Harold Behr

The Far Right brand of Zionism: Past and Future

I have never met either Itamar Ben-Gvir or Bezalel Smotrich, or, for that matter, any of the other protagonists at the heart of the unfortunate drama now being played out in Israel. However, I have heard enough of their carryings-on and I have known enough politically minded individuals of that ilk, both inside Israel and elsewhere, to have developed an instinctive antipathy towards their crude brand of nationalism which besmirches the name of Zionism and gives succor to Israel’s enemies.

From an early age, living in apartheid South Africa, I developed an acute sense of injustice at what I saw being done to the non-white peoples of that country in the name of a supposedly superior white civilization. The fact that South Africa has sunk into a state of economic stagnation and political corruption since its liberation from the thrall of apartheid has been seized on by the “I-told-you-so” brigade of white nationalists (Jewish and non-Jewish alike) as evidence that the predominantly black rulers of a multi-ethnic society cannot be trusted to keep the ship of state afloat.

However, it should be patently obvious to anyone who chooses to reflect on the subject, that centuries of subjugation and humiliation cannot be undone without a struggle which has far-reaching consequences. One of these is the anti-white mindset, now marching under the colors of anti-colonialism and anti-imperialism.

Israel has become a major target in this campaign, in which it is falsely represented as an alien white European enterprise which has been foisted on the indigenous Arab community who rightfully own the land.

Black nationalism is simply the consequence of a people’s effort to restore national pride. The nationalistic sentiment is understandable, but that does not make its extreme variant either morally right or ethically justifiable.

The same principle applies to extreme Jewish nationalism, a form of nationalism which has lurched over into hatred of Arabs. There is a tradition which can be traced from Jabotinsky through his disciple Begin to their acolytes Shamir (a one-time member of the Stern Gang), Sharon, Netanyahu and the ‘terrible twins’ Ben-Gvir and Smotrich, the latter two now set to call the tune in Israeli politics unless something drastic happens to revitalize the moderate factions within the Zionist movement.

Meantime, the very word ‘Zionism’ is being trampled on by many in the international community, to the extent that it has become a convenient replacement term for the word ‘Jew’ in the antisemitic lexicon. This is so much the case that fanatics in the Muslim world refuse to even allow the word ‘Israel’ to pass their lips, preferring instead to bandy about the term ‘Zionist entity’.

Extremism begets extremism, an aphorism which is sometimes phrased more charitably as the need to fight fire with fire. This is true up to a point, when one side perpetrates outrages against the other. Israel has has had no option but to become a militarized State and declare war on an enemy determined to destroy it, but it has never lost sight of its democratic foundations. With the Far Right in the saddle, however, this has become a very real risk. In the present maelstrom, moderation is being swept aside and violence between communities within Israel is now posing a real threat to the future of democracy in that country. Unless moderate voices can once again be heard amid the babble of the extremists, the Zionist dream will evaporate, and I will be only one among millions of Jews world wide who would be devastated.

About the Author
I was born in South Africa in 1940 and emigrated to the U.K. in 1970 after qualifying in medicine. I held a post as Consultant Psychiatrist in London until my retirement in 2013. I am the author of two books: one on group analytic psychotherapy, one on the psychology of the French Revolution. I have written many articles on group psychology published in peer-reviewed journals. From 1979 to 1985 I was editor of the journal ‘Group Analysis’; I have contributed short pieces to psychology newsletters over the years.
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