The writer, a 25-year veteran of the I.D.F., served as a field mental health officer and Commander of the Central Psychiatric Military Clinic for Reserve Soldiers at Tel-Hashomer. Since retiring from active duty, he provides consultancy services to NGO’s implementing Psycho trauma and Psychoeducation programs to communities in the North and South of Israel. Ron is a former strategic advisor at the Office of the Chief Foreign Envoy of Judea and Samaria.
Natalie Portman epitomizes what’s wrong with Jewish liberals
Now that the dust has settled and pundits have had their say on the issue of being within your rights to be critical of the Prime Minister of Israel Benjamin Netanyahu, now is the time to understand why being seen to be endorsing the State of Israel governed by Netanyahu has become impossible for Jewish liberals.
Actress Natalie Portman explained her decision to snub the prestigious Genesis prize in Jerusalem, also known as the “Jewish Nobel,” saying that she did not want her attendance to be seen as an endorsement of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. She chose to boycott a ceremony which “honors individuals who have attained excellence and international renown in their chosen professional fields, and who inspire others through their engagement and dedication to the Jewish community and/or the State of Israel.”
Boycotting Israel, questioning the legality of governmental decisions and treating Israel’s democratically elected leader as a pariah, encouraging others by your actions to withdraw their support of Israel, are all strikingly similar in content and in language used by the BDS and anti- Israel movements in America that promote the de-legitimization of the State of Israel, irrespective of Portman’s claims that she doesn’t support the BDS movement.
For too many liberal Jews, Israel in their minds, has become an “oppressor” of rights. They have repeatedly attempted to brand Israel as an intolerant society. Liberal Jews will also be the first to disingenuously claim that they are on Israel’s side.
What seems to escape liberal Jews like Portman is the very composition of democratic life here in Israel. Their understanding is based on recriminations and false accusations suggesting that they can save Israel from itself, if only Israel would adopt their liberal values. The fact that Jews and Arabs all enjoy equal civil and legal rights and are subject to judicial review should they feel that their democratic rights are being impinged always seems to escape their minds. The fact that Israel’s Supreme Court of Appeals has adopted “judicial activism” in its orientation and is at the forefront of protecting the rights of all sectors of the population in Israel also doesn’t seem to hold water for Liberal Jews.
However by dividing Israel into good cop, bad cop, and making out the Israeli Prime Minister and his ruling coalition an amalgamation of Dirty Harry and The Chosen so as to make Israel palatable to liberal Jews is avoiding the real issue at hand. The problem lies - and here I quote the Jewish liberal Peter Beinart - liberal American Jews “are not especially connected to Israel because they are not especially connected to being Jewish".
Supporting an Israel that elects a conservative/right-wing/religious government is messy, complicated, and raises too many questions concerning Jewish identity and Jewish affiliation for liberal Jews, especially if they want to fit in with today's Democratic Party..
We can't love the need to disapprove and denounce more than we love Israel itself.
Yet, when one considers the worldwide movement in recent years to de-legitimize the State of Israel; their aim is not to engage or interact but to undermine and demonize. Their opposition to Israel is not open to reason or good will. In short, their hatred is unconditional. With his being the current geo-strategic reality challenging Israel, than why is it that liberal Jews become so uneasy by expressing unconditional love and support towards Israel?
Had Natalie Portman accepted the Genesis Prize here in Israel, no one would have assumed that she was representing or endorsing Netanyahu or any other Israeli politician. For Liberal Jews many of our debates about Israel have become coarse and divisive, their enthusiasm and eagerness to express tough, critical love towards Israel even when unwarranted and hypocritical has become the accepted norm in how they relate to Israel.
But we can't love the need to disapprove and denounce more than we love Israel itself. For Israel’s supporters, unconditional love and support should be the sentiment that ought to trump all others; the emotion that fuels and gives meaning to our actions. I can challenge my child and rebuke him, but I can never forget to show him unconditional love and support. In their liberal zeal to express tough, critical love of Israel, liberal Jews have forgotten about pure love and unconditional support.
In recent weeks, Noa, a world renowned singer and similiar to Natalie Portman in that she too was born in Israel, Jewish, and known for her ultra-liberal political viewpoints visited Israel to meet with local Israelis who represent the very core of what liberal Jews detest about Israel, and this was her reaction;
This was the most intriguing part for us, the reason we had come to begin with. Finally we could get into the thick of things, listen to the personal story of every participant, learn about their way of life and points of view, including things which are at the core of our differences… and most importantly, discuss our visions for the future of the country we all love so deeply”
I admit, it was challenging. Here were these sweet, generous, warm hearted people…with a huge, seemingly impassable abyss between us. We came out feeling it would take many more hours of conversation and exchange of ideas to scratch the tip of the formidable iceberg of misunderstanding, misinformation and disagreement, to try and melt it some how and find common ground…but we saw great importance in the meeting, as the conversation, even when at times painful and difficult, was honest, respectful and deep”
The only thing we could truly agree upon was our love for Israel and concern for its future.”
As Natalie Portman and her cadre of liberal Jewish supporters fathom the implications of her boycotting Israel and her democratically elected political leadership, I would suggest that she re-think all that has transpired in the past week and ask herself if she wants to be associated with those that defame and slander the State of Israel, as just another “useful idiot” empowering the enemies of Israel or accept the idea that Israel’s complex reality cannot be expressed by one viewpoint nor one dimension. As a complex reality Israel both inspires and infuriates, is filled with joy and sorrow, yet allows us to celebrate unprecedented achievements yet at the same time overcome the challenges awaiting us.
The “Faudalization” of Police Enforcement in Israel
The never ending legal saga with its daily thundering headlines against the Prime Minister of Israel Benjamin Netanyahu has in recent days begin to resemble a scene out of Israel’s new hit series “Fauda”. The series is about an undercover elite Israeli unit that operates in the 'West Bank', is named for the Arabic word for chaos, often used by IDF soldiers to describe operational activities in the 'West Bank', and by Palestinian Arabs to depict their daily lives.
Fauda” focuses on undercover operations in the area hunting down members of Hamas, using all means at their disposal. There is, naturally, an absence of due process, personal civil rights and legal recourse because this is a fight against the terrorists who want to murder Israeli civilians.. The goal in this life-and-death case justifies the means, and the result is expected to be nothing less than the complete elimination of the target. The missions operate within a subtext of total immunity, and are judged by their success in carrying out their missions.
One cannot escape the connection between the style and scope this past year of the police investigations against an elected Prime Minister, his associates, and essentially anyone in close contact with Benjamin Netanyahu, and the mindset of the current police commissioner, a former 30 year veteran and deputy head of the Shabak, Israel’s version of the FBI, anti-terror forces, and internal homeland security all rolled up into one; a very powerful, and largely secret organization.
It seems as if the police forces have undergone a transformation, a kind of “Faudalization” within their organizational behavior code and have mobilized all means at their disposal to politically dispose of the elected Prime Minister of the State of Israel. It seems as if the current police investigation against the Prime Minister has been meticulous in coordinating and manipulating accusations and state witnesses to create an atmosphere magnified by the printed, broadcasted, and social media platforms which are desperately hungry for any information that can advance the liberal-left, progressive political agenda to replace Benjamin Netanyahu.
In the “Fauda” television series, which one must remember is not a documentary, operatives are portrayed as thorough in giving only lawful orders and refraining from obeying blatantly illegal orders, without diminishing neither the shoot-to-kill objectives nor the pressure to get kills. The plot allows the viewers to experience the personal perspective of real terrorists with blood on their hands, Palestinian terrorists who are wanted by the Israeli army for years, and the Israeli Shabak hunting them down. At the same time, there are scenes where undercover agents meet with terrorists in which they hug and kiss, they sit together to eat and drink, in a camaraderie that seems to transcend the inevitable tragedy that awaits them. Scenes of interrogations and imprisonment are typified by behavior impervious to judicial oversight.
This week’s revelation of collusion by a judge and an Israel Securities Authority (ISA) public prosecutor in one of the corruption investigations, the so-called Case 4000, and the fact that both were not immediately arresting for blatant criminal behavior, is an eye opener and not only because of the two people involved. The shocking fact is that the Police investigators did not immediately confiscate their cell phones and personal computers to examine whether the suspected collusion didn’t extend to other cases against the Prime Minister, including additional police investigators, judges, prosecutors who are all at the forefront of the legal and investigative witch hunt against Benjamin Netanyahu.
These unelected civil servants, the judiciary, and the police force who were supposed to be Israel’s democratic gatekeepers, have in one giant exposure done more damage to the public’s trust than any of the allegations against the Prime Minister. They seem to be operating within a subtext of total immunity, and are judged by their success in carrying out their mission to force Benjamin Netanyahu out of office.
The correspondence exposed by Channel 10, in which Tel Aviv Magistrate’s Court Judge Ronit Poznansky-Katz and Eran Shacham-Shavit, the deputy council of the ISA’s investigative department, discussed and coordinated remand periods for some of the suspects in text messages prior to the hearings, will likely damage the current police investigation into Case 4000 and even throw off balance other corruption probes against Netanyahu.
"It is shocking to see the cover-up attempts by the heads of the justice system," wrote Tourism Minister Yariv Levin (Likud) in a Facebook post, noting that "if it turns out that civilians were sent to detention in a tainted procedure, in which the decision was made even before a hearing, it is a criminal offense of the harshest degree."
As events unfold at a mesmerizing pace, one cannot easily dismiss the demand that the lengthy investigations into alleged corruption against Benjamin Netanyahu be dismissed since the judicial process has been undeniably tainted. A legal foundation in all Democratic judicial processes deals with the concept of the “fruit of the poisonous tree” This is a legal metaphor used to describe evidence that is obtained illegally. The logic of the terminology is that if the source (the "tree") of the evidence or evidence itself is tainted, then anything gained (the "fruit") from it is tainted as well.
Evidence that has been admitted in court yet obtained by illegal police or judiciary representatives is not admissible.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has defended himself against allegations by pointing his finger at the apparent collusion between the media, judiciary, and investigative police officers. He has accused them of masterminding a deep-state conspiracy against him. He has labeled negative reporting of him as “fake news” and said that the media is engaged in “an obsessive witch hunt against me and my family with the goal of achieving a coup against the government.”
The prime minister has cast aspersions on the integrity of Commissioner Roni Alsheich. He said police were doing all they could to bring him down, accusing the force of “slander and lies.” This newest expose is bearing him out. And we have barely touched on the judiciary in this article.
The “Faudalization” of Israel’s police and judicial systems is transpiring before our very eyes, stay tuned for the next episode.
Oedipus, rage and the Bibi obsession
Over the past year President Trump has been challenged with a non-stop tsunami of political and media generated reports that have only one goal, it demonize and de-legitimize the Trump electoral success and the current Republican administration. The daily onslaught of accusations and smear campaign tactics have gone after not only the President, but also his family, administration officials such as the White House Spokesperson Sarah Elizabeth Huckabee Sanders, and other political allies associated with the President. Exposing this slanderous campaign has had negligible success in convincing the general public that as consumers of information, they are being fed a steady diet of conspiracy, chaos, and what has developed into a politics of rage.
For us in Israel, all this is “nothing new under the sun”. The American experience of the unprecedented demonization and de-legitimization of a democratically elected head of State has been with us for the past two decades in which Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been repeatedly re-elected time after time, despite the oppositions and media generated smear campaigns that are aired daily. For years we have had to endure a lynch atmosphere in which all of the media seem like an endless series of firing squads all aimed in the direction of Benjamin Netanyahu. What is it that has created this relentless politics of rage and hatred? What can explain this “kill the beast” atmosphere in our streets among demonstrators? How can one explain that regular upstanding citizens who normally exhibit normative behaviors have been transformed in a vicious mob who fan the flames of rage and hatred against a democratically elected leader, his wife, and his children? Political pundits have been unable to sufficiently explain this deep primal hatred that has permeated the public discourse trampling every accepted norm and the basic concept of fairness and the democratic idea of innocent until proven guilty.
The answer my friend is not ‘blowing in the wind’, but can be better understood by examining the psychological roots of rage and anger. First a few examples: Johnny Depp’s “joke” about it being time to assassinate a president again; Actor Corey Stoll calls his participation in a “Julius Caesar” adaptation that leaves the Trump-like leader soaked in stage blood his method of “resistance.”; Kathy Griffin thought it would be amusing to hold up a fake Trump head covered in blood, duplicating a horrific ISIS-style propaganda video; Madonna shared how she considered blowing up the White House shortly after President Trump took office; Director Rob Reiner called for an “all out war” on Twitter to “resist” the Trump administration. The common thread in these examples is the primal hatred and need to dispose of the “head” of the extended American family nation.
Oedipal rage according to Freud, represents a deep feeling of aggression and desire to dispose of a parental figure. In today’s politically charged atmosphere, rage and aggression have become acceptable forms for expressing opposition and the desire to replace the “head” of a nation. Little if any effort is made towards clarifying the destructive aspects of this and the inevitable spillover into our daily routine. Not only do I want to dispose of the “head” of the nation, but this destructive primal rage also encompasses those that support him, those that represent ideas and values different than my own, and lastly those that are unlike myself. This rage, this hatred of President Trump or Prime Minister Netanyahu permits us to keep alive the idea that everything is really much more simple, if only these leaders would go way either voluntarily or if necessary by force This rage allows us to convince ourselves that if only we yell louder, and beat up on our heads of state a little harder, if we break their political bones than everything would revert back to the falsely intoxicating effect of the Obama period when we were inundated with reports that gave us the feeling that the spread of radical Islamic ideology was nothing more than an extension of the American civil rights movement and that the regressive and largely dysfunctional economic performance of the Obama administration was good for America. This intoxicating taste had become nothing more than a drunken stupor blurring reality and the real successes of the first year of the Trump Presidency that in an objective analysis would be undeniable.
The Prime Minister of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu, has lead Israel to become a world leader of innovation, a nation at peace with the majority of the Muslim Sunni nations, a country where the life expectancy is one of the world’s longest, and affordable healthcare and education for average citizens. In America, after the first year of a totally unexpected Trump Presidency; domestically, the passage of the tax reform bill is already resulting in increased economic activity and the repatriation of companies, reserves and jobs, just as promised during the election. The burden of regulation, vastly increased under Obama, is being steadily lightened. The Trump administration is anything but politically correct, and that is a good thing, considering the damage done by political correctness over the preceding Obama years. As far as foreign policies; rather than attacking friends and allies and supporting enemies, the reverse is now the situation. The global community understands that America is the leader of the free world, and should be recognized as such.
President Trump understands that to succeed you must resonate strength, and defend your turf and principles. No level of primal rage by the Democratic Party, the media, and progressive opponents will change the direction of the Trump Presidency. Those that continue to be immersed in a politics of anger, in a politics of rage will slowly find themselves representing no one but themselves. They will cease to be relevant to the American public.
Enlisting psychiatric jargon to discredit the POTUS
Let’s not forget why he won! The daily onslaught by the broadcasted and printed media in recent days questioning the competence and mental status of President Trump is going to backfire and enable President Trump to emerge stronger and more beloved by more of the American public than ever before.
This unethical and biased use of mental health and psychiatry has been used in the past and has failed. It seems that President Trump’s opponents and the Democratic Party have forgotten about the “Goldwater Rule”, named after Senator Barry Goldwater who was a five-term United States Republican Senator from Arizona and the Republican Party's nominee for President of the United States in the 1964 election. The Goldwater rule is the informal name given to Section 7 in the American Psychiatric Association's Principles of Medical Ethics that states it is unethical for psychiatrists to give a professional opinion about public figures they have not examined in person, and from whom they have not obtained consent to discuss their mental health in public statements. It is named after presidential candidate Barry Goldwater. The issue arose in 1964 when Fact published the article "The Unconscious of a Conservative: A Special Issue on the Mind of Barry Goldwater". The magazine polled psychiatrists about U.S. Senator Barry Goldwater and whether he was fit to be president. The editor, Ralph Ginzburg, was sued for libel in Goldwater v. Ginzburg where Goldwater won $75,000 (approximately $592,000 today) in damages.
What President Trump’s defamers seem to ignore and most likely deny, is what brought Trump to win the Presidential election against all odds and become President in the first place. Not since the heyday of the Ronald Reagan presidency has Middle America, dormant throughout the Obama presidency, come back to life, stirred to make their voices heard, awaken to go out and vote with the belief that Donald Trump can bring back what once was.
Donald Trump represents for Middle America also known in many corners of the country as the silent majority, that sense of longing for better times that once were. Donald Trump empowers Middle America with an unshakeable belief that he is “their President” and can be the answer to their life struggles. Donald Trump represents the very embodiment of not telling Middle America how to think, what to do, or which bathrooms to use. He has galvanized not only conservative voters but all voters to reject the dictates of the “establishment”, the elites, and the media. He has given the country back to the people. The public hear President Trump speak on their behalf and only for them, he is beholden to no one other than the American public.
So while every TV station, radio station, internet, and social media are talking about nothing else other than the competency and mental status of President Trump, it becomes relatively easy to identify whose side the media is on and how they have been enlisted to discredit and delegitimize President Trump. This timed and concerted effort to falsely portray President Trump as incompetent is strikingly familiar to how the media in Israel and the Israeli establishment elites have made every effort to keep Benjamin Netanyahu from being Prime Minister, and the similarities are unmistakable.
Despite Netanyahu being repeatedly re-elected over the past two decades, and despite continuing support for him among the Israeli voting public, every day brings new accusations and headlines attempting to tarnish the political viability of Netanyahu. In Israel, every day is open season on Netanyahu; despite the complex political reality, 8 years of the previous Democratic administration and President Obama’s despising Netanyahu, an asymmetrical Palestinian Arab terror wave, and regional threats such as Iran and Hezbollah in the North.
However, in the last elections, Netanyahu was credited with being the only political candidate that brought out Israel’s silent majority, giving the Likud party a commanding lead taking the election at a walk. How did he do it? By speaking the truth, by not blaming the victims, by holding the Palestinian Arabs accountable for the lack of a peace agreement, by defending Israeli interests first and foremost, by making the economy strong and providing jobs, by providing education and health at a reasonable cost to the average Israeli, and for providing a quality of life and sense of well-being that allows a majority of Israeli citizens a sense of community.
This is similar to the message that President Trump conveys to the American public. Trump has tapped into the feeling that the public’s personal life struggles are his struggles. Let’s make America strong, let’s make the economy strong, let’s create jobs and improve the American standard of living across the broad, for all. Trump has connected to the people; he is accessible in the media; he tweets and retweets at all hours, engaging his supporters and enraging his enemies; with thousands of people waiting in long lines and bad weather to attend wherever he visits.
Many know Trump to be a flawed candidate, many think he is even a flawed man, yet they feel that this is no different than their own flaws, so he is translating a weakness into political strength, they hear Trump speaking on their behalf, and only for them.
No amount of Psychiatric jargon will alter the public perception that President Trump is doing the job that has to be done. Even unemployment among African Americans is at its lowest level since at least the early 1970’s, when the government began tracking such data. It’s ironic that African Americans are suddenly doing better under a Republican President. This is the power of Trump, and this is the reason that questions of competence and mental status will be inconsequential blips during the Trump era.