Over Netanyahu's New Israel, the B.S. Light Is On

How are people who support Israel supposed to understand the Black Flag legislation which has expropriated the business of the Knesset?

Bradley Burston
Bradley Burston
Send in e-mailSend in e-mail
Bradley Burston
Bradley Burston

How does Israel expect to explain itself after this? How are people who support Israel supposed to understand the Black Flag legislation which has expropriated the business of the Knesset?

Fortunately, the language of the Bible now has a word for all of it. It's spelled Bet Vav Lamed Shin Yud Tet. Sometimes written bull****.

Kadima MKs waving black flags in protest over bills passed by Knesset last month.Credit: Emil Salman

I found it in the massive Hebrew dictionary we have in the house. The word was right below the entry for Bolshevik, and, in this context, it had the terrible ring of truth. Back in America, where the word originated, there's a context for its use that finally explains this New Israel of Netanyahu's, this anomaly, in all its flower:

The B.S. light is on.

When energetic rookie lawmaker Yariv Levin trades on his birth status as the godson of Menachem Begin to defend his authorship of anti-democratic bills, no one here is fooled. They know the B.S. light when they see Yariv Levin bathed in it.

When Levin's ubiquitous classmate Danny Danon takes European governments to task for funding NGOs - outraged, as Danon proclaims, at foreign intervention in a sovereign state - then takes it upon himself to shill for the Republican Party
at home and abroad, the light glows ever brighter.

When scrappy first-time legislator Ofir Akunis insists that the laws meant to cripple leftist NGOs are not politically motivated and are meant only to protect Israeli democracy and strengthen the country, even a number of Israel's staunchest hard rightists, among them Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin, cabinet minister Benny Begin, and Benjamin Netanyahu's National Security Adviser Yaakov Amidror – not to mention, in a late entry, Netanyahu himself - know better. They see the NGO laws for what they are, an efficient, one might say, potentially sustainable fuel source for the B.S. light.

True, accusing politicians of promulgating B.S. is akin to accusing mammals of having hair and bearing live young. But the current campaign is different. The rules of Israeli democracy, awkward and flawed as they always were, have been mobilized for the camouflaged goal of taking themselves apart.

There's an instructive irony in all of this. After all, these are Israelis we are talking about. A people which prides itself on candor without compromise, on, in Netanyahu's choice of phrase at the UN, dugriyut, directness, unfiltered honesty. The actual truth.

And there's the rub. It was not The Truth that Netanyahu was talking about. It was Our Truth. The truth that makes room for settlements, nuclear weapons, lack of due process, self-determination - as long as they're on our side.

Make no mistake, this is a people which knows its way around an untruth. Like the apocryphal 50 words for snow, the Hebrew language is rich in synonyms for something south of honesty. But nothing in the ancient lexicon quite fits the Black Flagging campaign. You need something more contemporary, more Western in origin. Something that recognizes the true common denominator of Netanyahu's New Israel, the fact that the ends and the means are now one and the same.

The purpose of the laws, as well as the blind eyes turned to the likes of misogynistic, seditious, racist rabbis and their violent disciples, is not to institute apartheid, fascism, Jim Crow, tycoonocracy, the Chile of Pinochet or the Afghanistan of the Taliban. The purpose of these laws is to disguise the ways in which we have grown to resemble parts of each. The purpose of the laws is to shield the system by shielding us from it. To allow it to flourish beyond the range of our senses of hearing, sight and smell.

Not that all this is new. It is simply improved. The need for a national culture of B.S. began long before the state was established, and was refined after 1948. And it's not that the Palestinians don't have one of their own. All nations and peoples need their myths.

Nonetheless, it was the occupation that truly brought Israel's B.S. light into its own, and made sure that it would stay on. With the occupation came the overarching need to ignore, to confabulate, to misdirect. With the occupation came the self-protective urge for marketing, for rebranding, for selective vision, for a shrill form of self-esteem based on the idea that we alone, with our experience, can understand and thus speak the truth.

With the occupation, with the settlements, with the night raids and the administrative detention and the roads just for settlers and the buses just for settlers, with the destruction of Palestinian crops and the expropriation of Palestinian property and the cramping off of Palestinian life, came the need for something bigger than the words for lie and falsehood and deception.

With the occupation came the need for that word. For B.S. in all its forms. With the occupation came the need for playing the victim, for playing the saint, for playing the pompous preacher, for acting the misunderstood street punk, for denying demography, for fostering segregation, for intimidating the press, for being the diplomat who insults dignitaries with tiny chairs, for discriminating against Arab citizens while noting that many of them work in high-tech, for building walls high enough that we can't watch what we ourselves are doing.

This is what has become of "a light to the nations." Now, with these laws, everyone knows that the B.S. light is on. And people who care about Israel need to tell its leaders: for God's sake, for your own sake, shut it the hell off. Before there's no one left to do so.



Automatic approval of subscriber comments.
From $1 for the first month

Already signed up? LOG IN


בנימין נתניהו השקת ספר

Netanyahu’s Israel Is About to Slam the Door on the Diaspora

עדי שטרן

Head of Israel’s Top Art Academy Leads a Quiet Revolution

Charles Lindbergh addressing an America First Committee rally on October 3, 1941.

Ken Burns’ Brilliant ‘The U.S. and the Holocaust’ Has Only One Problem

Skyscrapers in Ramat Gan and Tel Aviv.

Israel May Have Caught the Worst American Disease, New Research Shows

ג'אמיל דקוור

Why the Head of ACLU’s Human Rights Program Has Regrets About Emigrating From Israel


Netanyahu’s Election Win Dealt a Grievous Blow to Judaism