For years, Israel and its powerful lobby in the US and Europe have presented the Jewish state as the model of democracy in a region typically referred to as “anti-democratic.” Naturally, many pro-Palestine activists, among countless others, have long argued that the central principles of Israel’s Jewish supremacist ideology, its legal structure, and its society broadly represent anything but democracy.
Such voices have correctly noted that Israel’s policies and very essence run counter to the traits traditionally associated with democracy: the rule of law, respect for minorities, and protection of civil and human rights. While no objective analyst could reasonably dismiss those important points, recent developments in Israeli politics do point to a disturbing, and painfully ironic, trend: Israel’s loving embrace of outright fascism is, to a large degree, an expression of its democracy.
The Government and the People’s Will
When Prime Minister Netanyahu and his Likud Party won a landslide reelection victory in March 2015, many Israelis, and activists and analysts around the world, were understandably disturbed by what this development portended for the future of Israeli-Palestinian relations, and the future of the entire region. Although many had predicted a defeat for Likud, the elections resulted in a landslide victory for Netanyahu’s right wing party.
While the reasons for Likud’s victory are obviously myriad, one of the decisive factors was Netanyahu’s resorting to racist scaremongering in order to drive the ultra-right wing fascist base to the polls. In a widely disseminated Facebook post, Netanyahu warned of “Arab voters…coming out in droves to the polls.” Although Netanyahu claimed he was simply mobilizing his base, the obvious fact, self-evident to even the most naïve political amateur, was that the Netanyahu was resorting to and exploiting the anti-Arab racist views deeply held by the bulk of Israeli society. And it worked. The elections boasted a 72.3 percent voter turnout, the highest since 1999.