First of all, the sound of his voice doesn’t match up with the way he looks, and it’s disconcerting to watch him talk. Even without the mismatch, he talks like the sort of person who is going to murder you.
In any event, while my insult isn’t truly based in these superficial judgments, neither is this the time to get into all the injustices inherent to the colonial apartheid Israeli state. (I’d point anyone interested to Max Blumenthal’s new book Goliath, which I haven’t read but promises to cover absolutely everything. Even a quick survey of the controversy surrounding this book can provide a glimpse of what you need to know.)
Unfortunately, Brother Bibi is a hardliner. In love with the idea of bombing the crap out of Iran, he’s calling the historic diplomatic achievement a mistake, flailing about to point out the scary dangers, and generally promising that the sky will fall.
Today’s condemnation of Benjamin “Bibi” Netanyahu, 18th greatest Israeli to ever live, is largely confined to his behavior over the last few weeks. More than two weeks ago now, President Obama and Secretary of State Kerry, with the backing of Europe, China, and Russia, engineered the first steps to a peaceful arms deal with Iran – the most significant diplomatic breakthrough between the world’s sole superpower and the Islamic Republic Formerly Known as Persia since the toppling of the despotic American-made Shah in 1979. It’s a huge deal, and the only reason I haven’t substantively addressed it directly is there is little for me to say that has not been better said elsewhere.
I’m not an absolutist on the subject of Iranian nukes. The prospect of a Middle Eastern nuclear arms race is disturbing, to say the least, but a nuclear armed Iran, despite what some will tell you, is not an instant ticket to World War III. Would it complicate global geopolitics? Sure. But Pakistan and North Korea are inherently far less stable countries than Iran, for all its faults, and they’ve managed to sit on their nukes without running around dropping them everywhere. Make no mistake – Iran wants nukes as a defense against Israel, whose illegal stockpile of nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons – all the shit our old compadre “W” used to call WMDs – is well-known. My firm position is that a nuclear armed Israel is a far greater threat to global stability, given their brazen willingness to act unilaterally, than a nuclear armed Iran.
But now, without firing a single shot and preempting any Israeli plans to just randomly bomb the crap out of Iran, we’ve got the makings of a truly commendable deal. Regardless of your specific beliefs, this deal makes it less likely that a potential new war will happen. When war is less likely, that’s always a good thing. This is basic.
Unfortunately, Brother Bibi is a hardliner. In love with the idea of bombing the crap out of Iran (not entirely unlike almost-president Senator John McCain – see below), he’s calling it a mistake, flailing about to point out the scary dangers, and generally promising that the sky will fall.
Oddly, he insists upon this hysteria despite the fact that his own military and intelligence community – a formidable power bloc not particularly known for flower power doviness – has (intentionally) let slip that they actually favor the international deal with Iran. Furthermore, early indications show a narrow but legitimate majority of the Israeli public also favors the diplomatic solution.
His supremely unpleasant disposition isn’t just relevant within his own country. In the US, the legendary fundraising (and arm-twisting) powers of AIPAC, the Israeli government’s lobbying organization, leads to Netanyahu’s status as something of a magical celebrity prince on Capitol Hill. Even loyal elected supporters of the president, legislators who claim, at least, to be progressive, wake up to find the world a more peaceful place and choose to react with “disappointment.”
Just last week, it was announced that a brand new sparkling town will be immediately built on this land for happy and lucky young Israeli couples. No Bedouins – the people who actually live there already – will be allowed to live there.
The endgame to all of this has yet to be played out, but all appearances indicate to me that President Obama and his team brilliantly outflanked the hawks and war-lovers both here at home and within the Israeli right. There are obstacles to be overcome in educating the American public about the importance of peace, but perhaps to a certain degree that’s to be expected after thirty years of demonizing Iranians. But unless something changes quickly on the global stage or Congress truly self-immolates, the deal will stand. Israel is no longer going to be able to consider a unilateral strike without the risk of truly standing alone on the world stage. That doesn’t mean they definitely won’t do it, but it means they’re likely to fatally and permanently weaken themselves if they do.
There’s also the matter of the little-known but simmering Prawer Plan drawn up by his administration. As though it were not enough to merely steal the land and bulldoze the homes of the native Palestinian population, to keep Gaza by design an economically crippled prison colony and rape the West Bank with continued ethnocentric expansion hardly seen on the world since Americans did it to the native population here – on top of all of that shameful, embarrassing, evil behavior, Israel is systematically undertaking a new effort to steal the land and demolish the communities of Bedouin living in the region known as the Negev. The UN, the EU, and other human rights groups have basically called this ethnic cleansing (!), demanding that the plan be scrapped.
Not on my watch, declareth the Beebster! Just last week, it was announced that a brand new sparkling town will be immediately built on this land for happy and lucky young Israeli couples. No Bedouins – the people who actually live there already – will be allowed to live there. It’s like, do they just sit around in a dark room all day thinking up new ways to be destructive pricks to as many people as possible?
Then there’s the Pope. There are countless reasons to criticize the Roman Catholic church, whether it’s their relentless patriarchal rigidity, wealth and corruption, and, perhaps most damning, the sexual abuse scandals and cover-ups which have emerged into the light over the last decade and a half. Nobody’s absolving them of any of that, or any other dark elements in the organization’s past. Regardless, there’s something seriously wrong with you if you can’t see how awesome this new Pope is. Whether it’s the fact that he lives in modest quarters, refusing to live in the palatial Papal apartments, his harsh denunciation of the scam that is “trickle-down economics” and market fundamentalism using words that have become undeniably radical in the post Reagan-Thatcher world, or the fact that nobody’s gonna tell him he’s not allowed to dress in disguise at night to sit with homeless people in the streets of Rome and share some bread together.
He’s no Che Guevara, and he’s not magically remaking the RCC overnight into a gender-neutral organization with female priests and bishops and popes. Just because it doesn’t work exactly the way we’d like, against a backdrop of double-rainbows, unicorns, and harp-strumming cherubim doesn’t mean the guy isn’t straight-up awesome as far as popes ever go.
Even now, as the world mourns the death of South African revolutionary leader Nelson Mandela, Bibi doesn’t let up for a minute.
So when he met with our friend Bibi for the first time last week, he was generously providing the Israeli premier with a great opportunity to be a huge prick. Now, my long memory recalls the criticism faced by Obama for giving the Queen of England an iPod and Gordon Brown some DVDs in the wrong format back in 2009. The gifts weren’t inherently insulting, they were just perceived as insufficiently good enough, which is patently absurd, because fuck the queen and fuck Gordon Brown. In contrast, Benjamin Netanyahu was kind enough to give the new friendly Pope Francis a book about Catholics killing Jews six hundred years ago. Total dick move. Nobody’s minimizing the horror of the Spanish Inquisition and the blame that rightfully belongs at the feet of the church for their historical guilt. But not only is it all but certain that the former Cardinal Bergoglio of Argentina is well aware of the historical facts, we’re talking pretty old history at this point. The leader of a colonial nation with institutional ethnic discrimination, segregation, and ghettoization, an exploitative colony known to break international law and commit human rights violations on the reg, waves 600-year-old atrocities under the pope’s nose in full public view, and he does it without a shred of irony.
That’s not just the behavior of a huge prick, it’s the behavior of a brazen and proud huge prick.
Even now, as the world mourns the death of South African revolutionary leader Nelson Mandela, Bibi doesn’t let up for a minute. Of course, as with certain figures on the right in the United States, the world’s acceptance of Mandela as a man and statesman is problematic for Netanyahu. Judging by official Israeli policy, it seems to be an open national goal to fully implement a system of Apartheid identical to that which Mandela gave much of his life to overthrow. Compounding matters, Mandela spoke in 1997 at the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People, saying boldly (he was a very bold man), “Our freedom is incomplete without the freedom of the Palestinians.”
Anyone who says something like that is an enemy of the prick that is Benjamin Netanyahu. In his position as head of state, he gave perfunctory remarks expressing polite grief at the news of Mandela’s death, then announced, sorry, it’s just too damn expensive to attend the funeral. An update at the bottom of that same article helpfully clarifies that other factors might have gone into the decision, like the fact that Netanyahu has spent his whole life opposing a peace process Mandela felt to be utterly crucial – or, in other words, Netanyahu, sitting at the funeral of a revolutionary who fought for justice and native populations, would look like a gigantic prick, and he’s not willing to do that.
Never fear, however – in case the expense of the trip is truly the Prime Minister’s concern, the perpetually awesome folks over at Mondoweiss have launched a donation campaign to try and help a brother out. Maybe this story will have a happy ending. More likely, we’ll pause in two or three months to find we’ve only accumulated more consistent tales of a man unquestionably ranked among the world’s biggest sons of bitches.
* * *
With regard to the death of a true radical freedom fighter, I again find myself in a position in which the significance is undeniable and my views on the subject strong, but my ability to express any sentiment or commentary that has not already been better said elsewhere by others. I will say this, above all else: Do not abide the sanitizing and whitewashing of the memory of Nelson Mandela. Do not allow a giant man who fought fervently for the majority of his long life to be transformed into a meek and kindly peace-dude. He was portrayed in a movie by Morgan Freeman, but do not confuse him with Morgan Freeman (who, so far as I can tell, is actually a kindly peace-dude).
The Great Man view of history is not merely deeply flawed but an entirely inaccurate representation of the way that human events move through time. The liberation of South Africa from the oppressive colonial white minority was not something Nelson Mandela did. Countless lives, men and women, most of whom had and have names that you and I will never know, were poured into that struggle. Symbolism, however, is very important to how we perceive and interpret events. True leaders like Mandela serve not merely as politicians or commanders but as living symbols of causes, movements, and groups of people. Do your part to make sure people see the correct symbol and take away the correct lessons.
“Be nice to your oppressors and the goodness of your heart will eventually make you win automatically” is not the correct lesson to derive here, no matter which unscrupulous people take it upon themselves to claim otherwise.
Natasha Lennard over at Salon (who, as an aside, has really been writing some consistently amazing pieces of late) writes brilliantly on the importance of squarely examining Mandela’s radical violence and what we can learn not just about the deceased but, soberly and absent the usual platitudes, about violence itself. In a similar vein, Bob Herbert, writing for Jacobin, pens a frankly stirring ode to Mandela’s commitment to doing whatever it takes to transform society entirely.
Beyond the impressive words of Lennard and Herbert, there’s little for me to add, save perhaps the simple concluding statement that this wizard enthusiastically expresses his respect and honor for the fallen.
* * *
There were about five more topics slated to be included in this week’s Junkie post, but the bottomless disgrace that is Bibi Netanyahu required just about all the allotted space for the week.
We’ll leave off with one final piece, and this time I’m not lying when I promise to end on a positive note. Last month, socialist candidate Kshama Sawant won a seat on Seattle’s City Council, marking a rare and perhaps significant electoral success for those of us who oppose capitalism in its entirety.
Writing in In These Times, Bhaskar Sunkara and Micah Utrecht survey the makings of Sawant’s victory, offering an insightful look at whether her success might be replicated elsewhere, and, if so, how. Regarding some of the components that made her campaign a winning one, they write:
Sawant also had the curious support of prominent liberal media outlets—most notably Seattle’s alt-weekly The Stranger, which endorsed her campaign early on and covered it closely.
The Stranger news editor Dominic Holden says that while the paper, and most Seattleites, don’t share Sawant’s politics, they saw in Sawant someone who would take on the “toady, aging city council that is increasingly out of touch with the people who live here.”
Perhaps, in this present political climate of record-breaking government unpopularity, it is not necessary to fully convert the masses to socialist doctrine before socialist candidates can win. The key, of course, is to play up some of the advantages inherent to the socialist partisans: real people with real voices, standing up for other real people and real voices, standing well outside the failing institutions and offering a new way of going about official business. If that’s the sort of thing that people will get behind, even if only in select places and on a local level, there might be some small measure of hope after all.