In Netanyahu’s Israel, empathy is for suckers

For the liberal Israeli living in the US that I am, the last few weeks have been a succession of depressing news, from the appointment of Judge Cavanaugh to the Nation-state law, the arrests of Human rights activists at Ben Gourion airport to the continuation of Trump’s inhumane immigration policies.

The sadness of our times can be summarized by 2 recent polls that are basically sending the same message:

  1. Israel is today the country where the attitude toward refugees is the least welcoming in the eastern countries

  1. Israel is the only democracy where Trump is more popular than Obama

It is sad and tough to admit, but unmistakable: Israel does no longer belong to the western liberal world, but it is instead a proud member of the illiberal-ethno state countries, with Hungary, Poland, and more and more Italy and, sadly, Trump’s United States

It is perfectly understandable that many Israelis do not feel compelled to welcome thousands of refugees from Arab countries but this recent survey is about something else and very different: it is about a near-absolute lack of empathy and understanding for the suffering of other people, for the majority of Israelis. This lack of empathy has long been about Palestinians, but it clearly goes beyond this today.

The Jewish people has had its shares of sufferings, humiliations expulsions. It is not the Jews’ responsibility, as individuals or as citizens of the Jewish state, to but the current cynicism is still beyond belief

This represents a major achievement for PM Netanyahu, as it illustrates how the politics of fear has been working.

Fear of the Arabs of course, the most powerful fuel used time and again by Netanyahu to incite and motivate his supporters

Fear of the refugees, a “cancer” in the words of the Israeli Deputy Finance Minister

Fear of BDS, the perfect enemy for Israel, that justifies time and again the worst assaults on freedom of speech

Fear of the leftists, the human rights activists, but also of the judges, the press, all of them “enemies of the people” to use a Trump’s slogan

This politics is the one used by other demagogues in the world: Orban in Hungary, Salvini in Italy, or of course Trump in the USA.

It is therefore not surprising to see Trump’s popularity in Israel. Because Trump is not only a “friend of Israel”, with the relocation of the embassy to Jerusalem or his near-total embrace of Israeli far-right positions. He is, most of all, what many Israelis have come to love in the past 15 years: boldness, arrogance, despise of the norms, telling like it is etc..all of that coming down to one thing: we don’t care, what’s mine is mine, what’s yours can be discussed, the sad illustration of the “I’m not a frier” (frier means suckers in Hebrew) mentality so common in Israel.

The rising stars in Likud Party are these kinds of Sarah Palin politicians: ignorants and fools such as Oren Hazan, Miki Zohar, or their absolute leader (and in my opinion Bibi’s successor) Miri Regev. Ignorance is no longer a liability, it is an asset, rudeness is seen as courage, what matters is sticking it to liberals.

Empathy is for losers, moderation has become a dirty word. Too bad for the refugees, human rights.

I believe and suspect that Israelis will pay dearly for this behavior, both morally and politically outrageous, but for now the path is clear: a full embrace of Trump’s policies and behaviors, and the willingful participation of Israel to the Trump-Miller-Bannon’s vision of the world

About the Author
French-Israeli business executive living in New York.