The demonstrators outside the Prime Minister’s residence in Jerusalem might soon come to be known as “Balfour Criminals”, as in “November Criminals.” They may camouflage themselves as innocent protestors claiming their democratic right to protest but in actual fact, they are disease-spreaders, well-poisoners and back-stabbers.
It’s not Benjamin Netanyahu who is responsible for Israel’s ignominious defeat by COVID-19, nor his ministers, managers or experts. If it wasn’t for the brigands on Balfour and those who stand behind them – the left, the media, the attorney general, hostile NGO’s and foreign interveners – Israel would have conquered and vanquished coronavirus long ago.
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This is the underlying upshot of the distorted deception that Netanyahu is gradually instilling in his political base. He wants to remove the raucous demonstrators from his Jerusalem neighborhood but mainly seeks to destroy the protest movement before it destroys him. He and his ministers are peddling a spurious and dangerous delusion that links the protests to the medical, economic and social catastrophe that their ill-advised decisions have wrought.
They want to avoid responsibility and absolve themselves of guilt. They are giving the Israeli public an alternative whipping boy on which they can vent their frustration, let out their steam and come to hate with a vengeance.
Netanyahu and his aides are following in the footsteps of German army commanders who used a similar strategy to deflect responsibility for their degrading defeat in World War I. According to their account, most famously propagated by the war’s chief military strategist General Erich Ludendorff, Germany did not lose because its leaders miscalculated their declaration of war, prepared for a short campaign that lasted four years, sustained enormous casualties, failed to supply legions at the front, precipitated the collapse of the German economy, relied on weak allies, initiated a U-boat submarine war against the British navy that compelled the U.S. to enter the war, reneged on its pledges to the public or ignored its enraged reaction.
Not at all. The chief perpetrators of Germany’s wartime destruction, they claimed, were the “November Criminals” – socialists, communists, striking unions, defeatist journalists, foreign elements but first and foremost, the Jews.
They deflected fire from themselves and provided the German public with an excuse, ludicrous and unfounded as it was, for their capitulation to Allied diktats in the November 11, 1918 Armistice Agreement and ensuing Versailles Treaty. They presented an alternative explanation to a perplexed public that couldn’t square surrender with the fact that the German army remained intact and that no enemy soldier had crossed into its territory. They pinned all the blame on sinister sabotage from within and thus planted the poisonous seeds that ultimately led to the downfall of the Weimar Republic and the rise of Nazi Germany.
The “stab in the back” myth – Dolchstoßlegende in the original – turned public wrath on an illusionary enemy rather than their own leaders. It explained how declarations of victory evolved into abject surrender and why high and mighty Germany was subdued and humiliated on the world stage. It dug a grave in which Germans could bury their shame. It polarized the public and pitted one Germany against the other.
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And it seemed to confirm years of conservative and nationalist incitement and propaganda against malevolent leftists, collaborationist cosmopolitans and detached Jews whose only loyalty, as President Trump said the other day, was to themselves.
The hysteria that Netanyahu is successfully manufacturing about the supposedly dangerous demonstrations outside his home follows a similar pattern. When he emerged triumphant from the first round of the coronavirus pandemic, he took all the credit for himself; when he failed miserably in its return engagement, he pointed an accusing finger at everyone else.
Netanyahu isn’t to blame for the resurgent epidemic, the economic depression or the impending second lockdown that could make things much worse. It wasn’t his repeated surrender to his coalition partners’ incessant demands for exemptions, his hurried rush in May to reopen everything at once, his politically-motivated refusal to let the army and defense establishment take the lead, his total failure in setting up adequate epidemiological tracing and enlisting reinforcements for beleaguered medical teams, his obsessive preoccupation with his upcoming criminal trial, his repeated violations of his own government’s safety precautions or his tyrannical hold on his party, which has turned its senior figures, along with senior civil servants, into sycophantic yes men (and women) who dare not tell him or the public the truth.
The protestors on Balfour Street - whose alleged spread of the disease has yet to be corroborated by a single shred of evidence - they are to blame. They are the true criminals. And so the blood libel thrives and spreads, disseminated by Netanyahu’s obedient disciples in politics and the press, enthusiastically embraced by his angry electorate and on the cusp of replacing reality itself.
If we’re lucky, Karl Marx’s famous saying that history appears twice, first as tragedy then as farce, will be borne out. If we’re unlucky, it is Winston Churchill’s claim that “Those who fail to learn from history are bound to repeat it” that will prove more accurate and far more threatening.