- Since inception, Israel's democracy was illusory, but
of late it's further eroded. The Cabinet's October 10 adopted Law of Citizenship
amendment requires all non-Jews wanting it to pledge loyalty to "the
State of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state," its latest anti-democratic
- Voting 22 - 8, it evoked protests from Israeli artists,
writers and intellectuals in front of Tel Aviv's Independence Hall against
"the continuous erosion of Israeli democracy." Actress Hana Maron
quoted Israel's Declaration of Independence saying:
- "I will read this again: '(the state of Israel)
will ensure complete equality of social and political rights to all its
inhabitants irrespective of religion, race or sex.' This makes me want
to cry. What has become of us?"
- Author Sefi Rachlevsky said:
- "a country that invades the sacred space of the
citizen's conscience, and punishes him for opinions and beliefs that are
not in line with the authorities ceases to be a democracy and becomes a
- Defying the Cabinet's edict, Rachlevsky read excepts
from a document titled "the declaration of independence from fascism,"
- "We, citizens of Israel....have gathered here to
announce that we shall not be citizens of the country purporting to be
the state of Israel."
- Professor Gavriel Solomon compared today's Israel to
1935 Germany, saying:
- "the idea of Judenrein (Jew free zone) or Arabrein
is not new....Some might say 'how can you compare us to Nazis?' I am not
talking about the death camps, but about the year 1935. There were no camps
yet but there were racist laws. And we are heading forward toward these
kinds of laws. The government is clearly declaring our incapacity for democracy."
- Solomon referred to the Nuremberg Laws, explained in
a previous article, accessed through the following link:
- Among other provisions, they:
- -- protected "German Blood and German Honour;"
- -- prevented marriage or sexual relations between Jews
- -- denied rights and citizenship to anyone with Jewish
- -- banned Jews from holding professional jobs to exclude
them from education, politics and industry;
- -- segregated Jews from Aryans; and
- -- effectively denied Jews all rights, in what became
a prelude to genocide, what Palestinians (and to a lesser degree Israeli
Arabs) have incrementally endured for decades by racist laws, persecution,
land theft, dispossession, exclusion, isolation, mass imprisonment, torture,
targeted assassinations, violence, and slaughter.
- Israel's direction mirror's 1930s Germany, especially
under a Netanyahu/Lieberman/Shas coalition and most extremist ever Knesset,
flouting democratic freedoms one law or edict at a time. Lieberman and
other extremists called the new measure a first step to loyalty legislation
they want enacted as well as other anti-democratic laws to be considered
in the Knesset's winter session. A forthcoming article addresses them.
- On October 11, Haaretz writer Carlo Strenger headlined,
"Stranger than Fiction/Loyalty oath is not about Arabs, it's about
hatred of liberal values," calling the measure "bad, harmful
and useless," Labor Party Minister Isaac Herzog warning that it moves
incrementally toward fascism.
- Legal expert Mordechai Kremnitzer said it accomplishes
nothing except to make Israeli Arabs feel unwanted. Others stressed Israel's
deteriorating image in world opinion. Supporters, however, see the measure
as a step "toward ensuring loyalty to the state by legislation,"
singling out Arab citizens "whom Avigdor Lieberman is alienating and
insulting almost every day, and Palestinians who want to gain Israeli citizenship."
- Others (including MKs Benny Begin and Dan Meridor) noted
the "strange alliance" between Lieberman's Yisrael Beiteinu (Israel
is our home) secular ultranationalists and Shas, the major ultra-Orthodox
party. Why are they cooperating and allied with other hard right parties?
Perhaps it's less fear of Israel's enemies and more about:
- "a visceral hatred for the Western values and the
liberal ethos. They all hate freedom; they all hate the idea of critical,
open discourse, in which ideas are discussed according to their merit.
They keep criticizing what they see as the liberal bias of the media and
academia, and they have sustained attempts to curtail freedom at the universities."
- Lieberman is a notorious racist, representing Israel's
most extreme hard right, a man critics denounce as espousing hatred for
Arabs, democracy, and the rule of law. A previous article on him can be
accessed through the following link:
- For decades, Shas only pretended to support democracy,
believing, in fact, that citizens have no right to think freely and critically.
"(T)hey believe that only their spiritual leader, Ivadia Yossef, must
determine what is right and what is wrong."
- Moreover, secular and religious extremists want Israeli
Arabs and Palestinians denied all rights; that is, what few remain, most
others aren't allowed by a nation affording them solely to Jews.
- As a result, Strenger says Minister Herzog is wrong believing
"fascism lurks at the fringes of Israeli society. It is now in the
mainstream. After all, even the majority of Likud ministers" backed
the outrageous amendment.
- "Israel is now facing a fateful question: will it
remain a liberal democracy, or is it on the way to becoming a totalitarian
- In fact, Israel was never a democracy, granting rights
solely to Jews. A more accurate consideration is whether Israeli extremists
will erode all freedoms, demand universal unquestioned loyalty, ban free
expression and dissent, suppress all civil liberties by edict, and perhaps
usurp dictatorial powers with no elections except the kinds despotic states
- Strenger is right, however, saying "Israel has embarked
on a slippery slope; and we cannot know where it will end....It is a truly
terrible tragedy" that enlightenment ideals and liberal values are
being "gradually erase(d).." Growing fascism is "burying"
what remains of Israeli democracy, so flawed it may easily be toppled.
- Discussing the Citizen Law amendment, a Haaretz October
10 editorial sharply criticized Labor chairman Ehud Barak, saying he's
turned the party into a "weak, crumbling entity devoid of any of its
own staked-out positions....It has become nothing more than a tool of the
extreme right" and is now irrelevant.
- A same day Gideon Levy article headlined, "The Jewish
Republic of Israel," saying the Cabinet measure risks it becoming
a "theocracy like Saudi Arabia....Remember this day. It's the day
Israel change(d) its character." It may also change its name, affecting
all Israeli citizens.
- "From now on, we will (openly) be living in a new,
officially approved, ethnocratic, theocratic, nationalistic and racist
country." Calling Labor a "doormat" and Netanyahu Yisrael
Beinteinu's leader, a virtual Lieberman stooge, today's loyalty oath will
be tomorrow's law, "threatening to drown the remnants of democracy"
for a new Israel "no one really understands, but it certainly won't
be a democracy."
- The Netanyahu/Lieberman/Shas cabal deplores it. But who
can explain "the complacency of the masses," minority protests
notwithstanding. In contrast, public opinion shows "almost no one....feel(s)
- Real democracies don't demand loyalty oaths. "Only
Israel. And it is being done either to provoke the Arab minority more and
push them (toward less) loyalty so one day (it will be easier to) get rid
of them," as well as scuttle any chance for peace, though practically
none exists anyway. One way or other, Israel's current direction endangers
everyone, including Jews who'll end up losers like Arabs.
- Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at
email@example.com. Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com
and listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the
Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network Thursdays
at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs
are archived for easy listening.