From the September-October 2014 issue of News & Letters
Oakland, Calif.—Accompanying the above Jerusalem graffiti image of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is the inscription, “Whoever believes in him is afraid.” It is part of a graffiti slideshow presented here Aug. 16 by a friend of News and Letters Committees upon her return from studies in Israel. The range of the carefully stenciled graffiti, one of the last forms of open dissent, is posted by leftists lauding pro-Palestinian politicians and calling Israel “the Terrible,” anarchists, feminists and Gays. Some examples are: “All cops are bastards”; “One of three women are raped thanks to Knesset”; “City of David and Jonathan, we exist!” in English, Russian, Arabic and Hebrew.
Since the Gaza war, Israel has seen a near total, self-imposed cessation of criticism among the intelligentsia. A law professor was threatened with sanctions by his dean when he expressed his regret over the loss of life on both sides in the war. Anti-war demonstrators are attacked by the right even in liberal Haifa.
This situation, where any sympathy for the “other” is deemed a subversive act or treason, signaled to Israeli professor Zeev Sternhell the end of Israel’s democracy and the beginning of fascism (see “Signs of fascism in Israel reached new peak during Gaza op, says renowned scholar,” Haaretz, Aug. 13, 2014). Sternhell, a Holocaust survivor from Poland, is well regarded globally for his studies on the rise of European fascism. He was the target of a terror attack in 2008 by a right-wing Israeli and now says he is witnessing the end of his view of Zionism which was “to create a safe home for the Jews…a home in which you don’t step on anyone’s back or suppress anyone.”
We should continue to support and encourage the other Israel, trying to find its voice in these bleak times. That voice spoke loud on Aug. 16, breaking for a moment the prevailing atmosphere of fear and hate, as 10,000 filled Tel Aviv’s Rabin Square demanding that Israel negotiate with Hamas to end the blockade of Gaza and with the new Palestinian government to end the occupation.