Fascism Needs an Enemy

Critically thinking Israelis – a negligible minority – already know the pattern: no matter how extreme our new prime minister is, it won’t take more than a couple of months for the media to portray him as the sane, moderate, and pragmatic leader of the political center. If even the warrior General Sharon could be reborn as "a Man of Peace," why can’t Netanyahu? The landmark was his "Bar Ilan Speech" of June 14, after which mainstream Israeli columnists, lead by the pathetic Ari Shavit (Ha’aretz) and his lowbrow twin brother Ya’ir Lapid (Yedioth Achronot), all resorted to ludicrous narratives of Rebirth, Revolution, and Rubicon for the allegedly new leader of peace-loving Israel.

One can expect little else from the Israeli mainstream, blinded as it is by decades of indoctrination and vested interests, or from Israel’s President Peres, whose political lexicon never included the T of Truth. But the world should be warned. Unlike Lebanon or Iran, Israel has not moved a single step forward in the Obama Era. On the contrary: With the rogue triumvirate of Netanyahu, Barak, and Lieberman, Israel is now ruled by the most nationalist, racist, and fanatical government it has ever had. On top of that, the main opposition party, led by the ultra-nationalist Livni and the opportunistic professional soldier Mofaz, offers yet another duplicate of the government’s narrative, so that the ever narrower public discourse is framed by two ideological and political twins, offering no alternative whatsoever. In fact, the Israeli far Right has now more than 80 percent of the seats in the Knesset – the rest being the Arab parties, Meretz, and a dubious dissenting faction within Labor. Thus the Israeli media consumer is not even exposed to anything but nationalist at best, racist at worst, anti-Palestinian, anti-peace, pro-occupation brainwashing.

Make no mistake: Netanyahu is a man of the occupation, as he always has been. Listen to Netanyahu’s ideological mentor, his father Prof. Benzion Netanyahu, who openly said his son would never agree to a Palestinian state; as Netanyahu told his father, he placed so many conditions on his offer at Bar Ilan in order to make it unacceptable to the Palestinians. It is yet to be seen whether Netanyahu’s anti-peace tactic will be eternal peace talks that go nowhere or whether he will attempt Barak’s "unmasking" gambit. But giving up the occupied territories and ending Israel’s colonialism is clearly not on the agenda. Just two weeks before Netanyahu’s "historic" two-states speech, the Knesset endorsed a decision against a Palestinian state, which enraged Jordanians by claiming Jordan is the Palestinian state. Indeed, the initiator did not come from within Netanyahu’s coalition but from a fascist party on the further Right, but his bill, overwhelmingly endorsed 53-9, was raised just a few days after a Knesset conference on "alternatives to the two-states solution" organized by a member of Netanyahu’s Likud Party.

Therefore, expecting Israel to stop or even freeze settlement activity just because President Obama says to is just as unrealistic as expecting al-Qaeda to lay down its arms for the same reason. Israel’s most dishonest minds – above all Defense Minister Barak – do their best to find a "formula" that will enable them to continue the organized Israeli land-robbery in the West Bank – be it "natural growth," "settlement blocks," "temporary freezing," or similar lies. The dispossession must not be stopped. After all, the settlements are by far the most central project of the state of Israel, and they have been so for the past four decades, that is, for two-thirds of Israel’s history, to the extent that Israel has clearly become the tail wagged by its own colonialism.

The Old-New Target: Israeli Palestinians

Ignoring the new winds blowing from Washington, the Israeli zealots are so self-confident that they consider the occupation a fait accompli: they have no doubt that just as Israel has managed to dupe the world and double the number of illegal settlers since the Oslo "Peace Process" began, it will succeed in keeping the occupied Palestinians – caged and impoverished in the West Bank, enslaved and starved in Gaza – under Israel’s abusive boot for decades to come. Their optimism may be justified: Obama has a very long way to go to prove he is serious.

Given this self-confidence, and given the fact that the Palestinian armed struggle has been contained, Israel’s energies of hatred are now turned toward another enemy: the Israeli Arabs, the approximately 20 percent-strong minority of Palestinians with Israeli citizenship. Israel is engaged in a full-fledged campaign aimed at delegitimizing and further excluding the Israeli Palestinians. The trend did not begin with Netanyahu, but it can now rely on a highly supportive parliament and leadership.

Netanyahu’s Bar-Ilan speech was symptomatic, introducing a central new demand from the occupied Palestinians as a condition for letting them have a (castrated) state: they must first recognize Israel "as a Jewish state." This sounds idiotic: Does Israel need an outside entity to define its own character? But the real targets behind this condition are the Israeli Palestinians. Demanding the occupied Palestinians to recognize Israel’s Jewishness plays them off against the Israeli Palestinians: You want your own state? First turn your back on your brothers inside Israel and thwart their demands to full equality within Israel. If even Abu Mazen states Israel is "a Jewish state," Arab Israelis cannot demand full equality, and if they do, we’ll tell them to piss off across the border. As a precondition to discuss ending their colonization, the Palestinians must submit themselves to the classic colonialist strategy of divide-and-rule.

But Netanyahu’s new condition is aimed predominantly at Jewish-Israeli ears: it turns the attention from the occupied territories to Israel proper, implying that "our real problem" is on the inside, with those inherently disloyal "Israeli Arabs." That’s where Netanyahu meets and carries out Lieberman’s fascist election slogan "No loyalty, no citizenship."

Netanyahu’s speech is just the tip of the iceberg. The war against the Israeli Palestinians is much wider than that. It is felt in the judicial system, where for example a Jewish farmer who shot Arab burglars in the back while they were fleeing from his farm, killing one and wounding another, was acquitted (and is now celebrated as a national hero). As Orly Noy writes (YNet, in Hebrew), "given the judicial and public atmosphere in Israel these days, nothing is more predictable than the acquittal of a Jew who exercised violence, even extreme, against an Arab citizen." In another case, a Jewish man who murdered a taxi driver just because he was Arab was deemed "unfit to face trial." A senior army officer who ordered his soldier to shoot a handcuffed, blindfolded Palestinian at point-blank range was merely accused of "improper conduct." This accusation was found unreasonable even by the Israeli Supreme Court.

The discrimination against Israeli Arabs, of course, is not new; even the official Israeli Or Commission stated in 2003 that "government handling of the Arab sector has been primarily neglectful and discriminatory." But whereas the early 2000s could give the impression the discrimination was diminishing, the last years show an opposite movement. The landmark seems to be the amendment to the naturalization law of December 2003, which bars Palestinians from the occupied territories from obtaining any residency status or citizenship in Israel through marriage to an Israeli citizen, thereby preventing them from living in Israel with their spouses. Heavily criticized by Israeli and international human rights groups, the law is aimed exclusively against Israel’s Palestinian minority, whose members often marry across the Green Line.

The flow of laws and regulations against Israeli Arabs increased exponentially. A year ago, a forgotten British Mandate regulation from 1939, banning the import of books printed in enemy countries, was suddenly revived, closing the import gates on Arabic schoolbooks and all kinds of literature printed in Lebanon (a major publishing center in Arabic) and other Arab countries. No security issues are at stake: all imported books are subject to censorship anyway.

A similar provocation is the transportation minister’s recent order to wipe Arabic place names off road signs, replacing them with their Hebrew names. Thus place names, including those of mixed or Arab towns like Yaffa (Jaffa) or Shafa’amr, should be publicly spelled in Arabic (!) according to their Hebrew form – Yafo or Shefar’am. While all over the world, from Canada to Australia, former colonialist nations recognize and respect the cultural heritage of, the rights of, and the evils done to indigenous minorities, colonialist Israel is eager to wipe them out – politically, culturally, and physically.

A further attack on the Israeli-Palestinian minority is the suggested law to ban the commemoration of the Nakba, the catastrophe in 1948 in which hundreds of Palestinian villages were destroyed and hundreds of thousands became refugees. Though its original form, including jailing individuals who do commemorate it, has been softened to a formulation forbidding only public-supported organs from commemorating the event, the intention is clear – as was that of the (currently rejected) law demanding a declaration of loyalty from every Israeli citizen.

The attack on Israel’s Palestinian minority has deep ideological roots in extreme nationalistic purism, but it is mainly politically motivated. The Israeli Arabs, despite six decades of discrimination, have been an incredibly loyal minority. The Israeli right-wing clearly wishes to put an end to this loyalty, hoping the incitement will lead Israeli Arabs to some form of violent resistance, from street violence to terror attacks. This would create the desired atmosphere of suspicion, fear, and hatred that fascism always needs in order to flourish. An Arab-Israeli Intifada is the wet dream of many Israeli right-wingers: nationally and internationally, it would enable them to present Israel once again as a threatened victim of Arab/Muslim/Gentile persecution, not as the rogue colonialist regional power it actually is.

Author: Ran HaCohen

Dr. Ran HaCohen was born in the Netherlands in 1964 and grew up in Israel. He has a B.A. in computer science, an M.A. in comparative literature, and a Ph.D. in Jewish studies. He is a university teacher in Israel. He also works as a literary translator (from German, English, and Dutch). HaCohen's work has been published widely in Israel. "Letter From Israel" appears occasionally at Antiwar.com.