Israel Palestine Infos
October 23, 2010
I am too busy with the
problems of Israeli democracy to fly to
This troubles me not only as a historical phenomenon, but as a warning for the future. If this happened to the Germans, can it happen to any people? Can it happen here?
As a 9-year old boy I was an eye-witness to the collapse of German democracy and the ascent of the Nazis to power. The pictures are engraved in my memory – the election campaigns following each other, the uniforms in the street, the debates around the table, the teacher who greeted us for the first time with “Heil Hitler”. I resurrected these memories in a book I wrote (in Hebrew) during the Eichmann trial, and which ended with a chapter entitled: “Can it happen here?” I am returning to them these days, as I write my memoirs.
I don’t know if the
This is an all-important
question, because now people in
FOR THE first time, this question is being asked in all seriousness. Throughout the years, we were careful not to mention the word Fascism in public discourse. It raises memories which are too monstrous. Now this taboo has been broken.
Yitzhak Herzog, the Minister of Welfare in the Netanyahu government, a member of the Labor party, the grandson of a Chief Rabbi and the son of a President, said a few days ago that “fascism is touching the margins of our society”. He was 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.
The country is still divided by the amendment to the law of citizenship, which
will compel applicants to swear allegiance to “
This week, a new bill was
tabled. It would prohibit non-citizens from acting as tourist guides in
The bill is intended to deprive Arab Jerusalemites of the right to serve as tourist guides at their holy places in their city, since they are apt to deviate from the official propaganda line. Shocking? Incredible? Not in the eyes of the proponents, which include members of the Kadima party. A Knesset member of the Meretz party also signed, but retracted, claiming that he was confused.
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.
It pays. After each such bill, the initiators are invited to TV studios to “explain” their purpose. Their pictures appear in the papers. For obscure MKs, whose names we have never heard of, that poses an irresistible temptation. The media are collaborating.
THIS IS not a uniquely
Israeli phenomenon. All over Europe and
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.
Only a few years ago, the
world was shocked when Jörg Haider’s party was allowed Into the Austrian
government coalition. Haider praised Hitler’s achievements. The Israeli
government furiously recalled its ambassador to
So we are in good company. We are no worse than the others. If they can do it, why not us?
BUT THERE is a big
Years ago. I believed
that two miracles had occurred in
The resurrection of a “dead” language has never succeeded anywhere else. Theodor Herzl, the founder of Zionism, once asked contemptuously: “Will people ask for a railway ticket in Hebrew?” (He wanted us to speak German.) Today, the Hebrew language fares better than the Israeli railway.
But Israeli democracy is
an even greater miracle. It did not grow from below, as in
I was always worried that this democracy was hanging by a thin thread, that we must be on our guard every hour, every minute. Now it is facing an unprecedented test.
THE GERMAN republic
carried the name of Weimar, the town where the constituent assembly adopted its
constitution after World War I. The
It was a shiningly
democratic constitution. Under its wings,
Generally, two causes are
identified: humiliation and unemployment. When the republic was still in its
infancy, it was forced to sign the
When the world economic crisis broke out in 1929, the German economy broke down. Millions of despairing unemployed sank into abject poverty and cried out for salvation. Hitler promised to wipe out both the humiliation of defeat and the unemployment, and fulfilled both promises: he gave work to the unemployed in the new arms industry and in public works, like the new autobahns, in preparation for war.
And there was a third reason for the collapse of the republic: the growing apathy of the democratic public. The political system of the republic just became loathsome. While the people were sinking into misery, the politicians went on playing their games. The public was longing for a strong leader, to impose order. The Nazis did not overthrow the republic. The republic imploded, the Nazis only filled the void.
If so, what does the profound crisis of Israeli society stem from? What causes millions of citizens to regard with complete apathy the doings of their leaders, contenting themselves with shaking their heads in front of the TV set? What causes them to ignore what’s happening in the occupied territories, half an hour’s drive from their home? Why do so many declare that they do not listen to the news or read newspapers anymore? What is the origin of the depression and despair, which leave open the road to fascism?
The state has arrived at a crossroads: peace or eternal war. Peace means the foundation of the Palestinian state and the evacuation of the settlements. But the genetic code of the Zionist movement is pushing towards the annexation of the whole of the historical country up to the Jordan River, and – directly or indirectly - the transfer of the Arab population. The majority of the people is evading a decision by claiming that “we have no partner for peace” anyhow. We are condemned to eternal war.
Democracy is suffering
from a growing paralysis, because the different sectors of the people live in
different worlds. The secular, the national-religious and the orthodox receive
totally different educations. Common ground between them is shrinking. Other
rifts are gaping between the old Ashkenazi community, the Oriental Jews, the
immigrants from the former Soviet Union and
For the second time in my life, I may have to witness the collapse of a republic. But that is not predestined. Israel is not the goose-stepping Germany of those days, 2010 is not 1933. The Israeli society can yet sober up in time and mobilize the democratic forces within itself.
But for that to happen, it must awake from the coma, understand what is happening and where it is leading to, protest and struggle by all available means (as long as that is still possible), in order to arrest the fascist wave that is threatening to engulf us.