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Israel’s cult of victimhood - Jonathan Cook
Published Wednesday 09/06/2010 (updated) 10/06/2010 15:47
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Why are Israelis so indignant at the international outrage that has greeted their country’s lethal attack last week on a flotilla of civilian ships taking aid to Gaza?

Israelis have not responded in any of the ways we might have expected. There has been little soul-searching about the morality, let alone legality, of soldiers invading ships in international waters and killing civilians. In the main, Israelis have not been interested in asking tough questions of their political and military leaders about why the incident was handled so badly. And only a few commentators appear concerned about the diplomatic fall-out.

Instead, Israelis are engaged in a Kafkaesque conversation in which the military attack on the civilian ships is characterized as a legitimate "act of self-defense," as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called it, and the killing of nine aid activists is transformed into an attempted “lynching of our soldiers” by terrorists.

Benny Begin, a government minister whose famous father, Menachem, became an Israeli prime minister after being what today would be called a terrorist as the leader of the notorious Irgun militia, told BBC World TV that the commandos had been viciously assaulted after "arriving almost barefoot." Ynet, Israel’s most popular news website, meanwhile, reported that the commandos had been "ambushed."

This strange discourse can only be deciphered if we understand the two apparently contradictory themes that have come to dominate the emotional landscape of Israel. The first is a trenchant belief that Israel exists to realize Jewish power; the second is an equally strong sense that Israel embodies the Jewish people’s collective experience as the eternal victims of history.

Israelis are not entirely unaware of this paradoxical state of mind, sometimes referring to it as the “shooting and crying” syndrome.

It is the reason, for example, that most believe their army is the "most moral in the world." The “soldier as victim” has been given dramatic form in Gilad Shalit, the “innocent” soldier held by Hamas for the past four years who, when he was captured, was enforcing Israel’s illegal occupation of Gaza.

One commentator in Israel’s Haaretz newspaper summed up the feelings of Israelis brought to the fore by the flotilla episode as the
"helplessness of a poor lonely victim, confronting the rage of a lynch mob and frantically realizing that these are his last moments." This "psychosis," as he called it, is not surprising: it derives from the sanctified place of the Holocaust in the Israeli education system.

The Holocaust’s lesson for most Israelis is not a universal one that might inspire them to oppose racism, or fanatical dictators or the bullying herd mentality that can all too quickly grip nations, or even state-sponsored genocide.

Instead, Israelis have been taught to see in the Holocaust a different message: that the world is plagued by a unique and ineradicable hatred of Jews, and that the only safety for the Jewish people is to be found in the creation of a super-power Jewish state that answers to no one. Put bluntly, Israel’s motto is: only Jewish power can prevent Jewish victimhood.

That is why Israel acquired a nuclear weapon as fast it could, and why it is now marshaling every effort to stop any other state in the region from breaking its nuclear monopoly. It is also why the Israeli program’s sole whistle-blower, Mordechai Vanunu, is a pariah 24 years after committing his "offense." Six years on from his release to a form of loose house arrest, his hounding by the authorities -- he was jailed again last month for talking to foreigners -- has attracted absolutely no interest or sympathy in Israel.

If Vanunu’s continuing abuse highlights Israel’s oppressive desire for Jewish power, Israelis’ self-righteousness about their navy’s attack on the Gaza flotilla reveals the flip side of this psychosis.

The angry demonstrations sweeping the country against the world’s denunciations; the calls to revoke the citizenship of the Israeli Arab MP on board -- or worse, to execute her -- for treason; and the local media’s endless recycling of the soldiers’ testimonies of being “bullied” by the activists demonstrate the desperate need of Israelis to justify every injustice or atrocity while clinging to the illusion of victimhood.

The lessons imbibed from this episode -- like the lessons Israelis learned from the Goldstone report last year into the war crimes committed during Israel’s attack on Gaza, or the international criticisms of the massive firepower unleashed on Lebanon before that -- are the same: that the world hates us, and that we are alone.

If the confrontation with the activists on the flotilla has proved to Israelis that the unarmed passengers were really terrorists, the world’s refusal to stay quiet has confirmed what Israelis already knew: that, deep down, non-Jews are all really anti-Semites.

Meanwhile, the lesson the rest of us need to draw from the deadly commando raid is that the world can no longer afford to indulge these delusions.

Jonathan Cook is a writer and journalist based in Nazareth, Israel. A version of this article appeared in The National published in Abu Dhabi. It is reprinted here with the author's permission

1 ) Anna Morel / USA
09/06/2010 20:59
Any reasonable person knows, as Israeli leaders knew, that casualties would only serve enemy interests!!

So, why did Israel send her sons to kill or even harm the “activists”?
Answer: SHE DID NOT!!

So, how did the “activists” end up dead or injured?
Answer: Soldiers were forced to choose –Die or Defend Yourself!!

Israel’s nuclear situation is the same!
Arab states forced Israel to choose: National Death or Self-defense!!

2 ) Jerrold Cohen / USA
10/06/2010 03:17
There is more than a cult of victimhood. Israel is entrenched in paranoid psychopathy. It commits unspeakable acts against innocent people and then paints these victims in a series of lies as terrorists. I think Israel has done this so long that it can't tell a lie from the truth, and that means its actions in its "defense" are bound to be psychopathic. Its lying propaganda is said with such sincerity and innocence that most in the United States believe it.

3 ) Niva dos Santos / Brazil
10/06/2010 08:09
Haill mr. Jonathan! Good points. No more zions crimes hiden under the huge holocaust umbrella. If Israel was alone, without USA and some europeans countries support (that let jews die in the hands of nazi-germans) probably will be dead! The zions liar machine must be disassemble. The worst jews enemy it's not arabs countries, but the zion "state".

4 ) Philip Toal / Ireland
10/06/2010 11:21
This bunker mindset of the Israeli population is expanded in their "Biblical" intent of stealing land and eliminating people (who had nothing to do with the atrocities carried out by Europeans). When the true historical facts are overshadowed by biblical real estate agents, it`s no wonder Israel finds full support among the rising christian right in the U.S, let alone AIPAC.

5 ) Anna Morel / USA
10/06/2010 16:15
Each side has their “Spin” on what happened & who struck the first blow, and the “facts” from these perspectives will probably never be reconciled.

However, one thing is certain, that Israel did NOT fire on the “Flotilla”.
If she had, the vessel would be resting on the bottom and NOT in port!

Logical people know, as Israel knew, that casualties would only serve enemies interests.

So why did Israel send her sons to harm the activists, before even boarding?
Answer: She did NOT!

6 ) Maureen / Australia
10/06/2010 22:51
#5 Anna Morel. "So why did Israel send her sons to harm the activists, before even boarding?" Here is another question for you Anna, why did the Israeli navy attack the peace flotilla in international waters, regardless of the fact, during preparatory discussions for the "raid," its Foreign Ministry advised to wait until the flotilla was within 20 miles of the Israeli coast? (ref. Haaretz 10 June 2010 "Foreign Ministry warned Israel Navy not to raid Gaza flotilla in international waters.")

7 ) Moll / Boibarek
11/06/2010 03:58
This is Amir writing you after reading what you wrote. It was my unit and my friends who were on the ship. My commander was badly injured as a result of the "pacifists" violence. I want to tell you how he was injured. The story shows just how horrible and inhuman were these so-called activists. My commander was the first soldier who rappelled down from the helicopter to the ship. When he touched ground, he got hit in the head with a pole and stabbed in the stomach with a knife. When he drew o

8 ) Anna Morel / USA
11/06/2010 14:28
Maureen, you didn't answer my question:
"Why did Israel send her sons to harm the activists, before even boarding?"
(She clearly knew that it would only serve enemy interests!)

I heard that Gaza was planning to send many vessels out to meet the flotilla, so maybe that is the reason for boarding further offshore!
Would the incident within 20 miles made a difference to you?

Amir, please give us more 1st hand info!!
Were pictures faked, Israelis aided, etc...

9 ) Terry / Sweden
11/06/2010 17:36
Moll, it is documented that 9 activists were killed, totally with 30 bullets. Still you want to profess that the Israeli terrorists of IDF were victims. How disgusting.

11/06/2010 18:34
Tarik you lying creep, it's also documented that the 9 activists didn't board with peaceful intentions in mind, and it really pathetic that you're trying to portray them for other than what they really were, read all about it

'Marmara' captain: I opposed violence
06/11/2010 13:22
Report:Crew tried to stop IHH activists' violence before raid.

11 ) Maureen / Australia
11/06/2010 22:36
#8 Anna Morel. Why would the Israeli Junta send its bully boys to attack peace activists in international waters, in the dark and during Islamic prayers - because Israel is a terrorist state who cares not for its citizen (or international law) who are merely born and bred and used as cannon fodder, to prop up an illegal Zionist occupation of Palestine.

12 ) Anna Morel / USA
12/06/2010 22:13
Maureen, unless you're as cowardly as Sherezade, answer the question:
"Why did Israel send her sons to harm the activists, before even boarding?"
Clearly, she knew that harming them would only serve enemy interests!

Gazan civilians deserve your sympathy & Israel deserves your unbiased logic.
Without the Arab symapthy, logic will lead you to conclude that the Turks wanted the casualties!

Evening prayers are sunset and bedtime.
More likely those prayers were before a planned death!

13 ) Maureen / Australia
13/06/2010 01:27
#12 Anna Morel. "Why did Israel send her sons to harm the activists, before even boarding?" Do you recall Israel's murderous "Cast Lead" when bombs were dropped from fighter jets indiscriminately, killing hundreds of innocent children, causing their small bodies to burn and dismember? The Israeli bombing raids were carried out against a defenseless population in Gaza, BEFORE "her sons" (the cowards that they are) entered into Gaza, vandalizing and killing more innocents carrying white flags!

14 ) Anna Morel / USA
13/06/2010 06:22
What you accuse Israel of would have been
1- much easier militarily than what she did and
2- impossible for her from a humanitarian perspective!!

Why do terrorist flee, jump from cars, & hide at the sound of jets,
if Israeli attacks are so indiscriminate?

Why would Hamas launch site be next to schools, hospitals, & UN compounds if Israeli attacks are so indiscriminate?

In war bad things happen, but far fewer civilians would be injured if Hamas were NOT do exactly this!!

15 ) Maureen / Australia
13/06/2010 11:26
#14 Anna Morel. "In war bad things happen..." It wasn't a war played on a level playing field, Anna! It was, and continues to be a Holocaust in Gaza, carried out by Zionazis. Surely even you can imagine what Israel would do if the world spotlight was not its belligerent occupation?

16 ) William / USA
15/06/2010 11:07
As usual, Mr. Cook's assessment of the situation is right on target. I am a regular visitor to his website.

It never fails to turn my stomach everytime Israel committs yet another war crime or some other atrocity only to then blame it on their victim--it's obscene.

But thanks to the access to information the internet provides, the rest of the world is finally learning the Truth about Israel.

Truth Out!

17 ) Anna Morel / USA
17/06/2010 17:44
You are na?ve about war being “played on a level playing field”!
Was the playing field level, when Egyptians tanks swarmed Israeli farming villages in 1948? Do Arabs not “Oil-arm-twist” other nations because Israel can not do the same?
In Arab states, morality may be optional, but not in Israel!

Does Mr Cook’s site also show Hamas rockets being launched right next to UN compounds AND SCHOOLS? Does it show Hamas fighters hiding behind civilians AND IN HOSPTIAL BASEMENTS

18 ) Maureen / Australia
20/06/2010 04:56
#17 Anna Morel. "Oil-arm-twist," Israel can't do the same Anna, because God didn't lead 'his people' to an oil rich land, remember? : ) Now, speaking of oil, Uncle Sam is just about drowning in it... after all that bombing and invading Iraq, Uncle Sam is experiencing Kama, wouldn't you say?
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