Friday, July 19, 2019

Israel and Anti-Semites--Unholy Bedfellows

When I was in Israel last week, one of the questions I asked several times was this: how could Israelis support a Prime Minister who pals around with anti-semites?  That Netanyahu has been buddying up with Viktor Orban, Hungary's anti-semitic prime minister/dictator wannabee, as well as other noted right-wing anti-semites.  And I wondered why Netanyahu was doing this and what price was he paying.

This piece speaks of an unholy alliance that gives some clues, but it was put a bit differently to me in Israel.  That the left wing in Europe is anti-semitic (some of it is, some of it is just critical of Israel--one can be critical of Israel without contempt for Jews, of course) and the right wing is anti-semitic so why not align with the ideologically similar?  Of course, this is extremely problematic for several reasons
  1. What does one get from aligning with Hungary in any case?  Orban might have some sway among the right wing authoritarians in Eastern Europe, but Hungary has little power or influence.  Selling out one's soul for what?  A few shekels?  Because Hungary can't deliver much.
  2. As Mrs. Spew reminded me last night, it is far, far more likely that the right-wing anti-semites would take the anti-semitic rhetoric and turn it into systematic violence than the left-wing anti-semites.  
  3. Looking away when anti-semites rise was something that falls into the category of "Never Again," right?  What is the point of having a Jewish state if the Jewish state allies with those doing harm to Jews?
The reality of Israeli politics is that the right-wing dominates (the left got crushed in the aftermath of the second intifada), and that Netanyahu dominates the right-wing.  So, there is little penalty for Netanyahu to hang out with anti-semites in Europe or the US.  His coalition-making challenges do not center on his pal-ing around with Orban and his ilk, but on the conflict between two right-wing voting blocks--the Ultra Orthodox and the Russian Jews who hate the Ultra Orthodox.  So, no, besides some upset columnists, there was no cost for Netanyahu politically.

A related question I didn't really ask as much is how do the Israelis feel about being the means to an end?  Evangelicals want Jews to run the biblical lands since that is the requirement for the rapture/Armageddon/end of times (excuse me if I get the religious terms wrong), as these folks think they will go to Heaven or whatever.  These folks see Israel's Jews is a tool for getting what they want.  The response to my question was basically that Israelis understand this, but don't mind since they are using the evangelicals.  That the GOP now is firmly committed to uncritical support for Israel as it panders to these end of times-seeking evangelicals.  Of course, there is a cost, as Israelis are realizing that Netanyahu's treatment of Obama has helped to alienate Democrats, and they fear the day when the Democrats gain the White House.

But it is all about the short term--sucking up to those who are anti-Jewish (and, yes, evangelicals are anti-Jewish) for a few more years of support while selling out what the Holocaust has taught the Jews.

While the basic state of Israel-Palestine peace talks was depressing enough, this other dynamic was just gutting.  Strangely enough, I feel my Jewish identity more when I see Israel selling out the Holocaust.  Seeing these t-shirts being sold at Yad Vashem (the Holocaust memorial), well, had a complicated effect on me.  I will eventually get to the post on how this trip affects how I see myself and my identity, but this one is a clue.

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