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

Palestinian Acceptance of Israel as the Jewish State Must Be a Prerequisite to Further Negotiations

Oct. 19 2018

In 1993, in the early days of the Oslo peace process, the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) under Yasir Arafat accepted the “right of the state of Israel to exist in peace and security.” But neither it nor its heir, the Palestinians Authority, has ever accepted Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state, or the right of the Jewish people to self-determination. Robert Barnidge explains why this distinction matters:

A Jewish state for the Jewish people, after all, was exactly what the [UN] General Assembly intended in November 1947 when it called for the partition of the Palestine Mandate into “the Arab state, the Jewish state, and the city of Jerusalem.”

Although the legitimacy of Israel as a Jewish state does not stand or fall on this resolution—in declaring the independence of Israel on the eve of the Sabbath on May 14, 1948, the Jewish People’s Council, [the precursor to the Israeli government], also stressed the Jewish people’s natural and historic rights—it reaffirms the legitimacy of Jewish national rights in (what was to become) the state of Israel.

The Palestinians have steadfastly refused to recognize Jewish self-determination. [Instead], the PLO [has been] playing a double game. . . . It is not simply that the PLO supported the General Assembly’s determination in 1975, rescinded in 1991, that “Zionism is a form of racism and racial discrimination.” It is that that the PLO leadership continues to speak of Jews as a religious community rather than a people, and of Zionism as a colonial usurper rather than the national liberation movement that it is.

The U.S. government, Barnidge concludes, “should demand that the Palestinians recognize Israel’s right to exist in peace and security as a Jewish state” and refuse to “press Israel to negotiate with the Palestinians unless and until that happens.”

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More about: Israel & Zionism, Peace Process, PLO, US-Israel relations, Yasir Arafat