I am usually loathe to use words like “fascism” in this blog to denote anything about Israel since the term is loaded, incendiary and draws fierce rebuke from apologists for Israeli policy here. But when I read polls like this one and see powerful graphics like this one published with the poll, then I realize there are many thoughtful Israelis who are thinking and publishing the same thoughts I have.
What stands out in the results below is the absolutely schizoid nature of the Israel polity. While 80% of Israelis are “proponents of democracy,” 55% favor limiting free speech even when it poses no security threat. Go figure.
Only 63% support the right of Israeli Palestinian citizens to vote and 26% would prefer a political leader who would bypass democratic institutions and rule by fiat. 13% place themselves on a continuum between nationalist to fascist (which I would take to be about the size of the settler population and its supporters). 60% of Israelis believe that Avigdor Lieberman is the politician most responsible for incorporating fascist themes into Israeli politics. It makes one understand the psychology at work historically in societies that turn to fascism, even while retaining the illusion that they are still at least marginally democratic.
A few words on the masterful and profound graphic: it pictures in the background an Israeli ID card, which is apt because the entire poll dealt with the nature of Israeli identity. Superimposed on the identity card are the Kahane Kach raised fist logo alongside one-half of the Nazi eagle (the most incendiary feature of the graphic). The document features the pictures of the four Israeli politicians whom respondents were asked to rate in terms of the their responsibility for fascist attitudes entering Israeli politics.
Here is an English translation of the poll results as reported by Yediot Achronot:
Yedioth Ahronoth 15 October, 2010 (by Dahaf Polling Institute) —
Q: Where do you situate yourself on the scale between being a clear proponent of democracy and a supporter of fascism?
Proponent of democracy also in the face of security needs — 16%
Proponent of democracy — 64%
Inclined towards nationalism — 5%
Nationalist — 5%
An extremist nationalist to the extent of supporting fascism — 3%
Yes, it is justified to add the words “as a Jewish and democratic state” to the pledge of allegiance for non-Jews?
Entire population — 63%
Jews — 69%
Yes, it is justified to limit the freedom of speech when this poses a possible risk to non-security related interests of the state
Entire population — 55%
Jews — 58%
Yes, I support the right of non-Jewish citizens to vote in Knesset elections
Entire population — 63%
Jews — 62%
ultra-Orthodox — 32%
Religious — 42%
Secular — 75%
Q: Are you bothered by the possibility of fascism in Israel?
Yes — 64%
No — 34%
Yes, I prefer a strong leader who reaches decisions alone rather than one who is subject to the decisions of the government and Knesset?
Entire population — 26%
Jews — 25%
Immigrants — 53%
Secular — 21%
Q: Who among the politicians is most responsible for the increase extreme nationalist and near fascist tendencies?
Avigdor Lieberman — 60%
Eli Yishai — 40%
Binyamin Netanyahu — 30%
The poll questioned 500 people. The margin of error is 4.4%
Thanks to Zvi Solow for the Yediot graphic. The English version of the Yediot article is available here.
One minor caveat about this poll: it claims to incorporate Israel Palestinian opinion which is 20% of the overall population. Yet the results on questions where one would expect almost total unanimity from Palestinians doesn’t seem to reflect that in the comparison between Israeli Jewish opinion and overall Jewish opinion–such as the question about Israeli non-Jews voting in which 62% of Jews support it while only 63% of the overall population does. That result seems improbable.
Silverstein has published Tikun Olam since 2003, It exposes the secrets of the Israeli national security state. He lives in Seattle, but his heart is in the east. He publishes regularly at Middle East Eye, the New Arab, and Jacobin Magazine. His work has also appeared in Al Jazeera English, The Nation, Truthout and other outlets.