“Signs of fascism in Israel reached new peak during Gaza op, says renowned scholar,” so read an article in Haaretz on August 13. In this piece Israel Prize laureate and renowned scholar Zeev Sternhell discussed the potential collapse of Israeli democracy. The trend lines are not too promising. Sternhell himself,a 79 year old former Polish refugee has long been a thorn in the side of what Ilan Pappe calls Neo-Zionism.
The original Zionist narrative was that persecuted Jews around 1900 came to Palestine which was empty at the time. It was a national movement of redemption resulting in a free peopl creating a modern agricultural miracle. For some bizarre reason Palestinians who had been living there and were a majority did not appreciate the gradual theft of their land. With the catastrophic holocaust of nearly 6 million European Jews partition occurred in 1947 and in 1948 Israel defeated and expelled 750,000 natives who it was said left on their own accord.
Post Zionist scholars int he 80s and early 90s blew this idealized founding myth to smithereens. Ugly truths about Jewish terror and the nullification of Palestinians were unearthed by these new historians. Now there was no denying the facts of the Nakba and the terrible injustice done to Palestinians. Thousands of Jews leapt out of a burning building only to land on the backs of a people who had nothing to do with their appalling treatment.
After the 6 Day War of 1967 Israel continued to populate the West Bank with illegal settlers. With incontrovertible documents noted above Palestinians suddenly appeared and were added to the post Zionist narrative of the 90s.
With the increased freedom to publish, ugly scenes of repression and cruelty appeared in both Israeli and national media. Unconventional thinking began to seep into the former Zionist narrative. Writers like Gideon Levy and Amira Hass who lived for 3 years in Gaza made Israelis aware of the harsh life under military rule and occupation. They consistently pointed out that the state was hardly a shining example of democracy. There was less fredom however in the visual media. They were loathe to show the world the ugly face of Israel’s brutality. Yet disturbing images began to seep into the Israeli conscience. The founding lmyth though wobbly continued to stand despite the new historians. Most Israelis wanted to believe they lived in a modern liberal state and it was “the objective environment” (read Palestinian resistance to ongoing repression and humiliation) which forced the state to stint on human rights.
In the end as T.S. Eliot famously wrote “humankind can not bear very much reality” and rather deal with the new facts israelis regressed to the default position of noble zionism. The arrival of Likud and its successors has shown the world the awful results—moral midgets as leaders begin, Shamir, Sharon and now Netanyahu. Thus the fear of Professor Sternhell. himself almost killed in 2008 by a bomb of another wacky settler,a former informer for the security police the Shin Bet. Jack Teitel the perpetrator was sentenced to 12 life terms and Professor Sternhell the renowned scholar kept speaking. Of such men Israel can be proud. More tomorrow.