In a post in this space about a week ago, I discussed how occupation erodes democracy in Israel. We now have an even starker example of how the Israeli mindset, in the leadership and in a significant and growing sector of the public, is showing the effects of nearly 43 years of occupation.
Of course, one needs always to remember that Israel is a country that has always lived in fear of both international de-legitimization and attack. But now there is a new angle here. If those who truly hate Israel and wish to see its demise are smart, they’ll just stop taking any action and sit back as the increasing attacks on dissent and democracy in Israel
destroy it from within.
The Israeli government has increasingly involved in what one might call “NGO wars.” Partnering with the extremist right-wing group, NGO Monitor, Israel has been actively trying to undermine its own human rights community, rather than trying to confront it in the court of public opinion. The government has also tried to block foreign funding to such groups (something which must be understood with two facts: one, that Israel does not have a network of foundations as exists in the US to fund NGOs, nor does it devote significant resources to such things as they do in Europe; and two, this attempt was very selective, not a principled stand against foreign funding of NGOs in general, but, like NGO Monitor, only targeting NGOs that might be critical of government policies).
But now the Israeli right has sunk to new depths, and there is some speculation here, they are getting help from someone in the IDF and/or Shin Bet to pursue it. Im Tirzu, a group which laughably calls itself centrist when it is clearly far right in most matters, has taken vicious aim at the New Israel Fund and its head, Naomi Chazan in particular. The scurrilous nature of their campaign is easily visible in this picture that appeared in the Jerusalem Post.
The general assault on freedom of speech in Israel is reaching frightening proportions. This is most certainly not the Israel that most idealistic Zionists envisioned, both before and after the state was established. But that Zionism seems to have faded in Israel, to be replaced by a virulent nationalism masquerading as Zionism as practiced by Im Tirzu, or a religious lunatic version as practiced by religious settler groups.
I don’t agree with every word in Bernard Avishai’s article here, but I whole-heartedly agree with these two statements: “Anyone with a sense of history knows where this is going. Israel can’t have an increasingly repressive and brazen occupation without eventually getting around to repressing Israeli voices who oppose it.” And, in referring to Im Tirzu’s name, which is taken from Herzl’s writings and was part of a longer phrase which translates as “If you will it, it is no dream,” that the groups usurping of the Zionist dream “gives the will’s triumph a rather different cast. “
I got linked to by this article in Zeek Magazine. It seems even more pertinent in this context.