A year into Benjamin Netanyahu's government, most journalists and commentators have had good things to say about the boss' pleasant behavior, government stability, peace along the borders and economic success. They forgot, or didn't want to know - and that's a bad omen - that behind the smoke screen of imaginary quiet a neoconservative revolution of unparalleled danger to the regime's future and the Israeli lifestyle is taking place. Israel is currently the only Western country whose cabinet includes the likes of Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, Justice Minister Yaakov Neeman and Interior Minister Eli Yishai. The last time politicians holding views similar to theirs were in power in post-World War II Western Europe was in Franco's Spain. There are many examples from the prewar period.
In Israel a crude and multifaceted campaign is being waged against the foundations of the democratic and liberal order. On the first line of fire is the attempt to carry out a targeted assassination against judicial review of the Knesset's general legislation. In a democratic regime the judicial branch restrains and checks the other two branches and is the only one responsible for upholding individual rights. After Israeli society cast off the view that reigned during the days of the pre-state Jewish community and in the Israel of our first prime minister, David Ben-Gurion, we are now moving backward.
It's true that in the early days the prevailing attitude was that whoever won the majority won the entire jackpot, and nothing could prevent him from doing whatever he wanted. During that period the concept of "human rights" was not very familiar. Only after the liberalization, which began in the late 1960s and matured with the legislating of the basic laws and the Supreme Court's assumption of responsibility for individual rights, did Israel align itself with the Western countries. Now the regression is beginning: Even in France, where the judicial branch was previously considered part of the executive, a special judicial institution has been established in the past generation to preserve the rights entrenched in the constitution. This would prevent individual rights from being undermined by the other two branches.
But to the neoconservatives, protecting human rights is considered a subversive act, which is anti-patriotic by its very nature. This is also the reason for the violent slander campaign against the New Israel Fund, the Association for Civil Rights in Israel and the other nonprofit organizations that are all guilty of the same unforgivable sin: protecting the weak from the strong.
Because whom are we protecting here? Foreign workers and those seeking refuge from their Jewish exploiters; the Arabs in Jerusalem from their evictors and an aggressive municipality that tramples on the law; Palestinian farmers, from whom the settlement bullies exact a "price tag." But to the Israeli neocon, the very protection of universal rights is a mortal blow to a principle he holds sacred: the absolute moral superiority of the Jew over anyone else.
Therefore, an organization that dares to demand an examination of the use of white phosphorus in Gaza against a civilian population - as the Israel Defense Forces has already admitted - is suspected of treason and worthy of being investigated by a subcommittee of the Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice Committee, which is headed - what a surprise - by a settler from Lieberman's Yisrael Beiteinu party.
There is another, no less dangerous aspect of the neoconservative attack: the campaign for cultural control, using the power of the purse. This campaign is being conducted on two planes: Gambling billionaire Sheldon Adelson is trying to ensure right-wing control of the street using a free newspaper. Other American business moguls, operating less aggressively, fund private research and teaching institutions that usually disseminate the same message: On the one hand, capitalism is a natural phenomenon, as are the inequality and exploitation inherent to it, so market forces should not be interfered with. On the other hand, the Jewish state is always right, and its army, as we know, is "the most moral in the world" and therefore should enjoy immunity from any investigation.
In this war anything goes: If the Council for Higher Education refuses to recognize Ariel College in the West Bank as a research university, the military governor, also known as the defense minister, the partner of Lieberman-Yishai-Neeman, will do so. If members of the human rights organizations dare to give testimony to international bodies that the government doesn't like, or to document the theft of lands in the territories and acts of burglary and hooliganism in Sheikh Jarrah in East Jerusalem, they will be removed beyond the pale.
Israel is rapidly changing its face, and the true patriotic obligation is to conduct a stubborn and fearless struggle against the most extreme right-wing government in the country's history, and against the McCarthyism that is taking over society under its aegis.
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