Trump and Netanyahu, file photo (Photo: Kobi Gideon/GPO-Israel)

Think what you may of their incendiary words and actions, Donald Trump and Binyamin Netanyahu continue to give us a series of political and philosophical lessons. This past week, the theme of their pedagogy of oppression (to paraphrase the great Brazilian philosopher Paulo Freire, who coined the term the pedagogy of the oppressed) was neither Jerusalem nor the long-dead Israeli-Palestinian peace process nor, even, the meaning of international recognition and legitimacy. They taught us about the nature of facts.

Obama’s endgame is the same when it comes to fossil fuels and Israel/Palestine: as part of his legacy project, he is signing decrees to protect the oceans from oil drilling and finally standing up to Israel’s aggressive and unchecked settlement expansion. Should we judge the last eight years by these eleventh-hour attempts, the looming inauguration would appear to be a radical break with a “progressive” agenda on environmental and diplomatic fronts. But the true break is between what has been going on throughout Obama’s consecutive terms and the very final stretch of his tenure in the White House.

Benjamin Netanyahu

Netanyahu and his government are thoroughly complicit with the efforts to brand their political opponents and artists opposed to the status quo as traitors. Israeli Culture and Sports Minister Miri Regev recently tabled a proposal for a “Loyalty Bill” that would allocate government grants solely to artists supportive of the regime. The proposed legislation has been likened to the McCarthyist witch-hunts in the US of the 1950s, but we need not travel so far in time to find alarming parallels. It is obvious that the Israeli right is emulating above all Putin’s Russia of the 2010s.

As though the spatial occupation and control of Palestine were not enough, Netanyahu strives to occupy, control, and disfigure time itself, that is to say, the future, which could be qualitatively different from the murderous, violent, and oppressive present. This may well be another stage in the occupation of Palestine: after all the land grabs and unilateral determinations of ghettoized spaces through the euphemistically called “Separation Barrier,” the extremist Israeli government is intent on stealing the others’ future and, ultimately, time as well.

Michael Marder writes: According to classical political theory, human beings enter into a social contract and renounce their right to exercising unlimited violence in order not to fall prey to the violence of others. In Thomas Hobbes’s vision of the Leviathan, they invest the sovereign with that right, so as to be better protected from arbitrary force in a hostile “dog eat dog” world. What is going on today in Israel/Palestine is the unraveling of the original social contract, given that the Israeli Leviathan can no longer fulfill its task of maintaining internal stability through the denial of human rights and unlimited violence channeled outwards in the direction of Palestinian people.

Visiting the scene of Tuesday’s attack on a Jerusalem bus, the city’s mayor, Nir Barkat, attributed this and similar incidents to “inflammatory incitement” coming from “mosques and Palestinian leaders.” Michael Marder says violence is not an effect of fiery speeches but an eruption of the volcanic politics of occupation.

The absolute unwillingness of the current Israeli government to engage in a meaningful dialogue with its Palestinians neighbors, with the view to urgently ending the occupation and creating a viable Palestinian state, is at the root of the language of force that, alone, is speaking today.

On Yom Kippur, Michael Marder reflects on the exilic condition. With the rift between the State of Israel and the Jews of the diaspora growing wider by the day, could it be that the notion of exile holds the key to understanding what is at stake in the contemporary bifurcated situation of world Jewry?