Is Israel Still on Its Way to Fascism?

We’ve been hearing about the approach of fascism since the election of Menachem Begin 33 years ago.

"How can you not see that fascism is approaching?," someone wrote to me recently. The problem is that fascism has been approaching for 33 years now (at least ). Since the night of the election upset on May 17, 1977, when the Likud came to power, we have been hearing that fascism is loudly approaching.

Then, we were already on the edge of the fascist abyss, and since then we have taken a big step forward. But today, after decades of approaching fascism, it is clear that Israel is a far more democratic and free country than it was in 1977.

begin - Dan Hadani / IPPA - November 4 2010
Dan Hadani / IPPA

Among other things, today it is much easier to describe Israel as a fascist state. Today, much more than then, it can be done on any public platform and via any media, it can be done from within the establishment without concern for loss of status, it can often be done with state funding, and sometimes the state will even give you a prize for it.

People on the political right, who are furious about this situation, would never call Israel a fascist state. They love it very much - until it makes them angry. And when it makes them angry they say that its government is a Stalinist dictatorship, that its prime minister is a traitor, that its security services are the face of evil, that its laws can be violated and that its courts do not have to be obeyed.

They say that and expect to receive from the Stalinist Israeli state every possible perk, and most of the time they are not disappointed.

All those signs of approaching fascism that are being pointed out today have been present in the country since 1977. Inflammatory nationalist rhetoric (some of it indeed fascist ) has never been missing here. Critics of the government from the left have been harshly vilified, and sometimes they themselves have had harsh words for their adversaries - but we don't count those.

Government leaders have also said harsh things, and not only those on the right. Menachem Begin called Peace Now demonstrators "rotten fruit." Yitzhak Shamir called the Attorney General a "leech." He also fired him (which is no longer possible ).

In his first term in office, Benjamin Netanyahu said things about the left and the elites that he studiously avoids saying today. He has also avoided calling the Association for Civil Rights in Israel "the association for Hamas rights" as Yitzhak Rabin did.

Many anti-democratic proposals have been raised, sometimes there were government actions that were anti-democratic, and even draconian laws were passed. The Supreme Court turned them into dead letters with no chance of going into effect. Clearly that's what it will do with every new draconian law that is passed, if it passes.

The difference is that today, on the occasion of the victory of fascism, the court also has the right to disqualify laws. Another difference is that what looks draconian today didn't look that way at all in 1977.

Who needs this baseless and indulgent talk about the victory of fascism? We all know what has really changed here for the worse, dramatically, since 1977: There are many more settlements. This is not a marginal issue - the fate of the country depends on it.

The settlement map created since then was explicitly meant to prevent the division of the country between two peoples. If this intention succeeds, then in the end there will be no Israel, and in any case there won't be Israeli democracy. Neither will there be non-Israeli democracy.

The support of most of the public must be enlisted to fight this danger. An anti-fascist princess and the pea will find it hard to do so.