It's become a Saturday night ritual for scores of thousands of Israelis: turning out to protest the extremist policies of the new Benjamin Netanyahu government. In Jerusalem, 100,000 mobilized in recent weeks, and the same numbers in Tel Aviv. Israel's population was 9.3 million in 2021, so this level of mobilization is significant.
Autocrats are the chameleon of the political world. Since the gullibility level of lots of people is so high, they fall for the propaganda espoused by the wannabe dictators. One has to look no farther than what Fox News did and are still doing promoting the Big Lie! I sincerely hope that people pay close attention to your work!
I have read in many places that Israel can be a democracy or it can be a Jewish ethnostate. It appears that it has arrived at the crossroads of the decision. Which will they pick? And if the choice is for an ethnostate that will require apartheid to suppress the Palestinians, for how long can that be sustained? As Ruth mentions, do Arab states band together to either go to war with Israel or in support of a new Intifada? And what do the Americans and the Europeans do? What meaningful steps can they take in the face of an annexation of the West Bank? The only American response that might get Bibi's attention would be a total cutoff of economic and military aid (as if Israel needs either anyway), but that is unlikely. As for the Israelis themselves, do the leaders of tech companies move out of the country. Do the streets fill with young Israelis who want no part of the ultra-orthodox? The consequences of Bibi's actions are hard to predict, but it seems clear that it's going to be ugly.
Exceptional piece Ruth! Cutting any funding to pro-authoritarian governments, especially Israel should have been American policy! The horrific treatment of Palestinians, and establishment of a state are ridiculously overdue! Thanks for all you do!!
Given Bibi's personalty its hard to imagine him backing down from his aim to 'capture the courts' even in spite of massive and sustained street protests through out the country from all sectors of the population. He leads the most extreme right wing government in Israel's history. As such, authoritarian people with extreme far right ideologies don't back down from an opportunity to move toward autocratic control. This is what they live for. Jason Stanley says once you have control of the courts you can do anything you want. I believe they want to do anything they want... including destroying the foundations of democracy in the very state that was the only democracy in the middle east.
I hope I turn out to be wrong.
Israel ranks 3rd in the world for most educated. That shoots the theory of, only stupid people elect Fascists. Education has little to do with it. I use to think it was tribal, and a sense of belonging, that was missing. Then, I thought propaganda was the culprit, at least that theory made sense. I have been searching my way back brain vault. I finally settled on an old electric shock psych study that was done. My prediction is, gospel according to Art, at least 50% of people will side with fascism, basically due to lack of ethics, compassion and love greater than self. A similar study was investigated around someone who froze to death in a locked freezer, one whose temperature was not below freezing. Perception exposes the heart. “Mind is the master power that molds and makes and man is mind, and evermore he takes, the tools of thought and shaping what he wills, brings forth a thousand joys, a thousand ills. He thinks in secret and it comes to pass, environment is but his looking glass.” James Allen. Israel elected Netanyahu, just like we elected Trump and we will elect the next fascist. 50% and a crisis is all it takes to expose the heart of a nation.
All the time everywhere its human nature.
Israel has shifted politically in the last 50 years. This started in earnest with the fall of the Soviet Union. The Jewish people who emigrated to Israel were conservative and Orthodox. Likud and the other right-wing parties actively recruited them. Soon the right had the electoral edge to control the government.
Ruth's post, as usual, is compelling. As an American Jew, who won't have to live with the immediate consequences of Israel's political upheavals, I'm loath to criticize Israel's gov't. That said, I'm no fan of Netanyahu's corruption & authoritarianism. My fervent hope is that the ongoing, massive demonstrations bear fruit, & that Netanyahu will moderate his goals accordingly. Coalitions shift, fall apart, & reconfigure often in Israel's type of democracy. My other fervent wish is for peace, within Israel, as well as in the wider region.
Peter Beinart contends that "You Can’t Save Democracy in a Jewish State," NY Times Opinion column, Feb 19, 2023.
Ruth, thank you for yet another timely and thought provoking essay on the most recent scandal in Netanyahu’s Israel.
Full disclosure: I consider Benjamin Netanyahu and his government, fascist. The terrorist label is also apropos, yet he and those of his ilk, are described, however, as extremists, authoritarian, far-right, etc.; everything but fascist and/or terrorist.
Netanyahu and his cabal are in pursuit of an “ethnostate,” too esoteric and benign a term for average folk, including myself. It might understate the gravity of their threat; unwittingly, a euphemism. It excludes the goals of autocracy, theocracy, apartheid, genocide, and white supremacy; not necessarily in that order.
We’ve witnessed Netanyahu’s thugs at work, spreading terror and genocide, while imposing apartheid. What may be more novel is the brutality that the fascist Israeli government is now inflicting upon White Jewish dissidents, treatment once reserved for Indigenous Palestinians People; the hated ‘Other’ slated for eradication.
Robert Leyland Monefeldt
We’re morally obligated to withdraw support from Netanyahu’s government, one in clear pursuit of a fascist theocratic kleptocracy, with perfunctory elections; it intends to eradicate the Palestinian population—with our complicity.
We ought to support, at least not oppose, Palestinian efforts to seek justice from the International ICC and the Boycott, Divest and Sanction (BDS) movement. Above all, let’s demand an end to the $3.8b a year in aid to Israel.
Robert Leyland Monefeldt
As the ‘strongmen’ label surfaced, I’m reminded that Timothy Snyder said it was okay to call Putin a fascist. I wonder why we don’t refer to Hungary’s Orbán, as well as Israel’s Netanyahu, as fascist. Don’t they all follow the same fascist playbook and deserve the pejorative?
Both Netanyahu and Putin have their hated “Other:” Palestinians and Ukrainians. Orban’s hated “Other” is also anyone that serves as an obstacle, such as George Soros, et al.
The above three countries ought to share space on the BDS list.
Excellent piece Ruth! Thank you for making us think!