Tony Greenstein | 10 January 2023 | Post Views:

 Those Who Think Israel is Becoming a Fascist State do Not Understand What Fascism is

To paraphrase Rudyard Kipling, when all those around you are losing their heads, it’s a good idea to keep a firm grip on your own head! Never has so much hysterical nonsense been written by so many as in the past few weeks following Netanyahu’s unexpected triumph in Israel’s elections.

The election of the new coalition government, including the far-right messianic settler party Religious Zionism, itself made up of 3 parties, does not herald the dawn of Israeli fascism. Israeli democracy is not under dire threat if only because such a beast never existed.

This pogrom against Palestinians in East Jerusalem was allowed to go ahead by Israeli Labor Party’s Omar Bar-Lev

Of course liberal Zionists find it difficult to defend the street thug and criminal Kahanist Ben Gvir as Police and Security Minister. It would be far better for Israel’s image if the Labor Party’s Omar Bar Lev was still in place. But let us remember, it was Bar Lev who, last May, gave the green light for Gvir and his settler mob to rampage through East Jerusalem chanting ‘death to the Arabs’‘may their villages burn’ and other delightful ditties from the settlers’ prayer book.

According to Richard Silverstein, ‘Zionism has finally embraced the fascist ideology that inspired major sections of the movement… a century ago.’ It is true that fascism did indeed inspire the Revisionist Zionist movement but it was untrue, even then, to say that the Revisionists were fascists, despite the taunt ‘Vladimir Hitler’ that Ben Gurion regularly hurled at its leader Vladimir Jabotinsky.

One thug inspects other thugs

If anything the opposite was true. It was the ‘Socialist’ not the Revisionist Zionists who most resembled the National Socialists. It was Labour not Revisionist Zionism that had cordial relations with the Nazis and which negotiated a trade agreement Ha’avara with the Nazis and whose agent, Feivel Polkes, offered to spy for the Nazis.

Labour Zionism saw the role of Labour as a national not a class force. The late Ze’ev Sternhell, a Zionist and holocaust survivor, described Labor Zionism in The Founding Myths of Israel as ‘nationalist socialism’. He would have used the term ‘national socialism’ but it ‘has been contaminated by association with the Nazis.’

It was the Revisionist movement which opposed Ha’avara and it was Revisionists Peter Bergson and Shmuel Merlin who campaigned for the rescue of Jews, wherever their destination and who led the campaign which led to the US setting up the War Refugee Board in January 1944 against the bitter opposition of the Labour Zionists.

Palestinian demonstrator in Beit El near Ramallah 8.10.15

Let us put it another way. Was the America of Andrew Jackson and the Indian Removal Act a fascist state? Was it any less terrible for the Indians that it was not fascist? Was South Africa a fascist state?

Fascism is a specific political phenomenon that seeks the atomisation and destruction of working class organisations. Nazi Germany, Mussolini’s Italy and Franco’s Spain are the most obvious examples. In more recent times Chile under General Pinochet and the military Junta in Argentina bore a close resemblance to fascism.

Israel on the other hand, like South Africa and the United States before it is a settler colonial state. The key difference between fascism and settler colonialism is that the latter involves an alliance of the settler working class with its own ruling class. Rather than the destruction of working class organisations, it is the settler working class which is usually the most racist and chauvinist section of settler society as for example in Northern Ireland.

Ben Gvir – a Genuine Jewish neo-Nazi

Ben Gvir and Smotrich Do Not Represent a Break with Previous Zionist Governments

Gvir and Smotrich represent the logical outcome of decades of rule, by Labour Zionism and Likud. They do not represent a fascist break from Zionism. The agreed platform of the coalition was:

“The Jewish people have an exclusive and unquestionable right to all areas of the Land of Israel. The government will promote and develop settlement in all parts of the Land of Israel – in the Galilee, the Negev, the Golan, Judea and Samaria.”

How is this different from previous governments? Support for ‘Jewish settlement’ has always been the policy of both wings of the Zionist movement. It was not a Likud/Religious Zionist government which began the policy of Judaisation of the Galilee.

The 1976 Koenig Memorandum, named after Yisrael Koenig, a member of the Israeli Labor Alignment and Director General of the Northern District outlined the policy. It was a nakedly racist document which spoke of the Israeli Arabs having a “Levantinistic Arab character” whose “imagination tends to exceed rationality.”

Koenig advocated denying work, educational opportunities and benefits to Israel’s Arab population and the thinning out of the Arab population through Jewish settlement. It took for granted that Israel’s Arab population were a threat to Israel’s Jewish character.

The document put forward a number of strategic goals and tactical steps aimed at reducing the number and influence of Arab citizens of Israel in the Galilee region. The Memorandum was the first publicly available document to outline some of the policies of discrimination and containment that Palestinian citizens of Israel had been subject to since 1948, reflecting “planning and deliberations at the policy-making circles.” See The Koenig report and Israeli policy towards the Palestinian minority, 1965-1976: old wine in new bottles.

Judaisation of the Galilee was the policy and practice of Israel even before the conquest of East Jerusalem in June 1967. This began under a Labour not a Likud or Religious Zionist government.

On 24 June 2013, the Israeli Knesset approved the Prawer-Begin Plan for the mass expulsion of the Arab Bedouin community in the Naqab. It proposed the destruction of 35 ‘unrecognized’ Bedouin villages and the forced displacement of up to 70,000 Bedouin citizens of Israel, and the confiscation of their historical lands.

It is clear that the new government in Israel represents a continuation of the policies of previous Israeli governments not a break with them. Those who talk of the destruction of democracy speak exclusively to Israel’s Jewish society. As Ahmed Tibi MK once noted, when Zionists talk of a Jewish Democratic state this is an oxymoron. Israel is Jewish towards Arabs and Democratic towards Jews.

No-one doubts that the accession to government of Ben Gvir and Bezalel Smotrich, two Jewish neo-Nazi settlers, will result in an intensification of repression in the West Bank although it is hard to see how much further the repression of the military dictatorship in the West Bank can be intensified.

It was not under Gvir and Smotrich that 6 Palestinian human rights groups were banned as ‘terrorists’ but under the ‘Change Government’ that included the Labor Party and Meretz. When Smotrich described human rights organisations as an ‘existential threat’ he was simply picking up from where Merav Michaeli of the ILP and Nitzan Horowitz of Meretz left off.

The real threat of the new government is two-fold. Like in South Africa we are going to see an erosion of the democratic rights of Israeli Jews. It is this which has produced panic in what is left of the Israeli left. The settlement of the West Bank is coming home.

This will involve an erosion of the difference between Palestinians in Israel and those on the West Bank. In its eyes they are all ‘Arabs’.

Desecration of Christian graveyard

Only a few days ago we saw the open desecration of a Christian graveyard in Jerusalem. Imagine the howls of protest if this took place in Britain with the desecration of a Jewish graveyard? Attacks on churches, mosques and graveyards are a regular occurrence in Israel.

As the platform of the Coalition outlines, the Golan Heights, the Negev, the Galilee and the West Bank are considered the same. In all these areas the demographic threat of the Arabs is a problem.

And not only in these areas. Gvir led the way in May 2021, with the support of the Israeli Policein pogroms and attacks against Israel’s Arab citizens in the mixed cities of Bat Yam, Lod etc. Their intention is to recolonise these cities and drive their Arab inhabitants out.

It is Jewish ‘Democracy’ which is now under threat

At the weekend largely Jewish demonstrations of 20,000 in Tel Aviv reacted with alarm at the judicial reform proposals of the present coalition because they saw that it was their rights which were now under attack. Former Defence Minister Benny Gantz, who took pride in bombing Gaza back to the stone age warned of civil war in Israel.

Israeli Gays, who have been complicit in pinkwashing Israeli colonisation, have reacted with alarm to the inclusion of the anti-gay Noam party and leader Avi Maoz in government. Those who were happy to collude in the repression of Palestinians now realise that Messianic Zionists have no place for alternative sexual lifestyles either. It is hard to work up much sympathy for these pink racists.

Racist?  Perish the thought!

The protestors in Tel Aviv were divided on the question of Palestinian rights. A large section was extremely unhappy about mixing up the threat to Jewish rights with the threat to Palestinian rights. Assaf Agmon, a leader of one group, was particularly upset:

“The protest on Saturday night is led by extreme leftist groups that are not prepared to move one millimeter from the ‘stop the occupation’ and Arab rights, which are super-important issues but they are on the agenda after we leave ourselves a democracy to advance them in.”

“People may come and find themselves surrounded by Palestinian flags and stop the occupation flags and that is how [Netanyahu’s supporters] will brand all of our protests as pro-Palestinian and anti-Zionist.”

Stav Shaffir, an ex-member of the Knesset was concerned that:

Netanyahu and his mouthpieces will lie afterward and say the protest was organized by the treasonous left and funded by foreign money and supports our enemies. Let them say it.

This resulted in there being 2 separate marches.

The real fear of liberal Zionists is the coalition’s proposals for reform of Israel’s judicial system. Israel’s Supreme Court is their pride and joy. It is the symbol of Israeli Democracy. What is proposed is an override clause whereby any legislation that is rendered unlawful by the Supreme Court can be overridden by a majority in the Knesset. The Judicial Appointments Committee will be stacked with government appointees. They fear the death of Jewish democracy.

This is a battle that liberal Zionism is going to lose. There is nothing democratic about unelected judges not having the power to veto legislation. Of course Israel, being an ethno-nationalist state, is not a democracy anyway. Arabs have always been excluded from power and that includes the last ‘Change’ government in which an Arab party was nominally part of the coalition.

Israel’s Supreme Court and Torture

The position of Israel’s Supreme Court on torture is instructive. It has ruled that torture is allowed under the ‘ticking timebomb’ scenario.

In 1987 the Landau Commission into the use of torture the use of torture, but it accepted their argument that physical pressure was necessary for efficient interrogation.

The Landau Report recommended psychological pressure and “a moderate amount of physical pressure” i.e. torture against Palestinian detainees. Israel was thus the only state in the world to legalise torture. HaMoked, the Centre for Defence of the Individual, found that 85% of Palestinians were tortured.

In 1994 the Public Committee Against Torture in Israel petitioned the High Court to protest Shin Bet interrogation tactics. The following year Association for Civil Rights in Israel petitioned the High Court demanding an end to vigorous shaking of prisoners.

In 1999 the High Court ruled that Shin Bet can’t use violence in interrogations, but interrogators could use the “necessary defense” argument if they used torture in “ticking bomb” situations. Thus the Court allowed Shin Bet to continue to use torture because every case of torture and abuse uses the same ‘ticking bomb’ excuse.

Israeli actor in torture session

It was the ‘liberal’ Supreme Court President Aharon Barak who presided over this decision. Fast forward 23 years and we find Barak so enraged by the plans to reform the Supreme Court that he has offered to go before a firing squad if that would prevent the enactment of the new legislation! If I was Netanyahu I would take Barak up on the offer! Barak explained that:

he sought to be neither overly activist nor overly conservative and to deliver verdicts that took heed of Israel’s history, Zionism and the country’s security needs.

Barak claimed that ‘the rights of everybody — Jew, Arab, ultra-Orthodox, not ultra-Orthodox — are in grave danger.” This is a lie. Not once has the Supreme Court used its powers to overturn nakedly racist anti-Arab legislation. Always it has bowed the knee to Zionism’s concern about a Jewish demographic majority. In the West Bank /Gaza it has explicitly disregarded international law and the Fourth Geneva Convention.

stress and torture position

The Supreme Court has refused to override the 1950 Absentee Property Law which allowed the confiscation of thousands of dunums of Arab land for Jewish settlement since the establishment of the Israeli state. Jewish land has never once been confiscated for the benefit of Arabs but the Supreme Court had no problems with its racist intent. The Supreme Court also approved the use of this law to confiscate Arab homes in East Jerusalem in order that they could be handed over to the right-wing Ateret Cohanim settler group.

In the West Bank the Supreme Court has openly connived in the use of fraud and trickery in the theft of Palestinian land, including private land that was stolen in ‘good faith’. A thousand Palestinians are, at this very moment facing eviction from their homes in Yasafer Mata yet the Supreme Court happily allowed the Israeli army to establish a firing range on peoples’s land and next to their homes in order to facilitate yet more ethnic cleansing.

In the process the Supreme Court dismissed evidence proving that Palestinians had lived in these homes for generations. They preferred the lies of the State that Palestinians had only lived in the area recently. Not once did they ask why it was only in Arab villages, not Jewish settlements, that the Israeli Army established firing zones.

Likewise in the Negev the Supreme Court approved the destruction of the village of Umm Al-Hiram to make way for a Jewish only town of Hiram. Never, not once, was it the other way round.  Not once were they asked to approve the confiscation of Jewish land for the benefit of Arabs.

Israel detains hundreds of Palestinians, including Israeli citizens, under Administrative Detention without any trial whatsoever. When used by the British under the Emergency Regulations future Israeli Justice Minister Ya’acov Shapira remarked that ‘Even in Nazi Germany, there were no laws like this.’

Not once has the Supreme Court overturned such a detention, even though the Defendant cannot challenge the ‘evidence’ because the Defendant and their lawyer are unable to see it. Every scrap of rumour by Shin Bet is accepted in good faith by the Supreme Court.

On 8 July 2021, the Supreme Court in a 10 to 1 decision, upheld the 2018 Jewish Nation-State Basic Law, which enshrines Jewish supremacy and racial segregation as a Basic Law with constitutional status in the State of Israel. The only dissenting opinion was issued by the only Arab justice on the court, Justice Kara.

As a matter of course the Supreme Court has failed over the years to challenge or even scrutinise the openly anti-Arab evidence of the Shin Bet secret police. The Supreme Court has colluded in the State’s refusal to open the archives and release information concerning the Nakba. There can be no possible national security reason for not releasing 70+ year old files other than a refusal to countenance evidence of Zionist ethnic cleansing.

This deference to Shin Bet even extended to the Court’s refusal to order the release of evidence concerning the State’s suspected involvement in the murder of Nazi collaborator Rudolf Kasztner in 1957, 62 years previously. The Supreme Court accepted Shin Bet’s rationale – ‘national security and lack of resources’. How could national security possibly be damaged by the revelation that Shin Bet had murdered an Israeli citizen over 60 years ago?

Far from the Supreme Court being the last ditch defender of Israeli  democracy, it is a supine creature in all but one respect. It is the decisions of the Supreme Court to challenge the monopoly of Orthodox Jewry, such as conversion by other strands of Jewry, which has antagonised Religious Zionism and Orthodox Jewry. The current proposals have nothing to do with Netanyahu’s legal problems.

The Supreme Court has rejected every petition aimed at forcing the Israeli state to reveal which repressive states it arms and equips. Arms to Ukraine’s neo-Nazi Azov Battalion? In a ruling on 27 June 2021 the court ruled that no future appeals would be discussed in court. As lawyer Eitay Mack commented:

“It’s incredible that in a state which defines itself as Jewish and democratic, it was decided that preventing aid to genocide, to crimes against humanity, to war crimes and to severe violations of human rights is not a topic with which courts should engage,”

Since 2007 the Israeli government has approved every single arms deal brought to it. The Supreme Court was happy to allow Israel to equip every mercenary, fascist and genocider. This is the figleaf for Jewish supremacy that liberal Zionists fear will be stripped away.

If I was a member of the Knesset I would have no hesitation in voting for the reforms proposed by the governing coalition. The Supreme Court is a Zionist body complicit in the colonisation of Palestine.

Another proposal, which I would support, would be to remove the ‘grandfather’ clause from the 1950 Law of Return which allows the partner of someone whose grandparent was Jewish to obtain entry to and citizenship of the State of Israel. 

Given the racist nature of the Law of Return, in allowing Jews who weren’t even born in Israel to claim citizenship as of right whereas Palestinian refugees have no such rights, I can see no possible objection to this proposed law. It is the logic of racial supremacy that the racists are always seeking to redefine who is and who is not part of the ubermenschen. That is why the question Who is a Jew has for Israel been an insoluble question ever since its inception.

In so far as this proposal furthers the already existing breach between American Jewry, most of whom are not Orthodox Jews, and Israel, then this legislation can only be welcomed.

Of course there is much reactionary legislation proposed by the coalition such as a refusal to ratify the Istanbul Convention against violence to women.

Budgets will be increased to strengthen “Jewish settlement in Arad,” a city in the Negev. The planning procedures for the city of Kasif, a future planned ultra-Orthodox city in the Negev region, will continue and approximately 14 settlements in the Negev will be continued and accelerated and NIS 800 million ($227M) will be budgeted each year.

In compliance with Smotrich’s demands regarding human rights associations, the government will dissolve organizations financed by external parties and international funds. This will severely harm Palestinian Arab civil society and will further entrench human and civil rights violations against minorities in the country.

This is a government of open racists. In a 2018 radio interview, Likud MK Miki Zohar claimed that the Israeli public will never believe that Netanyahu is guilty of corruption because he “belongs to the Jewish race, and the entire Jewish race is the highest human capital, the smartest, the most comprehending.”

But how is this different from ‘centrist’ Prime Minister Yair Lapid’s declaration that “My principle says maximum Jews on maximum land with maximum security and with minimum Palestinians”?

If I had any doubt about my position then arch-Zionist and Trump supporter, Alan Dershowitz, laid them to rest when he said that:

“It will make it much more difficult for people like me who try to defend Israel in the international court of public opinion to defend them effectively, It would be a tragedy to see the Supreme Court weakened.”

But it is Aharon Barak, who has provided the definitive argument in favour of the legal reforms. Barak said that

the High Court has acted as a kind of legal “Iron Dome,”. Without a credible independent court, deemed as ensuring Israel’s democratic functioning, including in its treatment of the Palestinians, “our chief of staff and government ministers will immediately be arrested when they travel overseas…  The leaders of the country will be put on trial in the International Criminal Court in The Hague.”

Could there be any more persuasive argument for giving Justice Minister Yariv Levin’s proposals our full support?

Tony Greenstein

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Tony Greenstein

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