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August 30, 2015 6:20 am

The Return of Bibi Derangement Syndrome

avatar by Ben Cohen / JNS.org

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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Photo: GPO.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Photo: GPO.

JNS.org – My favorite acronym, at least for this year, was coined by historian Ronald Radosh in his PJ Media column back in March. The initials are BDS – not “Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions,” but “Bibi Derangement Syndrome.”

Radosh came up with that gem in an examination of the White House’s deliberate distortion of comments that Israel’s Prime Minister, Benjamin “Bibi” Netanyahu, made concerning the two-state solution during his most recent election campaign. By promoting the deceit that Netanyahu had reversed his long-held position in favor of a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the White House made sure that its vendetta against the prime minister was leapt on once more by media outlets that have garnered an enormous amount of fun from reporting the troughs and peaks of the Obama-Netanyahu relationship.

This “BDS” has broken out again, this time in relation to the debate about the nuclear deal agreed with Iran in Vienna in July. With Congress readying itself for a vote of approval, partisans of the deal are advancing two curiously related positions. On the one hand, you have centrist Democrats and leading figures in the Jewish establishment arguing that the deal shields Israel from the threat of an Iranian nuclear weapon – an argument aimed at those predisposed to believe that American Jews are better placed than Israel’s elected government when it comes to assessing Israel’s core security requirements. On the other hand, you have progressive activist groups like MoveOn promoting the line that Israel and its supporters in Congress and the media are dragging America into another Middle Eastern war – an argument that will warm the hearts of Israel’s adversaries, who tar opponents of the deal as warmongers and Israeli agents.

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What unites these positions is Bibi Derangement Syndrome. Both of these arguments are founded not so much upon a dislike of Netanyahu as on a fearful detestation of him. Like a cross between a Bond villain and a diva, he is seen as self-serving, dishonest, unreliable, fanatical, and unable to grasp what is ultimately good for him and his nation. (One might easily forget that Netanyahu scored a decisive victory in a 2015 election that witnessed a 72 percent voter turnout.)

A good example of the ostensibly pro-Israel strain of Bibi Derangement Syndrome is the full-page advertisement published in the New York Timesthis month by a resolutely establishment group of Jewish leaders. Many of the signatures raised eyebrows and spoke to the divisions over the Iran deal not simply in the Jewish community as a whole, but inside its most storied organizations. For example, while the American Jewish Committee (AJC) has come out firmly against the deal, three of its former presidents put their names on the ad.

Basing themselves on the comments of the former Head of the Shin Bet and Commander-in-Chief of the Israeli Navy Ami Ayalon in support of the deal, these luminaries then gave us additional reasons to the same. Assuring us of their “everlasting” commitment to Israel, they went on to recycle the main talking points of the White House on the deal, including the phrase deployed by President Barack Obama himself concerning the “most intrusive inspections regime ever negotiated” – not a view that is universally shared, by the way, among arms control experts. Later that week, the Associated Press broke the story that, under the terms of a side agreement negotiated by the Iranian regime and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) that has still not been provided to Congress, Iran would carry out its own inspections of the Parchin site.

Why are these Jewish leaders so adamant, as the ad puts it, that “this deal is the best available option to halt Iran’s nuclear weapons program?” If they accept that we are, indeed, dealing with a “nuclear weapons program,” then they should remember that the Iranians have always insisted their nuclear program is only civilian in nature. By inadvertently reminding us of Tehran’s nuclear grand deception in the wording of the ad, these leaders raise the question of how on earth they can publicly endorse an inspections regime that rules out 24/7 access and enables all sorts of delaying maneuvers.

Citing an Israeli security official like Ayalon doesn’t persuade either. In a superb article for Commentary debunking journalist JJ Goldberg’s claim that Netanyahu is increasingly out of sync with Israel’s own intelligence services, Martin Kramer quoted the Israeli journalist Yossi Melman as saying that no experts in Israel’s military and intelligence sectors regarded the deal as “positive.” Melman also reported a near universal consensus that a better deal could have been negotiated.

But because of their shared “BDS” – the aforementioned Bibi Derangement Syndrome manifested in their conviction that Netanyahu’s toxicity demands appropriately visible distancing from him – these Jewish leaders aren’t urging a better deal. They’re telling us to accept this one. As for their commitment to Israel, it is not, apparently, undermined by their advocacy of a deal that the vast majority of actual Israelis reject.

What of the anti-Israel “BDS” argument? Here, Netanyahu becomes the personification of Israel. Through the medium of Netanyahu, Israel resists concessions to the Palestinians and exposes America to military risk through its rejection of Iran’s nuclear capability. Thus Netanyahu emerges as the warmonger’s prophet, embracing the full spectrum from Senator Chuck Schumer to the Weekly Standard magazine. This campaign has shown many times how easily it absorbs anti-Semitic canards like the “dual loyalty” smear beloved of the National Iranian American Council (NIAC) and its ally J Street, neither of which realize the hypocrisy of questioning the loyalty of Jewish Americans while lobbying on behalf of a regime whose slogan is “Death to America.”

In my view, this latter camp is a lost cause. The tough questions remain, though, for those friends of Israel who endorse the deal. They need to ask themselves whether their distaste for Netanyahu has clouded their collective judgment. They need to examine why they ostentatiously endorsed the deal instead of staying silent, given their explicitly declared doubts about it. They need to do some soul searching over what the consequences will be for Israel if they are wrong. It’s the right time of our year to be doing so.

Ben Cohen, senior editor of TheTower.org & The Tower Magazine, writes a weekly column for JNS.org on Jewish affairs and Middle Eastern politics. His writings have been published in Commentary, the New York Post, Haaretz, The Wall Street Journal, and many other publications. He is the author of “Some of My Best Friends: A Journey Through Twenty-First Century Antisemitism” (Edition Critic, 2014).  

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  • Paul

    Most of your article is very good and t the point. It is unfortunate that you call Bibi’s pre-election two-state announcement a deceit. It was not a deceit, it was a very astute and extremely successful act: Bennet’s right wing party had a large following because they did and still do oppose the two-state solution. By declaring he will not allow a two-state solution on his shift, bibi won away 7 mandate from Bennet’s party. and two days after the elections, he said he didn’t mean it.
    this makes Bibi a tricky-dicky politician who is prepared to do Israel tremendous political damage to gain a few more mandates by simply lying – twice ? He tricked those voters who left Bennet for bibi based on his statement, and then lied about what he really intended.
    Bibi is indeed fighting hard (but really unsuccessfully) against the Iran deal, but he IS detested for his dishonesty by anyone who really expects their political leaders to adhere to higher standards of honesty and integrity.

  • Paul

    In 15 years time, today’s US children will face the prospect of the people who chant”Death to America” having ICBM-mounted nuclear missiles – allowed by this deal.

  • Prime Minister Netanyahu is doing what any reasonable leader would do, and that is to protect his nation from a sworn enemy. Iran will remain a threat to Israel and Western Civilization, until a credible use force is deployed against Iran’s nuclear installations.

  • I never give up hope that no matter how argumentive words poeple say or plans, I believe that The AllMighty above ALL, Will destroy all evils doing, & scatter all evils thoughts. We are a strong Nations, with a very strong belief; we will always stand TALL, we have the stronger Power of them All, and that Everlasting Power will always stand by US. The Power of the ALLMIGHTY HASHEM, Who created the whole world, Has the ultimates Power to distroy It, if HE Wish. We are about to welcome a 5776 NEW YEAR, I honestly wish this coming New ROSH HASHANA, Wil Be SHALOM, & will bring PEACE to ALL THE WORLD. No more hate, no more greed, no more anticimitism, no body last forever, We are only a visitors on this beautiful Lands, just look around you, take long deep breath, do not waist your precious times on evils doing, trust me, it is not worst it, I hope & pray that somehow one day you, & I will come to see the Light together, Amen!

  • Yale

    It is useful to recognize that this form of “BDS” — Bibi Derangement Syndrome — began when Netanyahu freed the Israeli economy from the shackles of socialism, leading Israel to become “The Start-up Nation”. This was a demonstration of the falsity of socialism so profound that no socialist could fail to recognize that it demonstrated that their ideology was false. How could they remain loyal to the “true faith”? By demonizing Netanyahu.

    Netanyahu’s career has been one in which he has serially demonstrated the falsity of several dearly-held beliefs of the Left, leading them to become ever more radicalized, ever more anti-Israel, ever more anti-Semitic, and ever more detached from reality.

    As a clear Leftist, Obama’s career reflects this same growing detachment from reality. The “deal” with Iran, which guarantees a nuclear war, is being sold as the only alternative to war. He is delusional. Congress and the American people had better not be.

    • Paul

      Under Bibi’s benevolent economic action, there are now more poor people in Israel than ever before. The socialism you bash put people’s needs first.

  • judithg

    they hate Israel.they hate Netanyahu. they hate Jews. or, they hate being Jews. like an infected cyst that bursts forth with its foul putrid odor we get the stench of old canards and blood libels.

  • Theodore L. Crawford

    …and I’m forced to conclude that you’ll be thanking the Ayatollah for the mushroom clouds over Isr… I mean, Palestine(PC!).

  • jack shnaier

    The truth of the matter is that many American & European leaders are licking their lips on the deal.They are looking at increased trade with Iran & as a side effect they will get rid of those pesky ISRAELI jEWS should Iran decide to send Nuclear Warhead Rockets & wipe them & the rest of the Arab population on the east coast of the Meditteranean Sea. I consider the J street & its affiliate movements as Jewish Anti Semites.They are a disgrace to the fundamentals of JUDAISM.

  • Yoel Nitzarim

    In this month of Elul leading to the month of Tishrei, self-reflection, soul-searching, and conscience sifting should be engaged in by the Jewish people over all,; yet I would hope that people of reason, heart, and soul of every religious persuasion as well as those of no religious persuasion give sincere, sober, perspicacious thought to this Iran deal; for it will affect human affairs globally. Blaming one man, Prime Minister of Israel Benjamin Netanyahu, for the convoluted rhetoric of this deal and the potential disastrous unintended consequences of its effects on societies throughout the entire world seems beyond ludicrous. Every member of Congress must examine the content of the deal in the utmost detail, the he or she must look at the scope of humanity that the decision to either accept the deal or reject it will invoke upon individuals comprising the length, breadth, and depth of humanity before finally arriving at a justified conclusion. All of the discussion aside, the individual Congressperson’s conscience is the crucible in which this deal will be tweaked, teased out, and ultimately resolved one way or the other.

  • ART

    One Must remember and not lose sight of the fact that Obama is struggling to get 33% of the Senate to back his treaty. Inother words the majority of the Senate 60%+ opposes the treaty. Obama is signing a treaty called an understanding that in reality has no teeth and is not binding on any future administration, nor of course on the iranians

  • Mike P

    To “No BS” Jstreet-er,

    1) A single party winning 25% of the popular vote in Israel is actually pretty high by Israeli standards

    2) 78% of Israeli Jews oppose the Iran deal, including the head of the successor to the Labor Party, Yitchak Herzog

    3) J Street is an Israel-hating organization that also has as members some useful idiots who do not hate Israel. J Street was seed-funded by radical leftist, anti-Israel, George Soros, and is led by former Saudi lobbyist Jeremy Ben Ami

  • gsr

    Bibi is the biggest hypocrite ever. He arms terrorist kurds and keep nukes, while talking against both. He demands American welfare aid while bashing the American president. If Jews don’t want the dreaded ant-isemitism, they shouldn’t support such stupid people and actions.

  • “By promoting the deceit that Netanyahu had reversed his long-held position in favor of a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict..”

    Long held position? When and where did he express this position before 2009? You should know better. Hard not to conclude that you are trying to misinform.

    “One might easily forget that Netanyahu scored a decisive victory in a 2015 election that witnessed a 72 percent voter turnout.”

    Decisive? Likud won less than 1 in 4 voters! Do you really think so little of your readers to think they don’t know or won’t check?

    The gig is up. The Iran deal is a done deal and AIPAC have been shown to be politically impotent. Far from hating on Bibi, I thank him.

    Oh, and everytime people like you smear J Street, you swell their ranks, for which I thank you too.

    • Mark Gilbert

      Putting aside one’s chest-pounding on the growing strength of J Street and all other anti Netanyahu forces, for a moment, it is hard to maintain a convincing rationale of the current Iran deal as one which will effectively stop Iran from weaponising its nuclear programme, if it wishes to do so.

      Obama’s position, based on his public statements, is at best, confused and confusing. At worst, it is deliberately duplicitous.

      On the one hand he says this is a great deal because it has sufficient “teeth” to catch Iran out if it cheats.

      On the other he says though the deal isn’t ideal (and this acknowledgement opens a Pandora’s Box of questions), it’s the best we’re going to get, and any alternative means war because the Iranians will never accede to his stated aim of the negotiations.

      Even if one was convinced that Obama and the US is prepared to go to war with Iran if in the future it is found to be cheating (and now, with the revelation of the IAEA side deal, it’s hard to imagine Iran doesn’t have the obvious wherewithal to do so – with a nod and wink from the Obama et al to boot), one has to conclude that is certainly not the case at the moment. If it were the case, there would be little fear in pushing for a better deal.

      In short, this an agreement crucially based on hope. That hope, it would seem, outweighs the fear that the Iranians will do their worst, despite the fact that doing their worst is something, apparently, which has played on Obama’s mind sufficiently to make him conclude this is the best deal we can get and to think otherwise is nothing but an invitation to war with Iran.

      This hope that Iran will “behave”, it seems, still outweighs the fear that it won’t, despite what Iran will surely conclude from the fact that the P5+1 have shown clearly that they have no stomach for war now and there is also no obvious reason why that should change any time soon, even when Iran will likely become an even stronger adversary.

      Even giving Obama and his ilk the benefit of the doubt, this deal echoes a common position held by many decision-makers in the West when confronted by Assad’s use of chemical weapons on his own people i.e. military intervention will only make things worse. In other words, the P5+1 have no intention of ever making good on the sanctioning power they claim the efficacy of the deal is based. When one is dealing with nuclear proliferation, the questions of the merits of military intervention and foregoing it deserve to be weighed seriously. There can be few issues in international relations which deserve more careful consideration. Yet, the West has already abandoned the notion that military intervention is a possibility. They have have put all their eggs in the basket representing their hope that Iran will play nicely. If true, this would appear like an abandonment of any semblance of know-how and responsibility in the field of foreign policy-making. If not true,then we are left with the reality that Obama actually believes it wont be such a bad thing for Iran sooner or later to acquire nuclear weapons, and the consequential shift in shia power in the Middle East and the wider world makes strategic sense, that he and his Administration finds it impossible to admit to this publicly is very telling.

      In short, one has to be blind not to see that he debate over the merits of this agreement, especially by the US Administration, is a red herring, just as the debate over the “settlements” as the key issue in bringing a solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict is a red herring. The consequences of this clear obfuscation with regards to Iran, however, will make those of the obfuscations re the Palestine-Israel issue look like a something to be yearned for. Darkness has fallen over the Middle East long ago. Obama’s legacy will be that he will have ensured this darkness becomes a black night that will not turn to day for many, many generations to come.

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