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Does Israelo-fascism exist?

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Robert O. Paxton, the distinguished emeritus professor at Columbia University, is perhaps the world’s leading authority on fascism. His book Vichy France (1972) has become a classic, not least in France itself, for telling truths about the collaborationist regime that the French themselves had been too ashamed and timid to say. More recently, The Anatomy of Fascism (2004) is a masterful survey that looks thoroughly and intelligently at “fascism” instead of just using it as an epithet.

Toward the end of the book, Paxton looks at the possibility of fascism in “Other Times, Other Places” outside its peak in Europe between the two World Wars. Among several examples, he says that “. . . one must address the potential – supreme irony – for fascism in Israel.”
He recognizes that

“Israeli national identity has been powerfully associated with an affirmation of the human rights that were long denied to Jews in the Diaspora. This democratic tradition forms a barrier against ‘giving up free institutions’ in the fight against Palestinian nationalism.” 

But, he writes, more recently there is cause for worry.

“The suicide bombings of the second intifada after 2001 radicalized even many Israeli democrats to the right. By 2002, it was possibly to hear language within the right wing of the Likud Party and some of the small religious parties that comes close to a functional equivalent to fascism. The chosen people begins to sound like a Master Race that claims a unique ‘mission in the world,’ demands its ‘vital space,’ demonizes an enemy that obstructs the realization of the people’s destiny, and accepts the necessity of force to obtain these ends.”

The Western mainstream devotes a great deal of time and energy to every Islamic extremist statement, and the word “Islamofascism” has even been used by an American president. But their Israeli extremist equivalents, who have only gotten louder and more powerful since Paxton’s book appeared, hardly ever appear in U.S. news reports.  The unstated assumption is that the "Israelo-fascists" like Avigdor Lieberman are only crazy uncles hidden up in the attic, not worth paying attention to. 

James North

James North is a Mondoweiss Editor-at-Large, and has reported from Africa, Latin America, and Asia for four decades. He lives in New York City.

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