How does a father explain to his ten year old son, watching the American Super Bowl for the first time, that his country introduces sporting events by a killing machine fly-by? Each year, US Black Hawk helicopters swoop low over the stadium and fighter jets roar through the sky, cutting to an advert for laptop computers or beer.
The rowdy American film director Michael Moore, whose documentary Bowling for Columbine swept up award after award upon its release in 2002, hypothesised that the unique American phenomenon of school shooting sprees derives from a deep-seated doctrine of violence in American culture.
Moore pointed to news channels which repeatedly prioritise violence and guns, creating a climate of fear. He argued that the threat of terrorism, over-played by Washington hawks and bullish Fox News anchors, sees Americans descend into paranoia. He deals with the bizarre phenomenon of informal militia groups, who arm themselves with automatic rifles, dress up in camouflage gear and mount quasi-military patrols. This, in a country whose last civil war ended a century and a half ago, and where the two largest attacks on American soil, at Pearl Harbour and New York's Twin Towers, have been carried out by aircraft.
In Hollywood, the "Top Gun Effect" describes the collusion of the Pentagon and a succession of directors, who are given subsidised access to military hardware to feature in war films, in return for presenting a strong pro-war line. Salon columnist David Sirota has nicknamed this phenomenon the "Military-Entertainment Complex."
These are just the most recent manifestations of America's obsession with war and violence. The United States was fundamentally built on aggression, with a sick taint of genocide. "No state can achieve proper culture, civilisation, and progress," said US President Martin Van Buren in 1837, "as long as Indians are permitted to remain."
Sir Edward Lytton, co-founder of the British colony of British Columbia, wrote in his book The Coming Race that, "Colonisation is civilisation… If we, the superior race, take the land of other races, we must utterly destroy the previous inhabitants."
The parallels with Zionism are uncanny. Though the times do not permit the Israeli government to talk about Palestinians in the same way, Netanyahu's followers, and the far-right elements in the Israeli government, would clearly rather the Palestinians were not there; be it through the endorsement of the settler movement, the Gaza blockade or the indiscriminate, periodic shelling of Palestinian civilians, or by failing to censure calls from the far-right to wipe out the Palestinian people altogether.
To sell this gradual programme of ethnic cleansing to the Israeli people, the government has employed techniques borrowed heavily from the neo-conservative movement in the United States, creating a new culture of war and something far worse; a bloated Frankenstein monster of American militarism.
Much as George Bush understood that an appeal to patriotism would win support for his 2003 invasion of Iraq, and the Republican Fox News anchor Bill O'Reilly smeared any pro-peace Americans as traitors, rooting out opposition to the war movement in Israel is now obsessive and obscene. So far, a government official, an employee of telecommunications company Cellcom and several hospital nurses have lost their jobs for posting pro-Palestinian or anti-war messages on Facebook and Twitter. Conscientious objectors risk at least social estrangement, as well as attacks from lightly policed far-right thugs, reminiscent of the ultra-nationalist gangs currently roaming the streets of Moscow.
While American journalists are courted subtly by the Marine Corps with lucrative "embedding" arrangements, the Israel Defence Forces invite foreign politicians and neo-con activists to join their war bonanzas. These innovative trips build Israel's international network of support with a new cohort of gullible neo-conservative activists; wide-eyed stooges who ride Israeli tanks or watch artillery shells being fired into Gaza's densely-populated suburbs.
The domestic airwaves in America are dominated by IDF generals, who mimic the trail of US top brass who filed into Fox News, CNN or MSNBC studios ahead of the Iraq invasion in 2003. They too, "sell the war", and their views are rarely challenged.
Israel has tough censorship laws. Journalists are not allowed to report on whether IDF strikes hit their targets, and must submit all coverage of military matters to an IDF review board. Talking in too strong language about civilian casualties is forbidden. The IDF have even attempted to censure foreign news outlets, including most recently the New York Times. Amongst Israeli journalists – an attitude of self-censorship prevails.
Israel's government spokespersons repeat the "terrorism, terrorism, terrorism" mantra until the message of fear is rammed home. The narrow scope of reference is deliberate. Israeli historian Professor Ilan Pappé reflected that, "The Israeli propaganda machine attempts again and again to narrate its policies as out of context." It paints Hamas as a legitimate threat but fails to acknowledge the context in which the movement arose, he added.
Danny Schechter, who has written widely about the role of the American media in justifying the Iraq War, argues that Israel's propaganda strategy has now evolved further even than the American war machine. It's gone, he said, from "PR to PM – Perception Management."
These strategies are working: 95 per cent of Jewish Israelis now support the Gaza offensive, according to a local polling agency (Arab Israelis were not polled). This extraordinary figure bests even militaristic America. George Bush saw just 72 per cent support for his Iraq war, even after 9/11.
The climate is now so putrid that the Times of Israel saw fit to publish an op-ed entitled "When Genocide Is Permissible." More recently, the Deputy Speaker of the Knesset published a detailed plan to ethnically cleanse Gaza. "This is our country – our country exclusively," Moshe Feiglin wrote, "including Gaza."
His Facebook missive, addressed to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, proposed that the IDF should "designate certain open areas on the Sinai border, adjacent to the sea, in which the civilian population will be concentrated, far from the built-up areas that are used for launches and tunnelling."
Feiglin added, "In these areas, tent encampments will be established, until relevant emigration destinations are determined." His Facebook post received more than eight thousand "Likes" and two thousand "Shares".
The CIA's controversial drone strike programme has been justified in the past by the White House gently alluding to intelligence-gathering efforts to prevent civilian deaths, and approved "kill lists" signed-off by lawyers. The comments are made by evasive spokespeople who barely take questions from avid reporters.
The IDF is more brazen, replacing the furtive press conference with a swanky promotional video, with heroic IDF commanders filmed alongside military lawyers guiding missiles onto Palestinian targets. Together they are shown gripping joysticks and squinting at civilian targets, insisting that child deaths are being minimised, with a step-by-step guide to IDF incompetence.
And while it is the constant threat of terrorism in the United States which has been used to infringe on civil liberties, it is the constant threat of anti-Semitism that keeps the Israeli population alert and primed for war. In fact, Israelis live in a deliberately fostered climate of fear. Constant reference, for example, is made to the 1982 Hamas charter which called for Israel's destruction even though the document was long ago over-ruled; this development is ignored by militaristic Netanyahu.
In 2006, the then Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh wrote a letter to President George W Bush saying, "We are so concerned about stability and security in the area that we don't mind having a Palestinian state in the 1967 borders and offering a truce for many years." The news was ignored because peace is not for Netanyahu. Even the executive leadership of Israel is arranged as a "Security Cabinet" rather than a civilian ministerial team; it is de facto military rule.
Likewise, speculation is mounting that external threats to Israel have been grossly exaggerated, just as the threat from Saddam Hussein was grossly exaggerated, except that Israel's deception has been going on for far, far longer than Bush's ever did.
Haaretz reviewed American historian Gareth Porter's latest book "Manufactured Crisis" as "a highly detailed and well-documented book" referencing "invented facts and intelligence reports whose purpose was to support the misconceptions" casting doubt over the theory that Iran continues to threaten Israel with weapons of mass destruction. Few Israelis know that the intelligence assessment of the US Government in 2007 concluded that the Iranian nuclear weapons programme ended in 2003. The book is stuffed full of similar analysis, with Porter arguing the threat has been fabricated for political aims.
A more disturbing evolution comes with regards to prisoners of war. "Never leave a man behind" is the most famous slogan of the American military, yet Israel has its own Frankenstein version, the "Hannibal Directive". This is a formal government strategy, which has been admitted by numerous Israeli officials, predicating that Israeli soldiers should be killed by their own side rather than falling into enemy hands.
Reports coming from multiple media outlets in the last few days join Haaretz in confirming that, "On Friday morning, when the IDF still believed that Lieutenant Hadar Goldin may have been taken alive by Hamas… the Hannibal Directive was activated… including massive artillery bombardments and air strikes on possible escape routes." It appears that the young soldier was blown up by his own side, to avoid being used as a pawn by Hamas.
Tragically, the dead man's poor father had already issued a statement, alongside an IDF spokesperson, in which he insisted that, "It is inconceivable that the army will withdraw from Gaza while leaving a soldier in the field."
Finally, the Dahiya Doctrine represents Israel's evolution from a militaristic society modelled on neo-con America, to a new age; a country positively comfortable with war crimes committed by its soldiers.
The 2009 United Nations Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict makes several references to the Dahiya doctrine, calling it a concept which requires the application of "widespread destruction as a means of deterrence" and which involves "the application of disproportionate force… the causing of great damage and destruction to civilian property and infrastructure, and suffering to civilian populations."
Richard Falk, a Professor Emeritus of Law at Princeton University, described how "the civilian infrastructure of adversaries such as Hamas or Hezbollah are treated as permissible military targets." Falk observed that this is "not only an overt violation of the most elementary norms of the law of war and of universal morality, but an avowal of a doctrine of violence that needs to be called by its proper name: state terrorism." In short, Israel has legitimised mass civilian casualties as a core part of how the IDF wages war.
Israel's conservative and far-right politicians have taken the worst parts of American militarism, an outlook imposed on peace-loving Americans by a war-hungry political elite, and twisted it for their own sick aims. They have borrowed from their allies but also created a grotesque new Frankenstein monster; a society totally geared towards militarism and endless conflict.
What's more, the existence and tolerance of a far-right wing of politics in Israel is an outright offence to the victims of the Holocaust; the cynical manipulation and military censorship of the press makes a mockery of Israel's claim to be a "democracy"; and the Israeli nation has truly been hijacked by dangerous ideologues. If, indeed, Israel is a democracy, it is time for the Israeli people to stop being captivated by war.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.