State-wide censorship of sexually explicit material on the internet. Laws prohibiting driving vehicles on the Sabbath and Jewish holidays. Women allowed to bathe in the Mediterranean only a few hours a week. The face of Baruch Goldstein on the 20 shekel bill. A national holiday celebrating our spiritual founding father, Rabbi Meir Kahane.
- Palestinians May Soon Have to Swear Loyalty to 'Jewish' State
- Israel Moves Closer to Banning Mourning of Its Independence
Sound ludicrous? It's the nightmare scenario of art school graduate Yosi Even Kama - and the subject of his 4th-year thesis project. Any Israeli can step into his dystopia, on exhibit at the Shenkar College of Engineering & Design in Ramat Gan until the end of July.
The project consists of four cylindrical public notice boards representing four different snapshots in time from the streets of Tel Aviv, between the years 2020 to 2023. In this twisted parallel universe, the government of Israel finally signs a peace deal with the Palestinians, in which it agrees to withdraw from the West Bank and share control over Jerusalem.
Incensed by what they believe to be high treason, Jewish supremacists manage to mobilize tens of thousands of Israeli citizens and successfully carry out a coup d'etat. In the newly-established State of Judea, there is no freedom, no feminism, and no fun. Only fascism.
"I read the most recent survey of Israeli society and I was shocked," Even Kama recalled. That report, commissioned by the Tami Steinmetz Center for Peace Research at Tel Aviv University, found that most Israelis believe that "there is too much freedom of expression" in Israel.
So this is what will come to pass in only ten years' time? "It won't happen exactly like that. But it's already happening right now, bit by bit: the loyalty oath law, the religious conversion law, the ban on commemorating the naqba, the ban on demonstrating at the homes of high-ranking army officers... When you break down the basic building blocks of democracy, fascism will fill that void."
They are not our brothers
In the run-up to a totalitarian state, Even Kama's made-up religious right-wing extremists combine visual imagery of slithery snakes and armies of insects with slogans that demonize democratic institutions. In the following year of this imaginary timeline, the rebels post pictures of snakes being sliced open and bugs being squashed, as they make their power play with an armed insurrection.
Following the fictional narrative, what remains of the liberal left in Israel sells off its properties and evacuates the country while it is still able. And finally, fabricated rabbinical edicts quoting traditional texts provide a religious justification for the execution of the secular heretics that resist the new order.
Unsurprisingly, Even Kama's provocative project has angered many people on the opposite end of the political spectrum. On srugim.com, an internet news portal for the nationalist-religious community, many have vilified the artist, and the Shenkar school for providing him a platform. But other visitors to the site admit that they admire his designs and even advocate adopting them. "I would use different colors, but this is basically what I believe," wrote one commenter.
These undercurrents have not escaped the attention of more mainstream political commentators. Last month (June 22, 2010), reporting on the same set of phenomena that is frightening Even Kama, retired judge and Yediot Ahronot Legal Affairs Editor Boaz Okon wrote in a chilling op-ed piece: "These dots are growing evidence of the lack of spirit of freedom and the emergence of apartheid and fascism."
Using iconography that references our historical memories of evil dictatorships is bound to push people's buttons; the most amazing artwork almost always does. It is easy to dismiss the "State of Judea" as agitation against Even Kama's political opponents. But it's a lot harder to dismiss the anti-democratic parties and populist movements that he parodies. One thing is certain: if his deepest fears are realized, he could be the first one to be burned at the stake.