Israel’s drift towards fascism

“[Benjamin Netanyahu] and each of the 41 MKs [members of Israel’s parliament] who voted for the establishment of a political committee to hunt the human rights organizations, will be remembered as being the ones who attempted to smash what is left of democracy in Israel and impose a fascist regime,” a group Israeli intellectuals wrote in a letter sent to all members of the Knesset this week.

The group included a number of Israel Prize laureates, among them professors Yehuda Bauer, Chaim Adler, Yermiyahu Yovel and Micha Ullman, Shulamit Aloni, David Tartakover, Danny Karavan and Ram Loevy. Signatories also included Prof. Haim Ben-Shahar, Prof. Yaron Ezrahi, the painter Yair Garboz, Prof. David Harel and authors Ronit Matalon, Sami Michael, Yehoshua Sobol, Sefi Rachlevsky and Yoram Kaniuk.

In issuing this grave warning, this group of prominent Israelis were willing to use a term that Israel’s critics overseas, even now, are largely hesitant to utter: fascist.

Time magazine reports:

If there were any doubt about the direction in which the government of Israel is headed, another clear marker emerged in the overheated air of a Knesset committee room on Monday.

On the table was a bill proposed by Yisrael Beiteinu (Israel Is Our Home), the right-wing party headed by Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman. The measure called for stripping the citizenship of any Israeli convicted of espionage, but the only Israelis under discussion were the country’s Arab minority. The move follows a loyalty oath that Lieberman would make a condition for acquiring citizenship; calls for bans on Jews from renting property to Arabs; and street demonstrations demanding prohibitions on dating between Arab boys and Jewish girls.
Taking a page from neighboring authoritarian states, Netanyahu encouraged support for the law, appointing a panel to investigate independent organizations that are critical of government actions. These include Breaking the Silence, a group of former Israeli soldiers that has published a book of testimonies detailing human-rights abuses, which the former soldiers say they witnessed while serving in the West Bank; the rights group B’Tselem, which documents abuses by settlers and security forces in the West Bank; Gisha, which monitors the plight of Palestinians caught between Hamas and Israeli collective punishment in the Gaza Strip; and Physicians for Human Rights Israel, which recently reported in gruesome detail the plight of African economic immigrants, who are commonly referred to “infiltrators.”

The measure passed by a more than 2-to-1 margin, prompting a stunned response from quarters both expected and not. Outside the government, a group of leading intellectuals issued a letter declaring that the bill’s supporters “will be remembered as being the ones who attempted to smash what is left of democracy in Israel and impose a fascist regime.” Even inside Netanyahu’s coalition, minister without portfolio Benny Begin, the arch-conservative son of Menachim Begin, told Israeli Radio that the measure broke from the conservatism he knew: “This decision sends a warning signal — here is darkness.”

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4 thoughts on “Israel’s drift towards fascism

  1. Norman

    Now that it seems a confirmation that Israel is turning into a fascist state, let us watch closely how the U.S. is going to react. If it goes along, how long before the U.S. Government decides that it too will embrace Fascism? Of course, this could be the opportunity for the U.S. to disassociate itself from the long running Israeli game that they have suckered the U.S. & the other western countries in all these years. It can be the opening that this country needs to extricate from the whole of the Middle East. We shall see just which direction the U.S. takes.

  2. Ian Arbuckle

    Norman, you write “how long before the U.S. Government decides that it too will embrace Fascism? ” You must be joking.

    With the Patriot Act, suspension of “habeas corpus”, presidential authorization of targeted assassination of US citizens, spying on citizens, secret watch lists and no fly lists, and many other examples of abuse of citizen rights, plus the suppression of investigations and cover ups, legal chicanery at executive levels, justification for torture and kidnapping, arrest search and measure against anti-war activists obfuscation of the constitutional obligations under treaties, support for nuclear and terror rogue states, with a military industrial complex running 50% of the state budget, with selected financial and commercial institutions dominating the political agenda through finance while being supported to the detriment of citizens interests, with the media conglomerates oligopoly being harnessed as outlets for propaganda or threatened in the rare case of publication of investigated wrong doings …….etc. etc.. can you not see what is already upon you?

  3. pangloss

    Good title for your post as it is a drift usually towards fascism isn’t it really. Too bad, I guess, that Nazism almost killed the word and the imagining of the concept in the circles of polite discuss. It maybe useful to re-read Umberto Eco’s 1998 essay Ur-Fascism (link to pdf copy below) as a quick reminder of a: “list of features that are typical of what I [Eco] would like to call Ur-Fascism, or Eternal Fascism. These features cannot be organized into a system; many of them contradict each other, and are also typical of other kinds of despotism or fanaticism. But it is enough that one of them be present to allow fascism to coagulate around it.”

  4. Observer

    To most of us, to call America and other European countries ‘a fascist state’ is a kind of lazy, even amusing cliche. Who hasn’t called “Godwin’s Law ” during a blog argument? — but I’d wager to our victims, we already do look like a fascist state as we meddle in their affairs, and turn them upside down or make or break them.

    It would be easy to understand if the Iraqis/Afghans couldn’t tell the difference at all between America’s raging stormtroopers and Germany’s in the 40’s.

    ” Ammmurrrcaaa — it’s a big place dude.You sound kinda funny — Hey, speak Enger-lish dude. Don’t you dudes have a Burger King around here? “

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