Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Is Israeli Democracy Finished?

In a now somewhat notorious story published on January 11, Timemagazine announced that Israeli politics was taking an ominous "rightward lurch." Citing, among other things, a newly proposed law that would require an oath of allegiance from naturalized citizens, another that would strip Israelis convicted of espionage and terrorism of their citizenship, a motion to investigate local NGOs that receive funding from foreign governments, and statements made by certain rabbis calling on Jews not to rent property to Arabs, the magazine's Jerusalem correspondent concluded that the Middle East's only democracy is on the slippery slope toward something like . . . fascism. According to one source quoted in the article, Israeli society today is reminiscent of nothing less than "the dark ages of different places in the world in the 1930s."

While Israel-bashing of all kinds is much in style these days, the Time article was sufficiently inflammatory to elicit a vigorous point-by-point rebuttal from the office of Prime Minister Netanyahu. What the rebuttal did not mention is that the fascism charge was itself both the product and an echo of the rhetoric of Israel's own domestic Left. Indeed, over the last year or so, going well beyond the heated criticisms expected of a political opposition, the Israeli Left has exhibited signs of a serious derangement. Lately, however, it seems to have gone altogether around the bend.