|By: Gideon Spiro|
28 July 2011
Fascism transcends borders
Anders Behring Breivik, the Norwegian murderer who slaughtered scores of youths and detonated a car bomb in the government district in Oslo, astonished the world. Peaceful, calm, rich, democratic Norway, of all places, was the last place where one would expect such a shocking massacre, which was carried out by a native Norwegian.
On second thought, it’s not so surprising. Norway is not floating in outer space. It is part of Europe, which has been swept by a fascist right-wing wave in recent years. Islamophobia, racism, Christian fundamentalism and hatred of the Left are the identifying features of that wave, which has left its mark on the Scandinavian countries as well.
Norway’s history contains a grim chapter of collaboration with the Nazi occupiers during the Second World War, through the government of Vidkun Quisling. Most Norwegians renounced Quisling, and he was executed as a traitor at the end of the war, but malignant metastases from that period remained in Norwegian society, waiting for an opportunity to strike at that society’s body. It came with the growth of xenophobia all over Europe. Once it was Jews who were the target of the hatred; today they have been replaced by people from Islamic countries.
Breivik is tall, handsome, muscular and blond with blue eyes. In short: the embodiment of the Aryan type as envisaged by the Nazi ideology. Not many people know this, but the “New Jew” as envisioned by many Zionist thinkers very much resembled the Aryan type. I think a doctoral thesis was even written on the subject at Tel Aviv University. The new Jew that emerged in Israel did not, in fact, bear the outer features of the Aryan type, but in other aspects many of the “New Jews” bear one or more of the features of neo-fascist man. They are racist, colonialist, murderous (some of them with the authorization of the State), militaristic, haters of the Left, loathers of foreigners and Arabs, and they thrive with the rise of religious zealotry.
To our shame, colonialist and racist Israel has become a source of inspiration for the neo-Nazi and neo-fascist Right in Europe and the USA. It is no coincidence that Breivik expressed sympathy for Israel and Zionism again and again in his writings. He sees Israel as being on the front-line in the struggle against Islam. Breivik’s type is well known in the Israeli Right. Breivik is a combination of Yigal Amir, the assassin of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, and the settler Baruch Goldstein who used the military weapon that he was authorized to possess to murder 29 Palestinians as they prayed in the mosque at the Tomb of the Patriarchs in Hebron.
The danger posed by these murderers lies not only in their murderousness, but also in the fact that the ideas for which they murdered will permeate into society through the so-called respectable Right that sits in parliament. That is what happened in Israel. The day after Rabin’s assassination, thousands of flowers were placed on the square where the murder took place, just as has happened recently in Norway, but in the long run the murderers in Israel achieved their objective. The Right won, and step by step it is implementing the murderer’s programme to convert Israel into a nationalist-religious dictatorship through racist legislation that harms minorities, the Left and human rights organizations.
Hundreds if not thousands of twins of Breivik are walking around in Israel today, waiting for a chance to murder leftists, human rights activists and Arabs. Wherever Arabs are concerned, it is being done by the State by means of the Occupation army and gangs of settlers in the Occupied Territories. Every country has its Kahane.  Followers of Kahane who see Goldstein as a saint are sitting in the Knesset.
Murderers and their supporters in fascist groups receive sympathetic exposure on television. Yaakov Ahimeir, one of the most senior journalists on state television, put a free microphone at the disposal of the right-wing American broadcaster Glenn Beck, a man whom even the right-wing Fox network was forced to dismiss, for about a quarter of an hour. Ahimeir looked at him with wide-eyed admiration, without asking him a single challenging question. To get an idea about Glenn Beck’s profile, recall that he called the youth of the Labour Party who were murdered in Norway “Hitler Youth”.
The commercial Channel 2, which is the most-watched channel in Israel, recently interviewed Yonah Avrushmi, the murderer of the peace activist Emil Grunzweig, and the settlers and Kahane-followers Itamar Ben Gvir and Baruch Marzel, who display pictures of the murderer Goldstein in their homes as a hero worthy of admiration. It is to be hoped that the parliamentary extreme Right in Norway will fail to realize the objectives of the murderer.
A real social revolution?
The wave of protest that is currently sweeping over Israel, which is focused at this stage on the demand for accessible housing, is an expression of the ongoing erosion of the Israeli middle class. When Israel was founded it had one of the smallest social gaps in the world. After the passage of 60 years Israel holds a world record for the gap between the rich and the poor, in comparison to the countries of the West.
There is hardly any inflation in Israel, but the prices of necessities have risen substantially in recent years. The rise in the price of apartments has been in the tens of percent, whether for purchase or for rent. It is the same for food, health-care, education, electricity and fuel. Consumption taxes, which are breaking the backs of wage-earners, have risen, whereas taxes on capital have gone down. The rate of income tax on the top percentile of people of independent means, who have a monthly income of 452 thousand shekels, is 26.8 percent, whereas the rate of income tax on the highest percentile of wage-earners, who have a monthly income of 69 thousand shekels, is 40 percent. The rate of tax on capital, dividends, interest and capital gains is 20-25 percent, while the tax on work is up to 45 percent. (The figures are from the economic supplement of Haaretz, “The Marker”, 26 July 2011) Whereas the income of the middle classes has not risen in the last 10 years, the profits of owners of capital have risen, sometimes by a factor of hundreds. The State today belongs for all practical purposes to a few tycoon families that are sucking the milk and honey out of the land and plundering the public.
A middle-class family in which both partners work, with one or two children, cannot make it to the end of the month, never mind save for an apartment. Israel has adopted the cruel version of capitalism, a destructive version that impoverishes the middle class, which is the mainstay of the economy and society.
There is no public construction in the State of Israel, except in the Occupied Territories. A government whose priorities find expression in huge investments of hundreds of billions in the Occupied Territories is neglecting its citizens within the Green Line.  The leaders of the struggle are careful not to say a word about that subject. They declare, “we are not on the Right, nor on the Left,” as if they were non-political. Meanwhile they receive public support and sympathetic media coverage. But in the long run they cannot avoid making political decisions, for their struggle is fundamentally political.
It is not by chance that the protest tents that have been set up all over the country are located within the Green Line and not in the Occupied Territories, where the government exhibits remarkable generosity. Whoever demands that the government build cheap public housing will necessarily clash with Netanyahu’s ideology according to which everything that moves should be privatized. The protest demands the restoration of the welfare state and social solidarity. That is unlikely to occur with the Occupation and the ongoing human-rights violations. Meanwhile the protest is basically a Jewish one. The Arab citizens, who are suffering from the same hardships, have been left out. I hope that will be corrected.
The protest, which has gained momentum and spread all over Israel, has put the Netanyahu government under pressure. The world is discovering that there is more to Israel than the conflict with the Palestinians, and that there is serious economic and social hardship here. It is to be hoped that the government, of which too many generals are members, will not be tempted to initiate another small war in order to choke off the protest and divert attention to the external enemy. There’s nothing like anxiety over security and war to create “national unity” in Israel.
A nuclear pimp
The book Hashai: hayav shel Arnon Milchan – sokhen sodi she-haya le-tayqun Holiwudi (English version: Confidential: The Life of Secret Agent Turned Hollywood Tycoon – Arnon Milchan) by Meir Doron, an Israeli journalist who lives in the US, and Joseph Gelman, an American businessman and journalist who served in the Israeli army, was published recently. The book tells the story of Milchan, an Israeli who became a film producer in Hollywood. Behind the radiant screen of Hollywood, Milchan was in fact a Mossad agent who assisted in the construction of the Israeli nuclear bomb. Milchan was recruited into the Mossad by Shimon Peres, a creator of the nuclear reactor in Dimona and today the president of the State of Israel. Milchan set up front companies in the US and elsewhere in the world which were used to acquire materials, some of which it was illegal to export from the US, which were used to build nuclear bombs in Israel.
How did it transpire that the spy Jonathan Pollard has been sitting in an American prison for 25 years for having sold secret documents to Israel, while Milchan, whose actions were much more serious according to the book, continues to walk around as a free man?
The answer evidently lies in the fact that Milchan managed to create ties with the White House and also, of course, he enjoys the Israeli government’s network of protection. Does Milchan, who continues to enjoy immunity, also count President Obama among his friends? Maybe one of my readers in the USA can clarify the matter. From the perspective of an activist against weapons of mass destruction, Arnon Milchan is a nuclear criminal who helped bring about a nuclear arms race in our region, a race that is liable to bring about our annihilation.
Kindergarteners in North Korea
The Dear Leader of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (also known as North Korea), Kim Jong-il, has decided that the time has come to enhance the patriotism of children in kindergarten, and so from now on every week will begin with the raising of the flag and the singing of the national anthem. The teachers will ensure that the children have mastered the national anthem in time for the Leader’s birthday. Inspectors will go to kindergartens to ensure the implementation of the order on behalf of the Leader.
I do not know if that is how it is in North Korea. At any rate, it is fitting for a state that is ruled by a dictatorship that washes the brains of its citizens from the day of their birth.
But this order was not issued by Beloved Leader Kim, but the respected leader Gideon Saar, the minister of education in the government of Israel, who decided that children in Israel’s kindergartens should begin the week with the raising of the flag and the singing of the anthem.
This decision proves that the minister does not have confidence that the education system will produce patriotic citizens, so brainwashing should begin as early as kindergarten. In reality, there is no need for that. If the minister had paid attention to the latest surveys that were conducted among Israeli high school students he would have learned that the education system for which he is responsible does its work satisfactorily. About 70 percent believe that the Arab minority should not be accorded rights, and 90 percent declared their willingness to enlist in combat units in the army. In other words, the brainwashing system in Israel works just fine. All of them (almost) are willing to die for the Homeland and to serve the nation as an occupying force in the Occupied Territories.
There is no need to inconvenience kindergarten children with ceremonies that mean nothing to them. They will memorize the national anthem when they get to school. They have 12 years to learn it. Enough time even for those who have learning difficulties.
They call that a Left?
Dr. Salman Masalha is a poet and translator who has a column in the newspaper Haaretz. Salman has gifts that are rare in Israel. He is totally immersed in Jewish and Arab culture. He has native-speaker mastery of both languages.
In his latest column (26 July 2011), under the headline above (“There is no Arab left-wing in Israel”, in the English version), he reports to his readers about words written by Muhammad Nafaa, the Secretary of the Communist Party, on the party’s website in Arabic. The Communist Party, the dominant component of the Hadash parliamentary list, takes pride in being both Jewish and Arab. I very much admire that fact. And this is what he wrote: “The Syrian dictatorship, the North Korean and the Iranian, are dozens of times preferable to the American, Israeli and NATO occupiers and all their Arab collaborators, especially in the Gulf states.”
This is a style that takes us decades back, to the Stalinist era, when the slogan was, “better to be wrong with the Soviet Union than to be right without it.”
No one can accuse me of being soft on the Israeli Occupation or the American ones (in Iraq, in Vietnam); but to prefer the North Korean dictatorship that is starving its people, the Iranian one where homosexuality is a crime and opponents are hanged in public squares, or the Syrian one that is slaughtering its citizens, over the Israeli or American occupations, is a very non-Left position. There is no need to prefer benighted regimes in order to express opposition to the Israeli Occupation. As a citizen who has been asked to vote for Hadash, I feel insulted by this style. I expect leaders of the party, Jews and Arabs alike, to dissociate themselves from those words.
Health care in crisis
For over 130 days, doctors in public hospitals have been conducting a struggle to prevent the collapse of the public health care system. Since the doctors are bound by medical ethics of their own free will, they cannot stage a total strike of the hospitals. So the struggle is controlled. Hospitals are operating in a holiday mode, clinics are closed, non-urgent surgery is postponed, and patients suffer. But so do the doctors. Prime Minister Netanyahu, who is also the minister of health, has not yet intervened in the crisis as these lines are being written. If he could, he would privatize the hospitals. Those without money can die.
Public health care is on the verge of collapse. The average occupancy rate in the hospitals is 98 percent, the highest in the West. In winter, during flu season, the occupancy rate sometimes reaches 150 percent and more. Patients lie in the corridors. There is no privacy, with all that that entails. Patients feel humiliated.
The doctors and the nurses are falling off their feet. They suffer from understaffing. A resident sometimes works for 30 hours straight. Without the residents, there is no public health care. Today the complement of residents is a thousand positions short. The salary of residents is a disgrace. A resident’s salary comes to 22 shekels an hour – less than the wages of a cleaning lady, which come to about 40 shekels an hour these days.
The State Health Insurance Law is also undergoing a process of erosion. The co-payments of people who are insured for medical care have risen steeply because of the government’s refusal to respect its commitments under the original law. In vulnerable sectors, like senior citizens, people forego medication because they cannot pay. No one has investigated how many people have died because of this. The Health Maintenance Organizations take advantage of this situation for all kinds of additional insurance arrangements, the opacity of which has reached the level of deception, but meanwhile they bring billions for the HMOs.
So what are we requesting? More departments in hospitals, more resident positions and a meaningful improvement of their salaries, expansion of the basket for life-saving medications, the elimination of co-payments for insurees – in short: a health-care system that respects human beings.
The government has abundant funds, but its list of priorities is wrong. There is no avoiding a repetition of the mantra that appeared in an article of mine in the Haifa University students’ newspaper of which I was editor, Post Mortem, on 17 May 1972: Reduce the budget for Occupation and annexation, and increase it for health-care, education and housing, because “the people want social justice”, as the slogan for the current protest.
1. Rabbi Meir Kahane (1932-1990) was a US Jew who founded the Jewish Defense League in New York City in 1968 and later emigrated to Israel where he founded an extremist and overtly racist political party called Kach. The party was banned, but not before Kahane served a term as a member of the Knesset. He was assassinated in New York in 1990. His ideas continue to be popular among Jewish settlers in the West Bank, particularly those in Hebron. Among mainstream Israelis he is generally seen as the ultimate symbol of Jewish extremism, racism and fascism.
2. The border between the State of Israel as it existed before 1967 (often called “Israel proper”) and the Occupied Territories. Israeli maps normally do not show the Green Line.
Translated from Hebrew for Occupation Magazine by George Malent