Netanyahu Has Fostered the Outbreak of a National Psychosis

The widely covered flap raised by the boycott has gone completely overboard.

Avirama Golan
Avirama Golan
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Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.Credit: AP
Avirama Golan
Avirama Golan

Two years after the Six-Day War, when Israel’s friends in the world began to object politely to the little country’s power drunkenness and craving for expansion, a song was published that quickly became a big hit. “The whole world is against us,” the song claimed with a strangely joyful sense of insult, seeking comfort in the words: “this is an ancient melody that our ancestors taught us” (that is, there is no difference between Israel, the sovereign country, and the Jewish people over the generations), and ending with what was then considered charming sabra defiance: “and anyone who’s against us can go to hell.”

Twenty five years later, Yitzhak Rabin said: “the claim that the whole world is against us has evaporated in the spirit of peace. The world is not against us. The world is with us.” But when he was assassinated – what evaporated was the brief moment in which it seemed that Israel had chosen to take its fate into its own hands and bid farewell to aggressive victimhood. And then Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu won the elections when he offered a package of fear, panicked self-seclusion, factionalism and hatred. Since then, he has only upgraded the method.

If at one time the statement “the whole world is against us” sounded foolishly childish, something we had to shake off and start acting like a sovereign, responsible state, the spiral Netanyahu is now leading us into seems more like an outbreak of a national psychosis.

Why is it a psychosis? Because the widely covered flap raised by the boycott (which for years they tried to convince us would not break out, and if it did, would do us no harm), has gone completely overboard. Yedioth Ahronoth is vying with Israel Hayom in the military campaign, television news anchors angrily quote every professor who calls for a boycott of any university, and MKs from Zionist Union and Yesh Atid are coming out in defense of Israel abroad, weakly stuttering criticism of the government.

The government itself seems like it was just waiting for the chance to wage this “war,” which demands of its ministers mainly paranoid and megalomaniacal chatter, overflowing with threats. They’re outdoing each other in inventing ways to expand PR costing billions, and in embarrassing calls to boycott the boycotters. And of course, because this is an emergency, right-wing lawmakers are pouncing brutally on anyone suspected of warning the public of the boycott – because none of this would have happened it if wasn’t for those leftist informers.

The trouble is that Netanyahu and his fire-breathing ministers are sweeping up most Israelis, who live here in a state of pathological denial. Anyone who does not recognize that settler ideology has percolated deep into the Israeli consciousness – including the victory of the belief in the superiority of the Jewish people and its inalienable right, enshrined in the Torah, to all the Land of Israel – will not admit that Israel consciously chose to be a violent separatist community instead of a sovereign state.

Boycotters of Israel are no angels; anti-Semitism does indeed poison the thoughts of quite a few intellectuals in the world, and even the Palestinians won’t get much out of the boycott, except a little schadenfreude. But Israelis must understand that its becoming a pariah has two sides: For Netanyahu, the boycott is a golden opportunity to drag Israel into a paranoid and crazed war for survival against the whole hostile world. Thus, with all the power the public grants him, he can go on unhindered, crushing democracy and destroying the Zionist project.