J.J. Goldberg

Alarm Bells on the Ascendancy of the Israeli Far Right

By J.J. Goldberg

  • Print
  • Share Share

The N.Y. Times-owned International Herald Tribune has a very disturbing, must-read op-ed piece today by Yossi Alpher, “Who Rules Israel?”. If you’ve been feeling out of sorts lately about what feels like a mounting assault on beleaguered Israeli peace and human rights advocates by an ever-more influential far right, Alpher makes the case, in a pretty authoritative way, that it’s probably worse than you think.

The Obama administration’s problems with Israel go beyond the construction of another few hundred housing units in East Jerusalem. More ominously, the ruling coalition in Israel reflects a reshaping of Israeli society that has fortified right-wing designs on the West Bank and strengthened resistance to a peace agreement.

To be sure, this is not the first time Israel is dealing with a right-religious-settler-Russian coalition pushing a reactionary agenda. The difference is that this political alignment could be dominant in Israel for some time to come. …

… The Israeli right perceives an international onslaught against its bastions in East Jerusalem and the West Bank. It has resolved never to permit a repeat of the withdrawal from Gaza. Hence it is attacking its critics and beefing up its grip on the instruments of power. And this reaction further amplifies Israel’s international isolation, creating a vicious circle.

The most blatant aspect of this right-wing campaign is its focus on the Israeli civil-society groups that monitor government actions and decisions. A bill that has already passed a preliminary vote in the Parliament would require all Israeli NGOs that receive support from foreign governments to publicly declare themselves “foreign agents” if they seek to “influence public opinion or … any governmental authority regarding … domestic or foreign policy.”

Coincidentally or not, Alpher’s Thursday IHT piece comes one day after a parallel op-ed piece written by Tel Aviv University political scientist Martin Sherman and published on Ynet, the hugely trafficked Web site of Israel’s largest-circulation daily Yediot Ahronot, titled “Who Really Runs Israel?” (the link is to the English translation at Ynetnews.com). He argues that Israeli leaders repeatedly make disastrous decisions, like Oslo and the Gaza disengagement, because the country’s real rulers are a permanent, semi-invisible elite of lawyers, journalists and academics whose true goal is to ingratiate themselves with the politically correct Western intelligentsia at the expense of Israel’s security and survival.

Sherman is a member of the editorial board of Nativ, a pro-settler academic bimonthly published by the Ariel Center for Policy Research. He’s also a visiting professor of Israel Studies this year at Hebrew Union College in Los Angeles, courtesy of a grant from the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Foundation, according to the HUC Web site.

… one of the most astonishing aspects of the Israeli political system is of ostensibly “hawkish” politicians adopting, once in power, “dovish” policies they previously repudiated. After all, these policies have consistently and continuously proved disastrous failures.

So if the most dramatic political initiatives over the last two decades cannot be attributed to international pressure, or to the far-sighted wisdom of Israeli leaders, or the preferences of the Israeli electorate, what can it be ascribed to?

The answer is to be found more in Israel’s sociological structure than its political mechanisms. More specifically, it lies in composition of its civil society elites who control the legal establishment, dominate the mainstream media, and hold the sway in academia (specifically in the social sciences and humanities faculties - where the politically-correct dominates.) These groups comprise an interactive trinity of influence that in effect dominates the socio-political process in Israel, sets the direction of the national agenda at the strategic level and imposes, with great effectiveness, its views on elected politicians and the general public. …

For them, the approval of peer groups abroad is far more important in determining their agenda than the approval of Israeli citizens at home. Invitations to deliver keynote speeches at high-profile conventions, sought-after appointments as visiting scholars at prestigious institutes, lucrative grants for research projects are far more forthcoming if one in identified as empathetic to the Palestinian narrative than as committed to the Zionist one.

For more information and illumination, check in with his hosts at HUC.


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Yossi Alpher, Martin Sherman, Israeli elites

The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.




Find us on Facebook!
  • The eggplant is beloved in Israel. So why do Americans keep giving it a bad rap? With this new recipe, Vered Guttman sets out to defend the honor of her favorite vegetable.
  • “KlezKamp has always been a crazy quilt of gay and straight, religious and nonreligious, Jewish and gentile.” Why is the klezmer festival shutting down now?
  • “You can plagiarize the Bible, can’t you?” Jill Sobule says when asked how she went about writing the lyrics for a new 'Yentl' adaptation. “A couple of the songs I completely stole." Share this with the theater-lovers in your life!
  • Will Americans who served in the Israeli army during the Gaza operation face war crimes charges when they get back home?
  • Talk about a fashion faux pas. What was Zara thinking with the concentration camp look?
  • “The Black community was resistant to the Jewish community coming into the neighborhood — at first.” Watch this video about how a group of gardeners is rebuilding trust between African-Americans and Jews in Detroit.
  • "I am a Jewish woman married to a non-Jewish man who was raised Catholic, but now considers himself a “common-law Jew.” We are raising our two young children as Jews. My husband's parents are still semi-practicing Catholics. When we go over to either of their homes, they bow their heads, often hold hands, and say grace before meals. This is an especially awkward time for me, as I'm uncomfortable participating in a non-Jewish religious ritual, but don't want his family to think I'm ungrateful. It's becoming especially vexing to me now that my oldest son is 7. What's the best way to handle this situation?" http://jd.fo/b4ucX What would you do?
  • Maybe he was trying to give her a "schtickle of fluoride"...
  • It's all fun, fun, fun, until her dad takes the T-Bird away for Shabbos.
  • "Like many Jewish people around the world, I observed Shabbat this weekend. I didn’t light candles or recite Hebrew prayers; I didn’t eat challah or matzoh ball soup or brisket. I spent my Shabbat marching for justice for Eric Garner of Staten Island, Michael Brown of Ferguson, and all victims of police brutality."
  • Happy #NationalDogDay! To celebrate, here's a little something from our archives:
  • A Jewish couple was attacked on Monday night in New York City's Upper East Side. According to police, the attackers flew Palestinian flags.
  • "If the only thing viewers knew about the Jews was what they saw on The Simpsons they — and we — would be well served." What's your favorite Simpsons' moment?
  • "One uncle of mine said, 'I came to America after World War II and I hitchhiked.' And Robin said, 'I waited until there was a 747 and a kosher meal.'" Watch Billy Crystal's moving tribute to Robin Williams at last night's #Emmys:
  • "Americans are much more focused on the long term and on the end goal which is ending the violence, and peace. It’s a matter of zooming out rather than debating the day to day.”
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.