The English author T.S. Eliot once wrote: “In a wilderness of mirrors what will the spider do?” Should he attack what seems to be an incoming threat, or is that threat only a mirrored reflection of himself? James Jesus Angleton (CIA chief of counterintelligence from 1954 to 1975) liked Eliot’s term ‘wilderness of mirrors’ and used it to describe the “myriad of stratagems, deceptions, artifices, and all the other devices of disinformation which the Soviet bloc and its coordinated intelligence services use to confuse and split the West … an ever fluid landscape where fact and illusion merge.” At the end of his life Angleton, having somewhat lost contact with reality, succumbed to paranoia regarding the issue of Soviet double-agent penetration of Western intelligence agencies. He had become a prisoner of his own ‘wilderness of mirrors.’
The term ‘a roomful of mirrors’ describes a confusing or disorienting situation in which it is difficult to distinguish between truth and illusion, between competing versions of reality. Some lovers of Israel are today faced with this dynamic as they watch the news and attempt to read between the lines, separating the wheat from the chaff. One well-respected Jewish author insists that the past week has been “one of the greatest weeks in Jewish history,” while one evangelical Christian commentator based in Israel states that this is an ‘unprecedented crisis worse than anything [he’s] ever seen.” What is actually going on in Israel at this moment? What facts are available? What do those facts mean? Are trends developing? What will be the likely results? In short, what can be discerned here?
This newsletter is the third of three newsletters dealing with this developing issue. The previous two form a foundational background to what is being discussed here.
Truth or consequences
“The first to plead his case seems right, until another comes and examines him” (Proverbs 18:17). This biblical principle stresses the need for care, patience, accuracy and due diligence when weighing matters. Those who lean to one side of the political spectrum tend to see events through their own spectacles, while their opponents (approaching the same situation from a different angle) draw opposite conclusions. The facts in question may be the same, but the gaps in interpretation are wide. When we consider Israeli realities, there are some sine qua non requirements needed for dependable and kosher information-processing – a professional level of fluency in Hebrew, a hands-on and long-term ‘insider’ acquaintance with Israeli culture and religion, a solid awareness of Israeli political subtleties, and personal time in the Israeli army.
Another important criterion is honesty in dealing with sometimes uncomfortable facts – those details which may not always bolster one’s position. Does one try to understand the ‘other side’ – what the ‘other side’ thinks and feels – or is one simply communicating propaganda and incorrectly labeling all one’s talking points as ‘truth.’ Fairness, comprehensiveness and compassion help in presenting one’s case, even when one strongly disagrees with the opposing position.
Someone has said that the definition of ‘a specialist’ is someone fifty miles away from home. Today the internet offers up a potpourri of perspectives and an overload of opinions. The Latin proverb ‘caveat lector’ (‘let the reader be warned’) is doubly relevant for us all.
Two weeks is a long time
Our last newsletter went out on March 15, 2023. A lot has happened in the past two weeks. The Saturday night demonstrations in Tel Aviv’s Habimah Square have grown from approximately 100,000 people to close to 200,000 in attendance. These have escalated, blocking Tel Aviv’s central freeway for hours, and closing down main municipal arteries. Eventually mounted police, stun grenades and water cannons have been deployed, and multiple arrests followed. Over the past week demonstrators have blocked main freeways with increasing frequency, setting bonfires, erecting barricades and shouting down and even shoving and striking a pregnant media reporter. In Jerusalem mobs screaming threats broke through Israeli security and rushed the Prime Minister’s residence. In Tel Aviv the Prime Minister’s wife was surrounded by an angry mob while at her hairdresser’s appointment, trapped for three hours until police forces were able to rescue her. In a parallel dynamic to Black Lives Matter catalyzed riots (where rioting damages were estimated as between one and two billion dollars, yet were described in the media as ‘mostly peaceful’), some Israeli political leaders insisted that the demonstrations were entirely peaceful. Ya’ir Lapid declared in Hebrew on March 28 Machal News that violence at the protest demonstrations “never was and never happened.” Dr. Daniel Gordis declared from America that the protests were “almost completely violence-free . . . you saw virtually no violence . . . Having burst through the barricades and having blocked the highway . . . [they] remained fundamentally law-abiding . . . This was about love.”
The coalition which won the November 2022 election has continued to carry out its electoral promises regarding Israel’s judicial system, passing laws in that direction on a regular basis. In response, demonstrators have upped the ante, calling for wildcat demonstrations. Some opposition politicians have even called for the overthrow of Bibi Netanyahu’s government. Former Prime Minister Ehud Barak (former Labor Party leader) declared that “what we have before us is a coup d’état . . . There is no symmetry. This is not a dispute between neighbors. This is a struggle for everything that is precious and holy to us.” Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai (former Labor Party) heated the flames when he declared on Israeli Channel 13 New that “states can turn from a democracy into a dictatorship, as is happening here. Dictatorships only become democratic again with bloodshed. That is the history of the world. I am appealing to all serious people who know the State of Israel. You have to understand that there is no right or left here. There are bad guys versus good guys.” The socialist Labor Party’s leader Merav Michaeli announced in the Knesset on Monday March 27, that “in just a few months the government has taken the 25th Knesset hostage for its extreme plans. The madness must be stopped, the Knesset must be dissolved and it must return to its work on behalf of the country.”
As the clock wound down to the completion of the passing of the coalition’s law package over this past week, demonstrations spread to many other cities in Israel, including Haifa and Beersheva. Perhaps 300,000 demonstrators came out this week in Tel Aviv, and the news media were giving wide and positive coverage to the marchers’ messages and speeches.
On Saturday evening March 25 the Minister of Defense (MOD) Yoav Galant called for a time-out in the legal process, stating that “the growing social rift has made its way into the (army) and security agencies. It is a clear, immediate and tangible threat to Israel’s security.” He did this when the Prime Minister was out of the country, undercutting the official government position of pushing judicial reforms. The blowback to Galant came from Bibi on Sunday evening after his return from London: Galant would be dismissed from continuing on as MOD. Late Sunday night demonstrations were triggered by people opposed to Bibi’s leadership, party and platform who nevertheless opposed Bibi’s decision to remove his MOD. The ensuing violence of the mob (which included attacks on police and Border Patrol soldiers) was captured by world media and spread across the globe. Former Israel Air Force chief Eitan Ben-Eliahu declared that Netanyahu “declared civil war” though calmer voices brought historical balance here. Former Prime Minister Ya’ir Lapid poured oil on the flames with his proclamation that “the Prime Minister of Israel is a danger to the security of the State of Israel.”
With Tel Aviv’s streets and freeways ablaze, the socialist Histadrut Trade Union stepped in to weaken Netanyahu’s position and fan the fire of the demonstrators. He announced a nationwide wildcat strike, illegally shutting down hospitals, banks, airports, seaports, malls, medical funds, etc. It was illegal because the Histadrut took sides on a political issue, simultaneously violating the rights of the approximately 800,000 members of its labor federation.
These Marxist tactics are familiar. When we first came to Israel in the 1970’s, wildcat strikes were a matter of course. The goal of these strikes is to strike fear and insecurity into the hearts of the populace, thus increasing pressure through manipulation on the political party in power. Rather than seeing these mafia-like tactics for what they are, media spin-doctors point the finger at Bibi and cry crocodile tears, asking how could this Prime Minister do such terrible things. There is a popular Arabic proverb, “First he hits me. Then he starts to cry. Finally he runs ahead of me to the judge and sues me” (Darabani wa baka, wa sabaqani wa eshtaka). Middle East realities have once again proved how relevant this saying is in helping to understand current Israeli events.
Fear is an effective motivator, as Roman Emperor Caligula (assassinated 41 A.D.) recognized: “Oderint dum metuant. Let them hate me, as long as they fear me!” The faceless powers which are stampeding the Israeli populace through fear tactics are engaged in what could be described as a nation-wide military-type psyops (psychological operations) aimed at influencing governments, organizations, groups and individuals – their emotions, motives, objective reasoning, and ultimately their behavior.
According to the U.S.-based RAND Corporation, “psychological warfare involves the planned use of propaganda and other psychological operations to influence the opinions, emotions, attitudes, and behavior of opposition groups. RAND has studied military information support operations (MISO) in many countries and war zones and has provided objective and supportable recommendations to policymakers on methods and tactics to employ or defend against these operations.” A more in-depth article on current use of such techniques in our modern world can be perused, for those who would like to read up on this subject.
The on-off switch
The intensity of the rioting demonstrators (combined with the exploding fears and anger of the victims of the wildcat national strike) joined in with laser-like international pressure on PM Netanyahu. Added to the equation was the fact that some pillars of his Likud party had also been begging him behind the scenes to take a break from successfully completing his judicial push. Their read was that the forces pulling the strings behind the hugely well-funded and brilliantly organized PR campaign directed against the judicial reform had brought Israel to the brink of a possible civil war. Why win the battle of judicial reform at the cost of civil war?
Bibi spoke to the nation on TV that evening, probably the most watched address a Prime Minister has ever given (with 50.6% ratings). Here is the link to the full text of what he said. In the address he referenced the story of King Solomon and the two prostitutes (1 Kings 3:16-28; referring to them as ‘two women’). He declared that he (as well as most Israelis) do not want to destroy ‘the baby’ – that is, the State of Israel. In light of the huge civic strife, he announced his decision to stop the judicial reform process, to be followed by discussions and negotiations with his opponents over possible solutions. After the upcoming Knesset break, he stated that there was likelihood that the issue would be pursued once again. Bibi is taking considerable political risk here.
Within a few minutes, the Histadrut cancelled their strike. Within half an hour airplanes were rolled down the runway at Ben Gurion Airport. Within 20 minutes our local bank had re-issued our appointment for the next day (which had been cancelled due to the general strike). US Ambassador to Israel Tom Nides announced 11 hours later that Prime Minister Netanyahu would be invited to the White House “as soon as their schedules can be coordinated.” Amazing coordination, it seems.
One of the memorable songs in the Passover film ‘The Prince of Egypt’ is ‘Playing with the big boys now.’ The title is based on Moses’ confrontation with Pharaoh’s magicians. They are warning him that new levels involve new devils. The magicians are hoping to control Moses through fear and manipulate him into doing their will. Recent events in Israel’s political world seem to echo with similar dynamics.
As mentioned in part one of these three newsletters, the dominant and controlling political power grouping in Israel at the time the State was founded was politically socialist, ethnically East European, and religiously atheist. This ‘power circle’ has come to be known by the Hebrew slang word ‘branja’ – a selected ‘inner circle’ of people with extra power – political, financial, or social, usually exclusive and close-knit group. In English the term ‘mafia’ (referring to a well-connected group that takes care of it members) has the similar meaning as the Hebrew branja. Israel had (and has) a political branja, a social branja and a judicial branja.
The judicial branja has for the most parts been off-limits to Jews from Arabic speaking countries. Politically left-leaning, ethnically European and religiously not user-friendly to the religious world – these are the modern characteristics of the leaders of Israel’s judiciary. The blowback of this can be seen in Supreme Court rulings regarding settling the Land of Israel, free speech and civil rights for Palestinian terrorist-affiliated and BDS groups, etc. These Supreme Court dynamics have been clearly obvious to most conservative, religious and right-leaning Israelis over the years. This has been one of the prime catalysts for the Likud’s judicial review.
The past twelve weeks of anti-Bibi and anti-judicial review demonstrations have been financed by groups with deep pockets. This is obvious to many Israelis. Lurid anti-Bibi posters in the Hitlerian colors of red and black have been appearing regularly on streets, computers and cell phones within a few minutes of events which could be spun against Bibi. Every time I have opened my cell phone in the past 12 weeks there have been bitter and nasty ads attacking Bibi. These things take a lot of money, a lot of planning, a lot of people and some very capable PR firms. Many Israelis are aware that ‘the voice may be that of the demonstrators, but the hands are connected to more intense movers.’ The media campaigns and press briefings that the demonstrators’ leaders have organized – including detailed briefing of where and when ‘spontaneous’ demonstrations and civil disobedience are about to occur – are ‘showing their hand’ to journalists and media people who attend these events.
These are not spontaneous and popular demonstrations. They are crafted and led by faceless Rasputins whose goals include overturning the recent November 2022 elections and preserving a judicial status quo where ‘politically correct’ policies are guided along by a ‘father who knows best.’ Here are two articles which gingerly attempt to touch on these sensitive matters. Israel’s top satiric comedy show recently featured a skit based on the premise that foreign organizations and foreign funding are actively involved in overseeing the direction of the demonstrations.
The term Putsch ([pʊtʃ], from Swiss-German ‘to knock’ or ‘to push’) denotes “the political-military actions of a reactionary minority [who attempt a] coup.” It is worth considering if what is going on in Israel now fits this definition. If this is the case, the horse is only in mid-stream and has not yet crossed the river to the other side. It is eminently possible that democracy is currently under threat in Israel – and not only through the Knesset ruling to suspend civil liberties at will (shepherded into law by Prime Ministers Netanyahu, Bennet and Lapid: see details throughout the article https://davidstent.org/nine-blind-indians-and-the-israeli-elephant/).
Bibi Derangement Syndrome
The tenor of Israeli political debate between Left and Right has often been (and still is) abrasive and hate-filled. When Netanyahu won the November 2022 elections, the Left and much of the Center-Left were virulently opposed to the results and vowed that they would remove Bibi in a very short time indeed. Some Israelis seem to have ‘Bibi Derangement Syndrome,’ where an irrational hatred against the Prime Minister dominates conversations and actions. I have seen more than a handful of Israeli Messianic Jewish friends who nearly start frothing at the mouth at the mention of Bibi. Evidently some U.S. politicians also suffer from this syndrome. New York Times columnist Bret Stephens has written an excellent ‘word to the wise’ about this subject. It is an excellent read.
Conversations, constitutions and override clauses
At this point in the Israeli body politic, a significant percentage of Leftist, Leftist-Centrist and Centrist parties have clearly stated that their goal is to get rid of Bibi in the fastest possible way. This is not the best atmosphere for healthy and productive dialogue. A believing friend recently states that all the parties just need to sit down and have a conversation after Passover. The nature of the situation is rather abscessed, however. Much pray is need on this matter.
Since Israel does not have a constitution, it is not accurate to say that it is having a constitutional crisis. Perhaps it is having a ‘pre-constitutional crisis,’ and perhaps the major political groups will sit down over Turkish coffee and work out a new Israeli constitution which will solve all the problems – something which has not been achieved in 75 years so far.
For those who are upset about what is called ‘the override clause’ – the judicial change which would allow the Knesset to override a Supreme Court invalidating of Knesset laws – it should be understood that a significant percentage of Israel’s population is smarting from years of what it sees as the Supreme Court overriding their perspectives and those of their legally elected representatives. For this thorn to be pulled from the paw of the Judean lion, there must be revelation and repentance on the benches of Israel’s Supreme Court.
The ghosts of our grandparents
The unmentioned elephant standing silently between the halls of the Knesset and the Supreme Court is actually a two-tusked creature. One tusk is religion and the other tusk is the secular state. The present clashes revolve around the vision of a future Jewish state; around the balance of power between today’s secular majority and Israel’s religious community.
Israeli secularists are afraid – of fascism, religious fascism and religious coercion. There have been enough attempts and feints in this direction for everyone to admit that these fears are not without foundation. Certainly, Messianic Jews and Evangelical Christians in Israel have tasted such bitter herbs more than most secular Israelis.
At the same time, religious Jews and those friendly to them – those who remember with warmth and tears the beauty of Jewish traditions – are rightfully concerned that the current secular state is playing havoc with the pillars of family, society and biblical ethics, and that left unchecked it will strangle Jewish identity and the Jewishness of the Jewish state. The trends are clear enough for everyone to admit that these fears are not without foundation.
How should we then pray?
- Pray for God to grant to the Israeli people and their leaders revelation, repentance and counter-strategies regarding the manipulations of the enemy at this season
- Pray for an infusion of divine love to cover the scattered flock of Israel – for God, for each other, and for their enemies
- Pray for YHVH to stir up increased intercession among believers worldwide for these issues
- Pray for the raising up of Ezekiel’s prophetic Jewish army throughout the earth
Your prayers and support hold up our arms and are the very practical enablement of God to us in the work He has called us to do.
In Messiah Yeshua,
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