Viser arkivet for stikkord fascism

Israel and the Weimar republic's march towards fascism

Weimar Revisited

“YOU AND your Weimar!” a friend of mine once exclaimed in exasperation, ”just because you experienced the collapse of the Weimar Republic as a child, you see Weimar behind every corner.”

The accusation was not unjustified. In 1960, during the Eichmann trial, I wrote a book about the fall of the German Republic. Its last chapter was called: “It can happen here” Since then I have come back to this warning time and again.

But now I am not alone anymore. During the last few weeks, the word Weimar has popped up in the articles of many commentators.

It should be sprayed in huge letters on the walls.

ISRAELI DEMOCRACY is under siege. No one can ignore this anymore. It is the main topic in the Knesset, which is leading the attack, and the media, who are among the victims.

This does not happen in the occupied territories. There, democracy never existed. Occupation is the very opposite of democracy: a denial of all human rights, the right to life, liberty, movement, fair trial and free expression, not to mention national rights.

No, I mean Israel proper, the Israel inside the Green Line, the only democracy in the Middle East.

The attackers are members of Binyamin Netanyahu’s government coalition, which includes semi-fascist and openly fascist elements. Netanyahu himself tries to remain discreetly in the background, but there can be no doubt that every single detail has been orchestrated by him.

In the first two years of this coalition, attacks were sporadic. But now they are determined, systematic and coordinated.

At this moment, the anti-democratic forces are attacking on a wide front, The three main pillars of democracy – the courts, the media and the human rights organizations – are under simultaneous, deadly assault. (Remember Weimar?)

THE SUPREME COURT is the bastion of democracy. Israel has no constitution, the Knesset majority is totally unbridled, only the court can (if reluctantly) check the adoption of anti-democratic laws.

I am not a blind admirer of the court. In the occupied territories, it is an arm of the occupation, devoted to “national security”, approving of some of the worst incidents. Only in rare cases has it come out against the worst practices. But in Israel proper, it is a stout defender of civil rights.

The extreme rightists in the Knesset are resolved to put an end to this. Their front man is the Minister of Justice, who was appointed by Avigdor Lieberman. He is pushing a series of scandalous ad hominem bills. One of them is designed to change the composition of the public committee that appoints the judges, with the undisguised intention of bringing about the appointment of a particular right-wing judge to the Supreme Court.

Another bill has the undisguised purpose of changing the existing court rules in order to put a certain “conservative” judge in the chair of Chief Justice. The declared purpose is to abolish the rule of an independent court which dares, though only in rare cases, to block “anti-constitutional” laws enacted by the Knesset majority. They want the court to “represent the will of the people”. (Remember Weimar?)

Until now, since the first day of the state, the justices have been, in practice, chosen by cooptation. This has functioned perfectly for 63 years. Israel’s Supreme Court is the envy of many countries. Now this system is in mortal danger.

Another bill, which would have compelled candidates for the Supreme Court to undergo grilling by a Knesset Committee chaired by another Lieberman appointee, and obtain their approval, was withheld at the last moment by Netanyahu himself, He had already given his approval, but shrank back after the almost universal condemnation – and is now posing as the defender of democracy from his own underlings.

The chairman of the Judicial Committee of the Knesset, another Lieberman appointee, is rushing these laws through his committee, contrary to established procedures. In a stormy session this week, a female member called him “a coarse thug”. He replied: “You are not even a beast”.

A minimal purpose of these bills is to terrorize any judges considering vetoing the other anti-democratic bills that are being enacted. Some say that the effects are already being felt.

In several famous cases, the government openly flouts the Supreme Court’s orders, especially concerning the evacuation of “settlements outposts” built on lands belonging to Palestinian farmers.

Who will defend the court? The former Chief Justice, Aharon Barak, who was hated by the rightists because of his pioneering “judicial activism”, once told me: “The Court has no army divisions. Its power rests solely on the support of the public.”

THE ASSAULT on the media started some time ago when the American casino baron, Sheldon Adelson, a close friend of Netanyahu, started a daily tabloid paper with the express purpose of helping Netanyahu. It is being distributed for free and now has the biggest circulation in the country, threatening the existence of all the others (but also bribing them by giving them huge printing orders.) Money is no object. Huge sums are being spent.

That was only the beginning.

In 1965 the Labor party government enacted a new libel law (called literally “the Law of the Evil Tongue”) which was then clearly designed to muzzle “Haolam Hazeh”, the mass-circulation news magazine I was editing, which had introduced investigative reporting to Israel. I appealed to the public to send me to the Knesset in protest, and 1.5% of the voters were incensed enough to do so.

Now the right-wing gang in the Knesset wants to sharpen this anti-media law even more. The new amendment grants up to $135,000 damages to anyone claiming to be hurt by the media, without their having to prove any damage at all. For newspapers and TV channels, which are already in a precarious financial position, this means that they better give up all investigative reporting and any criticism of influential politicians and tycoons.

The new winds are already being felt. Journalists and TV editors are cowed. This week, a program on Channel 10, considered the most liberal, gave five minutes to a song glorifying the late “Rabbi” Meir Kahane, who was branded by the Supreme Court as a fascist, and whose organization was outlawed for advocating what the court called “Nuremberg laws”. An avowed member of this organization, which is alive and kicking under another name, is now a vocal member of the Knesset. (Remember Weimar?)

A major purge of TV journalists is already underway. One by one, directors of all TV channels are being replaced by confirmed rightists. It was openly admitted that the government would force the closure of Channel 10 by calling in outstanding debts if a certain journalist were not fired. Though generally an establishment type, this reporter had irked Netanyahu by exposing his and his wife’s luxurious traveling style at government expense.

AT THE same time, human rights and peace NGOs are under heavy attack. The Knesset gang is producing bill after bill to silence them.

One bill already under way forbids human rights associations to receive donations from foreign governments and “state-like organizations”, such as the UN and the EU. Right-wing organizations receive, of course, huge sums of money from Jewish American billionaires, who fund the settlements (which are also indirectly financed by the US treasury, which gives tax-exempt status to the so-called “charitable organizations” that fund the settlements.)

The law which levies huge indemnities on organizations and individuals who advocate a boycott on the products of the settlements is already in force. The hearing of an application submitted by Gush Shalom to the Supreme Court against this suppression of political protest has been postponed by the court again and again and again.

This parliamentary terrorism is accompanied by the accelerating violence of fascist gangs from the settlements. These SA-like gangs call their actions “Price Tag”. Usually, they react to the isolated cases of the army demolishing a few “illegal” buildings in a settlement by attacking a neighboring Palestinian village, setting fire to a mosque or carrying out what can only be described as a pogrom. (Remember Weimar?)

MARTIN NIEMÖLLER, a German U-boat captain and later pacifist pastor, who was thrown into a concentration camp by the Nazis, coined the famous lament: “When the Nazis came to take the Communists, I was silent. After all, I was no Communist. When they took the Jews, I was silent. I am no Jew. When they arrested the Social Democrats, I was silent. I was no Social Democrat. When they came to take me, there was no one left to protest.”

What we are witnessing now, are not isolated attacks on one or another human right – what we are seeing is a general attack on democracy as such. Perhaps only people who have experienced life under a fascist dictatorship can fully realize what that means.

Of course, the similarity between the collapse of the German republic and the processes in today’s Israel does not mean that the same events must follow. Nazism was unique in many ways. The end of real democracy may be followed by different systems. There are many models to choose from: Ceausescu, Franco, Putin.

Certainly, there is no similarity between the small German town called Weimar and Tel Aviv. Except perhaps the fact that many houses in Tel Aviv were designed according to the Bauhaus architectural school – which originated in Weimar.

Weimar was once a cultural center, where geniuses like Goethe and Schiller produced their masterpieces. The German republic which was founded in 1919, after World War I, was called by this name after the national assembly which framed its very progressive constitution there.

On these lines, the endangered democratic State of Israel, whose Declaration of Independence was signed in 1948 in Tel Aviv, could rightly be called the Tel Aviv Republic.

We are not yet in 1932. The Storm Troopers are not yet roaming our streets. We still have time to mobilize the public against the looming danger. The demonstration taking place today in Tel Aviv against the de-democratization of Israel may mark a turning point.

Uri Avnery
November 19, 2011

Avnery on Germany's unconditional pampering of Israel

Uri Avnery
5.12.09

The Height of Kitsch

IT WOULD have been the epitome of political kitsch.

Binyamin Netanyahu and ten of his ministers were to hold a joint meeting with Angela Merkel and ten members of the German cabinet.

What for? To demonstrate Germany’s love for Israel.

At the last moment, Netanyahu announced that he was sick, and the meeting was canceled. I imagine that Netanyahu was not very sorry about this. What did he need it for? In any case the Israeli government is already getting from Germany anything it wants.

A German journalist asked me about the reaction in Israel to the visit of the new German foreign minister, Guido Westerwelle. I had to disappoint him: most Israelis did not even hear about it. Another dignitary laying flowers in Yad Vashem. Another traffic jam in Jerusalem.

As so often happens, there is no equality in this marriage. The German bride loves the Israeli groom much more than he loves her.

FROM TIME to time, the relationship between Germany and Israel needs a review.

The Germans do not forget the Holocaust. They are steeped in this subject all the time. It appears on TV programs, cultural discourse and art.

That is as it should be. This monstrous crime must not be allowed to slip from memory. Young Germans must ask themselves again and again how it came about that their grandfathers and grandmothers were accessories to this enormous deed – those who took part in it, those who agreed silently and those who were silent out of fear or indifference.

The German government – the present one like all its predecessors – draws from the Holocaust an unequivocal conclusion: Israel, the “state of the victims”, must be pampered. All its actions must be supported without reservation. Not a single word of criticism must be allowed.

When the new German republic was founded, this was a calculated policy. The terrible war, which had been imposed on humanity by Adolf Hitler, had just come to an end. The Nazi crimes were fresh in the memory of mankind. Germany was a pariah nation. Konrad Adenauer decided that massive support for Israel (in addition to the indemnities paid to the individual victims) would open the doors to the world.

He found a loyal partner in his Israeli colleague. David Ben-Gurion believed that the consolidation of the State of Israel was more important than the memories of the past. He provided the “Other Germany” with an Israeli kosher certificate, in return for massive German aid to Israel.

Since then, much water has flown down the Rhine and the Jordan. The time has come to ask some questions.

QUESTION 1: While the German friendship with us is a moral imperative, does it have to include support for immoral actions?

I have heard more than once the argument: “After the terrible things done by the German people to the Jews, we Germans have no right to criticize the Jewish State. The descendents of the perpetrators cannot criticize the descendents of the victims!”

I have said it before: there is something in these sentences that disturbs me very much. Somehow they remind me of the German word Sonderbehandlung (“special treatment”), which has terrible associations. In the concentration camps, it was the code-word for execution.

The attitude of the German government towards Israel is a Sonderbehandlung. It, too, says: the Jews are something special. The “Jewish State” must be treated differently than all other states. That is to say, the Jews are different from all other peoples, their state is different from all other states, their morals are different from those of others.

A German audience was very amused when I recently told them about a demonstration of communists in New York. The police came and started to beat them up. Somebody shouted: “Don’t hit me! I am an anti-Communist!” To which the policeman replied: “I don’t care what kind of a communist you are!” Extreme philo-Semites remind me of extreme anti-Semites. One wonders whether somebody who is capable of one sort of special treatment is also capable of the other sort.

Special treatment? Thanks, but no thanks. That was not our intention when we founded this state. We wanted to be a state like all other states, a nation like all other nations.

QUESTION 2: What does friendship really mean?

When your friend is drunk and insists on driving his car – should he be encouraged? Is that the expression of true friendship? Or does friendship oblige you to tell him: Listen, you are smashed, lie down until you sober up?

Intelligent Germans know that our present policy is disastrous for Israel and the entire world. It leads towards permanent war, the empowering of radical fundamentalist Islam throughout the region, the isolation of Israel in the world and an occupation-state in which the Jews will become an oppressing minority.

When your drunken friend is driving straight towards a cliff – what does friendship tell you to do?

QUESTION 3: Friendship towards Israel – but which Israel?

Israel is a far from monolithic society. It is a vibrant, fermenting mix, with many tendencies, from the extreme Right to the extreme Left. At present we have a government of the extreme right, but there is also a peace camp. There are soldiers who refuse to remove settlements, but there are also soldiers who refuse to guard settlements. Quite a number of people devote their time and energy to the struggle against the occupation, sometimes exposing themselves to physical danger in the process.

Of course, a government has to deal with governments. The German government has to deal with the Israeli government. But from there to kitschy gestures, like a joint session of the two cabinets, the distance is great.

The Netanyahu government has paid lip-service to the Two-State principle and is violating it every day. It has rejected a full freeze of settlement activity in the territories, the very territories which all governments – including the German one – agree should become the State of Palestine. It is building at a crazy pace in East Jerusalem which – even according to the German government – must become the capital of Palestine. It is carrying out in Jerusalem something which comes very close to ethnic cleansing. Should Ms. Merkel hug this government and smother its face with kisses?

There are many ways for the German government to show its friendship to the Other Israel, the Israel that seeks peace and human rights for all. Pity that it does not do so.

THERE IS another German way. Two weeks ago, I saw it.

An audience of hundreds gathered in Berlin for a ceremony in which I was awarded the “Blue Planet Prize”. The name reflects the fact that from outer space the Earth looks like a blue globe.

The prize was awarded by the Ethecon foundation, which believes that the ideals of peace, human rights, the preservation of the planet and an ethical economy should be joined together into one whole. This is my view, too.

The award of this year’s prize to an Israeli peace-activist expressed, I believe, real friendship for Israel – the friendship of the Other Germany for the Other Israel. Revulsion at the Nazi crimes has led these Germans to engage themselves in the struggle for a better world, a more moral world, in which there is no place for the racism that is rearing its head in many places in Europe.

THAT LEADS us, of course, to what has happened just now in the land of Wilhelm Tell.

The Swiss have decided in a referendum to forbid the building of minarets. That is bad. It is abominable.

Anti-Semitism, it appears, has moved from one Semitic people to another. In post-Holocaust Europe it is difficult to be anti-Jewish, so the anti-Semites have become anti-Muslims. As we say in Hebrew: the same lady in a different robe.

From an aesthetic point of view, that is a stupid decision. In all anthologies of the most beautiful buildings in the world, Islamic architecture occupies a place of honor. From the Alhambra in Granada to the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem, not to mention the Taj Mahal, hundreds of Islamic architectural creations arouse admiration. A minaret or two would do wonders for the urban landscape of Bern.

But this is not a matter of architecture, rather of primitive, brutal racism, the one the Germans are escaping from. The Swiss, too, have much to atone for. Their grandfathers and grandmothers, too, behaved abominably during the Holocaust, when they declared that “The Boat Is Full” and returned the Jews who managed to reach the Swiss border to the Nazi executioners.

(This memory should induce us Israelis to protest against the behavior of our own government towards the desperate Sudanese refugees who manage to reach our borders from Egypt. It is returning them to the Egyptians, who, on more than one occasion, have shot them.)

By the way, the Swiss referendum should give pause to those who have been tempted to think that the system of referendums is preferable to the Parliamentary system. A referendum opens the gates to the vilest demagogues, the pupils of Joseph Goebbels, who once wrote: “We must appeal again to the most primitive instincts of the masses.”

Jean-Paul Sartre once said that we are all racists. The difference, he declared, is between those who recognize this and struggle against their racism, and those who surrender to it. The majority of the Swiss, I am sorry to say, have just failed this test. What about us?

Uri Avnery on fascism in Israel

Uri Avnery
22.8.08

The Bogie Horror Show

MY FIRST thought was: Good God, this man was responsible for the lives of our soldiers!

The second thought was: What’s the big surprise? You always knew what kind of person he was! After all, during his years as the army’s Chief of Staff he quietly supported the setting up of “illegal” settlement outposts all over the West Bank!

The third thought: And this person is now Vice Prime Minister and a member of the “Sextet” – the six ministers who constitute the real government of Israel.

THE OCCASION for these frightening thoughts was the participation of Moshe (“Bogie”) Ya’alon in a gathering of the Jewish Leadership Faction. “Peace Now is a virus,” he said there. And not only they. “All the media” are also a virus. They influence the public discourse “in a distorted manner, a lying manner”. The virus also includes “the elite” in general.

In addition, the “politicians” are to blame. “Every time the politicians bring in the dove of peace, we, the army, have to clean up after it.”

His summing up: “The Jews have a right to settle in any place throughout Eretz Israel.” And if this upsets the Americans, Ya’alon has a ready answer: “I am not afraid of the Americans!”

All this was said a few days after Ya’alon paid a well publicized visit to the occupied territories, accompanied by Shas leader Eli Yishai and several other ministers of the extreme Right. This band visited the settlement outposts, which the Israeli government long ago promised the Americans to dismantle, and expressed total opposition to their evacuation. They concluded their visit in Homesh, the West Bank settlement evacuated by Ariel Sharon in the course of the “disengagement”. Ya’alon demanded the resettlement of the place.

THESE TONES come together in a frightening melody, a tune we know all too well. It is anthem of fascism.

First: the term “elite”. In the jargon of the Israeli extreme Right, this includes everybody they hate: the intellectuals, the universities, the liberal politicians, the Supreme Court, the media.

The term is rooted in the Latin verb “eligere”, to pick out, meaning the best, the select. Since this is an undefined body, the term can be applied to different targets. When the demagogues address the Oriental Jewish masses, “the elite” clearly consists of the Ashkenazis who rule the country. When addressing the religious community, “the elite” consist of the secular, the atheist, who are strangers to Jewish Tradition. When addressing the Russian immigrants, “the elite” consists of the old established Israelis, the native born, who obstruct the path of the new immigrants.

When one bundles all these together, there emerges a picture of “them” and “us”. “Them” – the handful of arrogant old-timers, who occupy all the key positions in the state, and “us” – the simple, honest people, the patriots, the keepers of tradition, the discriminated against, the oppressed.
Every fascist group in the world entertains such a view of “the elite”.

(Never mind that Ya’alon, like most of the other demagogues, himself belongs to the elite. He was born in the country, an Ashkenazi of Ukrainian descent. His original name was Smilansky. He is still officially a member of an “elitist” kibbutz and belongs to the super-privileged senior officers’ corps.)

Second: The traitors. There is an enemy within. This is no less dangerous than the foreign enemy, indeed, much more dangerous. When Ya’alon speaks about Peace Now, he means all the peace camp, the liberal and secular section of society. That is the Fifth Column, the Trojan horse within the walls. They have to be eliminated, before one can turn to fight the foreign foe.

Third: The “politicians”. The demagogues are, of course, themselves politicians, but they exclude themselves here. Ya’alon paints a picture of “the politicians” who bring in a disgusting peace dove, whose excrement the army has to clean up.

The knavish, scheming, cowardly politicians on the one side, the clean-cut, heroic, loyal army on the other – that is a very familiar picture. The best known example was current in Germany after World War I. The “knife in the back” legend was a stepping stone to power for Adolf Hitler: the German army stood up to the enemy and had victory in its sights, when “the politicians”, the Jews, the socialists and the other “November criminals” stuck a knife in the back of the heroic fighters.

The peace dove leaves its droppings and the soldiers are compelled to clean up the filth of peace.

And also: “All the media”. That is one of the marks of fascism in Israel and throughout the world. The media are always “leftist”, “anti-national”, they are the “hostile media”. The journalists and broadcasters are a secret league of Israel-bashers, who spread lies and distort reality in order to undermine national morale, defame the army, besmirch our national values and give comfort to the enemy.

Reality is, of course, very, very different. The Israeli media slavishly repeat the official propaganda in all national and security matters. They are conformist to a high degree and mobilized from wall to wall. There is not a single leftist newspaper in the country. Most political correspondents repeat like parrots the statements of “official sources”; almost all the correspondents for Arab affairs are former army intelligence officers; and almost all military correspondents serve as unofficial army spokesmen. In the news pages and news programs, right-wing terminology reigns supreme. But because in less important matters the media criticize the government, as they are duty-bound to do in a democratic society, it is easy to portray them as “leftist” and subversive. The same is true for academia.

And finally: The “virus”. The description of political opponents as infectious agents or disgusting vermin is one of the most distinguishing features of the extreme Right. It is sufficient to remember Dr. Joseph Goebbels’ film “The Eternal Jew”, in which the Jews were shown as rats spreading disease.

If one puts all these features together – the hatred of “the elite”, the glorification of the army, the contempt for “the politicians”, the demonization of the peace camp, the incitement against the media – it’s the ugly face of fascism that emerges. Here in Israel and all over the world.

NO LESS important are the location and the company.

Ya’alon spoke at a gathering of the “Jewish Leadership Faction”. This is a group of ultra-ultra rightists, who entered the Likud with the declared objective of conquering it from within. It is headed by one Moshe Feiglin, hence its followers are usually called “the Feiglins”.

On the eve of the last elections, Binyamin Netanyahu made an all-out effort, using kosher and not-so-kosher means, to remove Feiglin from the Likud’s list of candidates. He was determined to avoid the Likud being presented as an extreme-Right party. The Likud’s main competitor, Kadima, defined itself as a center or moderate-rightist party and tried very hard to push Netanyahu to the right. Netanyahu thought that by driving the Feiglins out he could blunt this attack.

The question is whether this was his only aim. If so, why did he raise Benny Begin, a person who personifies the far-right, into a conspicuous place on the list? And why did he enlist and embrace Moshe Ya’alon, who was already known as a person of extreme rightist views? That embrace was very costly, since in the end Kadima, against all expectations, won one seat more than the Likud.

But Netanyahu, a born politician, had more than one objective in mind. He was afraid that Feiglin would one day threaten his hold on the Likud leadership. To forestall this possibility, he denied Feiglin a seat in the Knesset.

And here comes Ya’alon, Netanyahu’s pampered protégé, and joins Feiglin of all people. As the Hebrew saying goes, the swallow went to visit the crow. But it is not quite clear who is the swallow and who the crow. Is Feiglin using Ya’alon – or is Ya’alon intending to use Feiglin in order to position himself as the leader of a big extreme-Right camp?

ONE SHOULD also pay attention to Ya’alon’s declaration that “I am not afraid of the Americans”. The Americans demand the freezing of the settlements? To hell with them! Who do they think they are? What, these Goyim are ordering us around? Barack Obama wants to tell us where we can settle and where we can’t?

That is another feature of the emerging Israeli fascism: the readiness to engage in an open confrontation with the United States, and especially with President Obama. Already an Israeli campaign against “Barack Saddam Hussein”, the New Hitler, is in full swing. The American Right and the Israeli Right easily find a common language. An Israeli woman in the US is heading the well publicized effort to prove that Obama was not born in the US, that his father never was a US citizen, and that he should therefore be driven out of the White House.

The whole thing borders on madness. Israel is dependent on the US for practically everything: economic assistance, arms, intelligence cooperation, diplomatic support like the veto in the Security Council. Netanyahu is trying to avoid a confrontation by using every trick of deceit and diversion. And here come Ya’alon & Co. and call for an open revolt against the USA!

There is method in this madness. The Israeli education system glorifies the Zealots, who some 1940 years ago declared war on the Roman Empire. The Zealots became the leaders of the Jewish community in Palestine and launched a revolt that had no chance at all of succeeding. The rebels were defeated, Jerusalem was destroyed, the Temple was burned to the ground.

THE BOGIE HORROR SHOW has wider ramifications.

It presents a picture of a mad group of extremists challenging the moderate, responsible Netanyahu. Netanyahu signals to Obama and his people: Help! If you pressure me on the freezing of the settlements and the dismantling of the outposts, it will be the end of me! My government will fall, and you will have to deal with the crazies!

That would be more convincing, if Netanyahu had used his legal prerogative and dismissed Ya’alon from the government, even though that represents a political risk. Instead, “Bibi” summoned “Bogie”, like a headmaster who summons a boy and orders him to write a hundred times “I shall be a good boy”. So Ya’alon remains Vice Prime Minister, Minister in Charge of Strategic Affairs and a member of the governing Sextet of Ministers (the others being Avigdor Lieberman, Benny Begin, Eli Yishai, Dan Meridor and Binyamin Netanyahu himself.)

This being so, Netanyahu cannot evade responsibility for everything Ya’alon does and says.

(Published in cooperation with the writer).

Uri Avnery on fascism in Israel

Uri Avnery
18.4.09

A Little Red Light

PERHAPS Avigdor Lieberman is only a passing episode in the annals of the State of Israel. Perhaps the fire he is trying to ignite will flicker briefly and go out by itself. Or perhaps the police investigations into the grave corruption affair of which he is suspected will lead to his removal from the public sphere.

But the opposite is also possible. Last week he promised his acolytes that the next elections would bring him to power.

Perhaps Lieberman will prove to be an “Israbluff”’ (a term he himself likes to use), and be revealed, behind the frightful façade, as nothing more than a run of the mill impostor.

Perhaps this Lieberman will indeed disappear, to be replaced by another, even worse Lieberman.

Either way, we should candidly confront the phenomenon he represents. If one believes that his utterances sound fascist, one has to ask oneself: is there a possibility that a fascist regime might come to power in Israel?

THE INITITIAL gut-feeling is a resounding NO. In Israel? In the Jewish State? After the Holocaust which Nazi fascism brought upon us? Can one even imagine that Israelis would become something like the Nazis?

When Yeshayahu Leibowitz coined, many years ago, the term “Judeo-Nazis”, the entire country blew up. Even many of his admirers thought that this time the turbulent professor had gone too far.

But Lieberman’s slogans do justify him in retrospect.

Some would dismiss Lieberman’s achievement in the recent elections. After all, his “Israel is Our Home” party is not the first one to appear from nowhere and win an impressive 15 seats. Exactly the same number that was won by the Dash party of General Yigael Yadin in 1977 and the Shinui party of Tommy Lapid in 2003 – and both disappeared soon after without leaving a trace.

But Lieberman’s voters are not like those of Yadin and Lapid, who were ordinary citizens fed up with some particular aspects of Israeli life. Many of his voters are immigrants from the former Soviet Union, who look upon their “Ivett”, an immigrant from the ex-Soviet land of Moldova, as a representative of their “sector”. Although many of them brought with them from their former homeland a right-wing, anti-democratic and even racist world view, they do not pose by themselves a danger to Israeli democracy.

But the additional power that turned Lieberman’s party into the third-largest faction in the new Knesset came from another sort of voter: Israeli-born youngsters, many of whom had recently taken part in the Gaza War. They voted for him because they believed that he would kick the Arab citizens out of Israel, and the Palestinians out of the entire historical country.

These are not marginal people, fanatical or underprivileged, but normal youngsters who finished high-school and served in the army, who dance in the discotheques and intend to found families. If such people are voting en masse for a declared racist with a pungent fascist odor, the phenomenon cannot be ignored.

FIFTY YEARS ago I wrote a book called ”The Swastika”, in which I described how the Nazis took over Germany. I was helped by my childhood memories. I was 9 years old when the Nazis came to power. I witnessed the agonies of German democracy and the first steps of the new regime before my parents, in their infinite wisdom, decided to escape and settle in Palestine.

I wrote the book on the eve of the trial of Adolf Eichmann, after realizing that the young generation in Israel knew a lot about the Holocaust but next to nothing about the people who brought it about. What occupied me more than anything else was the question: how could such a monstrous party succeed in coming to power democratically in one of the most civilized countries in the world?

The last chapter of my book was called “It Can Happen Here”. That was a paraphrase of the title of a book by the American writer Sinclair Lewis, “It Can’t Happen Here”, in which he described precisely how it could happen in the United States.

I argued in the book that Nazism was not a specifically German disease, that in certain circumstances any country in the world could be infected by this virus – including our own state. In order to avoid this danger, one had to understand the underlying causes for the development of the disease.

To the assertion that I am “obsessed” by this matter, that I see this danger lurking in every corner, I answer: not true. For years I have avoided dealing with this subject. But it is true that I carry in my head a little red light that comes on when I sense the danger.

This light is now blinking.

WHAT CAUSED the Nazi disease to break out in the past? Why did it break out at a certain time and not at another? Why in Germany and not in another country suffering from similar problems?

The answer is that fascism is a special phenomenon, unlike any other. It is not an “extreme Right”, an extension of “nationalist” or “conservative” attitudes. Fascism is the opposite of conservatism in many ways, even though it may appear in a conservative disguise. Also, it is not a radicalization of ordinary, normal nationalism, which exists in every nation.

Fascism is a unique phenomenon and has unique traits: the notion of being a “superior nation”, the denial of the humanity of other nations and national minorities, a cult of the leader, a cult of violence, disdain for democracy, an adoration of war, contempt for accepted morality. All these attributes together create the phenomenon, which has no agreed scientific definition.

How did this happen?

Hundreds of books have been written about it, dozens of theories have been put forward, and none of them is satisfying. In all humility I propose a theory of my own, without claiming more validity than any of the others.

According to my perception, a fascist revolution breaks out when a very special personality meets with a very special national situation.

ON THE personality of Adolf Hitler, too, innumerable books have been written. Every phase in his life has been examined under the microscope, each of his actions has been debated relentlessly. There are no secrets about Hitler, yet Hitler has remained an enigma.

One of his most obvious traits was his pathological anti-Semitism, which went far beyond any logic. It remained with him to the very last hour of his life, when he dictated his testament and committed suicide. At the most desperate moments of his war, when his soldiers at the front were crying out for reinforcements and supplies, precious trains were diverted to transport Jews to the death camps. When the Wehrmacht was suffering from a grievous lack of practically everything, Jewish workers were taken from essential factories to be sent to their death.

Many explanations for this pathological anti-Semitism have been suggested, and all of them have been debunked. Did Hitler want to take revenge on a Jew who was suspected of being his real grandfather? Did he hate the Jewish doctor who treated his beloved mother before she died? Was it a punishment for the Jewish director of the Art school who failed to recognize his genius? Did he hate the poor Jews he came across when he was homeless in Vienna? All of this has been examined and found lacking. The enigma remains.

The same is true for his other personal views and attributes. How did he attain the power to hypnotize the masses? What did he have that made so many people, from all walks of life, identify with him? Whence sprang his unbridled lust for power?

We don’t know. There is no full and satisfying explanation. We only know that from among the millions of Germans and Austrians who were living at that time, and the thousands who grew up in similar circumstances, there was (as far as we know) only one Hitler, a unique person. To borrow a term from biology: he was a one-time mutation.

But the unique Hitler would not have become a historic personality if he had not met with Germany in unique circumstances.

GERMANY AT the end of the Weimar republic has also been the subject of many books. What made the German people adopt Nazism? Historical causes, rooted in the terrible catastrophe of the Thirty-year War or even earlier events? The sense of humiliation after the defeat in World War I? The anger at the victors, who ground Germany into the dust and imposed huge indemnities? The terrible inflation of 1923, which wiped out the savings of entire classes? The Great Depression of 1929, which threw millions of decent and diligent Germans into the street?

This question, too, has found no satisfying answer. Other people have also been humiliated. Other people have lost wars. The Great Depression hit dozens of countries. In the US and the UK, too, millions were laid off. Why did fascism not seize power in those countries (except in Italy, of course)?

In my opinion, the fatal spark was ignited at a fateful moment when a people ready for fascism met the man with the attributes of a fascist leader.

What would have happened if Adolf Hitler had been killed in a road accident in the autumn of 1932? Perhaps another Nazi leader would have come to power – but the Holocaust would not have happened, and neither, probably, World War II. His likely replacements – Gregor Strasser, who was No. 2, or Hermann Goering, the flying ace with a morphine addiction – were indeed Nazis, but neither of them was a second Hitler. They lacked his demonic personality.

And what would have happened if Germany had not fallen into the depth of despair? The Western powers could have sensed the danger in time and helped in the reconstruction of the German economy and the reduction of unemployment. They could have abrogated the infamous Versailles Treaty, imposed by the victors after World War I, and allowed Germans to regain their self-respect. The German republic could have been saved, the moral leaders, of which Germany had aplenty, could have regained their leadership role.

What would have happened then? Adolf Hitler, whom the widely adored President of the Reich, a Field Marshall, had contemptuously called “the Bohemian lance-corporal”, would have remained a little demagogue on the lunatic fringe. The 20th century would have looked quite different. Tens of millions of casualties of war and six million Jews would have remained alive, without ever knowing what could have happened.

But Hitler did not die early and the German people were not saved from their fate. At the crucial moment they met, and a spark was struck, lighting the fuse that led to the historic explosion.

SUCH A fateful meeting is not, of course, limited to fascism. It has occurred in history in other circumstances and to other persons.

Winston Churchill, for example. His statues dot the British landscape, and he is considered one of the greatest British leaders of all times.

Yet until the late 1930s, Churchill was a political failure. Few admired him, and even fewer liked him. Many of his colleagues detested him with all their hearts. He was considered an egomaniac, an arrogant demagogue, an erratic drunk. But in a moment of existential danger, Britons found in him their mouthpiece and the leader who took their destiny in his hands. It seemed as if during all the first 65 years of his life, Churchill had been preparing for this one moment, and as if Britain had been waiting for precisely this one man.

Would history have looked different if Churchill had died the previous year of coronary thrombosis, lung cancer or cirrhosis of the liver, and Neville Chamberlain had remained in power? We now know that he and his colleagues, including the influential foreign minister, Lord Halifax, seriously considered accepting Hitler’s 1940 peace offer, based on the partition of the world between the German and the British empires.

Or Lenin. If the imperial German general staff had not provided the famous sealed train to take him from Zurich to Sweden, from where he proceeded St. Petersburg, would the Bolshevik revolution, which changed the face of the 20th century, have taken place at all? True, Trotsky was in town before him, and so was Stalin. But neither of the two was a Lenin, and without Lenin it would quite possibly not have happened, and certainly not the way it did.

Perhaps one could add to this list Barack Obama. A very special person, of unique origin and character, who had a fateful meeting with the American people at an important moment of their destiny, when they were suffering from two crises at once – the economic and the political one – which cast their shadow on the entire world.

BACK TO US. Is the State of Israel approaching an existential crisis – moral, political, economic – that could leave it an endangered nation? Can Lieberman, or someone who could take his place, turn out to be a demonic personality like Hitler, or at least Mussolini?

In our present situation there are some dangerous indications. The last war showed a further decline in our moral standards. The hatred towards Israel’s Arab minority is on the rise, and so is the hatred towards the occupied Palestinian people who are suffering a slow strangulation. In some circles, the cult of brute force is gaining strength. The democratic regime is in a never-ending crisis. The economic situation may descend into chaos, so that the masses will long for a “strongman”. And the belief that we are a “chosen people” is already deeply rooted.

These indications may not necessarily lead to disaster. Absolutely not. History is full of nations in crisis that recovered and returned to normalcy. Besides the real Hitler, who rose to historic heights, there were probably hundreds of other Hitlers, no less crazy and no less talented, who ended their life as bank tellers or frustrated writers, because they did not meet a historic opportunity.

I have a strong faith in the resilience of Israeli society and Israeli democracy. I believe that we have hidden strengths that will come to the fore in an hour of need.

Nothing “must” happen. But anything “can” happen. And the little red light won’t stop blinking.

Published with the permission of Uri Avnery.

Jesus! I’m turning into a Jew!

If a synagogue is attacked, I guarantee that within minutes the airwaves will be filled with insinuating voices insisting that the “root cause” of the crime was a rational anger at the behaviour of Israel or the Jewish diaspora.

(…)

As the struggle between theocracy and liberalism intensifies, I can see some being pushed into taking the same journey I have taken and finding their views towards Judaism and Israel softening as they realise that antisemitism helps drive the fascistic ideologies of the 21st century just as it drove the Nazism of the 20th.

Nick Cohen, hele bloggen her

Synes dette var et godt perspektiv. Har litt vanskelig for å akseptere utsagnet " They (jødene, min anm.) are the only ethnic minority whose slaughter official society will excuse; har hørt flere minoriteter si akkurat det om sin egen gruppe, og jeg tror ikke det er riktig.

For øvrig en god tekst.