Nineteenth-century novelist and editor of Le Figaro Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr might not be the name which instantly crops up when considering famous French literati, but he is paradoxically ever-relevant to our Israeli reality. Why? Because in January 1849 he observed in his satirical monthly Les Guêpes that “plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.”
The English adaptation of his remark is “the more things change, the more they stay the same.”
This truism is nothing less than invaluable for understanding the news which keep mercilessly bombarding us even in the midst of what’s supposed to be the sweltering summertime’s silly season. Each new headlines appear to overshadow the previous sensation. But should we be shocked in the first place? Or are we being cleverly manipulated by agenda-merchants?
If we took a leaf out of Karr’s journal, we wouldn’t have been surprised by any recent events. Insight fortified by hindsight would have steeled us against attempts to mess with our minds.
Take the sad case of Moshe Silman’s self-immolation. There are various psychiatric predispositions to dramatic suicide by fire. This has become a not uncommon form of radical political protest.
On August 17, 2005, Yelena Bosinova, 54, left her trailer home in Kedumim for the last time. It was two days after Ariel Sharon had kick-started his disastrous disengagement folly. Yelena wanted to reach Gush Katif to express solidarity with the Jewish residents, whose expulsion was then starting. But she was stopped at a police roadblock near Netivot. She couldn’t continue nor get over the fact that the Kadima-led government was callously indifferent to dissent.
Believing that she’d make it impossible to ignore anti-disengagement protests, she set herself on fire. It took her nine days to die.
But the more profound tragedy perhaps was that the Left-dominated media which dictates our mainstream’s preoccupations couldn’t care less. Bosinova barely got mention and was largely dismissed as an oddball, if not a certifiable nutcase. Why, was the inference, would any normal person make the ultimate sacrifice for some obscure altruistic cause?
Bottom line – no one remembers her. It’s as if she never existed and as if her horrific act never happened. Perhaps we only remember those whom opinion-molders have a vested interest in promoting.
Thus Silman’s horrific act was presented to unsuspecting news consumers as unprecedented, as a defining moment of monumental proportions, as the outcome of dreadful despair that might finally bring down the government which the media moguls abhor.
Both Bosinova and Silman inspired copycats, but in stark contrast to the dismissive attitude toward her, there were no carping comments about his mental health. Unlike her, he elicited maudlin sympathy, which was played to the hilt. Here the inference was that the ultimate sacrifice isn’t unreasonable for non-altruistic financial grievances.
The identical anti-Netanyahu ardor came into play as Kadima began to ignominiously disintegrate. No emphasis was placed on its origins as the dishonorable illegitimate product of the machinations of Sharon and his coterie of self-serving cohorts. Incredibly, Kadima was lamented as the luckless casualty of another “corrupt Netanyahu scam.”
But this too was a mere rerun. Earlier, when Kadima headliner Shaul Mofaz took his party out of the coalition a scant 10 weeks after he entered it, he afforded another opportunity to sock it to the prime minister whom bias-disseminators love to hate.
As they did with Silman, they presented Mofaz too as Bibi’s hapless victim. The villain of the piece was the prime minister, who couldn’t in all fairness be expected to commit political suicide by spurning all his allies just to further Mofaz’s transparent prestige-enhancement ploys.
Mofaz’s belated loathing for the Tal Law was furthermore disingenuous, considering that the very Kadima administration in which he featured prominently had in 2007 extended it, well after the legislation’s shortcomings were all too evident.
Forgotten was the fact that Mofaz joined the government almost immediately after Netanyahu opted for early elections, as early as September 4. To postpone Elections Day Mofaz climbed on the coalition bandwagon but scrambled right down as soon as the September danger dissipated. It served the distortionist cause better to present Mofaz’s latest flip-flop as born of desperation. This ruled out highlighting the fact that Mofaz actually reverted to type, that his about-turns are hardly unexpected or new.
When Sharon broke away from the Likud to found Kadima, Mofaz in a righteous pose sent out letters to all party central committee members assuring them that he won’t take the expedient course because “you don’t leave home.” But before the mailman managed to deliver the envelopes, Mofaz had expediently left home.
That was just the first in a long inventory of embarrassing slip-ups and abrupt zigzags. Mofaz won Kadima’s top slot only to be dragged against his will, his bravado notwithstanding, to new elections. He next called Netanyahu a liar and vowed vehemently never to enter a Bibi-led coalition. So what if, as we were reading his lips, Mofaz deftly performed a volte-face and linked his fortunes to Bibi’s (for the short haul)? His position-reversals were always to be anticipated. Nothing new. The more things change….
The Ariel University kerfuffle constitutes yet another example of cynically induced amnesia. Here too was a pretext to hammer the government. This time the veteran universities, some smaller and more limited in scope than Ariel, posed as Netanyahu’s victims.
If Ariel were recognized for exactly what it is – a university – they, the older institutions, would be denied budgets. We all know how cash-strapped they already are (their wastefulness aside). Yet another university would make them so much worse off.
The fact that Ariel has a student body of 13,000 didn’t quite matter. The premise seemed to be that these students needn’t be considered or catered for, regardless of the courses they take, research they do or degrees they earn. Some are less desirable than others, especially if the objectionable sorts attend class just beyond the Green Line. The fact that Ariel looms large in the Settlements Bloc blueprint, and is slated to remain Israeli under any deal, couldn’t mitigate the intuitive antagonism.
However, for the sake of historical accuracy it must be noted that although Ariel is Israel’s first outside-the-Green-Line university, this story too isn’t strictly-speaking new.
Indeed, it’s repeated almost compulsively each time a new university appears on Israel’s map (even when incontrovertibly inside that hallowed Green Line).
Jerusalem’s Hebrew University threw a terrifying temper tantrum throughout most of the1960s and into the early Seventies –for almost an entire envy-driven decade when Tel Aviv University took off. Israel, the argument was shouted indignantly from every available lectern, didn’t need any more universities.
At the time, Hebrew U had near-exclusivity, fearing no competition from the engineers of the Technion, the religious then-diminutive Bar-Ilan and even smaller Weizmann Institute (which offers no undergraduate degrees).
But secular, ambitious and comprehensive TAU signified a fierce threat and consequently drew heavy fire from its infancy. No dirty trick was spared either. No holds were barred. The case put forth most stridently and recurrently was that the upstart interloper would devour budgets that could otherwise go to the truly deserving halls of academe….
Sound familiar? It should.
But the been-there-heard-that impression is hardly limited to our own domestic shenanigans. What-was is apparently what-is elsewhere too. That must be why the US-sponsored Global Counterterrorism Forum (GCTF) not only excludes Israel from its deliberations but assiduously refrains from counting Israelis among victims of terrorism.
There’s a perverse logic here. It follows the old Russian adage that “there’s something disagreeable about Jews because they’re always associated with unpleasant things like pogroms.” Any connection to Israel in any context is sure to sour the Obama administration’s best-laid plans to appease the Islamic world and pretend that the progenitors of terror can be reliably recruited to combat it.
There’s no room for input from Israel which has amassed more than a little expertise in counterterrorism, while there’s active courting of such outstanding Wahabi strongholds as Saudi Arabia which has amassed more than a little expertise in exporting terror. It, after all, gave the world Osama bin Laden, most of the 9/11 perpetrators and lots more of that ilk.
It’s unrealistic to expect much from the GCTF, hyped as “a major initiative” when Obama’s Secretary of State Hillary Clinton launched it last September. It was programmed from the get-go to be Judenrein.
A GCTF “high-level” conference on terrorism’s targets in Spain earlier this month omitted mention of Israelis. Worse yet, it wasn’t merely the 11 Muslim states within the 30-member forum who made-believe we don’t exist. Maria Otero, US undersecretary of state for civilian security, democracy and human rights, speechified at length about “victims of terrorism,” but, alas, didn’t allude to Israelis.
Are we surprised? Hardly. We’re used to it. From way back.
For instance, in 2005, while condemning global terrorism, Pope Benedict XVI lamented bloodshed in Britain, Egypt, and Turkey. For some reason, Israel wasn’t listed on his roll call. That predictably raised a few eyebrows and the pope was reportedly miffed because we dared take offense.
Subsequent attempts to whitewash the oversight only made matters worse. The Vatican contended that Benedict cited only “recent incidents.” Nonetheless, a suicide bombing in Netanya on July 11, 2005, came after the July 7 targeting of London’s mass transit passengers and the human toll in Netanya was greater than that of the Turkish outrage which followed later.
And lest any of us dismiss this as an isolated glitch, the pope repeated it this week when in his traditional Sunday blessing he expounded on his “deep shock” at the “senseless violence” in Aurora, Colorado, but made no reference to the slaying of Israeli tourists little over a day earlier in Burgas, Bulgaria.
No matter. We get the point. Our blood tends to be invisible for the pope and Otero too.
This brings us to the immortal lyrics crooned by Jon Bon Jovi:
The new improved tomorrow isn’t what it used to be.
Yesterday keeps comin’ ’round, it’s just reality.
It’s the same damn song with a different melody…
You know the more things change
The more they stay the same.
Never and forever
Just keep comin’ back again.