Opinion |

Gaza Border Killings Expose Israel's True Mentality

And Bezalel Smotrich, like the cynical face of Avigdor Lieberman, reflects our own face, the face of Netanyahu’s advance guard for the West

zeev sternhell
Zeev Sternhell
Send in e-mailSend in e-mail
Netanyahu and IDF chief Eisenkot touring Israel's eastern border, February 9, 2015.
Netanyahu and IDF chief Eisenkot touring Israel's eastern border, February 9, 2015.Credit: Kobi Gideon / GPO
zeev sternhell
Zeev Sternhell

Benjamin Netanyahu, Anshel Pfeffer reminded us, doesn’t see the Israeli-Arab conflict as a problem in itself, but as an inseparable part of the clash of civilizations between Islam and the Western world (“The Netanyahu vision, in 467 pages,” April 18). Israel to him is the West’s spearhead in a 1,500-year-long struggle.

>> At 70, Israel has shunned Herzl's dream for Netanyahu's bleak vision >>

When his book “A Place Among the Nations” was published, I saw it as nothing more than propaganda, intended to invent an ideological cover for perpetuating the occupation sponsored by American neoconservatism in its most simplistic form. It’s too bad that good people still fall into that trap.

Netanyahu has long understood the Palestinians are incapable of resisting the occupation by force, so the occupation won’t end in the foreseeable future. But since no reality can remain for long without an ideological cover, and the biblical narrative doesn’t sell well in the United States outside evangelical circles, he cast his lot, in the spirit of the neoconservative trend of the late 20th century, with protecting Western culture.

However, for more than 300 years Western culture has presented two approaches: the liberal approach from which democracy and human rights developed from the French and British Enlightenments, and the approach that subordinates the individual to an ethnic community and seeks legitimacy for politics in history. This branch began sprouting already at the end of the 19th century the various nationalist and racist rightist movements, including those that developed into fascism and Nazism.

These movements knew how to exploit the universal right to vote to obliterate the equality principle among human beings. Then they obliterated democracy itself. Racist nationalism wasn’t invented by Hitler, but grew gradually out of the rightist revolution that began washing over Europe. This radical nationalist approach is Netanyahu’s “West,” in which he finds the legitimacy for the colonialist policy of annexation and oppression, which he has been orchestrating since he rose to power.

This is the approach the young Israeli who was educated in America adopted for himself: His imagination wasn’t fired over there by the civil rights movement’s legacy, but rather by the dark content of American political culture. While the French Revolution released the Jews and black slaves, in America – along with almost religious devotion to individual freedoms and checks and balances to power, anchored in the Constitution and Declaration of Independence – slavery existed for another 100 years. For 100 more years, brutal social oppression of blacks prevailed. The young Netanyahu learned there that the West contains everything, the best and the worst, and everyone can choose for himself what he needs.

Indeed, that’s how the Israeli right wing works: After fortifying colonialism, it treats Arabs basically as natives. The British in Kenya and the French in Algieria showed the way. The weekly killing on the Gaza Strip border is a campaign of barbarism, exposing the mentality of the society in whose name the army acts: We can do anything we like. Like Elor Azaria, who executed a wounded terrorist and will soon emerge from prison as a hero, so the uniformed youngsters slaughtering unarmed civilians on the Gazan border are the “children of us all.” And Bezalel Smotrich, who wants to shoot Ahed Tamimi in the knee, is the lawmaker of us all. We didn’t hear the leaders of his party or the education and justice ministers cry out in horror. Smotrich, like the cynical face of Avigdor Lieberman, reflects our own face, the face of Netanyahu’s advance guard for the West. That’s the hard truth that the 70th year independence celebrations made all the more conspicuous.

Click the alert icon to follow topics:



Automatic approval of subscriber comments.

Already signed up? LOG IN


הקלטות מעוז

Jewish Law Above All: Recordings Reveal Far-right MK's Plan to Turn Israel Into Theocracy

איתמר בן גביר

Why I’m Turning My Back on My Jewish Identity

Travelers looking at the Departures board at Ben Gurion Airport. The number of olim who later become yordim is unknown.

Down and Out: Why These New Immigrants Ended Up Leaving Israel

Beatrice Grannò and Simona Tabasco as Mia and Lucia in "The White Lotus."

The Reality Behind ‘The White Lotus’ Sex Work Fantasy

The Mossad hit team in Dubai. Exposed by dozens of security cameras

This ‘Dystopian’ Cyber Firm Could Have Saved Mossad Assassins From Exposure

מליאת הכנסת 28.12.22

Comeback Kid: How Netanyahu Took Back Power After 18 Months in Exile