Israel’s fascists flourish in well prepared ground
The floodgates are open, it’s the tip of an iceberg, we’re on the slippery slope and this or that event has proved a last straw. Israel’s fascist right is calling shots and pushing envelopes and making hay while the coalition sun still shines on them.
All this year, these straws in the wind have been gathering. Now, in addition to the infamous Loyalty Oath that effectively affirms privileged Jewish ownership of the State and all its lands and works, there are some ten further pieces of legislation in the pipeline moulded to the same template.
Almost all are directed against Israel’s 22% Palestinian minority and its increasingly voiced demand for a state for all its citizens. The new laws would entail criminal and financial penalties on individuals, and loss of income or funding for institutions.
The legal moves have been backed up by death threats and demonisation of hate figures such as MK Haneen Zoabi, a Palestinian heroine threatened with loss of parliamentary privileges and loss of citizenship, a standard measure of Nazi Germany circa 1938. And now we’ve witnessed a classic bootboy march of fascists swaggering through a Palestinian town.
If we could be sure there was a plan behind all this, and that it wasn’t merely an illustration of a racist society in meltdown, it would have to be an intent to goad the “home” Palestinians into open revolt on a scale that would facilitate a major new round of ethnic cleansing. (There have already been some practice runs and exercises in mass clearances.) But this is a risky project, which could end up with a major backlash and realignment of Israel’s internal politics and international standing.
At the heart of this is the clear division between the politics of race-hate and separation (merely taken to its logical conclusions by the Lieberman gang) and the politics of humanism and inclusion embodied in the One State ethos.
Israel’s confused centre and “left” are those who believed that the Zionist “ideal” embodied humanism rather than racism. At some point on the slippery slope towards full frontal savagery, many individuals will have to confront the reality that Liberman’s politics are in a direct line of descent from Herzl, Weizmann and Ben Gurion.
What is significant is how fast this is all moving. It is common in One State or Two State debates for people to speculate how many decades or generations it will take for Israel to decide to opt for a single democratic state, as if simply articulating a figure like “70 years” indicates knowledge that it won’t be easy.
But this sort of guesswork is quite pointless. “A week can be a very long time in politics” means that the biggest transformations and upheavals often happen in a very short time, so that all of history’s unremarked changes finally come together to produce an explosive result that can bring seemingly unconquerable edifices of oppression crashing down.
When and how this might happen is impossible to predict. But we can usefully watch for and interact with the signifiers, the lines that are crossed, the exemplary initiatives that could spread, the pressure points and openings to push against, the divisions where we can drive in a wedge. As we’ve written in Digressions, the contradictions in Israeli opinion “ indicate not so much that they are open-minded but unstable, likely to go either way if something dramatically changes the view.”
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