As the Pogroms Against Africans Continue with the Encouragement of the Israeli StateAs the Israeli government continues on its racist course, defending the 'Jewish' nature of the State against African asylum seekers, with the Israeli Labour Party, doing nothing to prevent what is happening and the Histadrut - the so-called Zionist 'trade union' remaining quiet - so Michael Warshawski, a veteran human right campaigner, himself jailed years ago and a member of Israel's 4th International group, as well as Director of the Alternative Information Centre, has issued a peace calling Israel today fascist.
I well understand his views and why he has reached them. To Palestinians and African/Asian asylum seekers, Israel is little or no better than a fascist state. However I disagree with Michael about fascism. Israel is an example of a settler-colonial state where the settler working class has reached an agreement with its capitalist class, just as the White working class in South Africa did, at the expense of the indigenous people. There are small freedoms in Israel that don't pertain to a fascist state, limited freedom of expression and the right to print journals and campaign that mark Israel out as an extreme version of a settler-colonial nationalist state.
Of course the avenue that Israel is headed down is marked by placards with the swastika and other symbols of European Fascism and other delightful symbols of fascism but I do believe that it is still a mischaracterisation of Israel to call it fascism. That its detestable and instutionalised racism, its armed settlers, its pogroms portend darker days ahead is unchallengeable but fascism is a different type of state.
|Miri Regev (above), former Israeli army spokeswoman |
asylum seekers in Israel "cancer" (Photo: Moshe Milner, Israeli Government Press Office)
Michael Warschawski, Alternative Information Center (AIC)
Our elders used to say that if something looks like a duck, quacks like a duck and walks like a duck – then it’s a duck. Similarly, it is possible to say that if a state acts like a fascist state, legislates fascist laws, its spokespersons speak using fascist terms and some of the population responds in a fascist manner – then such a state is fascist.
For numerous years I warned against use of the word “fascist” in defining the state of Israel. The Israeli regime is first and foremost a colonial regime, moved by colonial considerations of excluding the indigenous population and taking over their country and lands. The use of the term fascism served to soften the colonial character of the Zionist project and of the state of Israel.
There exists no doubt, of course, that the Zionist state did not lose its colonial essence but on the contrary, deepened even further the character traits it shares with states such as Rhodesia, Australia of the 18th and 19th century and the United States in its conquest of the west. However, Israel underwent processes which today justify also defining it as a fascist state. Seemingly, the grandchildren of the victims of German fascism and the project to destroy Jews who lived under its rule were supposed to know how to identify the fascist characteristics which developed as a terminal illness during the last decade.
The use of the word “cancer” in relation to a group of human beings, for example. Knesset Member Miri Regev (Likud) recently used this word to define the African refugees seeking asylum in Israel. Our ancestors were defined as “cancer” by the Nazis, and even today this word stands at the centre of the international fascist discourse when speaking about foreigners…and Jews. Another characteristic is the increase in pogroms: a mob incited by right-wing politicians, but also by the official discourse and the media, which violently attacks a minority group under the slogan “death to…!” So familiar to those who listened to stories of our grandparents! An additional example from the fascist modus operandi: the incitement of one disempowered group against another.
A pogrom always leads to murder and this is just a matter of time. The clock has begun to tick. MK Michael Ben Ari began his path with pogroms in East Jerusalem under the slogan “death to Arabs”, and today he is inciting in south Tel Aviv under the slogan “death to Sudanese”…most of whom, by the way, are not Sudanese but Eritrean.
However, the fascist attack on asylum seekers has an additional aspect related to most of our national and personal histories: the state of Israel was founded as an asylum state for hundreds of thousands of refugees who fled persecution or who survived the genocide of Eastern Europe. This position as asylum state is what led to the 1947 United Nations decision, and it is doubtful whether the international community would have given its support to the establishment of the state of Israel without the hundreds of thousands of displaced persons and survivors of the Nazi project of destruction. Who like us, the grandchildren and great-grandchildren of those same refugees and survivors, is supposed to feel empathy toward the refugees, whether they are escaping persecution or escaping hunger.
However, the asylum state has become a fascist state in which the discourse of power has completely replaced that of rights, and empathy has given way to hatred of foreigners. Here we have additional proof that the experience of persecution does not necessarily lead to empathy toward other persecuted persons. Last Thursday, on the eve of the Jewish holiday of Shavuot, we were less than fifty people demonstrating outside the Prime Minister’s residence in Jerusalem, reminding everyone that the Jewish tradition is full of commandments concerning love of the foreigner. Not just to treat someone with dignity, but with actual love! However, for a society built on the dispossession of the indigenous population and its expulsion, it is doubtful whether it possesses the capacity to feel empathy toward a refugee from Africa, and Miri Regev is an example. Regev, more than any other Knesset member, incited against MK Hanin Zoabi and called for her deportation from the country following the May 2010 slaughter conducted by Israel’s navy against the Turkish ship Mavi Marmara. Today the same woman stands and incites using fascist language against asylum seekers from Africa. Indeed, the face of a generation is as the face of its leaders, and these days it is best not to look in the mirror.
Translated to English by the Alternative Information Center