INTO THE FRAY: BDS (Bibi-derangement syndrome) & the myth of Israel theocracy


For your perusal, my latest INTO THE FRAY column

BDS (Bibi-derangement syndrome) & the myth of Israel theocracy

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From the rabid rants of the myriad of “Bibiphobes”, the uninformed observer would be led to believe that Netanyahu is to blame for every misfortune and every malfeasance on the face of the globe…

It appears this week on the following sites (in alphabetical order):


Several short excerpts: 

…for most Israelis the election results are signaling hope!… hope that we were saved from Halachic state and messianic tendencies govern[ed] by a prime minister that undermined the fabric of the collectivity!” –Prof. Yossi Shain, Georgetown & Tel Aviv University, in a Facebook exchange with me over the significance of the recent election results.

Israeli democracy this week was only a few inches from being Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s Turkey – Ehud Barak, Haaretz, Sept.  21, 2019.

Let me commence with full disclosure on two matters: First, I am a totally non-observant Jew, with little to no religious content at all in my day-to-day life—and have little vested interest in defending the religious against criticism from secular circles. Second, I am far from an uncritical Netanyahu apologist, and have severely castigated some his decisions in several columns in the past—see here, here, here & here.

Beyond limits of rational criticism & reasoned dissent

Ehud Barak on an anti-Netanyahu tirade


Of course, after decade of unbroken tenure…as prime minister, a legitimate claim can well be raised that a change is called for. But in Netanyahu’s case, opposition to him goes well beyond legitimate concern over the need for an overdue “changing of the guard”…Thus, over half a decade ago, well before claims of an excessively long incumbency could be plausibly, raised, I wrote, of the anti-Netanyahu pathology: “The venomous ad hominem attacks on the PM by his political opponents have long exceeded the limits of rational criticism and reasoned dissent.”

Absurd portrayal of Israel: The myth of Israel theocracy

“Gay pride” parade in Tel Aviv

Moreover, to judge by the derogatory diatribes directed at him, one might get the impression that he has made Israel a dark, backward, regressive backwater, tittering on the brink of tyranny and theocracy….But for anyone familiar with reality in Israel, this is an absurd portrayal of the country.

As for the claims of creeping theocracy: The highways have never been more congested on Saturdays, with huge traffic jams backed up for miles; shopping malls have never been more crowded with customers on the Sabbath …With massive “gay pride parades” in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem a regular annual feature of public life, with Tel Aviv dubbed by some as the “gay capital of the world”, Israel is hardly a state in the iron grip of religious zealots!…

Malevolent & mendacious

Recently, in an attempt to delegitimize him, Netanyahu’s political rivals have begun to compare him to Turkey’s authoritarian leader Recep Tayyip Erdoğan—see for example here and here.

The charge is, of course, baseless.

After all, Erdoğan has conducted wide-spread purges of the judiciary and other sectors of the legal establishment – see here, here and here. …Moreover, Erdogan’s Turkey has won the dubious title for jailing more journalists than any other country –reportedly “more than China, Russia and Egypt combined”—see here and here.  …Clearly then, any comparison between the realities in Israel and those in Turkey are wildly distortive, hopelessly detached from reality and beyond reasonable doubt, deliberately deceptive.

Acrid ad hominem acrimony

In many ways, the acrid ad hominem acrimony against Netanyahu is puzzling. …After all, despite the specter of criminal indictments, he invariably tops the polls as the candidate most suited to be Prime Minister–usually outpacing his nearest rival, Blue & White’s Benny Gantz, by ten percentage points or more – see for example here, here & here. ..Surprisingly—indeed, astonishingly—even among Israeli Arabs, Netanyahu was designated the “best suited for the role of premier

Ad hominem acrimony (cont.)?

Hezbollah tunnel neutralized by IDF



Thus, as I observed previously, after such an extended term in office as had by Netanyahu, a valid case for change can be raised. However, since—by and large—under his leadership, Israel has prospered significantly economically, enjoyed relative security, and enhanced its international standing, the intensity and fervor of the “Bibi derangement syndrome” seems perturbingly inappropriate.

The detriments of BDS (Bibi derangement syndrome)

… in their unbridled assaults on Netanyahu and on what Israel has allegedly become under his leadership, they are playing right into the hands of the country’s most vehement detractors. Indeed, it is difficult not to imagine them rubbing their hands in malicious glee, gloating over every caustic condemnation of Netanyahu by his domestic rivals….After all, what more need they do to prove their case that Israel has become a fascist, racist state, run by xenophobic religious zealots, nudging it ever closer to totalitarian theocracy, than to quote the largely baseless barbs, hurled at him by those struggling to dislodge him from power?

Indeed, by their own hand, they are laying the foundation for incalculable—and potentially irreversible—damage to Israel, damage which, even if they manage to remove and replace Netanyahu, they themselves will not be able to repair.


As usual your talkbacks/comments/critiques welcome,

Best wishes,


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