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Author Topic: The New Israel: A fake democracy
Babbler # 4140

posted 15 December 2004 02:22 AM      Profile for N.Beltov   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
The following is from Michel Warschawski’s Toward an Open Tomb: The Crisis of Israeli Society (Monthly Review Press, 2004), which presents an important dissident Israeli perspective that is rarely given a hearing in the United States. Warschawski is cofounder and director of the Alternative Information Center (AIC) in Jerusalem and a well-known anti-Zionist activist. He is also the author of Israel-Palestine: le défi binational (Textuel, 2001) and an award-winning memoir, On the Border (forthcoming from South End Press).

With the assassination of Prime Minister Yitzak Rabin on November 4, 1995, a long interval of relative openness, liberalization, and attempts at peace and normal relations with the Arab world came to an end. By assassinating Rabin the Israeli right not only seized political power —including inside the Labor Party—but also drove the last nail in the coffin of a certain kind of Israel.

A dissident Israeli perspective...

Uri Avnery is a hero of the 1948 war, a former MK and celebrated journalist. As Avnery writes:

They have begun by inciting their followers to violence against Arab citizens and excluding Arabs from the political system. Now they are speaking of eliminating the “extreme left.” Can anyone doubt that their next demand will be to eliminate the whole left, however “moderate” or “patriotic”? Then, in keeping with other historical examples, it will be the turn of the Likud “liberals.” Am I being alarmist? Not really. High Court Chief Justice Aharon Barak has just compared Israel’s current situation, in the presence of Israel’s president, to Nazi Germany. A Holocaust survivor himself, Barak said, “If it could happen in the country of Kant and Beethoven, it can happen everywhere. If we don’t defend democracy, democracy will not defend us!”

[ 15 December 2004: Message edited by: N.Beltov ]

From: Vancouver Island | Registered: May 2003  |  IP: Logged
Babbler # 1962

posted 15 December 2004 06:25 AM      Profile for aRoused     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
High Court Chief Justice Aharon Barak has just compared Israel’s current situation, in the presence of Israel’s president, to Nazi Germany.


From: The King's Royal Burgh of Eoforwich | Registered: Dec 2001  |  IP: Logged
Chris Borst
Babbler # 731

posted 15 December 2004 06:54 AM      Profile for Chris Borst     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
Aharon Barak's keynote address at Brandeis.
From: Taken off to the Great White North | Registered: Jun 2001  |  IP: Logged
Babbler # 478

posted 15 December 2004 08:45 AM      Profile for skdadl     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
Warschawski's article is riveting, N.Beltov, a superb piece of historical analysis. Thank you for that link -- an invaluable resource.

And thank you, Chris Borst, for Barak's address. I was glad that he made that point about the naked expression "the rule of law," which by itself has always seemed to me pretty raw.

In a democracy, law itself (whose? which?), like voting, is a necessary but not sufficient condition. Israel is not the only place where people who call themselves democrats seem not to grasp that there is a larger array of fundamental structures and principles than that required for democracy. Sadly, though, Israel does seem to be one of those places, and the situation sounds dire.

[ 15 December 2004: Message edited by: skdadl ]

From: gone | Registered: May 2001  |  IP: Logged
Babbler # 4790

posted 15 December 2004 09:05 AM      Profile for Cueball   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
Facistan, got to like that.
From: Out from under the bridge and out for a stroll | Registered: Dec 2003  |  IP: Logged
Babbler # 195

posted 15 December 2004 12:00 PM      Profile for robbie_dee     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
Well, actually I beat you to this by five days. But let's talk about it here. I thought this section of the article summed things up most starkly:

Ideologically the old “Jewish and democratic,” non-religious Zionist worldview with its liberal connotations is in full retreat, while a discourse and ideology is taking hold that is reshaping the whole of Israeli culture. The new ideology combines four main elements: a nationalist militarism more or less associated with religious fundamentalism; avowed racism; a die-hard spirit impregnated with messianism; and a willingness to question every democratic norm. Put together, these elements help shape a generalized paranoia, which leads Israelis to view the whole world as an existential threat to Jewish survival in the Middle East or anywhere else.

This new ideology’s first and doubtless most perverse effect is acceptance of the domestic state of siege and normalization of death. Israelis seem to accept the deployment of the army and police on a vast scale and the thousands of security guards at the entrances to all public facilities—restaurants and supermarkets, schools and department stores—without a shadow of a reservation, as if this were a completely normal way of life for individuals and the nation. Sometimes people even seem to accept this state of affairs with pleasure, as if the society finds it easier to live with this reality than with a normality dependent on what the right calls “the risk of peace.”

Even worse, the high toll of Israeli civilian and military victims is also seen as something inevitable. The society seems to have gotten used to it with surprising speed, tolerating a government that has proved incapable of ensuring the safety of its own citizens. Nurit Peled, who lost her daughter to an attack in Jerusalem, borrowed the phrase “the kingdom of death” from Dylan Thomas to denounce this perverse adaptation to the death of innocents.

The mixture of aggressive nationalism and victimization produces a level of violence inside Israeli society that can hardly be gauged from outside. But it is enough to listen to broadcasts of Knesset debates to get a sense of it. One MK promises that Arab MKs will face a firing squad; another describes his fellow MKs of the Zionist party Meretz as “traitors.” It remains to be seen who will submit the most drastic bill aimed not only at “terrorists” but also at any form of dissent inside Israel. The High Court and the media, but also often the police and public prosecutor’s office, are regularly denounced as anti-Jewish or even as a “leftist mafia.” Mutual respect, minimal civility and especially commitment to democratic norms are all nonexistent. Democratic norms in particular are viewed as noxious residues of a regime that it is overdue to be replaced with an authoritarian state that will at last be prepared to take the measures required to guarantee Israel’s security and Jewish character.

[ 15 December 2004: Message edited by: robbie_dee ]

From: Iron City | Registered: Apr 2001  |  IP: Logged
Babbler # 478

posted 16 December 2004 01:22 PM      Profile for skdadl     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
Given all the noise that usually develops on the ME threads, I think that it is a shame -- although probably a revealing one -- that so few have bothered to read the serious essays linked to here.
From: gone | Registered: May 2001  |  IP: Logged
Babbler # 2534

posted 16 December 2004 01:30 PM      Profile for lagatta     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
skdadl, I have read them. Perhaps many other babblers have as well - but I had nothing to add - except perhaps a namedrop or two.
From: Se non ora, quando? | Registered: Apr 2002  |  IP: Logged
Babbler # 478

posted 16 December 2004 01:39 PM      Profile for skdadl     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
Sorry, lagatta: I didn't mean to sound sanctimonious, but it seems such a shame to me that a thread containing sources like these should sink, when threads that anyone can sneeze into without any background at all keep floating to the top.
From: gone | Registered: May 2001  |  IP: Logged
Babbler # 1885

posted 16 December 2004 02:24 PM      Profile for Briguy     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
I found it very interesting that the author points to the assassination of Rabin as the beginning of the end for Israeli democracy. In many ways, he is correct, given the political leanings of the assassin. Rabin's assassination absolutely meets the definition of terrorism, by the way: Senseless violence used to acheive a political goal. The political goal, in this case, was the ascension to power of a fringe settler racist party (Likud). That's not to say that Likud had a hand in his murder, but they certainly benefitted greatly in the aftermath. It's really a shame that the label terrorism was not immediately applied by leftist Israelis (in Ha'aretz and elsewhere) to describe Rabin's murder. Perhaps such a label would've staunched the political bleeding in Israel after the assassination, and would've prevented Likud from gaining power.

Oh well. We can't change the past, we can only build a better future.

Seven Years Since the Rabin Assassination: The Fruits of Yigal Amir's "Victory"

From: No one is arguing that we should run the space program based on Physics 101. | Registered: Nov 2001  |  IP: Logged
Babbler # 1885

posted 16 December 2004 02:39 PM      Profile for Briguy     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
My, how times change. Well, governments change, at any rate:

That Israel’s political culture and practices have for years borne little resemblance to what is generally understood by democracy does not make the current degeneration any less real or terrifying. A recent example illustrates this. Twenty-five years ago Yitzhak Rabin had to resign as prime minister because of a bank account containing a few thousand dollars that his wife had opened in Washington when he was ambassador there. At the time neither Rabin himself nor the political class nor public opinion considered the young prime minister a martyr; he had to give up his post as a matter of course because he had broken the law. Last year, by contrast, a police investigation implicated Ariel Sharon in a corruption scandal involving several hundreds of millions of dollars. Not only did Sharon not think for a moment of resigning; backed by the whole Israeli right, he counterattacked, accusing the public prosecutor’s office and police of being in league with “leftists.” He added that the law was inappropriate and needed to be changed.

From: No one is arguing that we should run the space program based on Physics 101. | Registered: Nov 2001  |  IP: Logged
Babbler # 6289

posted 16 December 2004 03:22 PM      Profile for remind     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
N Beltov and all, thank you for the links. The excerpt from Michel Warschawski’s Toward an Open Tomb, is eye opening. Who knew there was so little democracy in Israel?!

I found this part at the end very interesting:

The Left Gives Up

This deterioration of society and its internal norms of behavior worries the moderates in Israel even more than the political situation does. Yet far from gearing up for a counteroffensive, most of the moderates seem to have decided to give up......The left’s demonstrations, against the plundering in the occupied territories and against growing state authoritarianism, have accordingly fizzled out like a burst balloon. The left lost the will to fight a long time ago, in fact as long ago as Rabin’s assassination, for the survival of its own vision of society, even for Israel’s survival as a nation.

Many on the left are fully aware that the very existence of Israel is at stake. They are sending their children abroad, buying property in Europe, and trying to get hold of a second passport. The Hebrew University of Jerusalem’s prestigious mathematics department, which used to be able to boast of its famous mathematicians, has been incapable for over two years now of filling several posts, because even Israeli doctoral students prefer to continue their careers at less prestigious U.S. or European universities......Only a small minority is continuing to fight, both for the rights of the Palestinian people and to stop Israel’s transformation into a fundamentalist state that has shed its last democratic pretenses. Will this remnant be able to block Israeli society’s rush to destruction, and stop the country from crashing into the wall of hatred around the world that Israelis are building with their own hands? The relationship of forces is not encouraging, and time is short.

From: "watching the tide roll away" | Registered: Jun 2004  |  IP: Logged

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