Gil Mildar
As the song says, a Latin American with no money in his pocket.

There’s an elephant in the room, and it’s wearing a kippah.

Fascism within the Zionist movement is like a family secret that everyone knows, but no one dares to mention. At the heart of the issue lies a visceral, almost ancestral tension between the aspiration for freedom and the shadow of an iron hand. Zionism, idealized as a rebirth, carries within it a cruel paradox. On one side is the promise of a homeland, a land where one can walk without fear, where identity need not be denied. But on the other end lurks the authoritarian temptation, the desire for absolute control, the seduction of an unyielding order.

To understand how we arrived at this crossroads, we must return to the origins of the Zionist movement. It was born as a desperate response to the persecutions and pogroms that plagued Jews in Europe. The Zionist ideal was a spark of hope, a promise of a safe and sovereign home where Jews could finally live without fear of expulsion or extermination. Theodor Herzl, the father of modern Zionism, envisioned a Jewish state where freedom and justice were the fundamental pillars. This dream attracted multitudes, thirsty for refuge after centuries of diaspora and suffering.

In Israel’s Declaration of Independence, proclaimed in 1948, this promise was articulated clearly and eloquently: “The State of Israel (…) will ensure complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants irrespective of religion, race, or sex; it will guarantee freedom of religion, conscience, language, education, and culture; it will safeguard the Holy Places of all religions.” These words, beautifully displayed on the wall of the Jewish Agency’s headquarters in Tel Aviv, form the essence of our state’s promise: a place where all, without exception, can live with dignity and freedom.

In Israel, this duality manifests almost schizophrenically. There is a flawed but vibrant democracy where diverse opinions flourish and elections are contested fervently. However, some voices call for national purity, a homogeneity that excludes and oppresses. These calls are not merely empty rhetoric; they materialize in policies and actions that reveal a dark side of the Zionist dream.

For example, the Nation-State Law, passed in 2018, declares Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people. This law, by emphasizing the Jewish character of the state, relegated minorities, especially Arab citizens, to second-class status. The statute’s language explicitly excludes equality and minority rights, thus betraying the promise of a democratic state for all its citizens. The line between nationalism and fascism becomes thin when national identity is defined in such an exclusionary manner.

Another example is the treatment of Palestinians in the occupied territories. In practice, the wall that snakes through the West Bank, officially a security barrier, becomes a symbol of segregation and control. Military checkpoints, movement restrictions, and home demolitions are daily realities faced by Palestinians. These measures, justified under the guise of security, end up perpetuating an occupation regime that denies Palestinians fundamental rights of self-determination and dignity. The use of force and the imposition of strict control over a civilian population echo practices that, in other contexts, would be readily recognized as fascist.

Settlement policies also illustrate this dynamic. The continuous construction of Israeli settlements in Palestinian territories not only defies international law but also exemplifies aggressive territorial expansion that disregards the rights of one of the land’s original inhabitants. This expansion is accompanied by rhetoric that dehumanizes Palestinians, portraying them as obstacles to be removed rather than human beings with legitimate aspirations. The ideology behind these actions dangerously approaches fascism, where land and blood are placed above coexistence and justice.

Within Israel, the rise of far-right parties and ultranationalist movements is an alarming symptom of this trend. Leaders like Itamar Ben-Gvir, Bezalel Smotrich, and Avi Maoz are exponents of these xenophobic and anti-democratic policies. Ben-Gvir, leader of the Otzma Yehudit party, advocates for the expulsion of “disloyal” Arabs from Israel and the total annexation of the West Bank. Smotrich, leader of the Religious Zionism party, has proposed segregation between Jews and Arabs in maternity hospitals and is a fervent supporter of settlement expansion. Avi Maoz, head of the Noam party, is known for his homophobic views and campaign against the LGBTQ+ community, as well as for wanting to restrict the immigration of non-Orthodox Jews. These movements frequently attack human rights organizations, journalists, and any dissenting voice, creating a climate of intimidation and censorship characteristic of fascist regimes.

Fascism here is not a figure with a ridiculous mustache and fiery speeches. It is subtle, insidious, camouflaged in security policies, the walls that rise, and the laws that silently strip away rights. It feeds on fear, the perpetual sense of siege, the historical trauma that never heals. It is a fascism that wears kipot of various types and colors, justified by the need for survival, but at the end of the day, denies the very essence of freedom that Zionism promised.

Thus, in the daily life of Israel, the dream and the nightmare coexist: hope and repression. It is a macabre dance where Zionist fascism insinuates itself like a persistent shadow, always lurking, always ready to manifest when fear and insecurity find fertile ground. And perhaps the great tragedy is this: paradoxically, the struggle for a safe home can become the denial of the very spirit of freedom that originated it.

Resistance to this fascism comes not only from outside but also from within. Peace movements, human rights organizations, and courageous citizens who stand up against occupation and for equality for all the land’s inhabitants are living proof that the Zionist dream can still be rescued. These groups face not only state repression but also hostility from their compatriots, making our struggle even more heroic. Yes, our battle. The struggle of those reading this text to the end and have not yet offended or cursed me. This struggle is also yours, brother.

Ultimately, the presence of fascism within the Zionist movement and in Israel is a painful reminder that no ideal is immune to corruption. Constant vigilance, internal criticism, and a commitment to democratic principles are essential to prevent the dream from becoming a nightmare. The challenge is enormous, but hope lies in recognizing and confronting these dark tendencies before they take root and destroy what is most valuable: the possibility of a home where all can live with dignity and freedom.

About the Author
As a Brazilian, Jewish, and humanist writer, I embody a rich cultural blend that influences my worldview and actions. Six years ago, I made the significant decision to move to Israel, a journey that not only connects me to my ancestral roots but also positions me as an active participant in an ongoing dialogue between the past, present, and future. My Latin American heritage and life in Israel have instilled a deep commitment to diversity, inclusion, and justice. Through my writing, I delve into themes of authoritarianism, memory, and resistance, aiming not just to reflect on history but to actively contribute to the shaping of a more just and equitable future. My work is an invitation for reflection and action, aspiring to advance human dignity above all.
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