You should all know that I’m not exactly a supporter of Avigdor Liberman and Yisrael Beitenu and their new policies, but I see something like this and it makes me throw-up a little. Mya Guarnieri, writing for Al Jazeera, seems to think that Israel is slipping into fascism. Although, I guess that it makes a change from people saying Israel was founded as a fascist state…
She starts-out by questioning Israeli democracy:
As Egyptians demand their freedom, I ask a Muslim in Jaffa if we will see the same in Israel. “I don’t think so,” he answers. “Even with all the mess here, we have democracy.”
But, do we? And for how much longer?
Then questioning whether Israel was ever a democracy:
Some critics might say that Israel was never a democracy in the true sense of the word. Arab citizens of the state were under martial law from 1949 to 1966. A year later, the decidedly undemocratic occupation of Palestinian territories began…
Then outlining how Israel is losing its democracy:
The Boycott Bill seeks to criminalise those who advocate for the international boycott of Israel, subjecting them to steep fines
The Anti-Incitement Bill criminalises those who publish anything that denies Israel’s Jewish and democratic character. Because I have authored articles calling for a bi-national democracy, this one could land me in jail. (And, if I’m already headed for the clinker, I might as well state the obvious: A country that must force people to call it democratic, on pain of imprisonment, is not a democracy). [she definitely has a point here – ed]
And the Knesset is considering the creation of committees that will investigate the funding of left-wing civil and human rights organisations – most of which are critical of the Israeli occupation. Critics have likened the move to a political witch-hunt as right-wing groups will not be investigated. They also point out that such an investigation, which is the responsibility of the legal branch, would exceed the Knesset’s power.
Non-sequitur arguments aside, she’s definitely right in that these proposals seem anti-democratic. The first one is actually understandable – Israel should be well within its rights to try and prevent itself from being boycotted – but the second one does seem undemocratic, if a little silly, and the third one is definitely problematic (although if it was targeting all NGOs, rather than specific ones, it would be fine). That said, none of these have actually passed through the Knesset, and have every possibility of being blocked. Also, this is not outright anti-democracy, even if it is a little extreme.
But rather than ruminating on what makes a democracy and how Israel is slipping from democracy, Guarnieri figured that she would just drop a bombshell from left-field:
So the question remains: Will Israel become out-right fascist?
At an October protest against legislation commonly referred to as the loyalty oath – a bill that would require non-Jews seeking Israeli citizenship to pledge allegiance to a “Jewish and democratic” state – Gavriel Solomon, a prominent academic and peace activist, likened Israel to Nazi Germany, circa 1935.
…”When we’re talking about the rise of fascism in Israel, we’re talking about the groups of extreme rabbis and the settler armies,” he says. “But it’s a mistake to focus just on those groups … The danger of fascism is wider.”
He points to a weak high court and problems within Israel’s political parties, as well as a political centre that has disappeared and can no longer keep the right in check.
Firstly, the loyalty oath was not just aimed at non-Jews, but all new citizens, and as explained here, it is not a racist policy.
I have one other little question: what exactly is fascism again? Because from what I remember, the Nazis never made new citizens pledge allegiance to the “National Socialist and democratic” state of Germany. In fact, I remember them doing other things instead…like taking over most of Europe, running death camps and sterilising the disabled. But Guarnieri never sees fit to really explain why things are fascist, she just likes to make some accusations.
The irony here is that Israel is far ahead of any of its neighbours by any scale of democracy, even in spite of Beitenu’s influence. In all the surrounding countries, anti-government NGO’s are persecuted and killed and any criticism of the government is clamped-down on heavily.
So what’s Guarnieri’s take-home point?
…While meaningful change is probably a long way off for Israel – it may take something huge, like fascism, to wake Jewish Israelis from their apathy and dreams of maintaining both a Zionist and democratic state – change is in the air.
So Israelis need fascism to wake them up from apathy? I could start drawing parallels to how the European Jews needed Fascism to wake them up from apathy, but I’m not going to, because that’s just disgusting and offensive. But I guess “disgusting and offensive” doesn’t matter when you’re making a point, right? Even Al-Jazeera can do better than this woman…