Israel’s Revolutionary Guards March With the Nationalist Revolution

Compared to the traumatic steps in Iran, Egypt and China, Israel's theocratic-nationalist revolution is homeopathic – well diluted so as not to cause spasms.

A photo of Dr. Zvi Bar'el.
Zvi Bar'el
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Education Minister Naftali Bennett addresses protesters in the settlement of Beit El in the West Bank, July 28, 2015.
Education Minister Naftali Bennett addresses protesters in the settlement of Beit El in the West Bank, July 28, 2015.Credit: Courtesy
A photo of Dr. Zvi Bar'el.
Zvi Bar'el

The intracranial pressure many Israelis have experienced due to the misdeeds of our educational and cultural commissars needn’t worry anyone. It’s a known phenomenon among nations that endure revolutions, especially cultural revolutions.

First an end-of-the-world feeling sets in, or at least the collapse of civilization. Then comes a bit of protest, a few top officials resign, and others are fired. But in the end you get used to it, so it’s better to do so quickly to minimize the suffering.

After all, what has happened over the past few weeks? Six members of the Council for Higher Education resigned because of Education Minister Naftali Bennett’s decisions they say limit the institution’s independence. Culture Minister Miri Regev plans censorship laws to be named after her.

Meanwhile, a warped civics textbook will twist the meaning of democracy for innocent students. And there has been another flash of genius from Bennett: a new committee that vets culture based on “pornographic content, encouragement of violence, a racist component, incitement to terror or harm to the State of Israel’s foundations.”

You call that a cultural revolution? Iran’s cultural revolution, for example, got the universities closed for three years, thousands of professors fired, "Western decadent" academic fields canceled, and textbooks that damaged the “spirit of the revolution” destroyed. Iranian cinema, which was allowed to operate because it was “an instrument to educate the public,” became official government cinema and was awarded enormous budgets. The regime even financed an annual film festival.

True, millions of Iranians left their homeland because of the cultural and political repression, but many more millions remained in the country, and many of them still take part in the “Death to America” festivities. True, Iranian intellectuals tried to protest the cultural and educational stranglehold, but after a wave of assassinations against those rebels, the relative quiet returned. You get used to it.

In Egypt they got used to it. At first it was the government of Gamal Abdel Nasser, who replaced the textbooks after the Free Officers revolution toppled King Farouk. After that came the takeover of the media and the curricula in the universities and schools. And rules were made about publishing books and writing plays; there was a blacklist of books not to be taught or distributed out of fear of harming the country’s good name.

For now, the Jewish cultural revolution hasn’t closed a single university. It hasn’t lifted the authority of the Supreme Court, and “dangerous” courses are still taught at universities, colleges and schools.

Compared to the traumatic steps in Iran, Egypt, China and other countries, Israel’s theocratic-nationalist revolution can be considered a homeopathic revolution – well diluted so as not to cause spasms.

And it’s working. A few university heads resigned? A few actors said they wouldn’t cooperate with the censorship campaign? Who even knows who the members of the Council for Higher Education are, and how many high school students took to the streets to protest their new civics textbook? After all, they never learned the previous book by heart.

The beauty in this revolution is its success in turning into a nationalist, patriotic revolution. It’s a sophisticated revolution packed with manipulation that bases itself on obedient, “normative” and even liberal and tolerant Revolutionary Guards – like those who whose laziness and acclimatization feed the revolution.

After all, these people are certain we’re not Iran, and we won’t be like Egypt or Turkey. We won’t be surprised one morning with executions of intellectuals and book burnings. There won’t be any need. In Israel we march politely with the revolution and salute it proudly.

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