Like an overeager suitor, President Obama professed his love for and lavished praise on Israel during a three-day visit, causing some Israelis to blush at his fawning rhetoric and promises of endless fidelity. But Obama on bended knee failed to note a malodorous reality, says Lawrence Davidson.
By Lawrence Davidson
It is said that the devil has about him the smell of fire and brimstone (sulfur). Evil deeds are often described as “most foul.” On the other hand, people who appear, accurately or not, as always innocent are described as “smelling like roses.” There seems, then, to be a longstanding association between behavior and smells.
The Israeli army has recently dedicated itself to demonstrating this association. On March 6, the Middle East Monitor reported “Israeli forces have sprayed Palestinian homes in the village of Nabi Saleh with Skunk as a punishment for organizing weekly protests against the Apartheid Wall built on occupied land. Human rights watchdog B’Tselem published a video showing Israel’s armored tanker trucks fitted with ‘water canons’ [spraying] the foul fluid.”
Skunk is a fluid so offensive smelling that people automatically retreat from any place or anyone doused with it. This is not the first time the Israelis have used such noxious tactics. Zionist settlers are fond of diverting the sewage from their illegal settlements, which are usually placed on high ground, into the fields and towns of Palestinians living in the valleys below. This is apparently done with the knowledge and approval of the Israeli state.
I doubt if many of the Israelis involved in these maneuvers have ever read Dante’s Inferno. In that epic poem, Hell is a place steeped in sewage and rot, and Israeli actions seem intent on reproducing this scenario. Are the Israelis then trying to turn the Holy Land into Hell? Well, yes, at least for the Palestinians. To this end the settlers and soldiers mimic Dante’s demons.
How far does the bad smell of Israeli actions reach? We can be sure that it reaches as far as London, where MP David Ward of the Liberal Democratic Party recently wrote in a Holocaust Memorial book that “having visited Auschwitz twice . . . I am saddened that the Jews, who suffered unbelievable levels of persecution during the Holocaust, could within a few years of liberation from the death camps be inflicting atrocities on Palestinians in the new State of Israel and continue to do so on a daily basis in the West Bank and Gaza.”
Ward’s reference to “the Jews” has been qualified, because not all Jews support Zionism or Israel’s claim to “Judea and Samaria,” much less the pogrom-like way the Israelis are going about ethnically cleansing the areas under their control. In fact, an increasing number of American Jews are expressing alienation from such behavior in Israel.
Yet Ward was correct when it comes to the “Jewish state’s” behavior. Perhaps Mr. Ward’s confusion was a product of Israel’s constant insistence that it represents all the world’s Jews.
Not everyone seems to smell the odor emanating from Israel. Mr. Ward’s Liberal Democratic Party called him to account for daring to draw attention to the fact that foul acts continue to be committed against the Palestinians by the self-proclaimed representative of the Jews.
A quiet word to Ward about avoiding generalizations would probably have sufficed but, using a process similar to those carried out by totalitarian regimes, Ward’s party ordered him “to meet with the party’s ‘Friends of Israel’ chapter to ‘identify and agree on language that will be proportionate and precise when he speaks out again on the Israeli-Palestine conflict.’” He did so and issued the required apology. This smells like censorship to me.
It’s one thing to punish someone for calling attention to Israel’s rank behavior. It is something else to insist that foul is actually fair – to say the sewage smells like roses. Who would be reckless enough to imply such a nauseating thing and do so with a straight face before cameras with the whole world watching? How about the President of the United States? He lives in Washington D.C., where denial of Israel’s malodorous nature is almost unanimous.
President Obama had an interview with Israel’s Channel 2 TV station on March 15, just before he left to visit that country. In the interview, he stated that he admires Israel’s “core values.”
In a subsequent analysis, the Israeli journalist Gideon Levy, who has an honest nose for these things, asked, “which values he was talking about? The dehumanization of the Palestinians? The attitude toward African migrants? The arrogance, racism and nationalism? Is this what he admires? Don’t separate buses for Palestinians remind him of something? Doesn’t two communities living on the same land, one with full rights and the other with no rights, ring a bell . . . ?
“To admire ‘core values’ while knowing we’re talking about one of the most racist countries there is, with a separation wall and apartheid-like policies, means betraying the core values of the American civil rights movement that made the Obama miracle possible.”
Nonetheless, upon arriving in Israel, President Obama said that U.S. support for the very same Israel Levy describes will “be forever.” It might be added that, at the same time, the President insisted that the Palestinians cease demanding a halt to the building of settlements, with their targeted open-sewer policies, before any further “peace” negotiations with the Israelis.
When it comes to Israel, President Obama, and most of the Congress as well, can’t tell the difference between fair and foul. That is because they live in a peculiar professional world whose parameters, in reference to Israel and Palestine, are defined by a Zionist lobby with Orwellian powers.
In this special world, double-think abounds. Racism, apartheid, ethnic cleansing, and the tactical use of Skunk and raw sewage disappear and are replaced by imaginary “core values” that smell like roses.
The President can privately smell garbage and call it roses all he wants. But when he tries to sell the rest of us on this connection, the credibility of his language sinks into the gutter. Remember what George Orwell tells us about the potential for harm in the misuse of political language.
Misused, such language offers a “defense of the indefensible” and is “designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and give an appearance of solidity to pure wind.” That is what most politicians’ language has sunk to when it comes to Israel/Palestine.
That this should go on “forever,” as the President claims, is just hyperbole. Consider the fact that a recent CIA report calls into question the Zionist state’s ability to last for more than another twenty years.
No, the bad smell coming from Israel denotes internal socio-political rot, as well as rotten tactics toward non-Jewish inhabitants. Sooner or later everyone possessing a humane conscience, to say nothing of a functioning honest nose, will refuse to have anything to do with this “apartheid-like” state.
Lawrence Davidson is a history professor at West Chester University in Pennsylvania. He is the author of Foreign Policy Inc.: Privatizing America’s National Interest; America’s Palestine: Popular and Official Perceptions from Balfour to Israeli Statehood; and Islamic Fundamentalism.