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Max Blumenthal Demolishes Talking-Points About Israel's 'Liberal Democracy'

Key members of Israel's opposition parties say Israel's rightward-turn poses a threat to its democracy.
 
 
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Avigdor Lieberman of the far-right Yisrael Beiteinu party.

 
 
 
 

Terror wars tend to lead to blow-back on domestic populations. Not only do they come with almost inevitable restrictions of civil liberties, but hard-right political factions also capitalize on the specter of terrorism to gain legitimacy and win power. Israel is no exception – the country's far-right has gained an enormous amount of influence in recent years, and has used it to enact a series of laws that many on the left call a dire threat to Israeli democracy.

This week, Max Blumenthal – author of Republican Gomorrah: Inside The Movement That Shattered The Party -- appeared on the AlterNet Radio Hour to explain what is happening to “the only democracy in the Middle East.” Below is a transcript that has been lightly edited for clarity (you can also listen to the show here).

Joshua Holland: Max, I don’t want to talk about Iran today. I don’t want to talk about the Israeli lobby in the United States, and I don't want to talk about the Occupation. I want to talk about something I don’t think gets enough attention in this country, which is the sharp rightward turn of the Israeli government.

One of the great non-sequiturs of our political discourse is that Israel is the only democracy in the Middle East. And I say it’s a great non-sequitur because it’s usually used as a response to, for example, criticism of the Occupation. You say this Occupation is terrible, and people say it’s the only democracy in the Middle East.

Anyway, Tzipi Livni, the leader of the opposition Kadima Party, accused Benjamin Netanyahu recently of, “an attempt to transform Israel into a type of dictatorship.” Kadima lawmakers said that recent legislation passed by the Knesset represented, “the gravest challenge to democracy since the establishment of the state in 1948.” Tell me about the sharp rightward lurch. When did this happen, because I remember when I was a kid Israel was almost a socialist country.

Max Blumenthal: Well, by not wanting to talk about Iran you’re an anti-Semite and I condemn that.

JH: Max, I’m a self-loathing Jew -- please get this straight.

MB: Part of Netanyahu’s goal in focusing on Iran is taking the Palestinian question off the table, and so it’s good that you’re talking about this. Israel has never been a democracy in the sense that we think about a democracy. It’s a settler, colonial state that privileges the Jewish majority, which it created through violent methods of demographic manipulation over the indigenous Palestinian outclass.

That’s true even inside Israel. So when you hear people like Tzipi Livni -- who is for now the head of the Kadima Party but soon to be ousted, and actually came out of the Likud Party and was aide to Arial Sharon – when you hear liberal Zionists, people on the Zionist left, warning that Israel is turning into a fascist state what they’re talking is the occupation laws creeping back over the green line, and that these right-wing elements are actually starting to crack down on the democratic rights that have been afforded to the Jewish master class inside Israel. So Jews who are left-wingers, who are dissidents and speak out against state policy are actually beginning to feel a slight scintilla of the kind of oppression that Palestinians have felt since the foundation of the state of Israel. That’s where this criticism is coming from.

I think we really need to get beyond the discourse of occupation and the discourse of fascism, and instead to talk about institutional discrimination and apartheid, which is what has been present since the foundation of the state of Israel.

 
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