The Tyranny of Ideology in Israel

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MK Mansour Abbas in the Knesset, in October.
United Arab List leader Mansour Abbas in the Knesset in October.Credit: Ohad Zwigenberg

There is no dictatorship in Israel, but unlike other countries, it is under ideological dictatorship. Ask how can ideology, which is nothing but a collection of words, arranged according to the wishes and thoughts and whims of individuals, can rule and even tyrannize? I have no answer, especially since this is an ideology thought up by secular people.

But it remains a fact that these orderly words prevent, to this very moment, the implementation of the High Court of Justice’s ruling from some 70 years ago – to return the uprooted residents of Ikrit to their village – and their tyranny is alive and well to this day. Here you have the Knesset, recognized by all as the sovereign of the state, deciding not to extend the effect of the amendment to the Citizenship Law, which prevents the unification of Palestinian families, but it’s as though the Knesset made no such decision. It turns out that the true sovereign, i.e. the ideology, looks on from the side, laughing: Play at democracy all you like, now let’s see you implement your decisions.

There’s the ideology, and then there are universal values, such as democracy and equality, which Israel warmly embraces. But when it comes to Arabs, the ideology wins out. The bureaucrat at the government ministry, who is in effect a walking ideology, has never thought, for instance, to plan for a government hospital in an Arab city. Of course, like in any proper polity, you will find no directive prohibiting such a plan, just as there is no directive not to create an Arab university or an Arab municipality, but lo and behold, at the end of the day, all of these things, all necessary for social progress, still do not happen. These are the wonders of ideology, manifest in the person of the senior official.

Let us mention here that there were some who picked up the gauntlet and intended to rebel against this tyranny. The late Yossi Sarid acted vigorously in favor of creating a university in Nazareth, but after he left the Education Ministry, the ideology, hard at work, left nothing of his revolutionary project. A few years later the matter of the university came up again, but again the ideology, dressed up as bureaucracy, eliminated any chance of it coming to fruition.

The ways of ideology in Israel are labyrinthine. Here you have the law, the IDF, the Israel Police and Shin Bet, all helpless in the face of the spoiled boys of ideology, who make the lives of Palestinians miserable in the West Bank’s Area C. The ideology’s soldiers protect them, and in many cases collaborate with them. But don’t worry. Every now and again you hear a word of condemnation from one poobah or another.

True, ideology is a natural thing. It is also natural for there to be many ideologies, and for these to reflect interests, ideas and ways of life of various groups in society. But the problem is that here in Israel there is only one ideology. Even the left – once it reaches power it immediately adopts it. And the new trend is for Arabs to adopt the hegemonic ideology as well. Here we see MK Mansour Abbas reminding MK Miki Zohar that he voted in favor of the security budget, and Likud did not.

For a long time the ideology enjoyed privileges. The people who were discriminated against did not demand that their rights be recognized, because they were given to understand that they were not equal citizens, and that the pretty slogans were nothing but PR for public consumption. Meanwhile, new generations have grown up, and they feel part of the civilian, economic and political tapestry.

As the threshold of their purely civil demands keeps rising, the ideology grows more and more distressed. For until now, it all went smooth, an unquestioned steamroller of discrimination. But when the civilian and the ideological come into conflict, racist ugliness overflows.

This is what’s happening now. The ideology must change. As Goethe put it: “Theory, my friend, is gray, but green is the eternal tree of life.”

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