Fascism in Israel? It's Up to You

I'm sick to death of the Zionism of horseshit, of the incitement which prides itself on hatred and, yes, that 'beautiful face' of fascism. It's up to every one of us. We can stand up now, or be put down later. Like dogs.

Bradley Burston
Bradley Burston
Im Tirtzu activists clashing with students at Tel Aviv University while calling for closure of left-leaning Political Science Department at Ben-Gurion University.
Im Tirtzu activists clashing with students at Tel Aviv University while calling for closure of left-leaning Political Science Department at Ben-Gurion University.Credit: Oren Ziv
Bradley Burston
Bradley Burston

What's the sound that fascism makes when it starts getting close?

The sound a mouth makes when it's closed.

What's the sound that a government makes when it's inching closer, law by law, blind eye by blind eye, to fascism?

It's the choking sound of acceptance a government makes when its ruler is also head of five key ministries, putting him in charge of such matters as deportation, citizenship status, registration of religious identity, summary detention of non-citizens, keeping diplomacy dead, and, most importantly, as minister of communications, overall control of the news media.

It's the same sound that hardline "pro-Israel," groups like CAMERA or the Zionist Organization of America fail altogether to make, when Israelis hurl death threats and accusations of treason at their own president and former generals for no more than sharing a room with someone they don't like.

Or when the father of a suspected Jewish terrorist is widely quoted as calling Israel "the most anti-Semitic state in the world since the Third Reich," terming its Supreme Court a "Judenrat."

"Just wait a second," you may be thinking. "I've heard that there's a palpable threat to Israel and its democracy. Something about NGOs and foreign money."

You heard right.

There does exist a foreign-funded organization of Israelis whose actions, both in Israel and abroad, severely tarnish the reputation of the state of Israel, and threaten Jews both here and overseas.

In fact, the organization's words and deeds meet Natan Sharansky's 2004 definition of the New Anti-Semitism: they demonize, apply double standards to, and delegitimize, Israeli Jews.

The name of this organization is Im Tirtzu.

You may know Im Tirtzu as the only Israeli organization which, a court once ruled, may be publicly and legitimately be characterized as fascist.

You may also know the group from its massive, Der Sturmer-quality 2010 highway billboards bearing a caricature of then-New Israel Fund chair Noami Chazan.

Or you may know Im Tirtzu from its close associations with leaders in Benjamin Netanyahu's Likud, in particular its current role in spearheading and coordinating a controversial media, ministerial and legislative onslaught against Israeli human rights groups, in particular, Breaking the Silence, the organization of IDF veterans.

So acceptable has Im Tirtzu become in the culture of Israel's pro-occupation right, that when Likud back bencher Yoav Kish submitted a bill to punish human rights groups which accept donations from foreign countries, the idea of taking legislative dictates from Im Tirtzu posed no problem whatsoever.

As Kish told Channel 10 television late Saturday, "It's true that Im Tirtzu met with me, and they told me, 'We know you're submitting a bill like this. It's desirable that you use the word 'shtulim' [connoting a traitorous, foreign-directed, terrorist-friendly mole]."

"I did, indeed, make the change, from 'foreign agent.'"

Ironically, Kish – whose bill would also ban members of Breaking the Silence and other human rights groups he defines as "shtulim" from further service in the IDF reserves – first came to prominence as an activist in a movement to equalize the burdens of army service in Israeli society.

The bill will, of course, leave untouched the many wildly hate-mongering, but government-shielded, right-wing NGOS and politicians who only take their huge foreign donations from private donors.

Lie by lie, manipulation by manipulation, one obscene, anti-Arab, anti-leftist act of incitement after another, Im Tirtzu rolls on. Im Tirtzu co-founder Erez Tadmor has even boasted of having headed Netanyahu's "message team" for 2015 recent re-election campaign.

But Im Tirtzu, as dangerous and destructive and hate-mongering toward Palestinians and the left as it surely is, is not the root problem.

In fact, the McCarthyite campaign of the button-down, eema-loves-me-best repulsives of Im Tirtzu has failed in a way they could never have anticipated:

The foam-at-the-mouth lungings of Im Tirtzu have prompted a growing number of Israeli security icons to speak up in defense of Breaking the Silence.

In the end, Im Tirtzu has legitimized Breaking the Silence as no one else ever has.

So it was, as well, when Im Tirtzu went abroad to pursue a supposedly pro-Israel mission: Joining the ZOA and other U.S. pro-occupation groups in seeking to blackball progressive Jewish organizations from taking part in New York's annual Celebrate Israel parade.

Im Tirtzu said this was to make sure the Fifth Avenue parade would reflect only the "beautiful face of Zionism."

The result? Increased participation by the sworn enemies of Im Tirtzu and the ZOA: the New Israel Fund, J Street, Americans for Peace Now, Ameinu, Open Hillel, Partners for Progressive Israel and others.

This is the lesson. A simple one, really. Stand up to a bully – for that, at yellow-and-black-heart, is what a fascist is – and they may well stand down.

But we're facing much more than just one dipshit group of creeps. This is a broad campaign, grass-roots as well as governmental, to bully, intimidate, silence, and in many cases explicitly threaten people whose views take issue with an across-the-board pro-occupation, pro-settlement, exclusively-Orthodox, anti-democratic, anti-Palestinian agenda – and then to lie about it, pretending that it's "centrist" and the consensus.

Let me put it differently, as a person whose friends and colleagues and former military commanders and president – all of whom love Israel – are under threat:

I'm sick to death of the Zionism of horseshit.

I'm sick to death of the patriotism of hogwash. I'm up to here with the Judaism of exclusion, the testosterone-poisoning of quasi pro-Israel hyper-arrogant fanaticism.

I'm sick to death, that is, of that insane right, social media-borne incitement which suggests that the only acceptable Israel, is one which prides itself on hatred, violence, bigotry, and, yes, that beautiful face of fascism.

It's up to every one of us. We can stand up now, or be put down later. Like dogs.

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