There is no denying that many Jews have more than a flirtation with socialism, Marxism and communism and that American Jews voted predominately with the left-leaning democratic party. So why should I be surprised when an Israeli columnist, in a left-leaning Israeli publication, openly urges a hard-charging traditionalist like Benjamin Netanyahu to become more Obama-like: rejecting the notion of Israeli exceptionalism and altering his worldview to a more universal stance?
To understand the author’s viewpoint, perhaps a little bit of biography is necessary.
“Professor Carlo Strenger was born in Basel, Switzerland, trained in philosophy and psychology and received his PhD from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
He currently teaches at the psychology department of Tel Aviv University, a member of the Institute of Existential Psychoanalysis, Zurich and of the Permanent Monitoring Panel on Terrorism of the World Federation of Scientists.”
“Strenger's research focuses on the topics of the development of individuality and the impact of Globalization on personal identity and he frequently lectures and conducts seminars in Europe and the U.S. on his topics of expertise. He has published five books including Individuality, the Impossible Project and The Designed Self, and numerous scientific articles.”
“In recent years, Strenger has felt compelled to take a more active stance on issues that matter to him, primarily the defense of individual liberty, the intellectual level of public discourse, and the striving for a sane solution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.”
For all intents and purposes, I regard Strenger as a leftist, one of the socially-concerned “intellectual” elites who are driving much of the discussion on individual rights and globalism. And, of course, I also think Strenger is an indication of what is wrong with Israel as well as America.
Strenger writes …
“What Netanyahu can give himself, and Israel, for his 60th birthday”
“Benjamin Netanyahu celebrated his sixtieth birthday last week, and this might be a good moment for him to reflect on his future. He has shown that he can change up to a certain point. Unlike his first term as prime minister in the 1990s, he no longer believes that it is his sacred missions to attack Israel's ‘elites’ (basically those in academia and the press who disagree with him), and instead sees them as potential allies.”
“But in certain respects Netanyahu's worldview has remained stagnant. Netanyahu, like most of us, thinks that beliefs that he formulated early in his career and propounded for decades must be true. He keeps harping on the theme Israel is the West's outpost in the Middle East, fighting the war of civilization against the forces of darkness. His worldview is a combination of his father's ideas that he has adopted uncritically and the old Jewish exceptionalism complex.”
Perhaps, Strenger should realize that Israel is exceptional. Totally surrounded by enemies with hostile intent, Israelis – both collectively and individually – have managed to bring freedom to a part of the world in which 12th-century barbarism, despotism and the abuse of human rights is commonplace. Israel has an outstanding record of advancing humanity while fending off the forces of darkness that seek to erase Israel from the face of the Earth. Strenger would be hard-pressed to find any comparable contributions to humanity from Israel’s neighbors without reaching back centuries. So I believe Strenger’s fundamental outlook is both flawed and skewed towards the far-left.
“There is a lot of evidence that people can change at his age, not least in politics. Begin, Rabin, Peres and Sharon made central changes in their political worldviews late in their career. It is high time for Netanyahu to realize that his worldview is in need of a total overhaul. He is behaving like the tired driver in the joke who, entering the highway, turns on the radio. Suddenly there is an announcement: "Warning, there is a car driving on the Jerusalem-Tel Aviv highway in the wrong direction." He looks around and says. ‘What are they talking about? There are hundreds of cars driving in the wrong direction.’"
Here Strenger takes a page out of the Saul Alinsky playbook and tries to marginalize and trivialize Netanyahu’s point of view. To portray him as hopelessly out of date – and irrelevant in modern times.
“If Netanyahu is so convinced that Israel represents the Western world, how come the whole Free World (a better term than "West" to denote the countries committed to liberal democracy) thinks otherwise? Could it be that not the Free World is headed in the wrong direction, but that Netanyahu is? And could it be that this is why the world doesn't take it well, when he lectures them on the forces of civilization and the powers of darkness?”
Perhaps better questions might be: Could it be that that Israel’s neighbors, the majority of the members in the United Nations, and other radical activists are more than tinged with anti-Semitism? Could it be that the freedom and respect for human rights in Israel are an anathema to the dictators, despots, thugs, Marxists and communists who want to enslave entire populations and subject them to a ruling elite comprised of the so-called “intelligentsia?” Could it be that people like Strenger are being socially manipulated by smarter and more ruthless people who use foolish “tools” to encourage strong nations to breach their own sovereignty and to weaken their economy and military to allow an easier conquest by foreign sovereign powers?
“In his address to the President's conference last week, Netanyahu reiterated his call for Israel to be a light upon the nations. In doing so, he continues the line that we are the chosen people meant to show the rest of the world the light.”
Great shades of Ronald Reagan and his “shining city on a hill.” What is wrong with providing a sterling example of freedom, human rights, capitalism and individualism? Leading by example rather than dictating terms and conditions? That is, unless you are opposed to the ideals of unconditional freedom and human rights. Or that you believe that the people need a strong leader to dictate how they should live their lives. Or you believe that you are so intellectually superior as to make it a foregone conclusion that you and your cohorts should be the leaders, ruling instead of governing.
The far-left line …
“There's just one tiny problem: the rest of the world really doesn't think that we have much to teach them when it comes to morality, and they certainly not that we should show them the light. They are asking for something much simpler: that we behave in a manner that befits the standards of international law, and that we finally realize that we are not God's gift to the world, but a part of the human race with the same rights and the same duties as all others; no less, no more.”
The far left openly promotes multi-culturism, political correctness and moral equivalency. All tools to assist in erasing individual and collective moral imperatives in favor of a collectivism that discourages exceptional thought and encourages blind obedience to a “enlightened” ruling class. That there is fundamentally no difference between nation-states like Saudi Arabia, Iran, Libya and Syria – and such other nation-states like Israel and the United States. Is Strenger blind, stupid, crazy or merely intellectually dishonest? It is the very freedom and human rights championed by Israel and the United States that allows Strenger to publicly pontificate on the issues of the day; whereas other nations are no so openly tolerant of any dissent or criticism of their ruling elite.
“Because Netanyahu likes big ideas, I have a suggestion as to how he could replace the outdated paradigm of Israel as the West's representative and humanity's exceptional light to the nations: Netanyahu likes to see himself as the embodiment of progress. He might therefore consider the fact that most modern Jews have dumped Jewish Exceptionalism and endorsed Universalism (four out of five Jews voted for Obama). This majority of Jews is now becoming more vocal, as shown in the emergence of J Street, the new pro-Israel and pro-peace lobby (that Netanyahu's ambassador to the U.S., Michael Oren, is choosing to avoid).”
Freedom, human rights and a social, economic and political vibrancy are not outdated paradigms and Israel, as well as the United States, should be viewed as humanity’s exceptional light to the nations. Would it be better that we adopted the repressive policies found in most of the world? How would that benefit and advance humanity?
Saying a cat is a dog, does not make it so …
“There are good reasons for this. In the age of globalization only Universalist worldviews can help all to flourish. Any group's (Jewish, Christian, Muslim) insistence on being special is a recipe for catastrophe.”
Since Strenger mentions specific religions, perhaps we should question why most of the world’s turmoil seems to be associated with Muslim beliefs and their collision with human rights and freedoms? Why should the, as yet unreformed, Muslim religion be given moral equivalency to the Judeo-Christian ethics which speak to a respect for all religions and do not demand adherence to a single religion – promising dire consequences to those who do not submit? Why has the global community, in particular the members of the United Nations, witnessed the genocide of millions of Africans at the hands of despots without so much as raising a hand? Because they have the right to kill their own people – exerting the moral equivalency to Hitler’s Germany, Stalin’s Russia, Pol Pot’s Cambodia? This is prima facie evidence of madness and Strenger’s apparent psychotic break with reality.
A demonstration of craziness – and stupidity …
“Endorsing Universalism is not just a matter of words; it needs to be backed up by deeds. Netanyahu's call to Mahmoud Abbas this week to lead the Palestinians towards peace, for good reasons, has not been met by enthusiasm. Does Netanyahu really expect Abbas to answer his hollow call, when all he does is stall Obama and Mitchell by continuing to build in the territories?”
Stall Obama and Mitchell? I was always under the impression that Israel was a sovereign nation and not a United States territory. Listening to Obama, a man whose mentor was openly anti-Semitic and whose associations with radical Marxists, communists, criminals and unrepentant domestic terrorists is one thing, following his flawed advise is another. Especially when all of the current evidence points to Obama wreaking havoc on the infrastructure of the United States which is destined to weaken its self-defense, economy and military. Truth be told, it is only through the influence of the United States that Israel does not take a far harsher stance on its enemies which continue to lob rockets into Israel on a daily basis. If the United States were to stop supporting Israel, as many suggest is appropriate, the impact of Israel destroying the oil-producing nation’s infrastructure would cripple the United States as well as the nations that attacked Israel.
“Why should Palestinians believe that Israel means peace when all they actually see is further expansion of the settlements?”
This is a straw-man argument. Israel has done much to secure a peace in the region. Often met with continued attacks from the very territory it ceded to the opposition as a gesture of peace and goodwill. The Palestinians have been treated like vermin by other Arab nations – perhaps because they continually foment revolution and engage in blackmailing other countries for their sustenance. Why have they not built the necessary infrastructure and commerce to prepare for peace? Why are their internal factions consuming their own resources and killing their own population like a malignant cancer? Why are they not able to recognize Israel’s right to exist? Why don’t they make the first gesture by declaring an unconditional peace, controlling those who would continue the battle of terrorism and extend a hand to Israel? Could the answer reveal the truth: they need conflict to continue to survive and support their corrupt leadership? Could the answer be that they fear that other Arab nations and Iran will cut them off and they will be left without Swiss bank accounts? Perhaps, heaven forbid, to spend their untold millions on the people whom them oppress on a daily basis? A better question should be: why should the world believe that the Palestinians are capable or desirous of peace?
“But what can Netanyahu do, given his coalition? The answer is that he might start thinking big (as he likes to say he does): His government was born in the sin of thinking small. He first pinned himself down by striking deals with his ‘natural’ coalition partners, and making sure that Israel has a foreign minister that diplomats strenuously avoid if they can. He ended up with a coalition whose only grandness is the number of ministers and deputy ministers, that doesn't allow him a single bold move moving towards peace. And, in case he didn't notice, he is exacerbating Israel's isolation in the world.
Rectifying this means to start negotiations with Kadima on a new platform that is genuinely oriented towards peace with the Palestinians. Of course this is likely to cost him the support of Yisrael Beiteinu, but Israel only stands to gain from this. Netanyahu could finally start truly cooperating with Obama and Mitchell rather than playing hide-and-seek and stalling any true progress.
I honestly believe that Benjamin Netanyahu is a transcendent politician who realizes that history would not look kindly upon the man who sold out his country to incur favor with people like Obama and Strenger. Why does Strenger speak like the Palestinians are equal partners to the peace process when, in fact, they are a unilateral force. And they choose to gain political ground by continual terrorism and internal strife. Instead of calling on Israel to compromise, perhaps we should see what the Palestinians are willing to do.
And, of course, I wonder if a Palestinian peace initiative will further contribute to peace in the region. I think not. Iran poses a far greater threat than a hundred Palestinian states. Saudi Arabia continues to spread toxic Whabbism around the world and poses a far greater threat to civilized and peaceful nations than does the Palestinians.
“Do I actually believe that Netanyahu is capable of moving from old Jewish Exceptionalism towards Universalism? To start dealing with the Palestinians on the basis of the Universalist principle of seeking true dialogue and avoid petty manipulations? To stop relating to the rest of the world like we used to in the shtetl, when we had no power worth speaking of, trying to fool them all the time - while lecturing them on progress?
I certainly would like to think he can. After all, nobody would have predicted that Menachem Begin, of all people, would sign the peace treaty with Egypt, or Ariel Sharon, of all people, would leave the Gaza Strip. I therefore wish Mr. Netanyahu for his sixtieth birthday to show the world that leaders and nations can change!
Begin had an honorable opponent in Anwar Sadat, a man of honor whose word could be trusted and whose talk was backed with deeds. Sadat, a man who was assassinated and whose country was reviled by his fellow Arabs for making peace with Israel. Who is an honorable and honest broker on the Palestinian side? Who could actually speak for the Palestinians without first getting their talking points from Iran?
As for Sharon, it was a magnificent gesture towards peace. Reciprocated by continued terrorism and violence, launched from the very land that was ceded in the name of Peace.
What I wish for Netanyahu’s 60th birthday is that he should live to be 120 and remain vigilant of those of Israel’s enemies, both foreign and domestic, that seek to manipulate public opinion and use Israel’s own laws against her – all for nefarious purposes of hastening the destruction of another shining city on a hill.
As for Strenger, we should thank him for displaying, in one column, the prevailing opinions of the radical far-left and those who want to destroy a democracy from within with their mushy-headed liberalist policies which feature multi-culturism, political correctness and moral equivalency.
Happy Birthday Bibi …
What Netanyahu can give himself, and Israel, for his 60th birthday - Haaretz - Israel News