Improper not to hate

Politics is a visceral business; the most important political matters are usually decided on no more solid basis than people’s gut feelings. This has been the norm throughout the centuries that most people cannot explain their political views; they just do not see any reason why they should have proper explanations for their political preferences. They adhere to their views just so, without having fully worked out their political positions.

Even those who claim to have decided where they stand on every political issue after years of deliberation, cannot explain away the fact that a blind leap of faith had to be made at some point during that deliberative process. That blind leap of faith is dictated by a certain instinct or gut feeling which is always in the process of being formed and shaped. That is why politics always treads on someone’s toes; and emotions, sentiments and longings – all those factors that becloud reason – bear heavily on it. As the Scottish philosopher David Hume famously said, we are slaves to our passions.

The shaping of these passions, or gut feeling as we called it at the beginning, takes the course of an individual’s entire life. Politicians understand this very well; at least those worthy of the label do. That is why, the easier way to get to power has always been by telling people what they would like to hear, instead of by telling them what they ought to hear. The skillful politician, like the skillful lawyer, keeps things vague enough to preserve himself for contingencies.

Most are familiar enough with those circuses we call elections which affect little change, if at all. I was only referring to what are generally called elections, not necessarily to those particularly fascinating ones only we Ethiopians insist on calling elections. Besides, because we leave no constituency to any chance, we should worry very little about such vagaries as elections. Nevertheless, in those countries that hold those events regularly, even in a transparent manner we might add, the people’s lives rarely change for the better. But the point is: even if it is more obvious during election season, that is, for those countries that do have proper elections, politicians are always capitalizing on people’s passions, all in the name of democracy. Here we make a brief digression.

Abraham Lincoln in his Gettysburg Address, described democracy as government of the people, by the people, for the people. But whatever democracy is, popular decisions are often mistaken for democratic ones. Many Romans hailed Julius Caesar when he led an army across the Rubicon River “to restore order”. They supported him knowing full well crossing the Rubicon in the direction of Rome at the head of an armed legion was the ultimate act of rebellion against Roman law, the very law that guaranteed their rights and what Caesar was undermining despite his claims to the contrary. (By the way, that is where the expression “to cross the Rubicon” comes from: to cross the Rubicon was to declare war on Rome, a point from which there is no returning.)

And people always forget Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini were both extremely popular leaders among their people; and in the case of Hitler, he was given his mandate by the German people the majority of whom voted in a fully democratic election to make him their chancellor. The main point is: politicians always prey on the gullible; that is what politics is. I would like to give an example closer to home. Mind you, this one has to do with the gullibility of the people, and naturally, it has nothing to do with democratic elections:

If you have the opportunity to speak to just anyone who had served in the previous regime’s military, you will rarely hear any criticism of the former leader; in fact, you can expect to hear nothing but adulation. Now, commonsense would dictate: at the very least, people would make a man responsible for every one of their sufferings an object of vilification, but the opposite happens to be true. He sent his soldiers to die, and to lose their limbs, and they loved him for it. It could be hate for the current rule, but, whatever the circumstances, it is well-nigh impossible to explain any admiration for such a man as rational, especially when it is coming from one of his principal victims – his own army. This should give us some clarity: most allow themselves to be ruled by just anything under the sun, except reason.

(I made the intentional choice of beating a dead horse, the fallen military regime, instead of broadsiding rulers from the current government. That is because it is more audacious to confront the authorities while within their reach, than when outside of it. Take from this what you will.)

Now, because politics is more about granting power to the few than it is about meeting the demands of the general population, individuals, or politicians rather, play unwarranted roles. (I am only describing what is known to be the case so far and not what circumstances should resemble in an idealized future.) And as those who lack delicacy in political matters (because they are simple enough or because they are decent enough) will readily admit, there are usually no reasons for liking or hating some politician over another except that people just do: some we admire with every part of our being while others disgust every part of our nature.

Well, that is generally true, but I daresay there are more reasons than one to hate one Israeli politician who some affectionately (or is it irresponsibly?) call Bibi. I will also call him that, not because of my affection for him, but for the sake of brevity. I will try – I can only try – to do with Bibi, what Christopher Hitchens so ably did with the war criminal Henry Kissinger; I will list some of his most recent offenses against sensibility.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, or Bibi, was a hero of the Israeli Defense Forces before he became a hero of the rightwing crazies who go by name of the Likud Party. His leadership in lunatic circles may not be enough reason to hold him in contempt; but the following reasons just might:

Bibi has always went out of his way to degrade and humiliate the Palestinian people: those living abroad, as well as those he forced to live as if they were living abroad in their own country. It is not enough he kills their women and children, but he also insists they are all “Iranian goons”. He actually used those very words when he addressed the United States Congress in 2015; he used them in direct reference to the more than two-thousand people his government had killed in military operations in Gaza in 2014.

That is not to mention the sadistic efforts at starving the Palestinian people as was evidenced in Bibi’s recent decision to withhold tax revenues from the Palestinian Authorities. (It is really a sad arrangement that the Israeli government collects the taxes for the PA.)

Bibi continues to demolish Palestinian homes in the occupied territories to make way for Jewish settlers. He also demolishes, as a retaliatory measure, the family homes of Palestinians who oppose Israeli occupation. It is interesting to note, due to the 1970 Knesset Election Law, Israelis in the occupied territories – illegal squatters really – are allowed to vote while Arabs who are citizens of Israel are systematically discouraged, from doing so. The law was passed before Bibi’s time, but he is the current standard-bearer of the hateful spirit that law represented. Just a while ago, he was on the election circuit, and he made sure to warn all of Israel, “Arab voters are coming out in droves to the polls”.

Bibi has engaged in the systematic indoctrination of Israeli youth by excluding non-Jewish art from schools and public venues. Just recently, he decided to ban all funding for works of art that did not espouse the Jewish character of the state. (Albert Einstein was asked to become the first president of the Jewish state but he said no because he was afraid such a state would never be secular – a genius indeed.)

Moreover, Bibi has ordered all non-governmental organizations with foreign sources of income to label themselves as foreign agents, something Vladimir Putin started doing some years ago. Both governments disguise this as a measure to insure transparency, when in fact, it is nothing but an attempt to stifle dissent. Bibi was nice enough to expand this measure to include members of the press as well.

And most recently, Bibi’s household was under investigation by an Israeli court which found that his wife, Sara, had “abused, violated, and bullied her employees” and must pay close to forty-thousand dollars in compensation.

There is an old song that goes: “If loving you is wrong, I don’t want to be right.” Well, Bibi, if loving you is right, I just want to be wrong.