Opinion

Who’s Calling Whom a Fascist?

Is it possible that the Joint List MKs who called Pence a messianic fascist have only taken a leaf from the book of some of their Jewish colleagues?

Ushers scuffle with members of the Joint Arab List who are holding signs in protest ahead of U.S. Vice President Mike Pences address to the Knesset, Israeli Parliament, in Jerusalem January 22, 2018.
\ POOL/REUTERS

Some Arab Knesset members from the Joint List called U.S. Vice President Mike Pence a fascist. They presumably wish to put him in the same league as the infamous fascist dictators of the last century — Benito Mussolini, the original fascist, as well as Adolf Hitler and Francisco Franco, totalitarian rulers with no regard for human life. To call the democratically elected vice president of the United States a fascist is an outrage. Disagreement with his policies is no excuse. The level of discourse in Israel should never be allowed to sink to such a level.

If dictatorial rule and mass killing is considered sufficient qualification for a leader to be called fascist, the list of such leaders in the 21st century is not a short one. Moreover, some members of the mostly Arab Joint List have themselves on occasion expressed admiration for Arab totalitarian rulers who could rightly be referred to as fascists.

A decade ago MK Ahmed Tibi, accompanied by Mohammad Barakeh, then an MK from Hadash (one component of which is the Israel Communist Party), and Ra’ad Salah, the leader of the now-outlawed Northern Branch of the Islamic Movement in Israel, paid a visit to the Libyan dictator Muammar Gadhafi — who was well-qualified by any measure to be called a fascist — to express their admiration for him. Members of the Israel Communist Party may not admit it, but Josef Stalin, who insisted that his war against Germany was a war against fascism, himself qualifies by the brutality of his dictatorial rule to be called a fascist. And Bashar Assad, the Syrian fascist dictator who has killed hundreds of thousands of Syrian citizens and driven millions from the country, has had the support of members of Hadash, now part of Joint List. So look who is calling whom fascist.

In their anger at U.S. President Donald Trump’s policies on the Middle East, as eloquently pronounced by Pence in the Knesset, calling him a fascist was evidently not sufficient in their eyes to vilify him. They also called him messianic. Here they referred to the fact that he believes in the Bible, like hundreds of millions of Christians and Jews in the world, which presumably makes them delusional. And the hundreds of millions of Muslim who believe in the Koran, are they also delusional? Many are members and supporters of the Joint List. They should take a good look at themselves before they start hurling insults at Israel’s honored guests. Extending hospitality to guests is an ancient Arab tradition. It was certainly not on display the day Pence addressed the Knesset.

The Arab MKs who vilify their political opponents by calling them fascists are most certainly not the first to use such dirty tricks. Zionist history is replete with such name-calling. Socialist Zionists frequently referred to the Revisionists, Vladimir Jabotinsky’s followers, as fascists. David Ben-Gurion on occasion called Jabotinsky “Vladimir Hitler.” The effect was far-reaching, frequently leading to blows and worse. During the Warsaw Ghetto uprising, members of the Socialist Zionist youth movements refused to cooperate with members of the Revisionist youth movement in the ghetto because they had been taught that they were fascists. As a result, outnumbered and outgunned, a few hundred young Jewish fighters faced the Germans in two separate resistance organizations: ZOB, led by Mordechai Anielewicz, and ZZW, led by Pawel Frenkel.

Today, as political tempers flare in Israel, we again hear the appellation “fascist“ hurled by the left at the right. Is it possible that the Joint List MKs who called Pence a messianic fascist have only taken a leaf from the book of some of their Jewish colleagues?