Dominance: micro/macro

Mr. Netanyahu has linked Israel’s future to one segment of the American political spectrum: that electoral minority – we say again, minority.

US flag (photo credit: INGIMAGE)
US flag
(photo credit: INGIMAGE)
Most Israelis, I suspect, are pretty decent people once you get to know them. But it’s the culture of dominance – the arguing and shouting; the rudeness and arrogance and abuse; the petty and not-so-petty lying and cheating – that dominates the Israeli public world.
From the local greengrocer to the highest levels of business and government, the culture of dominance, nastiness and bullying prevails. This is the culture that the world perceives. America, especially.
I’ve written about this before. Since then, I’ve had a couple of encounters, one micro and personal, the other macro but no less personal, that suggest this topic is far from exhausted. The micro: an ugly set of encounters with a landlord who shall remain nameless.
We’ll get to the macro in a bit.
First, a necessary distinction. Toughness: Call it the set of physical, mental and moral qualities necessary to survive and, from time to time, dominate in this rough neighborhood and on this darkening planet.
Available as needed. A culture of dominance pushes people around for the sake of pushing them around.
It glorifies, or at least tolerates, those who do.
But what happens when people don’t care to be pushed around? Specifically... Americans.
Last spring, after four years in our oleh flat, my wife and I decided to look for something more interesting.
An American acquaintance had to return to the States to care for a very sick adult child. Would we be willing to take over her lease? Sure, why not? Her description of the landlord was vague.
We moved in, signed a reasonable temp lease to the end of 2015, and rather liked the place. Within a couple of months, however, it became apparent that the landlord regarded tenants as fit objects for abuse and bullying. My wife, especially. Every small item became cause for eruption.
After an early-December explosion that nearly resulted in violence, I reached the obvious conclusion.
The landlord delayed presenting the new lease until mid-December – a set of terms so extortionate and insulting that no negotiation was possible.
“OK,” said I to my wife. “You can’t argue with these people. That’s giving them what they want.”
In three days, we found a new house.
The landlord called. “Have you signed the lease yet?” “We’re not signing the lease. We’ll be out on the 31st. All future communication must be in email or writing, to leave a record. If you try to have any more contact with my wife, she’ll call the police.”
The landlord demanded we abide by the exit provisions of the lease we refused to sign. He then screamed for the keys. “I have to show the flat.”
Not our problem.
After some final fuming about how the electricity bill must be paid immediately (we paid it), he more or less vanished.
OK, more horses’ asses in the world than horses.
But what bothered me was that by Israeli standards, such behavior was not so unusual. What bothered me also was that when dominance failed, he knew no other approach. But perhaps the landlord learned that some of us Anglos don’t care to play his games.
We judge, we make our decisions, we walk away, and you don’t realize what’s happened until we’re gone.
Now to the macro.
For other writings, I had to review Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s two major foreign speeches of 2015: to a joint session of the US Congress and to the UN General Assembly. Both were standard three-step.
First, the scold, in this case the Iranian deal. Then: “Look how we’ve suffered” followed by “Look how great we are.”
Mr. Netanyahu was not wrong. The Iranian deal is an abomination. The Jewish people have suffered for millennia, with no end in sight. And our accomplishments have been magnificent. But is there no other way to say it? Words matter, especially when the world starts murmuring “We’ve heard it all before.” Words matter when the United States begins to wonder, silently, whether Israel is really worth the aggravation. A dangerous silence. America doesn’t scream and argue.
America walks away.
Does Israel have no other way of doing things? No other way of speaking to its friend? Mr. Netanyahu has linked Israel’s future to one segment of the American political spectrum: that electoral minority – we say again, minority – of the conservative/Republican/religious Right that loves to argue and vilify and scream. His speech to Congress was not merely a show of solidarity with such; it constituted an egregious insult to a sitting president that did not go unnoticed. That his UN speech was hardly SRO need not surprise. What surprised me were those shots of the American delegation, acting as though it were nap time.
Mr. Netanyahu’s American supporters make lots of noise. But they’re a minority, perhaps a self-destructing minority. What of the good people leftward, appalled by what American politics has become, and by the Israeli connection and congruence? What happens the day they decide enough?