Editorial

Israel Can't Point the Finger at Germany

Israel has lost its special historic moral status and the right to warn the world against fascist tendencies

Demonstrators protest against the AfD party after the German general election, Berlin, September 24, 2017.
WOLFGANG RATTAY/REUTERS

While Jewish organizations throughout the world expressed shock at the success of the extreme-right Alternative for Germany in Sunday’s election, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made do with congratulating German Chancellor Angela Merkel on her reelection.

Netanyahu did not have the freedom permitted, for example, to Ron Lauder, the president of the World Jewish Congress, who declared, “It is abhorrent that the AfD party, a disgraceful reactionary movement which recalls the worst of Germany’s past and should be outlawed, now has the ability within the German parliament to promote its vile platform.” That, because, to our great shame, Netanyahu’s Israel is part of the global trend of the ascendancy of the far right. And not merely part of it, but rather an advance guard of the trend: as in Hungary and in Poland, and to an extent in the United States, in Israel too this right is already in power.

Can you sound the alarm against racism when in your own country, restrictions against Arabs using the community center in Kokhav Yair received official sanction? That is what happened, in effect, when the Lod District Court permitted the center to reserve 90 percent of its memberships solely for residents of the community. In theory, the remaining 10 percent can be divided among Jews and Arabs from nearby communities, but the court also ruled that the center can give priority to past members — in other words, Jews only.

Can one warn against xenophobia when your own country detains hundreds of asylum seekers without trial for periods of up to a year? Can one warn against ultranationalism when your government tells the High Court of Justice that it plans to demolish a Bedouin village (Khan al-Ahmar) on grounds of “illegal construction,” when it plans to expand an illegal Jewish settlement in the same area? Can one be shocked at the German election results when the justice minister in your own country calls for a “moral revolution” in which inequality will be defined by law and the separation of powers will be officially abolished?

Can one be shocked by the AfD when your prime minister visits a leader who praised those who collaborated with the Nazis; when a picture of the prime minister’s son decorates the home page of a neo-Nazi website, thanks to an anti-Semitic collage he posted to the exultant cheers of a former Ku Klux Klan leader; when Israel, out of economic or Islamophobic interests, grants legitimacy to dubious world leaders?

Thanks to Netanyahu and his government, Israel has lost its special historic moral status, and with it its ability to warn the world against fascist processes. After all, Israel, as former Deputy Chief of Staff Yair Golan said, is in the midst of such processes itself.

The above article is Haaretz’s lead editorial, as published in the Hebrew and English newspapers in Israel.