Shayna Abramson

The Dangerous Rhetoric of the Israeli Right

It seems like Israel has reached some kind of ceasefire with Hamas. For days, I’ve been looking at different sources, trying to suss out the details, but they all seem to conflict or be vague.

Normally, the Israeli government would proudly tell its people, “We’ve negotiated a cease-fire with Hamas in order to ensure the safety and security of Israeli citizens, especially those in the south. We’re also investigating  the possibility of a long-term agreement with Hamas that would alleviate the humanitarian situation in Gaza, while providing long-term stability for southern Israel. We don’t accept Hamas’s violent ideology, but we’re being pragmatists in order to give our citizens the safety they deserve.”

But this isn’t normal. We have a Prime Minister in power because of fear.

He and his government put major efforts into making Israelis afraid: Of Hamas, of Iran, of the Israeli Left. They rely on that fear to win elections. Most Israelis vote for Bibi not because they like him, but because they literally fear for their lives and believe he’s the only one who can protect them. This means that it’s in the Prime Minister’s best interest for Israel to not have too much peace and security, because if it does, people won’t be afraid, and he’ll lose. At the same time, there must be some security, because if there are attacks everyday, they’ll no longer trust in Bibi’s ability to protect them.

It’s a hard balancing act. It’s why the Israeli government must ensure continued security cooperation with the Palestinian Authority, while refraining from serious peace treaty negotiations with them. It’s why the Israeli government must stop -or at least, severely reduce -kites from Gaza, while continuing to make Israelis terrified of Hamas. The only problem is, that these two goals are at odds: Many of the kites are from random teenage boys not under Hamas’s orders. Most Israeli military experts believe that the best way to reduce attacks is to alleviate the humanitarian situation in Gaza and to have some sort of agreement with Hamas. Israel’s government tried to resist the advice of its own army, but finally caved. Now, the Israeli public isn’t ready with a deal with this enemy that they’ve been made to fear. So the Israeli government chose to issue denials and vagueries, and to hide the truth from the Israeli public. After all, if Israelis see a successful ceasefire with Hamas, they might believe that negotiations bring security, which means they don’t need to vote for the Right in order to ensure their safety. They might not feel that Bibi is the only option.

Of course, transparency and not lying to the electorate are considered standard good behavior for democratic governments, but neither is in fashion at this particular political moment – so perhaps, Bibi’s merely playing into an international phenomena plaguing Western nations.

But there’s a major problem with fear: It leads to hate. Yesterday, a group of Israeli Jews attacked a group of Israeli Arabs on a beach. They were stopped -by another group of Israeli Jews-and arrested by the Israeli police.

I believe this is related to Bibi’s rhetoric around Gaza -not just in the recent conflict, but through the years. He’s constantly attempted to make Israeli Jews afraid of Arabs – he won the last election by telling Israeli Jews to go vote because Israeli Arabs were being driven en masse to the polls.  I know there are other forces at work, and every society has its extremists. But I think it’s safe to say that fear-mongering rhetoric from the Israeli Right was a factor in producing the type of hate that could lead a bunch of Jews to attack a bunch of Arabs on a beach.

Similarly, the recent Nation-State Law is an example of the government trying to heighten the Us vs Them mentality, because it needs that mentality in order to get elected.  But it’s also an example of the right signalling to its voter base that it embraces that mentality: Another problem with fear is that it’s hard to control. Once instilled, it grows of its own accord. The Israeli government succeeded in making the Israeli public afraid -but they only wanted them to be afraid up to a certain point. Instead, as the Israeli public grows ever more paranoid, the Israeli government is now trying to keep up. It can’t tell them their fears are exaggerated, because it might lose political power. So instead, it affirms their fears and tells them that it’s taking care of those fears -whether it’s by not negotiating with Hamas, or by legally protecting the the Zionist narrative against an internal threat. Because that’s another thing about Us vs Them -as time goes on, the “Us” tends to grow smaller and smaller. First it was was Jews. Next, it was Zionist Jews. Now it’s Zionist Jews who aren’t left-wing.*

Who knows which group will be excluded next? We’re all sitting around playing political survivor, waiting to see who’ll be kicked off the island.

This goal is accomplished in part by denying the possibility of the existence of left-wing Zionist Jews.

About the Author
Shayna Abramson, a part-Brazilian native Manhattanite, studied History and Jewish Studies at Johns Hopkins University before moving to Jerusalem. She has also spent some time studying Torah at the Drisha Institute in Manhattan, and has a passion for soccer and poetry. She is currently pursuing an M.A. in Political Science from Hebrew University, and is a rabbinic fellow at Beit Midrash Har'el.