Ilan Pappe writes in the Electronic Intifada about irrational hysteria that envelops today’s Israel:
Being part visitor and part inmate in the ward [Israel] I found solace in three books, each one of which tells us how best to keep our wits even when the most armed and aggressive state in the region has replaced diplomacy and national strategy with hysterical brinkmanship that could easily transform into real war and greater bloodshed.
The first is an old classic, George Orwell’s 1984. In despotic Oceania, the leadership, the Inner Party, depends on a constant war with the other two global powers. The leaders manufacture hysteria to keep it going, but begin to believe in it themselves:
“It is precisely in the Inner Party that war hysteria and hatred of the enemy are strongest. In his capacity as an administrator, it is often necessary for a member of the Inner Party to know that this or that item of war news is untruthful, and he may often be aware that the entire war is spurious and is either not happening or is being waged for purposes quite other than the declared ones: but such knowledge is easily neutralized by the technique of doublethink.”
The second book is Miko Peled’s The General’s Son. Peled’s research in the Israeli military archives exposed how the generals of Israel on the eve of the June 1967 war manufactured mass hysteria in Israel and spun a tale of an imminent second Holocaust — as did David Ben-Gurion in 1948 — knowing very well, in both historical instances, they were facing a weak, disarrayed opponent more willing to compromise than to fight.
The third is Jay Feldman’s Manufacturing Hysteria, a compact history of how the leadership in the US manufactures collective hysteria whenever faced with real or imagined crises that had the potential to cost them their seat of power. Going to unnecessary wars, scapegoating minorities in the United States, oppressing other peoples around the world and the poor at home, are only some of the unavoidable outcomes of such hysteria (I dedicate this brief reading list to Wall Street Occupiers whose library was brutally destroyed and to whom I promised to recommend a reading list for a new future library, which I never managed to do).
Unlike in the Jack Nicholson movie, the hysteria is not kept within the ward, and it is not the inmates who are the problem but those who run the prison-hospital and want to intern even more people in their zone of hysteria, control and violence.
But Israel in 2012 is in a far more severe and advanced stage of the disease, whether the one imagined by Orwell in 1984, reported by Peled about 1967 or summarized historically by Feldman in the US in 2012.
The hysteria manufactured in Israel has become a constant state of mind and nothing less than a strategy. Its main purpose is to keep both the Israeli Jewish and Palestinian populations within a certain, permanent, anxious existence. The Palestinian population under occupation is denied contact with those who want to show solidarity with their plight, so that the ghettoization of the West Bank would be as effective as the one achieved in the Gaza Strip by a military siege, and yet at the same time would not be too bothersome for the international allies of the Jewish state.
Life there has to be oppressive enough to encourage people to leave or to remain jailed in the largest mega-prison on earth, but more seemingly plausible so as to discourage another uprising.