Contributor Post Created with Sketch. Netanyahu’s Dog Whistle

 

Toward the end of Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech today, he said:

Facing me right up there in the gallery, overlooking all of us in this (inaudible) chamber is the image of Moses. Moses led our people from slavery to the gates of the Promised Land.

He continued:

And before the people of Israel entered the land of Israel, Moses gave us a message that has steeled our resolve for thousands of years. I leave you with his message today, (SPEAKING IN HEBREW), “Be strong and resolute, neither fear nor dread them.”

The idea of a “dog whistle” in political rhetoric is that the speaker uses language that will be understood only by his or her supporters. To the outside observer, meanwhile, the speaker’s meaning is innocuous. Netanyahu’s biblical reference was a dog whistle.

To understand it, consider when Moses spoke those words. It was just before Moses left the people and went off to die, when Joshua was to take over leadership. I believe that Netanyahu expects to lose the election in a few weeks.

This brings to mind another Israeli prime minister: Menachem Begin. Begin was facing an election in 1981, and expected to lose. Meanwhile, intelligence indicated that Saddam Hussein was about to break out with nuclear capability. The cabinet was debating a military strike on the Osirak reactor. Begin’s opponent in the election, Shimon Peres, was a member of the cabinet and was adamantly opposed to a strike.

And so Begin, expecting to lose, and fearing that Peres would not do what needed to be done, ordered the daring air strike that destroyed Saddam’s reactors.

In the event, Begin won the election. He was accused of ordering the strike to boost himself politically. But later the truth came out — a truth that Netanyahu knows, and must be pondering as his electoral opponents pillory him for souring relations with the US.

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  1. Profile Photo Member

    Appreciate the perspective, SoS!

    • #1
    • March 3, 2015, at 11:39 AM PST
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  2. Sandy Member

    An excellent history lesson — thanks. Perhaps some in Israel will begin to understand that it is not Netanyahu who has soured relations and that there is more to American-Israeli relations than relations with the administration. (Of course I am praying myself that this is the case.)

    • #2
    • March 3, 2015, at 11:41 AM PST
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  3. Mendel Member
    MendelJoined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    I’m not sure if this really can be called a dog whistle. As you say, such an utterance must appear innocuous to those not in the know, but naming “Moses” and speaking in Hebrew was probably a clue-in to even those with little familiarity with the Bible.

    • #3
    • March 3, 2015, at 11:49 AM PST
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  4. James Gawron Thatcher
    James GawronJoined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Son,

    I think Bibi is going to win the election. I don’t think he meant the biblical reference the way you are reading it. However, if I take your suggestion seriously this gives me a chance to use another clip from High Noon. The ‘Last Will and Testament’ clip.

    I am not endorsing this level of Drama. I’ll use it but I won’t endorse it.

    Regards,

    Jim

    • #4
    • March 3, 2015, at 12:03 PM PST
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  5. Arahant Member

    Mendel:I’m not sure if this really can be called a dog whistle. As you say, such an utterance must appear innocuous to those not in the know, but naming “Moses” and speaking in Hebrew was probably a clue-in to even those with little familiarity with the Bible.

    I don’t know about that, Mendel. We’re a very unrepresentative group on Ricochet. Most people in the cities under a certain age may not even know who Moses is. (Or, maybe I just know a lot of clueless people.) Do my South Asian Hindu neighbors know Moses? Maybe. Do the kids in their twenties who were raised by areligious parents who were raised by areligious grandparents know Moses? Maybe. If we still taught classical educations and enforced the teachings of those Judeo-Christian values and stories, I would have no doubt. But today?

    Outside of the cities is another issue.

    • #5
    • March 3, 2015, at 12:07 PM PST
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  6. Mendel Member
    MendelJoined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Arahant:

     Most people in the cities under a certain age may not even know who Moses is. (Or, maybe I just know a lot of clueless people.) Do my South Asian Hindu neighbors know Moses? Maybe. Do the kids in their twenties who were raised by areligious parents who were raised by areligious grandparents know Moses?

    And there is precisely a 0% chance that any of those people actually watched the speech long enough to hear that line (or at all).

    Anyone with enough interest in world politics to sit through a 40-minute address to Congress by a foreign leader will have enough education to know who Moses was. And any clip reel of speech “highlights” showing this quote would certainly explain the reference.

    • #6
    • March 3, 2015, at 12:15 PM PST
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  7. James Gawron Thatcher
    James GawronJoined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Arahant:

    Mendel:I’m not sure if this really can be called a dog whistle. As you say, such an utterance must appear innocuous to those not in the know, but naming “Moses” and speaking in Hebrew was probably a clue-in to even those with little familiarity with the Bible.

    I don’t know about that, Mendel. We’re a very unrepresentative group on Ricochet. Most people in the cities under a certain age may not even know who Moses is. (Or, maybe I just know a lot of clueless people.) Do my South Asian Hindu neighbors know Moses? Maybe. Do the kids in their twenties who were raised by areligious parents who were raised by areligious grandparents know Moses? Maybe. If we still taught classical educations and enforced the teachings of those Judeo-Christian values and stories, I would have no doubt. But today?

    Outside of the cities is another issue.

    Arahant,

    Now this sounds like a poll nobody has taken. Straight up “Who is Moses?”

    I’d love to see the results.

    Regards,

    Jim

    • #7
    • March 3, 2015, at 12:17 PM PST
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  8. Brian Clendinen Member
    Brian ClendinenJoined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Arahant:

    Mendel:I’m not sure if this really can be called a dog whistle. As you say, such an utterance must appear innocuous to those not in the know, but naming “Moses” and speaking in Hebrew was probably a clue-in to even those with little familiarity with the Bible.

    I don’t know about that, Mendel. We’re a very unrepresentative group on Ricochet. Most people in the cities under a certain age may not even know who Moses is.

    Outside of the cities is another issue.

    Huh? Any kid or adult who is a church goer would know who Moses is. We even teach Toddlers about him. Any church that has pictures hung up in their kids area or that have stain glass windows will pretty much have a picture of him.

    He is a major figure for Christians also. It is just that there are two or three humans more important than him to Christians in the Bible. Where as with Jews, what human is more important than Moses?

    Maybe you have been around to many people who claim to be Christians but never go to church. Then I could understand their ignorance of who Moses is.

    • #8
    • March 3, 2015, at 12:18 PM PST
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  9. Son of Spengler Contributor
    Son of Spengler

    Even for people who know who Moses is, I suggest that they are unlikely to attribute any meaning to the quote beyond its surface: OK — Moses, Jewish prophet, “be resolute” — got it. I doubt that most people would place the quote in the context of the Biblical narrative. I also doubt that most people would consider Netanyahu’s motivation in picking this particular quote. Sadly, even though Netanyahu spoke in Hebrew, most Israelis are not well-versed in Scripture, and may also miss the context.

    • #9
    • March 3, 2015, at 12:27 PM PST
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  10. BuckeyeSam Inactive

    Maybe he might have registered with more people if he had said, “As Charlton Heston said in Cecille B. DeMille’s The Ten Commandments….”

    • #10
    • March 3, 2015, at 12:52 PM PST
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  11. iWe Coolidge
    iWeJoined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    I doubt Bibi is so clever that he thought of the quote in its context.

    But if you are right, the Israel attack on Iran will be sooner rather than later.

    • #11
    • March 3, 2015, at 1:06 PM PST
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  12. Gil Reich Inactive

    I disagree with you. Netanyahu is a heavy favorite to form the next government, and he was an even heavier favorite when he arranged to make this speech.

    • #12
    • March 3, 2015, at 1:06 PM PST
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  13. Son of Spengler Contributor
    Son of Spengler

    Gil Reich:I disagree with you. Netanyahu is a heavy favorite to form the next government, and he was an even heavier favorite when he arranged to make this speech.

    I was under the impression that the election was tight. Is there any chance that Netanyahu might have internal polling that could go against the grain of the public polls?

    • #13
    • March 3, 2015, at 1:12 PM PST
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  14. Arahant Member

    Brian Clendinen:Maybe you have been around to many people who claim to be Christians but never go to church. Then I could understand their ignorance of who Moses is.

    Or, maybe I was talking about the areligious and non-Jewish/Christian/Muslims, which, if you go back and read my comment again, should be obvious. But, yes, the category you mention also exists.

    • #14
    • March 3, 2015, at 1:27 PM PST
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  15. iWe Coolidge
    iWeJoined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Actually, thanks to the Israeli secular wing, most Israeli kids do not know who Moses was, either. The curriculum there is heavily mandated by the state, so when secularists are in power, children learn nothing about Jewish history or the Torah.

    Sort of like environmental brainwashing for kids in America….

    • #15
    • March 3, 2015, at 1:32 PM PST
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  16. donald todd Inactive

    Moses was trained for the role he would assume, both as a son of Pharoah and as a shepherd in Palestine

    Miracles were worked through Moses

    The first Passover was held under Moses’ direction

    Moses is the redeemer of the Jews in Egypt

    Moses is the law giver

    Moses was allowed to see the promised land, but not to go there

    How referencing Moses or Jewish history works for Netanyahu I have no idea.

    • #16
    • March 3, 2015, at 1:39 PM PST
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  17. Misthiocracy got drunk and Member
    Misthiocracy got drunk andJoined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    How dare he mention slavery in a country with a Black president!

    • #17
    • March 3, 2015, at 1:41 PM PST
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  18. DocJay Inactive

    Knock knock

    Who’s there?

    Osmosis.

    Osmosis who?

    I’s Moses, is you Bibi?

    • #18
    • March 3, 2015, at 1:43 PM PST
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  19. Son of Spengler Contributor
    Son of Spengler

    James Gawron:Son,

    I think Bibi is going to win the election. I don’t think he meant the biblical reference the way you are reading it. However, if I take your suggestion seriously this gives me a chance to use another clip from High Noon. The ‘Last Will and Testament’ clip.

    I am not endorsing this level of Drama. I’ll use it but I won’t endorse it.

    Regards,

    Jim

    Gotta love the Obama cameo at 1:36.

    • #19
    • March 3, 2015, at 1:55 PM PST
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  20. Mendel Member
    MendelJoined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Mendel:

    And there is precisely a 0% chance that any of those people actually watched the speech long enough to hear that line (or at all).

    Just to underscore my own point: currently, only two hours or so after the end of the speech, the news pages of ABC, CBS, NBC and CNN are all headlining a DOJ report on racial bias in the Ferguson, MO PD (although to be fair, ABC shares that headline on a carousel together with the breaking news “Meet Hulk, the 175-pound Family Pitbull”). Netanyahu’s speech is barely a news item on those pages. Only Fox is leading with the story.

    In other words, the only people even being informed about this speech are likely either news junkies or conservatives. When James Gawron poll people on whether they know who Moses is, I would like to add the question of how many are even aware by the end of today that a foreign world leader spoke to Congress.

    The cynic in me says that Netanyahu didn’t speak in Hebrew as a dog whistle, but because he knew that his speech had a bigger audience in Israel than in the US.

    • #20
    • March 3, 2015, at 2:01 PM PST
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  21. Arahant Member

    Son of Spengler:Gotta love the Obama cameo at 1:36.

    I went back and looked. Very funny, Spengler.

    • #21
    • March 3, 2015, at 2:04 PM PST
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  22. Gil Reich Inactive

    Son of Spengler:

    Gil Reich:I disagree with you. Netanyahu is a heavy favorite to form the next government, and he was an even heavier favorite when he arranged to make this speech.

    I was under the impression that the election was tight. Is there any chance that Netanyahu might have internal polling that could go against the grain of the public polls?

    Labor is running a couple of seats in front of the Likud, but unless there’s a significant shift from the current polls, it’s going to be much more likely that the Likud will be the one that can put together a coalition.

    Current polls already reflect the price Netanyahu paid for this fight. In a few days they should start reflecting the reward, if any, that Netanyahu gets form this speech.

    Netanyahu’s internal polls may show something different, and to some degree perhaps doing the speech now was a contingency plan in case he loses. But IMO it’s highly likely that he’s focusing on winning, and that he thinks he’s likely to win.

    • #22
    • March 3, 2015, at 2:45 PM PST
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  23. Percival Thatcher
    PercivalJoined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    I must be a dog, then. (On the internet, nobody knows.). As soon as he started with Moses, I knew where he was going.

    • #23
    • March 3, 2015, at 4:31 PM PST
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  24. Hammer, The Member

    Well, I would be among those applauding if your own hypothesis is correct and we see a strike against Iran. I just hope the US either does what it takes to support, or that Obama finally learns to shut up and go golfing at a time when he (personally) is the last person anyone in this world needs around.

    My annoyance, for what it’s worth, with Obama, has been steadily turning into contempt.

    • #24
    • March 3, 2015, at 8:53 PM PST
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  25. David Williamson Inactive

    Strange as this may seem, I think Mr Netanyahu cares more for his country than he does his re-election.

    Would that we had such a leader.

    • #25
    • March 3, 2015, at 10:10 PM PST
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  26. Claire Berlinski, Ed. Editor

    I just checked this thread, and I’m assuming someone in the US media referred to these words as “a dog whistle.” When I looked deep into my soul and asked, “Would it be right to refer to those words as a dog whistle?”–the intuition I had was “No.”

    Probably just my literary judgment. Either that or I’m speaking for God. (Note that I think it would be very unlikely He’d choose to speak through me.) So it’s probably just my literary judgment. Not imposing it upon anyone.

    When God speaks through me, you’ll be the first to know. Otherwise, you might note that He’s said to have spoken through … well, you know that part, which also means you know He probably doesn’t think “dog whistle” is the right way to describe that. Call me superstitious, but maybe you don’t want to say that on Ricochet.

    That said, I don’t see a “blasphemy code” in the Ricochet CoC. Or US Law. I’m not your rabbi. So I’m not scolding or saying don’t, I’m just registering this in print because …

    (… well, why am I? Really. In case He’s not sure where I stood on it and might need to see the written records when it goes to court?)

    Never mind. Carry on.

    • #26
    • March 3, 2015, at 10:14 PM PST
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  27. iWe Coolidge
    iWeJoined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Claire, please get some sleep. Or perhaps your first coffee of the day!

    • #27
    • March 3, 2015, at 10:22 PM PST
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  28. Arahant Member

    Claire Berlinski: When God speaks through me, you’ll be the first to know.

    From at least one reply on Jon’s coffee conversation, I think some people think that the word of Claire is the Law.

    • #28
    • March 3, 2015, at 10:22 PM PST
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  29. Arahant Member

    iWc:Claire, please get some sleep.

    It’s like 7:00 or 8:00 in the morning where she is. A real writer doesn’t go to bed until 9:00 AM.

    • #29
    • March 3, 2015, at 10:23 PM PST
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  30. Danny Alexander Member

    #11 iWc

    If you’ve ever had the opportunity to read Bibi’s father’s magnum opus on the origins of the Inquisition (I haven’t read his earlier book on Abravanel, perhaps you have), you’ll surely acknowledge that Bibi was steeped in an appreciation of historical analysis and analogy for most of the 60-odd years he shared in the 102-year lifetime of Benzion Netanyahu (himself at one point the secretary to Vladimir “Ze’ev” Jabotinsky).

    My money is on SoS having called it correctly.

    • #30
    • March 3, 2015, at 10:54 PM PST
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