“Dictatorship is already here,” declared Uri Misgav. “It’s a military curfew,” wrote Rogel Alpher (Haaretz Hebrew 28.9 and 1.10). Both writers are trying to shake Israelis and make them understand that the bad forecast – those “processes” that Yair Golan had warned about – has come to pass and in fact we’re in the midst of it.
Israelis don’t see what’s going on under their noses. “Dictatorship isn’t only tanks in the streets, disappearing dissidents of the regime, censorship and a tyrannical one-man rule,” says Misgav. “So how will it happen? Just like it’s happening now. That is, it’s already happening,” writes Alpher.
Haaretz podcast: Israel in lockdown limbo, and what's really stuffed in Bibi's laundry suitcases
Their words portray a picture in which tanks in the streets, disappearing dissidents, torture and state terrorism have passed from the world. Technology has advanced and so has the dictators’ tool box. They don’t do dictatorships like they used to anymore.
But a swift journalistic survey of the goings on in large parts of Africa, the Middle East and Asia will suffice to show there’s no tyranny without murderous violence. Israel itself is maintaining a military dictatorship in the occupied territories and a flawed pseudodemocracy in its sovereign area.
Just imagine what would happen if Arabs were demonstrating outside the prime minister’s residence. Why imagine? Exactly this month it’s the 20th anniversary of the bloody “October events” in which Israeli Arab demonstrators were shot dead. How many months in prison did Dareen Tatour get for posting a poem on Facebook?
I’m not belittling the severity of the situation under Benjamin Netanyahu. But the dictatorship rhetoric, which replaced the fascism rhetoric, is causing damage because it is exaggerated. The situation is bad enough as it is. Why go too far with comparisons? It’s not only a matter of style but substance. Misgav and Alpher noted that there are paratroopers in the streets as evidence of the severity of the situation. But sometimes paratroopers at roadblocks are just paratroopers at roadblocks.
It’s important for me to be precise, because I know the mechanisms of thought enforcement in my political camp, which will want to turn my words into support for Netanyahu. I firmly oppose the lockdown, but the fact that Israel is enforcing it by using the army doesn’t make the paratroopers’ presence at checkpoints proof that “the dictatorship is already here.” Certainly no more than the curfew in Spain and the soldiers patrolling the streets there were proof of Franco’s return.
- Clashes, arrests as hundreds of anti-Netanyahu protests held across Israel under lockdown
- Curbing protests, Israel takes another step toward civil war
- Court extends deadline for Netanyahu's lawyers, potentially delaying corruption trial
There’s something unfair in exaggeration, because it ignores the real, non-metaphoric meaning of life under military rule – in the world, and certainly in Israel.
In a real dictatorship, Alpher wouldn’t be able to cross the road without being involved in a traffic accident, and Misgav would be served a cup of tea at the airport. We don’t have any idea of what life is in a place that corresponds to their descriptions and how we’d act if the danger was really hovering over our heads. Just like a millionaire wearing a Che Guevara shirt doesn’t become Che.
The feeling is that they’re adorning themselves with the outfits of dissidents that they didn’t purchase with fear and danger, nor with money or blood. We know danger only from books. What’s more, in order to enable us to maintain our way of life, Israel operates a massive military force 24/7. We mustn’t deny this. For a woman to be free to wear shorts in Israel, we must have weapons of mass destruction.
Netanyahu must go. He’s a disaster. He’s using every means to escape justice. He’s a corrupt, corrupting leader. But Israel is not a dictatorship. That is, not if you’re a Jew.