Dr. Mohannad Mahagna delves into Netanyahu’s role in framing conflict as a clash of cultures

Israeli Studies professor delivers public lecture in which he deconstructs Israeli narrative, foreign policy agenda ​

Dr. Mohannad Mahagna, a professor in the Israeli Studies Master’s Program at Birzeit University, explored Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s role in Israeli policies and practices in a lecture entitled “Netanyahu and Framing the Zionist Project Within the Clash of Civilizations.”

The lecture, held on May 23, 2018, on Birzeit University’s campus, was organized by the Israeli Studies Master’s Program, and featured Dr. Munir Fakher Eldin, director of the program, who emphasized the importance of discussing such notions during a time when populism is on the rise in many of the world’s countries. 

Mahagna directed attention, at the beginning of the lecture, to the connection between Netanyahu’s position in the Israeli government and the policies that it pursued. 

“Netanyahu is one of the main personalities who has played a key role through the governmental position that they had,” said Mahagna. “Netanyahu was able to affect a great change in the political, social, and intellectual spheres of Israel, not by his own abilities, but by the fact that he has held his position for three consecutive terms.” 

Netanyahu, noted Mahagna, was able to hold fast to ideological positions. That, in and of itself, does not point to a tendency to adhere to political standpoints, but it points to an inability to capitalize on new opportunities, ideas, and political concepts, he added. 

“Netanyahu is not a great political thinker. He is, however, a political opportunist,” remarked Mahagna. 


A clash of civilizations 

“He has become a representative, and maybe even the Western leader, in a purported clash between the Western and Islamic civilizations,” observed Mahagna. Netanyahu, he said, has successfully framed the Palestinian-Israeli conflict as a continuation of the struggle between the Western civilization, which is a descendant of the Christian-Jewish heritage, and the Islamic civilization, much to the joy of his far-right supporters. 

A staunch believer in the unfeasibility of lasting peace between Palestinians – and Arabs – and Israelis, Netanyahu, highlighted Mahagna, believes that there is a global conspiracy set against the Jewish people, and has set his foreign policy agenda accordingly. 

“Netanyahu has positioned himself as a world expert on combating terrorism and has structured his modus operandi so as to delegitimize and dehumanize Eastern anti-colonial movements. He has worked tirelessly to position those movements as the polar opposite of Western cultures,” Mahagna explained. 

He mentioned that Netanyahu has also pursued the same strategy while dealing with Western countries. The reason, he clarified, is to dehumanize the West too, such that any future conflict would be set between an “enlightened West” and a “terrorist East,” where there is no room for political compromise and no common ground can be found. 

“Such a conflict, if it were to happen, would only be settled through the use of force and might,” Mahagna said, concluding that the Israeli narrative builds upon such false notions and conceptions in which Palestinian narrative is incitement; Palestinian humanity is fake; Palestinian rights a lie; and Palestinian existence a danger.