© Susanne Schleyer

From the paradox of liberation to the demise of liberal elites

» Israel is interesting for a discussion of the general disorder inasmuch as it shifted to regressive populist politics at least one decade before the global slide into populism. «
Eva Illouz

In my essay I consider the process of internal radicalization from a tiny corner of the globe, that of Israel. But Israel is interesting for a discussion of the general disorder inasmuch as it shifted to regressive populist politics at least one decade before the global slide into populism we are now witnessing (what Christophe Ayad has called the »Israelisation of the world«).

This reactionary Israeli politics is manifest in a number of ways: in the radicalization of the reigning Likud Party (especially following the 2009 elections) and its shift to an alt-right politics, with the overt aim of establishing Jewish supremacy over the Arabs (territorially and legally, with a recent suggestion by a prominent Likud member of the Knesset to strip Arab citizens of their voting rights); in the mainstreaming of extreme messianic politicians calling for the restoration of a Great Biblical Israel (a position that was viewed as sheer lunacy only a decade ago); in the public delegitimation of left-wing opinions, now dubbed by many state officials as acts of »treason« (in some cases, they have been made illegal altogether, as for example with the call to support the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Movement, BDS); in the incessant invocation of security to justify violations of privacy and minority rights; and with rabbis on the public payroll calling for a refusal to employ Arabs and for boycotting shops that do so.

A recent survey conducted among Israeli Jewish youth in grades 11 and 12 by Israel Hayom, a daily paper owned by Sheldon Adelson (the Jewish billionaire who has contributed millions of dollars to both Netanyahu and Trump), captures these deep trends: 59 per cent identified as politically right-wing, and only 13 per cent said they considered themselves left-wing. The survey also revealed a surprisingly high level of patriotism, with 85 per cent saying they »love the country«, and 65 per cent saying they agreed with the adage attributed to Zionist hero Joseph Trumpeldor, who was killed in battle in 1920: »It is good to die for one’s country.«