Einstein’s nightmare: the fascist politicians wielding power in Israel

Likud’s corrupt, ultra-nationalist chauvinists are driving genocide in Gaza – as anticipated by 1940s Jews horrified by contemporary events in Israel, writes Andrew Feinstein

Nov 3, 2023

In December 1948, a group of prominent US Jews, including Albert Einstein and Hannah Arendt, wrote a letter to the New York Times expressing concern over the emergence of ‘The Freedom Party’ (Tnuat Haherut) in the newly-created state of Israel.

The letter highlighted that the party was formed out of ‘a terrorist, right-wing, chauvinist organisation in Palestine’. It described Tnuat Haherut as ‘closely akin in its organisation, methods, political philosophy and social appeal to the Nazi and Fascist parties’.

As their letter details, Tnuat Haherut preached ultra-nationalism and racial superiority. Its leader, Menachem Begin, was involved in the massacre of 240 men, women and children in the village of Deir Yassin. The letter predicted :‘from its past actions we can judge what it may be expected to do in the future.’

Today, as Israel continues to pound Gaza – dropping more bombs in six days than in the entire 2014 conflict; killing more children in three weeks than killed globally in all conflicts over any year since 2019 – it is clear that horrific future is upon us. It has been upon us from the establishment of the State of Israel, a settler-colonial project that required the forced removal and elimination of millions of inhabitants of historic Palestine.

Since then, Israel has pursued a process of entrenched apartheid and an illegal and brutal occupation of the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPTs). What is happening now feels very much like a second Nakba, in which Israel’s current Likud government has decided to undertake the ethnic cleansing of Gaza in order to realise their vision of Greater Israel.

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The future is now

Tnuat Haherut was a fore-runner of Likud, which was also founded by Begin, who became Prime Minister in 1977 while leading the party. The Likud leader since 1993, Binyamin Netanyahu, has instincts not dissimilar to Begin’s: ultra-nationalist, genocidal, chauvinistic and fascist – with an added element of systemic and personal corruption on a scale that dwarfs his many corrupt predecessors.

Netanyahu’s corruption is evident not only in the well-documented cases of receiving excessive gifts and benefits and ‘buying’ favourable media coverage, but also in massive arms deals involving bribes on a far larger scale.

The Prime Minister’s anti-democratic assault on Israel’s judicial system, thus, serves two purposes: to free up his government to behave as they please in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPTs) and to ensure that he never faces prosecution for his political and personal malfeasance.

Netanyahu’s sixth and current government is a coalition comprising the most extreme political actors from the right in Israel’s controversial history. Proudly fascist, the coalition comprises openly racist Islamophobes who were historically marginal in Israeli politics, but who are now driving policy in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPTs).

Fascists in power

Netanyahu’s government includes Bezalel Smotrich as both Finance Minister and, strangely, Minister in the Defence Ministry. In the latter role, he has authority over ‘civilian issues in the West Bank’ including over the allocation of land and the planning and construction of illegal settlements.

Smotrich himself lives on an illegal settlement, and believes that the OPTs are part of Israel – a position which, in his appalling world-view, Palestinians must accept and therefore must ‘choose’ between a life of subjugation under Israeli rule, voluntary emigration or death. A notorious racist who proudly describes himself as a ‘fascist homophobe’, Smotrich is an ultra-nationalist who denies the existence of Palestinian as a nation or people.

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National Security Minister, Ben-Gvir is emblematic of the extreme nature of the government. In 2007, he was convicted in Israel for inciting racism and supporting a terrorist organisation – in any functioning democracy in which the rule of law held sway, Ben-Gvir would be in jail rather than serving as one of his country’s most powerful Ministers.

Ben-Gvir’s mentor, Meier Kahane, notoriously propagated ‘Jewish violence’ to rid Greater Israel of its Arab inhabitants. A US court convicted him of terrorism. He inspired Baruch Goldstein, who like Ben-Gvir lived on an illegal settlement in occupied Hebron and who in who in 1994 murdered 29 Palestinians in cold blood. Ben-Gvir used to have a portrait of Goldstein hanging prominently in his home.

Kahane is globally regarded as an extreme racist and terrorist, and was banned from running for election to the Knesset as his party propagated racism. Yet his protégé Ben-Gvir is today a senior Minister in the Israeli government and wields enormous power over the OPTs.

Both Ben-Gvir and Netanyahu played provocative roles in the 1995 assassination of Yitzakh Rabin, the Israeli Prime Minister who signed the Oslo Peace Accord. Netanyahu participated in a march of Kahane’s followers which featured a coffin inscribed with the words ‘Rabin is causing the death of Zionism’ and endorsed the crowd at a rally chanting ‘Death to Rabin’.

Ben-Gvir went even further: while brandishing an ornament stolen from Rabin’s car, Ben-Gvir proclaimed ’today we got to Rabin’s car, we will get to him too.’ Rabin was assassinated a few weeks later.

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Redoubling resistance

The Israeli government of Netanyahu and Ben-Gvir is the most right wing, racist and genocidalist in the country’s history. It has abandoned any pretence of meaningful, accountable democracy, even for its privileged Jewish citizens.

It has created a political conjuncture in which Israel has a serious Jewish supremacy problem, much like apartheid South Africa’s white supremacist mind-set.

In its reaction to Hamas’ violent actions inside Israel, this government is very comfortable committing genocide. The unqualified and uncritical support this fascist, criminal government has received from British political leaders, both Tory and Labour, will ensure that this genocide continues until Israel has achieved its deadly, illegal objectives.

As a consequence, it is essential that we redouble our calls for a ceasefire now; demand an immediate arms embargo; organise a comprehensive, global Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign against Israel; and insist that the International Criminal Court bring charges against all those complicit in the war crimes committed in Gaza and the OPTs.

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