By Stephen Lendman
Disturbing signs are ominous. On November 8, Israel demolished and ransacked a Negev Bedouin Arab mosque in Rahat, removing it for Jewish development. Professor Yousef Salamah called it "a criminal act," done on the pretext that it was unlicensed. "These are not new acts but were preceded by many incidents and attacks, when the Israeli authorities demolished dozens of mosques inside Israel, turning some into museums, barns, restaurants, synagogues and parking lots."
Five Bedouins, Israeli citizens, were arrested for protesting. Others were attacked. On November 8, Haaretz writers Jack Khoury and Yanir Yagnar headlined, "Defiant Bedouin(s) rebuild Rahat mosque razed by state," saying:
Along with a one-day general strike, residents laid a foundation to rebuild. Yusuf Abu Jama, local leader of the Northern Branch of the Islamic Movement said: "If they continue to destroy it, we will rebuild the mosque over and over again."
Southern District commander Yohanan Danino said: "The mosque was born in crime and as a symbol of the radicalization and escalation of the members of the Northern Branch of the Islamic Movement within Rahat…."
Look for another demolition and more confrontation, denying Israeli Arabs equal rights with Jews, but even theirs are eroding. Israel is now unsafe for anyone challenging state authority, no matter how repressive its policies.
On November 8, Haaretz writer Noah Kosharek headlined, "Supreme Court okays Jewish-only buildings in Jaffa," saying:
The Court approved three apartment buildings solely for Jews in the mixed Ajami neighborhood, "even as it implied that such a project could constitute discrimination." Most modern states reject segregation out of hand. Israel practices it as policy.
On November 9, at 3:00AM, Israeli soldiers stormed Bil’in village, targeting two homes, looking for Ashraf al-Khatib, a wounded demonstrator, shot in the leg weeks earlier, protesting for village rights. In recent years, Bil’in has been repeatedly raided, its residents arrested for peacefully resisting occupation and Israel’s Separation Wall, systematically destroying the village.
On November 11, Haaretz writers Nir Hasson and Shlomo Papirblatt headlined, "Gang suspected of attacks on Arabs in Jerusalem," saying:
"Young (Jewish) men have reportedly been roaming in and around Independence Park seeking Arabs to attack, trying to identify them by their accent." Two already were assaulted. Also a Chilean tourist mistaken for an Arab. In July, another Arab was stabbed.
Other incidents occur regularly, too numerous to list, both in Israel and the Territories. Besides wars, repeated incursions, lawless land seizures, killings, arrests and torture, they include middle-of-the-night home raids, assaults against nonviolent protestors, farmers, fishermen, women and children. Their crime: being Muslims in a Jewish state or on land Israel occupies, systematically stealing it dunum by dunum as well as depriving non-Jewish citizens of their rights. Where this ends worries many, including Uri Avnery, founder of Gush Shalom, "The Peace Bloc."
In his October 25 article titled, "Weimar in Jerusalem: Israel on the Footsteps of Nazi Germany," he said as a young boy he witnessed firsthand "the collapse of German democracy and the ascent of the Nazis to power. The pictures are engraved in my memory – the election campaigns following each other, the uniforms in the street, the debates around the table, the teacher who greeted us for the first time with "Heil Hitler."
For Avnery and many others, the "all-important question in Israel with growing concern (is whether) the Israeli republic is collapsing. For the first time, this question is being asked in all seriousness."
Netanyahu’s Welfare Minister, Yirzhak Herzog, worries that "fascism is touching the margins of our society." He’s wrong, says Avnery. It’s "not only touching the margins, it is touching the government in which he is serving, and the Knesset, of which he is a member."
Almost daily, Knesset members introduce new repressive bills, including the Law of Citizenship’s Loyalty Oath amendment, requiring non-Jews to pledge it to "the State of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state." Otherwise, their citizenship and residency rights may be revoked. Perhaps also their freedom.
Dozens of other repressive laws have been tabled. Many more are coming, measures real democracies won’t tolerate. Avery said MKs have been "act(ing) like sharks in a feeding frenzy," competing "to see who can devise the most racist bill."
It’s not a uniquely Israeli phenomenon. It’s surfacing across Europe and in America, its recent election sending a legion of extremist bigots to Congress, joining many others already there from both parties.
Avnery "always worried that (Israeli) democracy was hanging by a thin thread, that we must be on our guard every hour, every minute." As in America, it’s now "facing an unprecedented test." Failing it leaves the door open to fascism.
The choice is "peace or eternal war" and accompanying repression. Peace requires equal rights for non-Jewish citizens and Palestinians, notions Israel won’t countenance. As a result, Avnery worries that "For the second time in my life, I may have to witness the collapse of a republic." Only an aroused public can stop it.
In a November 9 Haaretz op-ed, Haifa University Professor Daniel Gutwein headlined, "Israel needs a Leftist revolution to stop the fascism," saying: "A social revolution on the left is the necessary condition to stop (what’s) seep(ing) into the halls of government…"
The Loyalty Oath, repressive occupation, and denial of non-Jewish citizens equal rights are most evident, but also much more. Eroding social benefits and growing privatizations for example. Combined they show "the transformation of fascism from scattered, isolated ‘weeds’ to an official policy."
Neoliberal privatizations turn "social services from citizens’ rights into merchandise which is gained via the merchandising of citizenship itself," beside matters of equity and affordability. Gutwein calls fascism "occupation by other means, and as such it imports the logic of occupation rule into Israel itself….At the same time, in light of deepened social gaps caused by privitization(s), fascism becomes an internal Israeli mechanism of compensation, through which the privatizing regime strengthens its hold on society." Change requires a "social-democratic revolution on the left" in time to stop it, one nowhere so far in sight.
Haaretz writer Gideon Levy worries about issues reflecting growing repression and fascism, including in his November 7 article titled, "Dear American Jews, if you love Israel – criticize it," saying:
Criticize its "policy of force and occupation….someone has to wean it from these addictions. Like any other junkie, it is incapable of helping itself. Thus the job falls to you" and Israeli citizens. Israel’s "arrogant behavior (makes) it despised….The town is burning….Israeli democracy is being torn apart; soon, it will no longer be possible to talk about ‘the only democracy in the Middle East,’ " no matter how nonsensical it is now. Act, "Criticize it as it deserves." It’s the first step to change.
In a September interview, Levy commented on the political climate in Israel and prospects for peace, saying that recent events showed that "nothing was left of the Israeli Left, except for some small, devoted, courageous groups which are still active. Unfortunately, they are not very influential."
Why so? Because people believe "there is no ‘Palestinian partner’" when, in fact, the opposite is true. It made him doubt the existence of Israeli leftists. His main concern is extremist governance under Netanyahu and a supportive Knesset.
"(I)t’s going to destroy Israel from within. I think that Israeli democracy is now facing its biggest challenge ever: a systematic campaign against any kind of alternative voices." So far, parts of the media operate freely, "because most of (it) collaborate(s) with the occupation project, and those of us – the very few – who go against the stream, until now we were untouched, but this I don’t take for granted."
Repressive laws have targeted human rights NGOs and dissident academics. Conditions are "deteriorating day after day. It might touch me personally very soon but so far" not yet. Yedioth Ahronoth, Israel’s largest circulation daily, fired writer B. Michael (Michael Berizon), known for attacking Israeli politicians and the occupation satirically.
An epilogue in his last column said he’d "been fired. Good-bye." Without explaining further, his political views left him vulnerable. For example, his denunciation of Cast Lead, saying:
"There it is again, the cyclical ‘deja vu war.’ The same ceremonial bloodshed that again is being poured into the hot lava that has been leading the entire region to misery for dozens of years now."
With that type writing, it’s surprising Yediot Achronot kept him on for 15 years, calling Gaza "a giant prison," saying years of Israeli aggression reflects "one great butcher shop," and much more just as harsh. Few mainstream journalists anywhere approach that honesty or courage.
Levy does it for Haaretz, calling it Israel’s most influential paper because it impacts politicians, business leaders, and other parts of the media, though less now than earlier. It’s also read globally, "but (don’t) exaggerate" its importance.
Calling Israel a racist state, Levy said his views hardened over time. "(T)he more Israel becomes nationalistic, the more the government becomes violent and aggressive," the more radicalized he’s become. In his recent book, "The Punishment of Gaza," he called Cast Lead a "wild onslaught upon the most helpless population in the world."
As for the current round of peace talks, he unequivocally negative, seeing no hope in them whatever, calling them "another scene in this ongoing masquerade, another photo opportunity." Their failure, in fact, may "lead to another bloodshed." Commenting on how he persists, he responded saying "do I have a choice? I can’t change my mind. I will not stop raising my voice as long as (I) have a platform" to do it.
Israel’s lurch toward Gomorrah jeopardizes everyone challenging state policy, especially vocal journalists, academics, and human rights activists, the very people authorities want silenced.
– Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He contributed this article to PalestineChronicle.com. Contact him at: firstname.lastname@example.org and visit his blog at: sjlendman.blogspot.com.