Both the American and Israeli governments reek of paranoia, fear, and desperation. The struggle against them must begin with the knowledge that we are opposing a desperate and fearful group.
By all accounts, the new administration in the U.S., and the veteran one in Israel should be relaxing and enjoying the heights of power they have attained. Both are facing a weakened opposition while tightening their control on the executive, legislative, and judicial branches in their respective countries. They have done so in the face of frequent predictions of their impending demise, while making few concessions to their critics.
In a certain sense, that appears to be exactly what they are doing — implementing an unapologetically xenophobic agenda in foreign and domestic policy arenas. But if you listen to the tone that characterizes their conduct, a different impression emerges. Both the U.S. and Israeli administrations seem prickly and sensitive, easily rattled by any challenge, overreacting to even the smallest slight.
To some extent, this reflects the character of the leaders in question, more so with Trump who is a truly unusual president, than with Israel’s Netanyahu, who is more of a conventional politician. Yet leaders reflect the political systems that give them power, and rely on the cooperation and consent of many other actors.
This is clearly on display when the Jerusalem municipality attempts to shut down public facilities that provide a platform for dissidents; or when the Senate majority leader hypocritically uses arcane rules to shut down a woman senator’s condemnation of one of Trump’s nominees. Neither of these incidents, at least as far as we know, had anything to do with the American president or Israeli prime minister. What they do have in common, along with many other actions taken by these two administrations and their allies, is their counter-productive effect from a purely instrumental perspective.
By acting in a highly visible and clumsy way to shut down opposition, the ruling parties in both countries are giving far more platform and stature to that opposition than it would otherwise enjoy. And they are not just ham-handed — they are also sloppy and disorganized. This was evident with both Trump’s executive order banning nationals of seven predominantly Muslim countries from entering the United States, and the new Israeli law retroactively legalizing the theft of privately-owned Palestinian land in the West Bank. Both of these policy moves were crafted in a manner sure to...Read More