There was a fascinating if very troubling article over on The Intercept’s site recently, Why Do So Many Denounce Authoritarianism From Trump and Putin — but Not Israel’s Benjamin Netanyahu? by Mehdi Hasan. In it, Mr. Hasan looks at Netanyahu’s activities as a political figure, and comes away with rather a bad taste in his mouth. This, after all, is a man who has worked very hard to suppress political dissidence, who has inflamed unreasoning passions and ethno-nationalism, who has demonized minorities and foreigners, and who has been, in short, everything that Trump is, but with more intelligence.
Indeed, he says, there is a weirdly fascistic tinge to Netanyahu’s policies that go way beyond the mere authoritarian populism that is the bane of all liberal democratic states today. “Anyone who speaks out against the Israeli government’s repressive behavior…must be silenced,” he writes. “That is now the authoritarian and ultranationalistic mentality that dominates not just inside the Netanyahu cabinet, but in the Knesset, too. Earlier this year, Israeli legislators gave initial approval to an amendment allowing the education ministry to ban organizations critical of the IDF [Israeli Defense Forces] from entering schools…”
Hasan has no answer as to why we, here in the United States and Western Europe, are willing to let Netanyahu get away with just about anything. He states the woeful facts and asks us to think deeply upon them.
He is right to ask us to do so. For, it may be that Netanyahu and his friends are uniquely important to our futures. Where other nationalist demagogues have very little support here, even the most right wing or reactionary Israeli government can be assured of a blank check from Americans. There are powerful and well-connected organizations and individuals in this country who will do almost anything Israel. (Consider Sheldon Adelson, who donated millions in a failed attempt to oust Obama, and who has consistently acted as if America’s only foreign policy concern is Israel.)
There is something terrifying in that.
Let us, then, hope that sometime soon there will be people in power in Washington who will move with great caution on questions like Iran and war.
And will ask exactly to what degree our support of Israel may be decoupled from Netanyahu…
A man who may not, in fact, be anything like a friend.