Opinion |

The New Right-wingers Are Self-hating Israelis

They detest leftists, academics, journalists, artists, Arabs, Tel Aviv, democracy, the army and the rule of law

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Right-wing protesters yell at their leftist opponents through police officers in Haifa during Operation Protective Edge, July 28, 2014.
Right-wing protesters yell at their leftist opponents through police officers in Haifa during Operation Protective Edge, July 28, 2014.Credit: Rami Shllush

Right-wingers hate leftists, which is reasonable, within limits, and mutual. They don’t like Israeli Arabs either, especially when they come to vote in droves, as Benjamin Netanyahu famously warned in the last elections. Many right-wingers have learned to live with the LGBT community, but only in theory and from afar. They detest kibbutzniks, whom the late Menachem Begin once described as millionaires with swimming pools, and they abhor the so-called State of Tel Aviv, which, in their eyes, is Sodom and Gomorrah.

These are the groups that are denounced a priori with no chance of parole. After them we have the usual suspects, unless they prove otherwise. Journalists and other media types, for example, except those working for well-established right-wing news organizations. Academics, especially those in humanities or social sciences. Reform Jews, unless they give money to settlements in the territories. Never mind authors, actors, singers, producers, directors and screenwriters who are all seen by the right as potential supporters of terror.

It’s wrong to generalize, of course. Perhaps it’s only a small but vocal minority that feels this way and does not represent the pleasant and silent majority of the right. The problem is that the voice of the moderates isn’t heard. The haters and the inciters have seized center stage, in politics as in social media, and the entire right wing follows in their footsteps, which is what right-wingers often say, by the way, about Israeli Arabs and their representatives in the Knesset. The sensible right-wingers who wanted to build bridges have been ejected from politics, and their place has been taken by those who want to burn bridges down instead.

With pyromaniacs in charge, the fire tends to spread all over and to consume anything in its path. The hatred for political rivals and for certain sectors of the population advances to hitherto-consensual personalities and institutions and from there to the cornerstones of the state itself. The Supreme Court, once admired in Israel and throughout the world, is now portrayed as a forward outpost of Israel-haters that should be demolished by a bulldozer. President Reuven Rivlin was branded turncoat and traitor soon after he took office. The once sacrosanct Israeli army, from the days of the Gaza Disengagement to the recent prosecution of Hebron shooter Elor Azaria, is now seen in some right wing circles as an army of persecution whose leaders, such as Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot, will soon join Yitzhak Rabin in heaven, as Azaria’s supporters chanted outside the courthouse. And let’s not forget the Shin Bet security services that were described by a leading Likud politician as a bunch of cowards for having the temerity to suggest, as traitor Ariel Sharon once said, that restraint can also be seen as a show of strength.

From there we move on to Israeli culture and original Hebrew creations which were once the pride and joy of the nation but are now depicted as a manifestation of Ashkenazi supremacism and Tel Aviv arrogance, which the culture minister has pledged to demolish. And there the so-called elites that Benjamin Netanyahu has been fighting for the past two decades as he continued to feast on their generosity, or, it may turn out, on their bribes. And one shouldn’t forget Israel’s founding fathers, who admittedly established the state but did so after accepting the nefarious partition deal and before trying to impose a satanic welfare state. Even Israel’s Declaration of Independence is in the sights of the right wing, which differentiates it from its parallel in the United States. American right-wingers may have elected Donald Trump, who also denigrates America and describes it as a failing third-world country, but they have yet to disown American’s founding fathers or its charter documents.

Right-wingers, who should be described perhaps as new right-wingers, disparage Israeli democracy, pluralism, freedom of expression and the rule of law. They shrug off equal rights, humanitarianism, compassion or the concept of Israel as a moral light unto the nations or as a place of refuge for the downtrodden and persecuted. They abhor the values that made Israel seem, at least, like a modern miracle. They dream of a nationalistic and theocratic Greater Land of Israel but despise what they view as the bad old Israel that actually exists, or used to exist, in reality. With no self-awareness whatsoever, they continue to brand leftist, secular and other Israelis who are still trying to cling to the vision of a Jewish and democratic state as self-hating Jews. Talk about chutzpah.