The verdict against teaching evolution, in the Scopes trial, was delivered in
July 1925. The Levy Report concluding that Israel’s administration of occupied
lands in the West Bank is not an occupation was delivered in July 2012. Between
these two events, a certain symmetry may be found, according to Zeev Sternhell. [Haaretz: The Dream Has Vanished, With the Left’s Help]
By enlightened contemporaries, says Sternhell, “Levy’s learned conclusions will
be treated in the rest of the world just like those rulings once handed down by
village courts concerning evolution and the origin of man.”
These words come with authority and with disturbing force from Sternhell, who
is among the preeminent historians of mid-twentieth century Fascism and the
anti-Enlightenment ideologies of the nineteenth century. And the comparison may
run deeper than the parallel between two embarrassing judgments of law. The
Bible Belt in America, with its mystique of a chosen race on chosen land, bears
a close resemblance to the settler belt in Israel. Both evangelical orthodoxies
are driven by a profound hostility to the secular society that nourished them.
Both, by their unbending unity, have conquered major political parties. In the
case of Israel, Sternhell argues, the conquest of the state itself by the
settler movement is almost complete.
“the survey published on the front page of Haaretz earlier this week confirms what is already clear from our daily experience–that a majority of Israelis are not deterred by apartheid. In the wake of a continuous ideological effort of an entire generation, the right wing has ultimately succeeded in endowing society with its values: If it were to annex the territories, it would not annex the human beings living there. The Arabs would remain with the status of a population that is no longer occupied because the territories–according to what Levy stated–are not occupied territories, and they will merely be the dust of humanity, without identity or rights.”
We think of such a catastrophe as a sudden blow. On the contrary, Sternhell
implies, it can steal on a country unawares, like a thoughtless daily chore.
Before its meaning has quite emerged, it puts conscience to sleep and leaves
its traces everywhere in the common life.
“the nationalistic and messianic settlement ideology has spread like an oil
spill, until it reached the point that we are currently at: The dream of a
liberal and open society has vanished and the rug is fast being pulled from under the feet of sane Zionism. The only question now is whether we have already reached the point of no return, or whether there still remains one minute before midnight.”
How close are Americans to a similar collapse? In Israel, says Sternhell, acceptance of apartheid has become normal, as few persons a decade ago would have predicted.
In America, acceptance of a state at permanent war is now almost normal. We
have, perhaps, ten minutes before midnight–as, in the middle of one big war
and with one just ended and the aftershocks tingling from our last “kinetic
military action,” we are drawn insistently toward a next and a larger war with
another of Israel’s neighbors. And drawn, once again, by the same forces, in
Israel and America. Two bible belts and the people who know how to use them.