Amos Schocken published an eye-opening, remarkably candid op-ed (and Hebrew) in Haaretz about the extent of the catastrophe that Israel currently faces, which includes a raft of repressive bills and laws threatening everything from freedom of speech to freedom of the press to academic freedom to minority Arab rights. We’re used to the agonizing of liberal Zionists who decry the obvious but always seem to stop short of acknowledging just how bad things are, and how radical the solution needs to be. Schocken, to his credit, faces things I’ve never heard a liberal Zionist face, and calls a spade a spade in his article. The “Jewish lobby” and even the Supreme Court come in for their share of criticism.
He begins with a 1993 speech by Yitzhak Rabin to the Knesset, in which he warns of the dangers of Iran seeking a nuclear weapon. But unlike Netanyahu, who uses this possibility to spook the nation into submission to authoritarianism, in much the same way Bush-Cheney did in the aftermath of 9/11, Rabin tells Israel that we must seize on Iran’s pursuit in order to pursue peace:
The possibility that someday Iran might have nuclear weapons must worry us, and is one of the reasons why we must exploit this window of opportunity and progress toward peace.
What a difference a day and a prime minister make, don’t they? Bibi the manipulator, the exploiter of national insecurity in order to bring a nationalist settler state; Rabin a wise warrior who knew the horrors of war well enough to know that peace was preferable to a nuclear arms race. But, Schocken continues, Rabin’s way as represented by the Oslo accord was overwhelmed by the settler enterprise, one of whose acolytes assassinated him.
Though liberal Zionists like Gershom Gorenberg and many other Haaretz columnists have decried the settler enterprise for decades, few have been willing to acknowledge the rot it has caused inside Israel. Few have been willing to go so far as to acknowledge it is likely to destroy nation. For the conventional liberal Zionist, Israel can be saved by degrees, by small improvements, by nibbling around the edges of injustice. Schocken seems beyond this.
To his credit, Schocken doesn’t flinch from seeing that mess Israel is in and calling it what it is. Here are some memorable passages:
According to the Gush Emunim ideology, Israel is for Jews. Not just the Palestinians of the Territories are irrelevant, but Palestinian citizens of Israel too are subject to the same oppression and denial of their citizenship. This is a strategy involving seizure of territory and apartheid.
…This ideology sees in the creation of an Israeli apartheid regime something that is necessary to realizing its goals. It has no problem with using illegal, even criminal acts because its sacred mission is seen as above the law and having no real relation to the laws of Israel. Rather, it depends on a perverted interpretation of Judaism.
…This ideology has achieved some of its greatest successes in the U.S…Whether this is due to the enormous numbers of Christian evangelicals, or the problematic relationship between Islam and the west, or the Jewish lobby’s addiction to Gush Emunim, the results are clear: it may no longer even be possible for a U.S. president to pursue an activist agenda against Israeli apartheid.
Paragraphs like the last one will make Bill Daroff howl, as well they should. Because Daroff is not Israel’s friend. He is the settlers’ friend. And we, like this wise newspaperman, must make a distinction. We must tell the world, Jewish and non-Jewish, that there are Jews who have Israel’s long-term interest at heart, and those who will hasten its demise. The “Jewish lobby” is in the latter category. Everyone must know this. We must not allow them to represent us or speak for us. We must stop StandWithUs and The Israel Project (and sometimes even J Street) and their like to suck the oxygen out of the Israel debate. We must tell them that they have no monopoly on either power or (self-) righteousness.
Schocken proceeds to link the lawlessness of “Israeli apartheid” to an upsurge in authoritarianism:
It cannot permit opposition or criticism. It must eliminate the latter and frustrate any effort to restrain its actions…Any actions which are illegal must be made legal by rewriting the law or by reinterpreting existing law so that what was illegal is now redefined as legal. Similar things happened before in other times and places [a distinct reference to Nazi Germany].
In such a historical context, we see bills against human rights NGOs, against the press and free speech, and an anti-boycott law which seeks to prevent anyone from dealing with Israeli apartheid in the same way the world dealt with South African apartheid.
Even the Israeli Supreme Court, the crown jewel in the apparatus of liberal Zionism comes in for harsh criticism:
It permitted the settler enterprise and essentially served as a partner to it.
But now, Haaretz’s publisher says, the Court has proven an impediment and must be eliminated as an obstacle to the triumph of this authoritarian regime. Because the Court has refused to permit settlements on privately owned Palestinian land (i.e. land theft), the Court must be ‘packed’ with judges who themselves live on such land and who will recognize that there can be no such concept as privately owned Palestinian land, because this is Jewish land given to this people by divine decree. Schocken notes the similarity in this theological approach between Gush Emunim and radical Islamists like Hamas (though I believe Hamas has shown far more flexibility in adapting its ideology than settlerism has).
Schocken closes by raising some deeply troubling questions:
Can there be any future for such an Israel? Even beyond the question of whether Jewish morality and experience permits such a situation, it puts Israel into an inherently unstable, dangerous position. It puts Israel into the predicament of living with, by, and under the sword. Whether the sword is a third Intifada, overthrow of the Egyptian peace accord, or an Iranian nuclear weapon. This Yitzhak Rabin understood [and Bibi does not].
I think we have to begin to use the F-word though the Israeli publisher doesn’t: we are seeing an incipient Israeli fascism. Perhaps not yet full-blown fascism. But like a cancer it begins with one cell and spreads to an entire organ and eventually infects the entire organism. I don’t know whether this illness is terminal. But it could very well be. Temporizing no longer works. Only a radical transformation can. One that stamps out setttlerism as a viable political force. One that embraces whole-heartedly democracy over Jewish triumphalism. Note I did not say “Judaism,” as religion will play an important role in any future role. But it will never, if Israel is to survive, give members of one religion the right to deprive members of another of their legitimate rights as citizens.
Judy Robinson says
I have read the English version in Haaretz
and was fascinated but also terribly worried.
As a German who wishes only for the best for Israel
on account of….. Is it really that bad?
Richard Silverstein says
Indeed it is I’m sorry to say.
The situation in Israel is far more complex and multi-faceted as expressed by Shocken (or Silverstein). The situation is bad, but it’s about as bad as in Europe, where the conservative right is gaining the upper hand at the expense of the traditional social-democratic rule.
As for the Palestinian question – while Bibi is making a lot of mistakes, and I consider him an incompetent fool, one must acknowledge that Palestinians also have different agendas other than peacemaking.
Also, I suggest that you heed with care Silverstein’s opinions and statements.
He tends towards the hysteria and extreme anti-Israeli bigotry. Here’s a link to an op-ed, where underplays the attack against the Chabad house in Mumbai as being “anti-Israeli, not anti-semitic”. For many in the radical left, labeling an attack as “anti-Israeli” makes it more morally justified, or at least not as bad as normal people would consider it.
Richard Silverstein says
I don’t allow my comment threads to be hijacked by insults and lies about my views. You are moderated and the next comment that violates the comment rules, which you should read, will result in losing yr privileges.
“. But few, if any, Pakistani militants have been known until now specifically to target Israelis. I say, Israelis rather than Jews because the single surviving terrorist noted that they chose Chabad House to avenge the suffering of the Palestinians. Therefore, the attack was anti-Israeli, though not necessarily antisemitic.”
am I missing something?
Marom seems accurate to me. you just proved his point.
This is really off the topic!
I am quite aware of the problems of anti-Semitism and its many “excuses” and disguises. And of course I am not ignorant of the complicated and threatening situation with the various Palestinian factions.
Still,democratic rule in Israel needs to be maintained/ restored. We have no such endangered state of democracy in most of Europe.
Dorothee, I belong to the Israeli left, and I am very concerned with the recent developments. But still, some proportions need to be maintained, something which Richard does not excel at. First, the most outrageous laws were eventually not passed, and the problematic “NGO-law”, which prohibits foreign funding for NGO’s has only passed in a perliminary vote. It still needs two more votes to be ratified. Even then, the court may find this law illegal. This has happened before, for example when the Israeli court prevented the government from privatizing a prison.
Since no other Democracy is being treated with such a magnifying glass as Israel, it is really hard to tell of similar situations in foreign countries. I could provide the “Burka law” example of France as being undemocratic, or Berlosconi’s control of the Italian media as being “fascist”. I could argue that laws in Germany that prohibit teachers from wearing religious scarves as an “attack” against religious freedom. I won’t, because I know that Democracy in Italy, Germany and France, with all its flaws, is still very much alive. The same applies for Israel. People should speak with more care and balance and not give in to mass hysteria, like many Israel’s detractors do.
Richard Silverstein says
Chcukle, chuckle. This is a little trick taught in Hasbara 101. Whatever yr real politics tell ’em you’re a lefist just like they are. But don’t tell ’em that what you really mean is that you’re to the left of Baruch Marzel and Baruch Goldstein. You’re about as much of a leftist as my bubbeh was the Czar’s daughter.
Not true. The anti BDS law was passed. Other bills passed first reading. Only one of these pieces of dreck has been removed from the legislative calendar by Bibi.
Diverting attention fr. Israel’s sins by pointing out alleged ones of other countries is also a nice tactic to try. But unfortunately comments here must be ON TOPIC, not off. That means stick to the topic of the post. If you can’t you’re breaking comment rules. You’ve already done that before which is why you’re moderated. There’s only one way for you to go, if you can’t respect the rules–down.
“Chcukle, chuckle. This is a little trick taught in Hasbara 101. Whatever yr real politics tell ‘em you’re a lefist just like they are. But don’t tell ‘em that what you really mean is that you’re to the left of Baruch Marzel and Baruch Goldstein. You’re about as much of a leftist as my bubbeh was the Czar’s daughter.”
Wow. Do you have Tourette? Seems like every time someone dares call himself “left winged”, you go into an incoherent fit of rage.
Richard Silverstein says
You should talk about “incoherence.” I like that “left-winged.” That’s cute. I’ve never heard of a “left-winged” bird, have you? And people with “left-wing” views are not called “left-winged” unless they’re birds. Teach yourself some English before you try to insult a native speaker. And because you’ve levelled a gratuitous ad hominem insult again in violation of the comment rules, you’re history.
Bullshit. Traditional social-democratic rule? Where does that tradition exist? In European countries (EU) it has been long common that center-right and center-left coalitions have ruled in intervals/turns. When people get fed up to one coalition/party they search for a solution from the other direction. Not a single European country is even near the political situation and social development trends in Israel. Lucky to us Europeans. Europe has without doubt populist (normally focused to the migrant “hate”) and relative small extreme religious and rightwing parties. But they are the ruling parties only in very rare cases.
Your make your stupid analogy only to get a change to make the false argument that Israel is politically equal to Europe. Not a single European country does solve its minority “problems” in the Israeli style. In no EU country the process of destroying democracy is so obvious that it is nowadays in Israel. Israel’s religious extremism is so obvious that in no European country we can find a near match. Not to mention that our parliaments do not manufacture equal racist and antidemocratic laws Israeli parliament does almost daily.
It is idiotic constantly to repeat that the situation in Israel is complex and multi-faced. What is complex about the occupation and exploiting the Palestinians or in the religious Apartheid system? If this “complex and multi-faced” excuse would have been approved elsewhere we would still enjoy of open slavery, Apartheid, Nazi-Germany style countries etc. However it is a bit unfair to blame only the Israeli political right for a political practices which have been the modus operandi (= wars and exploitation of the Arabs (and USA)) of all Israeli governmental coalitions. The present coalition only managed to destroy finally the carefully built pr-image Israel had managed to create. Only the pro-Israeli extremists nowadays swallow the “we are the victims” propaganda.
Israel’s democracy is lightyears away from the nordic countries. Although europeans are much advanced in human rights, europe do have their liebermans. It seems that fear and ignorance feeds extremism there is no way knowing what is going to happen in europe if the eurozone collapses. Usually minorities end up being the scapegoats.
I believe this conflict is purely religulously motivated, from the knesset down to the settlers. I don’t see green party members moving to the west bank area. If you recite every yom kippur, “next year in jerusalem”, you propably end up there.
Believing that some invisible entity that gives rights to a land to some and trumping other people’s rights because of that is absurd. Only solution is one state for all its habitants and secular laws and constitution. israeli community is alreading harassing 50 % of its population, the women. different rules in buses, walking streets and soon idf, women cant sing anymore in the army in front of men. Israel is becoming the next iran.
In Iran the women can still sing and do not have separate pavements or “departments” in buses. The share of women in Iranian universities is 60 percent. Wikipedia also tells: According to UNESCO world survey, Iran has the highest female to male ratio at primary level of enrollment in the world among sovereign nations, with a girl to boy ratio of 1.22 : 1.00.
Iran is no Taleban (= extreme Sunni) country even if it is no beacon of democracy. Israel is transforming to something the world has not seen before. To an aggressive theocracy with an ideology and moral view from the stone age and armed to their teeth with nuclear, biological and chemical weapons.
Yes israel’s human rights record is not near in comparison to european countries, but iran is clearly much worse. Yes iranian women, they can sing and walk in the streets freely as long they wear veils on their heads. Unless men must wear veils by law and are harassed by religious police for not complying its safe to say thats a clear violation. Age for criminal liability depends which set of reproduction systems iranian citizen has. 9 years for women and 15 for men. Hows that for justice. Unless you can find something in human anatomy that clearly indicates that females at age of nine are more self aware of their actions that males of 15. Iranian justice system is discriminating right away 50 % of the population. Who cares about how many women are students in universities, if their basic human rights are violated. These serious problems in Israel are mostly located in jerusalem. One bus line and couple of streets. Worrying but isolated problem. Israel’s Supreme court has already voted against this discrimination.
both countries discriminate according to ethnicity or sex and problems clearly result from lack of secular laws. Religions are at fault. European countries has long ago gotten right of such laws. I don’t trust no goverment that draws human rights and morality either from bible, tanach nor quran. In israel you can atleast kick the prime minister out of office, but good luck gettin rid of grand ajatollah through democratic means.
Marom, the conservative right in Europe are into privatization at any cost to the public, and they hollow out the (economic) rights people got used to under the traditional social-democratic rule, but they are not threatening things like academic freedom or the independance of high court judges. Nor are they destroying villages such as Israel is doing with the Bedouin right now. In other wordt they are not chipping away at democracy and are not deporting people from their land. “It isn’t about as bad as in Europe” you say. Wow, what a ridiculous statement.
It is ironic to note that Shocken’s Ha’aretz printing plant puts out Israel’s two Right-wing pro-settler newspapers, B’sheva and Makor Rishon. I guess that’s what you call “pragmatism”.
Richard Silverstein says
You mean it’s cynical of Schocken to take money from far right media? And cynical for him to ensure the future of his own newspaper by having paying clients using his printing plant? That’s cynical? Or is it showing good business sense?
Shoded Yam says
“….It is ironic to note that Shocken’s Ha’aretz printing plant puts out Israel’s two Right-wing pro-settler newspapers”
You’re absolutely correct. It shows business acumen. Whats ironic here is if the shoe was on the other foot, whereby a right wing publication allowed Haaretz to use its presses, this act would be characterized as one of generosity and the right’s ongoing efforts “to promote pluralism” in the political discourse.
I’d rather take that as a sign of Schocken having a more advanced sense of freedom of speech and the press than his government.
Why is it, that within Israel the extremist lead and the mainstream always catches up?
My fear is what Israel will become in another 10-20 years.
at current madness rate, those Bibi-Barack nuts will have ignited WWIII long before that.
Don’t you think, Richard, that the outlook is very bleak?
The reason that Israel can get away with these policies, with land theft and with open discrimination against Palestinians, is that there is quite literally nothing that the Palestinians can do about it.
They are as helpless as a mouse toyed with by a cat.
Why shouldn’t the Israelis bulldoze these Arabs off their land? What possible reason do you suppose they have not to do so? There is no country on this planet that dares to do anything meaningful to oppose Israel’s policies.
Hamas is a pathetic and shameful group of thugs whose mission seems to be the disgrace of the Palestinian people and their cause. In this mission, they have made many great strides.
The Arab dictatorships have cared no more for the Palestinians than they have for their own vast and impoverished peasantry and will continue to whisper platitudes in hushed tones until they are, like Gaddafi, pulled out of a sewer.
The result of all of this is that Natanyahu has nothing to fear. Nothing! Kill a Palestinian. Who cares? He’s brown. He’s a Muslim (usually, though a Christian sometimes – a Goy is a Goy I suppose). So who cares? Kill him. Kill nine Turks on the high seas. Who cares? No one. Strangle Gaza and plunge the people into poverty. Who cares? No one.
There are simply no consequences. There is no reason whatsoever for Netanyahu not to proceed with the destruction of the Palestinian people.
Omar, same could have been said about South Africa’s
apartheid; but then over the long international disgrace and the saving grace of Mandela and Tutu ….
wonder if such could happen with Israel and Palestine; before they all are led into cacophony by madmen
Kern de Gaud says
“… the Jewish lobby’s addiction to Gush Emunim …”
This is a polite way of saying that Israel’s national project is race-based armed robbery. How can you reason with people who think G-d himself told them they could rob their neighbors? It will take decisive external intervention to save Israel as a Jewish state, of the sort that the Israel Lobby in the United States will never permit.
delia ruhe says
I read this piece in Ha’aretz yesterday and was most impressed. This is an article worthy of the otherwise overused and ill-applied expression “connects all the dots.”