Ezrahoot: Brainwashing’s Clockwork
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“The year was 1983, but at school we were already studying Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four , a book which frightened us by its similarity to life in Israel. The Lebanon War, which had begun a year earlier, was still called “the War for the Peace of Galilee” by the government. The Hebrew possessive contraction brought together the two words which sounded exactly like “War-Peace,” creating a perfect Orwellian oxymoron. We all skipped the obvious contemporaneous context of the book in our commentaries; such semantics could belong only to the enemy and we lived in an enlightened society. Our government could not have made such an Orwellian choice consciously. And yet a little voice in my head told a different story, one that must be kept to myself. The glitch allowing such a subversive book to be on our reading list could only be interpreted as some inconsistency of the system. However, a frightening alternative explanation was that 1984 had been placed on the Education Ministry's official list of books intentionally, so that we would forever fear authority and behave. It was our first lesson in government manipulation of its people.”
This text belongs to The Cross of Bethlehem – The Memoirs of a Refugee, and describes the similarities between the Israeli society and the futuristic society described by George Orwell. Published in 1949, the book portrays a future world controlled by three superpowers engaged in a perpetual war, omnipresent government surveillance, public mind control, and an unending violation of human rights. A central point in this sad world is the constant manipulation of the language by the government. Many of the words and phrases coined by Orwell in this book had entered our daily lives: Big Brother, BIG BROTHER IS WATCHING YOU, doublethink, thoughtcrime, and Newspeak, are good examples of this. However, he did miss “War on Terror.” Shame on him.
If looking at the reality described there in a too literal way, we may fail to see how the horror described by Orwell has been implemented by modern governments; the Israeli Administration is probably one of the best in this aspect. The “War-Peace-Galilee” example I mentioned above is probably one of the pinnacles of Israeli totalitarianism, but not the only one. Another famous example occurred in 2006. "Kidnapped Soldiers" blared the Israeli headlines in 2006, after a soldier was captured in Gaza and two in Southern Lebanon. I was surprised. Since when is a soldier "kidnapped?" Were they watering their mothers' gardens at the time? No, they were participating in military events. Soldiers are never kidnapped; they are captured. Afterwards they should be treated according to the Geneva Convention. That one simple semantic deceit by the Israeli media kidnapped the nation's mind and the IDF launched a disastrous attack on Lebanon, which ended in a bitter defeat of the IDF by the Hezbollah.
The implementation of the Israeli mind control techniques is simple and carried out openly in the schools. “Ezrahoot” means “citizenship;” it is also the name given to courses designed to prepare the students to life as adults in Israel. Technically it describes the clockwork of the Israeli administration. The name sounds good, unless you grow up there and are forced to listen to the classes. Simply, they lack all philosophical background and concentrate on technical issues (“How are the elections carried out,” “How does the parliament work”). This is not casual.
I have commented in the past about the illegitimacy of the Israeli administration. I did not invent that, the Israeli government is as aware of that as I am. Thus, all the topics that could discredit the government are avoided or distortioned in the classes. For example: Israel lacks a constitution. Hence, part of the Ezrahoot courses includes lengthy explanations why a constitution is not needed. One of the favorite explanations is the fact that the UK - the colonial power that ruled Palestine - also lacks a constitution. The fact that the UK possesses legal antecedents dating back hundreds of years and used as a virtual constitution is not mentioned in the classes. Even then, I’m not sure the UK is a good example, after all Britain is roaming the globe and killing innocents for hundreds of years. Other topics avoided are human rights and their being one of the conditions posed by the UN when it decided to give sovereignty to Israel; the second condition was the creation of a Palestinian state. After Ben Gurion’s declaration, Israel didn’t fulfill the conditions. Oops! Let’s not talk about that; in any case the name Universal Declaration of Human Rights is too long for the Hebrew taste.
The discrimination between citizens of different religions and ethnic groups in the state is also laboriously avoided. The product of such classes is a student fully indoctrinated into the Israeli politics and without clear knowledge of what his – or her – position as a human in this world means. An key point is the creation of a Nemesis – provided in 1984 by the other superpowers and by Emmanuel Goldstein – in the form of anti-Semitism. “The entire world hates us and thus we can bend the rules in order to survive” is the eternal mantra. The Holocaust and Anne Frank are used as collateral evidence of this claim.
Nowhere is this cold and calculated distortion best applied than in the interpretation of 1984. The facts the reality described there is similar to the one in the State of Israel is a non-topic. No student would be stupid enough to comment on that in front of a teacher, who probably doubles as a state informant. 1984 is used as a quiet menace and its relevant points ignored. The point emphasized is that Emmanuel Goldstein - the enemy of the ruling party in 1984 – is a Jewish sounding name and thus another testimony of the ongoing anti-Semitism. The horror, the horror.
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