These are real phenomena, and we are seeing them acted out in growing frenzy before our eyes. Richard Landes at the Augean Stables had a crucial post last year demonstrating the astounding dissonance between world trouble spots and their attendant casualty figures and media and political-class attention to Israel. His post was based on numbers offered at Stealth Conflicts: since the end of the Cold War, approximately 5,400,000 in the Democratic Republic of Congo, 1,200,000 in southern Sudan – fewer than 20,000 in Israel-Palestine/Lebanon.
What could account for such a monumental disparity?
Herd mentality among other group behavior phenomena is visibly at work. I witnessed a manifestation of it here on this humble blog not very long ago. During the last Open Mind, Shrinkwrapped and I had an exchange regarding characteristics of the Tea Party movement. Some of SW’s readers didn’t like the examples I provided of dangerous incitement and racism, and I was, not surprisingly, attacked in the comments section. The second commenter, a frequent critic, offered a typical critical response to my post, nothing exceptional, in general or from him, ending even with some gentle humour about discussing our differences over a joint. (Gotta love those conservative ex-hippie pot heads.) And then the attacks on the “liberal” grew in number and ferocity, with nary another liberal voice standing against them, until it might seem I was being buried beneath the onslaught – when second commenter returned, buoyed it would seem by the prospect of crushing the despised beneath the sheer weight of numbers, and his second comment carried a far different tone and message.
So it is now with Israel. Shrinkwrapped himself (with whom, by the way, I have a fine and friendly relationship behind the curtains) has offered, from his own psychiatric expertise, a brief primer on the nature of Mania.
Recent conceptions of Mania have likened it to a Seizure Disorder. In this construct, an unstable groups of cells in the Cerebral Cortex become highly excitable and begin to fire with an increased frequency and intensity. As they stimulate all of the neurons with which they have synaptic connections, these neurons are recruited into an ever widening network of neurons firing at elevated rates and intensities.
Shrink directs us, too, to Edwin Bennatan and his perceptive “A World Gone Mad.”
However, while explanatory analysis is a wondrous intellectual sight to behold, there is nothing like the train wreck itself, or should I say the oil spill, to catch the attention and the breath.
On Friday Matthew Yglesias offered up Israel’s Cocoon of Denial. The suggestion to start is the strikingly obtuse notion that Israelis – on the receiving end of this growing, hysterical whirlwind of bile for many, many years now – are unaware of the justifications offered for it over and over again. But think now – how could Israel, and those who support it in its defence against the crowds of genocidal Islamist totalitarians surrounding it, be so outraged by the ideological attacks on Israel if they were not hearing them. They do hear them. They cannot believe their reason, but history has taught them to believe their ears. Yglesias goes on to say
It’s just stunning to me how swiftly Peter Beinart has been shifted (along with me, Ezra Klein, Eric Alterman, and a seemingly endless list of liberal American Jewish writers) into the category of “knee-jerk Israel-hater who we should dismiss.” And of course that’s to say nothing of how non-Jews (and even worse, Europeans!) who have bad things to say about Israel are treated. The problem with this isn’t that individual people are being treated poorly (I’m fine, Beinart is fine, even the much-slandered Steven Walt is fine) but that Israel seems increasingly sealed off from the notion that there’s a cause-effect relationship between Israeli actions and hostile public responses. All harsh criticism is by definition a manifestation of a worldwide anti-Jewish conspiracy that rather implausibly runs from Kenneth Roth to Richard Goldstone and has unaccountably intensified during a period when, by coincidence, Israeli politics took a hard right turn.
The brief reaction to this is to observe that Yglesias’s is the very response invariably offered when Israel and its close supporters simply, remarkably fail to agree with their critics. Yglesias, Klein, Beinart, Alterman (I won’t touch upon the “much-slandered Steven Walt”) are not “Israel haters.” They are in this matter, rather, fools who have developed the disorder. The threat to Israel of the growing mania is not, of course, from them, but from those to whom they now offer the support and cover of their voices, the weight of their opinion and the numbers to which they add. It all becomes indistinguishable among the barreling mass of the swarming crowd. Liberal or progressive critic, “Israel hater,” post-colonial anti-democrat, anti-Semite, fake “humanitarian aid worker,” genocidal Islamo-fascist – what difference does it make if their voices become indistinguishable in the rumbling clamor of the crowd? What will the well-meaning critics say when the blockade is lifted and Hamas is armed like Hezbollah and Iran has nuclear-armed missiles, and any of them begin to rain on Israel?
– Oh, no, that’s not what we meant. That’s not what we meant at all.
With stunning historical ignorance Yglesias traces the current mood to
a period when, by coincidence, Israeli politics took a hard right turn.
The second Intifada with its waves of suicide bombers was launched under a Labor government, in response to two peace offers. The lie of Muhammad al-Durrah – and Western willingness to believe it, occurred under a Labor government – ten years ago. The lie of Jenin and Western willingness to believe it was told eight years ago. The vile U.N. declaration that Zionism was a form of racism was made thirty-five years ago, under the aegis of a Soviet-led third-world regime of tyrannies that Western democracies now replicate in their demonization of Israel.
This is the foolishness and then the mania of the likes of Yglesias, and the evidence of it is on his blog, in the very comments that followed his post. Read them, and note, this is not the Guardian newspaper’s virulently anti-Semitic Comment Is Free comments section, this is not the pathologically anti-Semitic Mondoweiss blog, underwritten by The Nation Foundation – this is Yglesias at Think Progress. Think. Progress.
Just 12 of the first 13 comments. (One was long and irrelevant, and WordPress insists on screwing up the numbering.) The bold italics are mine, offering up The Big Lie that this now is all about reasonable criticism of Israel’s current government or current policies or current tactics. Wonder about the nature of this hostility. Read the evidence of it.
103 Responses to “Israel Cocoon Of Denial”
- Eduard Bernstein` says:
June 4th, 2010 at 5:40 pm
It largely began with the attack on Lebanon,
“…bagan in the 20s, when zionists began the criminal dispossession of arab-owned properties” is what you mean to say
No pretense needed here that opposition has to do with the current rightist government or any policies or acts of current times.
1. preslove says
At this point, the right-wing Israelis and their apologists in the US are as deranged and paranoid as your most crazed “World Wide Jewish Banking Conspiracy!” nutjob. “Anti-Semite” is the new “Jew Banker.”
Andrew Sullivan has been writing well about it today.
The popular anti-Semitic ploy of turning the history of Jewish stereotyping and victimization against Jews. They are no better than those who persecuted them. History is now a wash. And Andrew Sullivan – ah, yes, who last night on Bill Maher still called those on the Turkish ship “humanitarian” – aid workers he was going to say, until he cut himself off, as he started to call all of the dead in the last Gaza war “innocen –“ until he cut himself off.
- JD says:
June 4th, 2010 at 5:45 pm
There are still a few hold-outs who straddle the divide. It would be nice if you or Klein actually called Anthony Weiner or Alan Grayson and asked them a few questions about how they maintain their pro-apartheid views amidst all their other progressive opinions. The latter, in particular, is quite dependent on donations by progressives who, for the most part, don’t realize his insane views on Israel.
Apartheid. And this is about the current government, current policy? And to choose to oppose, in this conflict between a democracy and a genocidal Islamist tyranny, the democracy – that is progressive?
Andy Olsen says:
June 4th, 2010 at 5:48 pm
I would like to express an opinion on this matter but in American today any opinion that is less than slavish devotion to whatever hardline and immoral tactics Israel has taken will be cast as anti-semitism.
There is no free speech in America today regarding Israel. There is more free speech in Israel regarding their policies than here.
Though the comparison and contrast of the Gaza blockade with the Warsaw ghetto is very compelling.
He wrote the first highlighted comment from jail. That’s why we can’t hear any criticism of Israel in the U.S. today. And again the anti-Semitic analogy of Jews to their historic victimizers..
- HC Carey says:
June 4th, 2010 at 5:49 pm
- ZioNazi says:
June 4th, 2010 at 6:11 pm
Thank you for writing this
Here we go, more Israel baiting from another self hating Jew.
It is all well and good to sit back and criticize Israel’s fight for survival but your family wasn’t shoveled into the ovens or damned to the gulags.
So what if we have to rape and murder a few ragheads? All they need to do is go away. But no, they want only to cause trouble. G*d gave us our land and He tells us to slaughter our enemies. Do any of you read your Bible? Does anyone doubt that the Hamas terrorists are G*d’s enemies? And yours?
And we don’t care what the world says. Where was the world when my parents went to Buchenwald? The West turned away shiploads of Jewish refugees from the Nazi horrors and condemned yet more thousands to death. Should we now respect your prescription for us?
The Arabs are lucky to have what they have, it is more than they deserve. And they will lose their pitiful lot before this is over. And you foolish foolish Americans buy the bullets for our guns. Thank you for that.
For the rest shut your yaps over things you know nothing about.
Of course, it is not surprising that ZioNazi would offer so satirical a representation of Jews. But he is, after all, just another well-meaning critic of Israel who wants only to save it from itself.
joe from Lowell says:
June 4th, 2010 at 6:13 pm
Where was the world when my parents went to Buchenwald? The West turned away shiploads of Jewish refugees from the Nazi horrors and condemned yet more thousands to death. Should we now respect your prescription for us?
P.S. – Keep the checks coming.
2. LaFollette Progressive says:
June 4th, 2010 at 6:29 pm
It’s often said that the Israeli Right and the American Right are strange bedfellows, given that many members of the latter think the former are useful infidels whose lives are being manipulated by the messiah they rejected to bring about the end of the world.
But they’re cut from the same ideological cloth. They’re both the self-entitled chosen people in their own heroic narratives, exceptional nations, morally righteous, beset on all sides by global conspiracies to falsely accuse them and the common enemies who seek to destroy them… enemies who are weak and dull-witted yet always on the cusp of ultimate victory… enemies who can be easily identified because anyone who criticizes the movement is by definition an enemy.
And all of their deeply held values turn out, in the long run, to be convenient rationalizations for achieving today’s agenda and discarded as soon as they are no longer useful.
A writer clearly sympathetic to Israel in principal? With only current policy a problem? And in that sympathy wants Israel to know that those enemies – just paranoia.
3. Shooter242 says:
June 4th, 2010 at 6:40 pm
I’m sorry, did I miss the comment where N Korea got this kind of criticism?
4. joe from Lowell says:
June 4th, 2010 at 6:44 pm
I’m sorry, did I miss the part where North Korea gets a billion dollars of our money every year?
He who pays the piper calls the tune. America isn’t implicated in North Korea’s evil, but we are implicated in Israel’s.
Israel is evil. Like North Korea. But once Netanyahu and Lieberman are gone, that will all change.
5. timmie says:
June 4th, 2010 at 6:46 pm
@10… I really wasn’t aware that North Korea kept Palestinians penned up like cattle. At the same time you must admit that North Korea gets a lot more hell out of the US than we dish on Israel. Case in point: nuclear weapons. Oh, and of course we give North Korea a hell of a lot less money.
In short spare me the “poor poor Israel” song.
Sounds like a “concerned friend of Israel.”
This is what you’re drawing, Matt. Good job. But don’t stop now. Don’t let the crowd get ahead of you. Run, Matt, run.
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4 thoughts on “Obsessive-Compulsive Israel Disorder (OCID) and Mass Hysteria”
Yes, thank you; I remember having had an exchange a propos of that post (or, rather, the pictures illustrating the post). And to illustrate my views at that time, an appropriate picture could be the one appearing in this piece of news today: http://bit.ly/bqzv21 about Uruguayan high school students who won against other SouthAm countries and will be competing in a NASA project in Texas. This is more like the typical population in Uruguay, IMHO.
Regarding your above post, read today in El Pais (local newspaper of national circulation) a Spanish translation of an article published in The Economist, about the true situation in Gaza – a splendid debunking of the “humanitarian crisis” myth. Here is the link: http://bit.ly/bqzv21.
Take care and have a splendid week.
Well done. OCID and Mass Hysteria nails the problem to perfection. I would just like to highlight, if I may, what the much maligned Bibi said in his recent speech – and, wrong as he may be, or not, in his policies, in this he was absolutely right – to the effect that it is all and well to say that Israel has a right to defend its existence, but it is rather an empty statement if each time Israel attempts to exercise that right, it is denied.
Reminds me of one my favorite Woody Allen movie moments. In Love and Death, he and Diane Keaton are in bed, as husband and wife. He tries to make love.
“Not here,” she says.
By the way, I was in your lovely city in January. I posted about it here.
You’ve made a key point here:
“The threat to Israel of the growing mania is not, of course, from them, but from those to whom they now offer the support and cover of their voices, the weight of their opinion and the numbers to which they add. It all becomes indistinguishable among the barreling mass of the swarming crowd.”
It’s possible to have differences with a given Israeli government or action. Neither the US, nor Israel, nor for that matter any political association of human beings, has ever been, or will ever be, perfect in all its behaviors.
A reasonable person may, for example, find moral error in Israel’s handling of the Mavi Marmara incident. I will disagree with such a view, but holding that view is not wrong per se.
But there are views that are indeed immoral per se. And those who are criticizing Israel legitimately are making no visible effort to distance themselves from those who do so reflexively as a symptom of deeply-held anti-Semitic beliefs. As a result, those legitimate views lose all more force; indeed, they become immoral per se, because they further the immoral aims of anti-Semites, racists, and other sociopaths.
In contrast, Thomas Friedman’s recent column on Israel and Turkey, while supporting human rights criticisms of Israel, does so in a way that could never be mistaken as supportive of rabidly anti-Israel Palestinian apologists. Contrast Friedman’s piece with the writings of Beinart, or Kushner, or Chomsky, or Walt and Mearsheimer. The latter group could be ghostwriting for Ahmadinejad or Nasrallah, and thus they themselves become morally indistinguishable from those evil men.