have to understand the father.”[225]

    Netanyahu’s paternal grandfather was Nathan Mileikowsky, a leading Zionist rabbi and JNF fundraiser.[226] Netanyahu’s older brother, Yonatan, was killed in Uganda during Operation Entebbe in 1976. His younger brother, Iddo, is a radiologist and writer. All three brothers served in the Sayeret Matkal reconnaissance unit of the Israel Defense Forces.” Wikipedia

  12. Citizen
    Citizen
    April 4, 2015, 9:10 am

    Bibi suggests spoiled brat, bib also

  13. April 4, 2015, 1:20 pm

    As pernicious as “Bibi” is the use of the phrase “tough love” when talking about Israel — love! Get it?

    And when is the phrase “tough love” most commonly used? On family. And whom are we supposed to be more loyal toward … ?

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