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.”