Is fascism raising its head in Israel?

Israel is awash with Jewish hate preachers. In the past, rabbis who issued racist edicts or offensive remarks about Palestinians or non-Jews were generally dismissed as radicals and extremists.


In the current climate in Israel, extremist hate preaching has apparently become the norm and it is being embraced, not just on the extreme political right but also by a disturbing number of Israelis in general, be they preachers, politicians, settlers or simply ordinary citizens. Hate-filled Israelis have become emboldened over the years by the knowledge that they can say and do almost anything without fear, knowing that they will not be condemned or, if they are, that nothing will come of it. That is due to the widespread support for their views across Israeli society as well as their religious leaders and the political elite.


What is particularly disturbing is that leading Israeli rabbis, who are meant to be the spiritual and moral guides of the Jewish people, are actually encouraging racism, physical violence and even the killing of Palestinians.


Vicious levels of discrimination against non-Jews have now escalated to the point that when Israelis of a more reasonable persuasion do something as simple as, for example, rent a property to an Arab, rabbis are now calling for them to be shunned and boycotted by their own Jewish communities.


A recent report in Haaretz quoted a letter signed by a group of 18 prominent rabbis, including the Chief Rabbi of Safed, who wrote that renting properties to Arabs would deflate the value of Jewish homes and, “The neighbours and acquaintances [of a Jew who sells or rents to an Arab] must distance themselves from the Jew, refrain from doing business with him, deny him the right to read from the Torah, and similarly [ostracize] him until he goes back on this harmful deed”.


In his controversial bookThe King’s Torah, Rabbi Yitzhak Shapiro sanctioned the murder by Jews of non-Jews, including babies and children, who may pose an actual or potential threat to Jews or to Israel.


“It is permissible to kill the Righteous among non-Jews even if they are not responsible for the threatening situation,” he wrote. “If we kill a Gentile who has sinned or has violated one of the seven commandments because we care about the commandments there is nothing wrong with the murder.” This edict was seemingly made in response to the arrest of a Jewish terrorist who confessed to murdering two Palestinian shepherds in the West Bank, and was thus used to justify the killings.


According to a report by Khalid Amayreh in November 2009, “During the Israeli onslaught against Gaza earlier this year, Mordecahi Elyahu, one of the leading rabbinic figures in Israel, urged the army not to refrain from killing enemy children in order to save the lives of Israeli soldiers. He had even petitioned the Israeli government to carry out a series of carpet-bombing of Palestinian population centres in Gaza. ‘If they don’t stop after we kill 100,’ said the rabbi, ‘then we must kill a thousand. And if they do not stop after we kill a thousand, then we must kill 10,000. If they still don’t stop, we must kill 100,000, even a million. Whatever it takes to stop them’.”


Yitzhak Herzog, the minister of welfare in the Netanyahu government, a member of the Labour party, the grandson of a chief rabbi and the son of a president, said a few days ago “fascism is touching the margins of our society”. He is wrong: fascism is not only touching the margins, it is touching the government in which he is serving, and the Knesset, of which he is a member.


Not a day – quite literally – passes without a group of Knesset members tabling a new racist bill. This week, a new bill was tabled. It would prohibit non-citizens from acting as tourist guides in East Jerusalem. Non-citizens in this case mean Arabs.


This proposal comes after dozens of bills of this kind have been tabled recently, and before dozens of others, which are already on their way. The Knesset members act like sharks in a feeding frenzy. There is a wild competition between them to see who can devise the most racist bill.


This is not a uniquely Israeli phenomenon. All over Europe and America, overt fascists are raising their heads. The purveyors of hate, who until now have been spreading their poison at the margins of the political system, are now arriving at the centre.


In almost every country there are demagogues who build their careers on incitement against the weak and helpless, who advocate the expulsion of “foreigners” and the persecution of minorities. In the past they were easy to dismiss, as was Hitler at the beginning of his career. Now they must be taken seriously.



One response to this post.

  1. Why the question mark, Patrick? It is obvious that Israel is a fascist state as I have indicated in a comment on facebook a while ago. — Jette


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