No, Israel Isn’t on the Brink of Fascism

Jan. 26 2018

Not satisfied with proclaiming the imminent death of Israeli democracy, some on the Israeli left have begun warning that the country is sliding into fascism. One recent headline read, “In Israel, Growing Fascism and a Racism Akin to Early Nazism.” To Ofir Haivry, these arguments are nonsense, and not only because they confuse off-the-cuff statements of fringe politicians with actual policy or depict fairly modest proposals as outrages against human decency:

Israel is certainly not a perfect place. Like any democratic state, it has its fair share of problems, conflicts, and quirks. But a democratic society with problems is a far, far cry from a non-democratic one; and an even farther cry from a fascistic one. But this basic category error—that a democracy with a few problems is equivalent to fascism—is not [new]. In fact, those who oppose democracy have often used a democracy’s compromises to claim a moral equivalence between those democracies and the deliberate evil of dictatorships.

The actions of democracies during World War II, such as the British “area bombing” of German cities and the U.S. internment of Japanese Americans, were and still are used quite often by spokesmen for dictatorships to allege a moral equivalence between the Western democracies and the Nazis. Maybe, so the narrative goes, the Nazis weren’t so bad if Churchill and Roosevelt were just as bad as Hitler? This equivalence is not only a misunderstanding of history; it’s a misunderstanding of what morality is.

To try to claim moral equivalence between the Nazis and even the most controversial actions taken by democracies defending themselves against mortal attacks—actions that, however misguided, are altogether of another order of magnitude than the deliberate planning and executing of genocide—is to erase the distinctions that make some humans into murderers. . . .

But by far the worst claim oft-repeated by [those] using the “Nazi” clickbait articles to describe Israel [is] that the views and actions of Israelis are “eroding the moral legitimacy of their existence as a sovereign entity.” In other words, [these authors] believe that the very legitimacy and existence of the Jewish state might be put into question by its policies. The argument that a country would lose the very legitimacy of its existence in such circumstances is not only ludicrous, it is immoral when raised only in the case of Israel, as if the Jewish state has some kind of special taint that has to be atoned for before it is allowed “legitimacy.”

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More about: Fascism, Israel & Zionism, Israeli democracy, Nazism

The Syrian Civil War May Be Coming to an End, but Three New Wars Are Rising There

March 26 2019

With both Islamic State and the major insurgent forces largely defeated, Syria now stands divided into three parts. Some 60 percent of the country, in the west and south, is in the hands of Bashar al-Assad and his allies. Another 30 percent, in the northeast, is in the hands of the mostly Kurdish, and American-backed, Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). The final 10 percent, in the northwest, is held by Sunni jihadists, some affiliated with al-Qaeda, under Turkish protection. But, writes Jonathan Spyer, the situation is far from stable. Kurds, likely linked to the SDF, have been waging an insurgency in the Turkish areas, and that’s only one of the problems:

The U.S.- and SDF-controlled area east of the Euphrates is also witnessing the stirrings of internal insurgency directed from outside. According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, “236 [SDF] fighters, civilians, oil workers, and officials” have been killed since August 2018 in incidents unrelated to the frontline conflict against Islamic State. . . . The SDF blames Turkey for these actions, and for earlier killings such as that of a prominent local Kurdish official. . . . There are other plausible suspects within Syria, however, including the Assad regime (or its Iranian allies) or Islamic State, all of which are enemies of the U.S.-supported Kurds.

The area controlled by the regime is by far the most secure of Syria’s three separate regions. [But, for instance, in] the restive Daraa province in the southwest, [there has been] a renewed small-scale insurgency against the Assad regime. . . .

As Islamic State’s caliphate disappears from Syria’s map, the country is settling into a twilight reality of de-facto division, in which a variety of low-burning insurgencies continue to claim lives. Open warfare in Syria is largely over. Peace, however, will remain a distant hope.

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More about: ISIS, Kurds, Politics & Current Affairs, Syrian civil war, Turkey