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Bronner writes: "Benjamin Netanyahu has actually promoted the very sort of political hysteria and rabble-rousing that helped introduce the totalitarian regime from which Jews suffered so terribly."

Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu. (photo: EPA)
Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu. (photo: EPA)

Netanyahu's Rhetoric

By Stephen Eric Bronner, Reader Supported News

06 November 15


t has often been said that truth is the first victim of politics. But, looking backward, politicians have mostly tried to hide or veil or qualify their fabrications. Lying as an end unto itself was generally relegated to totalitarians and other ideological fanatics: Hitler, Stalin, or Mao. They explicitly used propaganda as forms of political education, information, and – above all – as mobilizing strategies for realizing various strategic purposes. The totalitarian monopoly on employing this kind of rhetorical consolidation seems to have reached its end. The strategy has now spread to the Western democracies, where truth is not so much irrelevant as lying has become almost acceptable (especially among insiders) as useful form of political provocation that will allow true believers and provincials to circle the wagons – and justify the lie as truth.

America has Trump and a host of rival demagogues in the Republican Party. France has Marine Le Pen, Germany has Lutz Bachmann, Greece is stuck with the fascist Golden Dawn, Jobbik’s partisans are busy in Hungary, Italy had Berlusconi, and Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu is surely also a member of the world community of demagogues. Each has his tradition of myths, stereotypes, and prejudices to inform a political rhetoric that targets seminal issues facing the nation.

Important is that their claims and vituperations are not products of simple ignorance or misspeaking. Constantly harping on the stupidity of leaders like Mussolini, Hitler, and Stalin is a mistake. Ignorance is less the issue than cynicism and the attitude of a confidence man.

Truth is not so much becoming irrelevant as simply one “opinion” among others, and there are just too many spin doctors, too much infotainment, and too many sensationalist websites to inhibit a politician on the make from saying whatever comes to mind. Netanyahu is nothing special in that regard. He is simply continuing a trend that attempts to intimately associate Palestinians with Nazis in the public mind and, by implication, Israelis with Jews murdered in the Holocaust. But it was no less troubling to hear Netanyahu claim in late October 2015 that Nazis were ready to allow Jewish emigration to Palestine, or someplace else like Madagascar, had not the Grand Mufti al-Husseini of Jerusalem convinced Hitler in a meeting on November 28, 1941, that such a plan was impractical. It would be far better to “burn” the Jews and thereby “eliminate” the problem entirely.

Now, what is the political interest being served here? How important was this conversation? European anti-Semitism in the first decades of the 20th century had its (large and small) political parties, philosophers, artists, magazines, and academic curricula. It was one (albeit not particularly respectable) worldview among other worldviews. Anti-Semitism could be found almost anywhere, but especially in Vienna, where Hitler spent so much time prior to World War I. He knew the racist arguments generated by Houston Stewart Chamberlain’s popular “Foundations of the 19th Century” and Richard Wagner’s “The Jews and Modern Music,” and he listened to the anti-Semitic theories of his “court philosopher,” Alfred Rosenberg. Hitler already considered the Jew a form of “racial tuberculosis” as early as 1919. He was also enthusiastic about the “Protocols of Zion,” with its fabricated vision of a world Jewish conspiracy, and his Nazi party endorsed the psychotic Julius Streicher, editor of the anti-Semitic rag sheet Der Stuermer, who missed no opportunity to portray Jews as vermin and the incarnation of evil. Indeed, “Mein Kampf” explicitly made the case for the genocidal elimination of Jews.

All these works and theories basically treated Jews as an alien and inherently evil presence at worst or as a misfortune or burden to be born at best. Hitler had no need of the Grand Mufti, who was undoubtedly an anti-Semite, but whom he barely knew, to develop either his views or his policies on anti-Semitism. Hitler certainly did not look to Islam for practical assistance: it was obviously not the Palestinians who ran the trains, organized the delivery of inmates, constructed the ovens, or supervised the camps. Netanyahu knew that his statement about the Grand Mufti was nothing more than a symbolic provocation and, quickly enough, in the face of public outcry all over the world – with a knowing wink – he retracted his statement and admitted that the Nazis themselves were responsible for Auschwitz.

But this only begs the question concerning why Netanyahu said what he said in the first place. Amid growing international support for the Palestinians and the moral character of their struggle, of course, exaggerating the role of the Grand Mufti might provide a bit of inspiration for the Israeli right. Then, too, making the statement and then retracting it provided Netanyahu with a hint of moderation as yet another symbolic provocation took place. His ultra-right wing deputy foreign minister, Tzipi Hotovely, said that she hoped the Israeli flag would soon fly over the holy sites of Jerusalem. Nevertheless, supposedly under pressure from her boss, she also immediately qualified her statement, saying that it was a personal opinion rather than an expression of policy.

This kind of provocative rhetoric has a mobilizing purpose. In the current context, it also expresses the genuine fear (whether conscious or unconscious) of a new intifada in the making, born of frustration over stalled peace negotiations and expanded Israeli settlement activity, which has gripped the imagination especially of the young in the West Bank and which has led to violence, mostly against settlers. Having lost the moral high-ground, sensing his growing isolation, Netanyahu must have thought that making reference to the Holocaust seemed a safe and traditional way to regain it – or, at least, deflect criticism – even while calling upon Israelis to circle the wagons, prepare for further militant action, and maintain the present expansionist strategy.

Netanyahu is just another demagogue who, in this case, is trying to please the more extreme religious and Zionist elements in his coalition. More should not be made of him than he is – something that holds for every demagogue. Yet his rhetoric, like that of other demagogues, provides insight into the deeper and ultimate aims of his policies. Netanyahu’s preoccupations with the past justify exaggerated nationalism, militarism, and imperialism in the present. These mark the traditional fascist vision of politics that targets an inflated and fabricated enemy whose nefarious activities justify abandoning democracy and suspending the liberal rule of law.

Demagogic rhetoric neither argues nor engages its critics. It rests on exigency and dispenses with serious argumentation. It also exhibits its own psychological dynamic. That Palestinians had virtually nothing to do with the Holocaust leaves intact the lingering prejudice that they would have participated if only given the chance. It is roughly the same argument employed by defenders of the “Protocols of Zion” when confronted with its fabrication and empirical falsehoods. Exaggeration, paranoia, and projection underpin the authoritarian style. Netanyahu was actually promoting the very sort of political hysteria and rabble-rousing that helped introduce the totalitarian regime from which Jews suffered so terribly. The real tragedy of this pathetic affair is the manner in which Israel, obsessed with the Nazi past, is becoming defined in the present by the very values it should be opposing. That is worth remembering as yet another political provocation disappears in the dustbin of history.

Stephen Eric Bronner is Board of Governors Professor of Political Science at Rutgers University. His writings include “The Bigot: Why Prejudice Persists” (Yale University Press) and “A Rumor about the Jews: Anti-Semitism, Conspiracy and the Protocols of Zion” (Oxford University Press).

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+26 # ericlipps 2015-11-06 19:03
Personally, I think Netanyahu's comment was more than just a vicious slander. I think it shows he's cracking up.
+2 # aljoschu 2015-11-07 12:29
Quoting ericlipps:
Personally, I think Netanyahu's comment was more than just a vicious slander. I think it shows he's cracking up.

Unfortunately, I don't think it is Netanyahu who is cracking up, it more and more appears likely that the whole of the Jahwe-nation Israel is cracking up.
+30 # Radscal 2015-11-06 19:05
It appears to me that Netanyahu is preparing the way to annex at least what remains of historic Palestine. Worldwide public opinion is becoming more and more critical of Israeli policies, and the radical Zionists may see the window closing on their chances to "complete 1948" without significant resistance.

Historically, when the Zionists embarked on some major program to expand Eretz Israel, they frequently undertook some false flag "terrorist" act.

So, in addition to fearing for the indigenous people of Palestine and their non-Jewish neighbors, I am concerned that there will be terrorist attack(s) elsewhere.
+3 # elizabethblock 2015-11-08 08:55
There are already terrorist attacks on Palestinians, or anyone perceived to be not Jewish, in Israel and the Occupied Territories. Some are by the military, some are by civilians.
I recently saw Lia Tarachansky's film "On the Side of the Road." It shows Israelis, including members of the Knesset, saying horrible racist things about Palestinians that reminded me of Nazi anti-Semitic propaganda
First comes the word, then comes the deed.
+4 # Radscal 2015-11-08 12:14
Yes. These are the sorts of things that make me believe the Zionists are preparing the way to "complete 1948," and the reason I wrote that I fear for the indigenous Palestinians.

But the false flag terrorist attack I refer to would target "Western" and even US persons and property. Think the Lavon Affair where Israelis pretended to be Arabs and set off bombs in Egypt as a pretext to their invasion of Egypt to take control of the Suez Canal. They deliberately targeted tourist destinations with the intent of manipulating Westerners into hating Arabs.

After all, Netanyahu said it all on the day after 9/11 when he said it was "very good for Israel."
+51 # guomashi 2015-11-06 19:26
Since the first extermination camp opened on December 7, 1941, Netanyahu must be attributing supernatural powers to Mufti in order to get Hitler to agree and build and initiate the holocaust in a little over a week.

Only those totally ignorant of history can see Netanyahu as anything other than a raving fascist racist lunatic.

America carries a great burden of shame for supporting, much less tolerating him.
+16 # jbell94521 2015-11-06 19:49
You are spot on! Thanks for telling it like it is.
+34 # reiverpacific 2015-11-06 20:01
Quoting guomashi:
Since the first extermination camp opened on December 7, 1941, Netanyahu must be attributing supernatural powers to Mufti in order to get Hitler to agree and build and initiate the holocaust in a little over a week.

Only those totally ignorant of history can see Netanyahu as anything other than a raving fascist racist lunatic.

America carries a great burden of shame for supporting, much less tolerating him.

Yet they (your lovely Lawmakers) -to a man or woman- allow him to visit this country and strut about, mostly in the East Coast AIPAC-populated major cities, like a latter-day Ducé, spewing bile, war making justification, almost frothing at the mouth for the practical obliteration of Palestine/Gaza and being supplied with an open hand with everything from state-of-the-ar t, lethal air-sea-land weaponry to more Caterpillar home and olive grove demolition machinery.
Divest, divest!!!
+8 # lexorcista 2015-11-06 19:43
Has the significance of the blue stripes on either side of the flag escaped most ppl?
Sea (Jordan R) to Sea.
Yes, as slowly ppl are finding out more and more what Netanyahu/Zioni sts are doing to the Palestinians, sympathy and support is growing. Must be worrying.
Interesting list of historical figures.
Maybe history repeats itself b/c humans haven't changed and their desires drive them -- some harder and further than others.
think the writer means "burden to be bornE"
+32 # jbell94521 2015-11-06 19:48
Ironic as it may seem, I think if we really evaluate him, his more flagrant, racist and more inflammatory statements, and his war crimes against the Palestinians we must conclude that Netanyhu is a master fascist. He is doing to the Palestinians what was done to the Jews during the H9locaust by the fascist German government of the Third Reich. He deserves a very special place in Hell.
+4 # 2015-11-06 19:48
The Germans proposed to the Quakers who were trying to get the Jews out of Germany that they would send the Jews to Madagascar. At first the Quakers thought that modern Europeans would not survive in a primitive environment but than realized that anything would be better than staying in Europe. The Germans then said they could not move the jews by sea because of the British blockade. We will never know if they really meant it.
+16 # Misterioso 2015-11-06 20:37
For the record:
Counting the kids from 2000 until today (as of Oct. 24/15)

For every Jewish Israeli child killed by Palestinians, 15.8 Palestinian children have been killed by Jewish Israelis since the year 2000.

Two disturbing short videos: Palestinian youth cruelly humiliated by IDF soldiers.

Countries scaled to the amount of aid they receive from the U.S.
+13 # Farafalla 2015-11-06 22:00
Not a bad article, but I have a major issue with:

"Lying as an end unto itself was generally relegated to totalitarians and other ideological fanatics: Hitler, Stalin, or Mao".

Seeing Mao in the same breath as Hitler and Stalin is perturbing. Mao Zedong mobilized peasants to wage a revolutionary struggle against imperialism and colonialism. His leadership led to the liberation of one fifth of humanity and led the way to the economic development of one billion people.

I am not a Maoist, but I will never deny Mao's contribution to the betterment of China. He is not the moral equivalent of Hitler or Stalin.
+6 # Texas Aggie 2015-11-07 00:25
His policies caused massive famines in which approximately a million people died. His Red Guard was responsible for atrocities that rival Stalin's purges and the effects are still being felt in China. His "reeducation" camps were as bad as Stalin's.
+7 # old codger 2015-11-07 04:38
You're right Texas ! But the thing about totalitarians , they're efficient ;"the trains run on time ' !
The means and methods used to the ends of their efficiency are usually cruel and inhumane ! Morally, the ends don't justify the means but for the amoral mind , it's all a good job well done.
America's support for totalitarian regimes is not so much IMmoral as Amoral.
However, it is an amorality founded in monetary gain and power pragmatism: business as usual!

This AMORALITY is both America's strength AND it's weakness. Domestically and in foreign policy they 'get the job done' but morally there's a rising crescendo of hate for the American political establishement that threatens to drown them and perhaps the rest of us with them!

Vote Sanders ??????
+12 # cymricmorty 2015-11-07 10:11
I find the destruction of Palestine and the Palestinians profoundly disturbing. We constantly hear the "never again" about the Holocaust, yet here it is, happening again, carried out by descendants of Holocaust victims, with different players and even deadlier gear. I can't help but dread that Israel will continue to cruelly annex Palestine, exterminate or forcibly eject Palestinians, and although awareness worldwide is increasing, no one will be able to do much about it and it will be buried in history like the Armenian holocaust of WWI.
+6 # aljoschu 2015-11-07 12:24
Eric Bronner is absolutely right, in that Netanyahu of Israel is a very diligent student of Adolf Hitler and his propagandist Josef Goebbels. And so are Erdogan of Turkey who willingly fired up the murderous conflict again with the curds inside and outside of Turkey and George W. Bush of the USA who attacked the Iraq based on lies and fabrications.
Notably, all three of these protagonists belong to the so-called free and democratic western hemisphere. Absurd.
+2 # dusty 2015-11-07 20:19
Propaganda was invented as a practice by the Roman Catholic Church to propagate the faith and has been their way of teaching lies for close to 2000 years, politicians are new comers. If not for the armies that Stalin mobilized and inspired we would probably all be speaking German or Japanese now and as another above observed Mao's work has changed China.
+3 # fishmother 2015-11-07 22:01
All I have to say is that Bibi keeps his job by crying NAZI, NAZI in sentences in which he also points at Palestinians. It seems that he does so to keep his followers, fans & flock from noticing that the way Israel treats the Palestinians and just takes their land at will, driving them from their homes & keeping them from their jobs or olive groves sounds a whole lot more like treating the Palestinians the way they were treated in Europe at the hand of the Nazis. It's time for a change & for peace, which may take the Israelis catching on to Bibi's scam.
+2 # Dion Giles 2015-11-07 23:31
It's our duty in the outside world to persuade our fellow-citizens to catch on to Bibi's scam, and the monstrous scam on which it is based.
0 # Activista 2015-11-07 22:40
Netanyahu is a psychopath with nuclear weapons. Israel media is still relatively free (en.wikipedia.o rg/wiki/Haaretz ) - we must support the Israeli political opposition - think that at least Obama is waking up.
+3 # Dion Giles 2015-11-07 23:15
Have a look at the alphabetical list of national flags at . How many of these are national homelands with nationality shared by Jews living as individuals in full equality with everyone else? Not as born overlords, not as born Untermenschen? How embarrassing it must be for non-racist Jews belonging to all those homelands to hear repeatedly, from racists pretending to represent Jews globally, that they need part of Palestine as their homeland and racially defined nationality. How humiliating for true Palestinians in whose land this borderless expanding obscenity has been planted to be treated as “cockroaches”. How foolish of the people of the nations in which Jewishness is not an issue to let their own countries be dragooned into accepting and defending it.
+1 # elizabethblock 2015-11-08 09:00
For Zionists, including of course the Israeli government, it is unthinkable for Israel to become a "state of all its citizens." Normal states are states of all their citizens. Tell that to the next Zionist who complains about Israel being picked on.
0 # Dongi 2015-11-08 01:34
The Jews need land, very scarce in Israel, for new settlers who are continually migrating there from all over the world. The Jews promise a place in Israel for every Jew who wishes to move there. Consequently, there is a constant need for more land. The only source is the Palestinians. With greater military strength and modern weaponry and with 3 billion bucks + per year from America, the Jews can get this real estate any time they want to.

The Palestinians can fight back but they have no chance. It's like the Warsaw rebellion in 1944. The Jews fought the Nazis but were crushed.

Natanyahu is a bold, aggressive leader who is not above rubbing it in. He comes to America, courtesy of his employees in the US Congress, embarrasses the American President and flaunts his stuff along the East coast showing everyone who looks who is the boss. The American system is so corrupt and Natanyahu so aware that he gets away with it.

Would Sanders be able to control him? I don't know. Sanders is Jewish and, maybe, weak on that score. I kind of doubt it myself. Israel still has the American Congress in its pocket.

So it will probably take an outside force to tilt the balance against Israel. Like Russia if it turns out that Israeli planted a bomb on the Russian airliner. Then, all bets are off for the middle east. (Ditto if the CIA did it.) Stay tuned, everyone, armageddon may be coming our way.
+3 # elizabethblock 2015-11-08 08:58
Israel's worst enemy - the only force likely to tip the balance against the continuing theft of Palestinian land, water, and lives - is Israel. Every time they commit an atrocity massive enough to make the western media, they lose more supporters, and the ones they have become softer.

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