Sunday, July 31, 2005

Justification for Replacing the Current Form of Government

We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights ... That, to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. That, whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it and to institute new government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness.
Dear Mr. Sharon,
You publicly attacked the 50,000 protesters who were willing to take time off from work, away from their day-to-day lives and in the heat and dust of the Negev, clearly demonstrated their desire for a government that reflects Jewish values, a government guided by traditional "Zionist" aspirations of the Right of the Jewish People to live in the Land of Israel. You intimated that these people are "under mining the Israeli democracry". I have news for you!

These same people clearly indicated months earlier that if the Israeli government was willing to bring the issue to the "people" via either an election or preferably a national referendum (we no longer believe in the electroral process due to dishonest politicans like yourself), with all the pain involved, in the interest of unity with the Jewish People living in the Land of Israel, they would accept the results of such a referendum.

In a true democracry, not the oligarchy dressed in "democratic clothes" we currently have, the "power" of the government comes from the "consent" of the governed. When you lose that "consent" you lose the right to govern. When the system of government, and the agencies which support and implement the policies of that government, loses the trust and belief of the people, that system and those institutions lose their legitimacy and the people have the right to replace them.

You can play the role of the "little dutch boy" and try to stop the flood and collapse of your regime by placing your Yasamnikim (Special Police Enforcement Unit, identifiable by their skinheads) fists in the cracks, but I put you on notice Mr. Sharon (and all those who support him and his like), it is only a matter of time before the entire corrupt system collapses and the Jewish People will replace it with a true democracy that also reflects the values and aspirations of the Jewish People.

P.S. As a footnote I just noticed Professor Eidelberg's essay on this same issue, quoting this same source.

Is Israel a Fascist State?

You know how it is, you start looking for something on the Internet and you end up discovering all kinds of fascinating stuff that has nothing to do with what you originally sought!

Today I stumbled upon an essay by a fellow called Lawrence Britt, supposedly a political scientist but I’m still looking for where he studies/teaches or other articles written by him.
None-the-less, after years of thinking through the question of “What is a fascist state?” Mr. Britt’s fourteen criteria were very close to what I myself might have written.

The “revelation” was that as I read the fourteen criteria it became more and more evident that many of them could very easily be applied to Israeli. Please read through the 14 points Britt feels all fascist regimes have in common and my comments beneath them. I’d be very interested in your feedback!

Yoel Ben-Avraham

  1. Powerful and Continuing Nationalism - Fascist regimes tend to make constant use of patriotic mottos, slogans, symbols, songs, and other paraphernalia. Flags are seen everywhere, as are flag symbols on clothing and in public displays.
    Another way of describing this characteristic might be the exaltation of the “state” as the highest value (and ultimately only value) of the nation.

    People need a “unifying ethos”, fascist strive to replace any existing “ethos” (religion etc.) with one they control. In Israel the powers-that-be do everything possible to replace Jewish values with a secularized “Israeli” culture.
  2. Disdain for the Recognition of Human Rights - Because of fear of enemies and the need for security, the people in fascist regimes are persuaded that human rights can be ignored in certain cases because of "need." The people tend to look the other way or even approve of torture, summary executions, assassinations, long incarcerations of prisoners, etc.
    Amazing how the “fear” of the Religious (Muslim, Jewish etc.) the state of Israel sees nothing wrong with a suspension of civil rights: Administrative Detentions (Incarceration without trial); suspension of the right of legitimate political protest etc.
  3. Identification of Enemies/Scapegoats as a Unifying Cause - The people are rallied into a unifying patriotic frenzy over the need to eliminate a perceived common threat or foe: racial, ethnic or religious minorities; liberals; communists; socialists, terrorists, etc.
    If I had not stumbled upon this article I would not have been able to create such a list myself. The media frenzy, fueled by the Israeli government, to delegitimization the “settlers” (read Religious Nationalists) as the source of all-evil in society, the reason social policies are not implemented, as a force under mining the legitimate regime. One only need read a newspaper in Israel to realize how clearly this characteristic is prevalent in our country.
  4. Supremacy of the Military - Even when there are widespread domestic problems, the military is given a disproportionate amount of government funding, and the domestic agenda is neglected. Soldiers and military service are glamorized.
    I’m not certain this is fully applicable to Israel. Superficially there can be no question that the IDF id idealized and perceived as the source of physical salvation for our nation so in this sense it is "glorified" and idealized. On the other hand, it is the “People’s Army” – we the citizens are the army. None-the-less there can be no question that for objective circumstances the IDF has received a tremendous proportion of the national GNP since the establishment of the state, and there are many who feel in addition to becoming the “hot house” where Israel “grows” its political leaders, that the IDF has become very increasingly politicized since the Oslo years.
  5. Rampant Sexism - The governments of fascist nations tend to be almost exclusively male-dominated. Under fascist regimes, traditional gender roles are made more rigid. Divorce, abortion and homosexuality are suppressed and the state is represented as the ultimate guardian of the family institution.
    Here I think Israel parts ways with “traditional” fascist states. If anything I would suggest that the secular “Israeli” ethos promotes a vision of “family” and sexual mores that is incompatible with traditional values.
  6. Controlled Mass Media - Sometimes the government directly controls the (sic) media, but in other cases, government regulation, or sympathetic media spokespeople and executives indirectly control the media. Censorship, especially in wartime, is very common.
    In a country where the media is rigidly controlled and dissenting voices like Arutz 7 and other aggressively persecuted it is easy to see how this criterion of a fascist state might be applicable to Israel. The idea of a media “enlisted” to promote the agenda of the state against the “opposition”, in our case the “settlers” and the “religious” is a fact of life none, even the media themselves, deny.
  7. Obsession with National Security - Fear is used as a motivational tool by the government over the masses.
    What can I say? Is it applicable? Definitely! But as Henry Kissinger is said to have observed: “Just because you are paranoiac doesn’t mean they are not out to get you!” In the same vein perhaps we could say that even though there is an objective basis to our fears, it doesn’t mean the state doesn’t exploit those fears to pursue its agenda!
  8. Religion and Government are intertwined - Governments in fascist nations tend to use the most common religion in the nation as a tool to manipulate public opinion. Religious rhetoric and terminology is common from government leaders, even when the major tenets of the religion are diametrically opposed
    to the government's policies or actions.
    Well here I guess the opposite is true, unless you want to place “Democracy” up on the pillar as the “State Religion”. Then it becomes very clear that even when the “major tenets” of democracy are “diametrically opposed to the government’s policies or actions” they will justify their actions as necessary to “defend and protect” what they call “democracy”.
  9. Corporate Power is Protected - The industrial and business aristocracy of a fascist nation often are the ones who put the government leaders into power, creating a mutually beneficial business/government relationship and power elite.
    Anyone who lost a fortune in the famous Israeli Bank Stock fiasco, or the endless line of financial wrong doings that get paid lip service but the principles continue to play leading roles in the economy of the nation can see how this criteria perfectly fits the Israeli reality.
  10. Labor Power is Suppressed - Because the organizing power of labor is the only real threat to a fascist government, labor unions are either eliminated entirely, or are severely suppressed.
    I wonder what Amir Pertz would say to this? Again I question whether this particular criterion is truly applicable to the Israeli reality, although there is no doubt that the “histadrut” has fallen from the “State behind the State” to a sorry excuse for a labor union and its power has been systematically curtailed over the past two decades
  11. Disdain for Intellectuals and the Arts - Fascist nations tend to promote and tolerate open hostility to higher education, and academia. It is not uncommon for professors and other academics to be censored or even arrested. Free expression in the arts and letters is openly attacked.
    Again, the Israeli reality is more complicated. If we were to qualify this as representatives of the “religious” camp or ‘Right Wing’ as being “censored” I think it might have some applicability.
  12. Obsession with Crime and Punishment - Under fascist regimes, the police is given almost limitless power to enforce laws. The people are often willing to overlook police abuses and even forego civil liberties in the name of patriotism. There is often a national police force with virtually unlimited power in fascist nations.
    Gradually over the past twenty years the police have grown into a force no longer perceived as “representatives of law and order” but more a “street gang with a license” to viloently implement the policies of the government. Policies I must add primarily against the religious and those who believe in the Jewish People and their right to live in the Land of Israel.
  13. Rampant Cronyism and Corruption - Fascist regimes almost always are governed by groups of friends and associate who appoint each other to government positions and use governmental power and authority to protect their friends from accountability. It is not uncommon in fascist regimes for national resources and even treasures to be appropriated or even outright stolen by government leaders.
    Wow! Read the headlines of any Israeli newspaper and then come back to this point. It has come to the point that even the “enlisted media” now has a problem trying to avoid the corruption of the Sharon Family and its supporters.
  14. Fraudulent Elections - Sometimes elections in fascist nations are a complete sham. Other times elections are manipulated by smear campaigns against or even assassination of opposition candidates, use of legislation to control voting numbers or political district boundaries, and manipulation of the media. Fascist nations also typically use their judiciaries to manipulate or control elections.
    I’m not certain if these fictitious organizations that launder the millions of dollars that fund the election campaigns of Barack or Sharon are included in the author’s understanding of “fraudulent elections”, but in my mind “purchasing an election” is as fraudulent as you can get!

Based upon the essay: "The 14 Defining Characteristics Of Fascism
Dr. Lawrence Britt has examined the fascist regimes of Hitler (Germany), Mussolini (Italy), Franco (Spain), Suharto (Indonesia) and several Latin American regimes. Britt found 14 defining characteristics common to each.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Between Hope and Despair

Afternoon AssemblyI've been trying to find the words to articulate my feelings after last week's amazing experience at Kefar Maimon. Perhaps the best way is to relate a conversation I had with an acquaintance on the way home last week.

My acquaintance probably saw on my face the tremendous wave of confused emotions I was experiencing and sought to draw me out, in the hope that talking about it might help me cope. His question was a simple open-ended: "So what do you think of all of this?"

Without hesitation or forethought the words came out as if on their own: "I'm trapped somewhere between despair and hope!"

"On one hand," I explained, "I feel like I'm in mourning over the demise of everything I came to this country to help realize - a Zionist Jewish Israel that accepted the democratic process as the most effective means of managing a pluralistic society." With the government's decision to utilize twenty thousand soldiers to stifle legitimate political protest, with the no longer veiled threats by the police to use violence including the use of weapons to "control" the protest, I felt we had crossed a line from which there is no return.

The future of Israel society will be determined by your adherence to the modern idol of "Secular Democracy" with no room for religious or conscientious objection. The funding for religious high schools has already been cut by 70% starting September. The Ministry of Religious Affairs dismantled with no alternative put in place to ensure that public mikvaot remain open or that community rabbi's receive some minimal stipend. Yeshivot Hesder that feel there is a conflict between the dictates of Judaism and the commands given by the army will be closed. Soldiers who are torn between their love of the Land and the People and find it hard to act against the very People they believe they joined the IDF to protect will be blackballed out of active service. Whenever the police decide they "suspect" a kippa wearer of "wrong intentions" they can forcefully remove them from public transport, temporarily revoke their driver's license and/or incarcerate them for 48 hours without arraignment.

"On the other hand the events of Kefar Maimon open up a basis for hope!" I explained. For the first time since I came to Israel in 1974 an entire community of forty thousand like minded individuals publicly declared that they are no longer willing to sit on the side lines and watch the State of Israel divest itself of every connection to Jewishness and the values of Zionism that the state was founded on. This public expression of idealism, coupled with the willingness to physically suffer in its expression, that gives me hope that Israel's future might overcome the darkness that encompasses us.

Maybe the excesses of the overly autocratic authorities in abusing their powers to stifle legitimate political protest will help wake up the broad masses that sit in relative apathy in front of their televisions.

With that extended monologue my acquaintance wished me the traditional Jewish blessing: "May we only hear good things from each other" as both of us boarded our respective buses.

The other source of emotional ambiguity is my experience with the thousands, no the tens of thousands of young people during the week at Kefar Maimon. On one hand I felt a great sadness that they, as well as my children, are forced to face such a bitter and unjust struggle. On the other hand, their passionate idealism and willingness to absorb actual physical blows with absolute no intent in returning them provided me a source of pride and hope. Whatever the net result of the struggle over Gush Katif and the Northern Shomron, twenty years from now the future of Israel will be in the hands of these young idealists. If I survive to see it, I know now that Israel will be a more democratic and just society than the oligarchy it is today.

The theme song of these vibrant and valiant young people sums up the message of hope in one line: "The Eternal People isn't afraid of a long road".