Israel's Right Wing Is Worse Than Europe’s

By Zeev Sternhell

July 19, 2019 "Information Clearing House" -  From the end of the 19th century, radical, anti-liberal nationalism – after serving as a basis for fascism throughout Europe and Nazism in Germany, and despite calling itself an ideology of national unity – essentially became an ideology of civil war. Hostility toward different categories of citizens, not just ethnic minorities but ideological adversaries, became a primary tool of nationalists. So it was in the past and so it is today in countries where vicious nationalism rules: From ostensibly democratic India, which abuses its minorities, to Poland and Hungary, to Benjamin Netanyahu’s Israel, which is consciously moving toward becoming an apartheid state.

In truth, the Israeli right, which maintains the settlements with their racist, backward rabbis, is much worse that the European nationalist right, which is wary of displaying open racism and anti-Semitism, lest it be accused of fostering an ideology akin to Nazism. Here we have no such problem because hey, we’re all Jews, and who would dare accuse a Jew of approximating the kind of Nazi ideology that preceded World War II? Therefore we get an education minister who is ignorant, not just on sexual matters but also of history, feeling no qualms about calling for the annexation of millions of Arabs while cynically denying them of political rights.

In all Europe, the pre-fascist and pre-Nazi nationalists were united in their hatred of human rights and enlightened principles, of socialists, intellectuals, pluralism and democratic government based on a division of authority. The Polish government and the Netanyahu government are similar not only because both foster hatred among their citizens as a tool of governing, but because they are both promoting a historical fabrication industry on a colossal scale.

It is thus highly significant that radical nationalism, which fueled Europe’s disaster in the 20th century, developed not only in Germany in the form of revolutionary conservatism but also in the France of the human rights revolution of 1789. The Jews were its greatest victims but not its only victims. Anti-Semitism was not an accident that happened to European history, nor did fascism and Nazism suddenly land from outer space.

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The craft of lying and fabrication is an accepted operating method by radical nationalists for inventing a narrative that meets the needs of nationalist politics. Anything goes for the sake of establishing this narrative – from censoring archives, as is the case here, to unprecedented legislation that distorts history, as in Poland (and supported by Israel). Even if everyone knows that atrocities occurred in the War of Independence, the Haaretz investigative report showed us that the Israeli government, like the Polish government, is not only working to conceal facts, but also to ensure that today’s governmental fabrication becomes tomorrow’s truth. Following in the ways of the Poles is a triple betrayal: of the Holocaust’s legacy, of the fight against anti-Semitism and of historical truth.

Just as the Poles define anti-Semitism to suit the needs of their national narrative – to their thinking, the nationalist underground that refused to help Jews was not in the least anti-Semitic – so, too, the Israeli right has invented its own definition: Any criticism of Israel; of the occupation; of the call to annex millions of people in total disregard of their desires, their identity and their rights; and of the Bible as the basis for our claim to the territory – is anti-Semitic. The same goes, of course, for a boycott of the settlements and their products, of West Bank tourism and its “university”: Likening such a legitimate political act with anti-Semitism is just another fabrication of Jewish history for the sake of Israeli nationalist politics.

Zeev Sternhell is a Polish-born Israeli historian, political scientist, commentator on the Israeli–Palestinian conflict, and writer. He is one of the world's leading experts on fascism. Sternhell headed the Department of Political Science at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and writes for Haaretz newspaper.

This article was originally published by "Haaretz " -

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