The Keepers Of The Gate
The Day of the Rhinos
By Uri Avnery
June 04, 2016
- I recently mentioned the German word
Gleichschaltung – one of the most typical words in
the Nazi vocabulary.
means "the same", and "Schaltung" means "wiring".
The long German word means that everything in the
state is wired up the same way – the Nazi way.
This was an
essential part of the Nazi transformation of
Germany. But it did not happen in any dramatic way.
The replacement of people was slow, almost
imperceptible. In the end, all important positions
in the country were manned by Nazi functionaries.
We are now
witnessing something like this in Israel. We are
already well into the middle of the process.
after position is taken over by the far-far right,
which is ruling Israel now. Slowly. Very, very
right after last year's election. Binyamin Netanyahu
was able to form a coalition of the far right,
though only with a slim majority. As has so often
happened in the annals of fascism, he needed one
"center" party for that. He found it in the form of
Moshe Kahlon's faction. Kahlon, an ex-Likud man, was
popular because he promised cheaper housing.
Instead, housing prices have continued to rise.
the Smiling Man. He is very likeable. One columnist
compared him to the Cheshire cat, the cat that
disappeared and left only a smile behind. "Not a cat
with a smile," as Alice said, "but a smile with a
cat". But he is the cat that keeps the far right in
power, even now.)
government included an assortment of incredible
appointments. The most outrageous new minister is
Miri Regev, a primitive woman known for her proud
vulgarity, who is now Minister of Culture. Well, I
suppose even vulgarity has a right to be
Ms Regev is
now in charge of the allocation of government funds
to theaters, literature, ballet, opera and such. She
has already made it clear that they had better toe
the government line, if they want to be funded.
competitor is the new Minister of Justice, Ayelet
Shaked (literally: the Almond Gazelle.) Her
proclaimed aim is the subjection of the Supreme
Court, the pride of Israel. Though quite timid by
now, the court sometimes objects to oppressive new
laws. So Ms Almond wants to stuff it with new
dangerous of the bunch is the Minister of Education
– Naftali Bennett, one of the most extreme
nationalist-religious politicians. Israel has three
religious education systems. The sole "secular"
system has already been steadily reduced throughout
the years by earlier ministers. Putting Bennett,
defined by many as a religious fascist, in charge of
education means putting the fox in charge of the
ministers, as well as the others of the same ilk,
are now busy replacing the senior officials with
persons of their convictions, a steady and extremely
are the keepers of the gate.
One of the
most important persons in Israel bears the title
"Legal Counselor to the Government". He is the
highest legal official, superior to the Attorney
General and independent of the Minister of Justice.
His advice is legally binding, subject only to the
has several personal legal problems. He and his
family have traveled around the world on other
people's money while in office. This and other
affairs have been held up in the legal pipeline for
many years, by the decision of the "Advisor".
legal advisor, an inoffensive former judge appointed
to this office by Netanyahu, has just been replaced
by Netanyahu with – surprise, surprise – the
government secretary, Avichai Mandelblit, a
kippa-wearing lawyer who is as close to Netanyahu as
quite sure, the State Comptroller, another very
powerful official in Israel, was chosen by the
Knesset majority according to the wishes of
Netanyahu. Yosef Shapiro is also a former judge.
two positions are crucial to Netanyahu is being
illustrated now. The entire country is fascinated by
several court cases in which employees at the Prime
Minister's official residence testified that Sarah
Netanyahu is an unbearable, shouting, hysterical
shrew, who also pays her private expenses from the
this circle, there is the new commander of the
police. For years the police high command has been
sinking into a morass of sexual scandals, in
addition to bribery. One officer has committed
suicide, several others have been kicked out.
solution than to bring in an outsider, a high Shin
Bet (secret service) officer? Brilliant idea, but
now it transpires that the police has sunken even
further into the morass. In several cases policemen
have brutally and publicly beaten civilians, both
Arabs and Jews, for no obvious reason, and received
the full backing of Roni Alsheikh, their new supreme
media are decried by the right-wing as "leftist", a
bulwark of the "old elite", which the rightists have
sworn to replace.
description is quite wrong. Of the two major
newspapers, one, Israel Hayom ("Israel Today")
belongs to Netanyahu. Or, to put it precisely, to
Sheldon Adelson, an American casino mogul, who is
the abject voluntary slave and generous patron of
"Bibi". The paper, whose sole object is to serve
Netanyahu personally, is distributed in huge
mass-circulation paper, Yediot Aharonot ("Latest
News"), is trying to compete by being even more
other important daily paper, Haaretz ("The
Country"), which is critical of Netanyahu, is far
smaller, and in constant economic danger.
three TV channels are an intellectual desert. Except
for the news and a tiny number of quality programs,
they are empty of content, devoted mainly to
"reality" programs, which have nothing to do with
Who is in
charge? Why, of course the Minister of the Media.
And who is that? Again surprise, surprise. No other
than a person by the name of Binyamin Netanyahu.
Israeli law, as Prime Minister he can keep to
himself as many portfolios as his heart desires.
This currently means several of them, including the
Foreign Office and the Media.
now, all media people have been finding it difficult
to sleep at night. All three TV channels need
government support. Some courageous TV personalities
still dare to criticize the government openly, and
even sharply, but their number is steadily
When I was
on TV this week and told my interviewer that in a
year's time he and his colleagues will probably be
out of their jobs, he laughed nervously and asked:
"What, a whole year?"
journalists have already become rhinos (the Israeli
nickname for people who have succumbed to the
government, because they need thick skins). The
process of rhinossification is steadily going on.
comes the coup de grace, in the form of Avigdor
is a frightening person. In his presence, even a
Donald Trump would shrink.
immigrant from Soviet Moldova, a former bar bouncer
and later close aide to Netanyahu, he is now the
most extreme rightist politician on stage. He has
proposed the bombing of the Aswan dam in Egypt
(which would kill many millions of people). That was
one of his more moderate ideas. He has criticized
the army as too timid, and called Netanyahu (not so
long ago) a cheat, a coward and a charlatan.
("Nice Man" in German) is very shrewd. It can be
assumed that for some months, at least, he will be
exceedingly forthcoming, peace-loving and liberal.
Already, this week, both he and Netanyahu have
declared themselves fervent adherents of the "Two
States for Two Peoples" solution. That's like Benito
Mussolini declaring himself in 1939 a devoted
confrontation between the Minister of Defense and
the General staff of the army looks like becoming a
momentous event. The clash between an irresistible
force and an immovable object.
Defense Forces", which includes the navy and air
force, is an almost autonomous institution. Its
official Supreme Commander is the government in toto,
acting through the Minister of Defense.
It is an
obedient army. Only rarely has it openly defied the
government. One such case was in 1967, when the
Prime Minister, Levy Eshkol, hesitated in face of
the growing Egyptian military threat in the Sinai
peninsula. A group of generals threatened him with
collective resignation if he did not give the order
to attack. He capitulated.
In face of
a unified opposition of the army command, the
minister is almost powerless. But he is in charge of
a huge budget, by far the largest in Israel. He has
a dominant influence over the appointment of the
army's commander ("Chief of Staff") and superior
the army's lower officers corps and rank-and-file
has been educated by the nationalist school system.
Most of them may by now be closer to Lieberman than
to the Chief of Staff.
put to the test by the recent case of Elor Azariya,
the soldier who shot and killed a severely wounded
Palestinian lying on the ground. Many soldiers
declared Azariya a national hero.
now standing trial in a military court for
manslaughter. The army high command has been
obdurate in face of rightist opposition. And lo and
behold, who pushed his considerable bulk into the
overcrowded courtroom? Avigdor Lieberman. He came to
express his support for the soldier.
Netanyahu bowed to pressure and called the soldier's
father to express his support.
saw the killer in court on TV, we were surprised to
see a mere boy, who looked bewildered and
disoriented, with his mother sitting behind him and
stroking his head. Woe to the state which puts a
deadly weapon into the hands of such a primitive,
So here we
are now: the government undermines the army and the
peace camp puts its trust in the high command. Some
may well be praying fervently to a God they don't
believe in for a military coup they would not really