Daniel Greenfield, a Shillman Journalism Fellow at the Freedom Center, is a New York writer focusing on radical Islam.
Last year, Israeli President Rivlin denounced Israel as a “sick society” and accused Jews of having “forgotten how to be decent human beings.” Now Major General Yair Golan, the military’s deputy chief of staff, accused Israel of resembling Nazi Germany in a speech delivered on the eve of Holocaust Remembrance Day.
Israel is a sick society only to the extent that, like a fish, it rots from the heads of men like Rivlin and Golan. It is a sickness that radiates from members of the political elite whose views are fundamentally at odds with those of the people. The hatred that Rivlin and Golan, the beneficiaries of privilege and protektsia, feel for ordinary Israelis is unrelenting in its ugliness.
The Jewish State is fundamentally divided between two groups, its people and its leaders. Israel’s population is defined by a diverse mix of Middle Eastern and Russian Jewish refugees along with large numbers of Orthodox Jews. These groups tend to have more conservative views and their influence makes it very difficult for the left to win elections the way that it once used to.
Rather than adapting to Israel’s changing demographics, its elites have poured on the hate. From Dudu Topaz to Yair Garbuz, a Labor rally can’t seem to pass by without slurs aimed at Middle Eastern Jews. At last year’s election, Garbuz ranted, “How did this handful quietly become a majority?”
There was nothing quiet about it. But inside a leftist bubble of power and privilege the revelation that the majority of Israelis have very different views than they do has been deeply traumatic and shocking. Prime Minister Netanyahu is on his third straight term, but the Deep State of the elites is unwilling to be dislodged by mere democratic elections. And the Deep State controls leadership roles across the government from the military through the judiciary, not to mention academia, non-profits and culture.
It’s been a long time since this elite has been optimistic. Instead its rhetoric is divisive and nasty; it’s marked by paranoid suspicions about the ordinary Israelis who have left them behind. Hostile remarks, like those by Rivlin and Golan, express an undemocratic distaste toward the average Israeli.
The majority of Israel’s Jewish population now consists of refugees from the Middle East. This is a population with fundamentally different views when it comes to fighting back against the Islamic supremacism which they and their ancestors had lived under and eventually fled. It feels no guilt over the death of terrorists. It does not mourn the Jihadists of the Nakba who headed for the border in the expectation that the Jews in Israel would meet with a final Holocaust at the hands of the five invading Muslim armies, not to mention the forces of the Muslim Brotherhood. Instead it feels a moral pride.
Israel’s political elites, like their Western counterparts, take pride only in their shame. They know that Israel is a sick society and that Jews are terrible people. And they know that this makes them superior to the rabble, the cockroaches, blacks, parasites, prostitutes and other affectionate slurs that they bestow on the rest of the country. Like many liberal elites, they take pride in their contempt for ordinary people.
It’s not hard to find rhetoric in Israel resembling that of Nazi Germany. But it comes from members of the sick society of the elite who have forgotten how to be Jews, not to mention human beings. A not atypical example of that foulness was Peace Now co-founder Yigal Tumarkin saying “When I see the black-coated Orthodox Jews with the children they spawn, I can understand the Holocaust” and “My true contribution would be if I grabbed a sub-machine-gun, instead of a pen and pencil and killed them.”
Tumarkin, originally Peter Heinrich Hellberg, had family members who had served in the Nazi SS.
But that’s not the sort of rhetoric that Israel’s elites are worried about. Instead they’re furious that Middle Eastern Jewish teens from working class families think that Islamic terrorists should be shot instead of coddled. But while their daughters protest Israeli soldiers in between studying for degrees in philosophy at Hebrew U, it’s those horrible Jewish teens who actually serve in the army.
And that makes them even more of a threat to the dilettante artists and actors, the novelists whose books exist only to be translated, the generals who have no interest in winning wars, the spymasters and human rights activists who are spying for the EU, the jurists who make their own laws, the scowling journalists who issue nightly verdicts on the evening news and all the rest of the dwindling gang of the well-connected who are entirely disconnected from their own country. And who take pride in that.
Israel’s two populations exist in two different worlds. Its leaders want to be Europe while its people just want to be Israel. The former exist in a textbook in which Islamic terrorism is a moral and a philosophical problem. The latter live in a reality in which having a knife stuck in your back is a daily threat.
The elites think of the ordinary Israelis who just want to live in their own country without being shot, stabbed, bombed, barraged with rocks or forced to run to bomb shelters as Nazis. Meanwhile ordinary Israelis view the entitled elites who lecture them from presidential forums and prestigious columns as an undemocratic cartel abusing the privileges that they earned with their last names.
Israel isn’t sick. But its elites are. Israel isn’t turning undemocratic or fascist. But its elites are undemocratic and totalitarian. Their accusations of fascism mask their casual willingness to censor, suppress and silence dissenting views. Like all oppressive systems at odds with the people they rule over, they are playing a totalitarian game that they are bound to lose. And they know it.
Their bitterness and hate is an acknowledgement that their dream of running everything their way is dying. They have no path toward victory. There is nothing waiting for them except oblivion.
The left has reacted to this revelation by literally trying to destroy Israel. When the editor of Israel’s left-wing paper Haaretz urged the Secretary of State of the United States to “rape” Israel, it was a blatant expression of the left’s destructive agenda for the Jewish State. President Rivlin did not view the Haaretz editor as a sign of a “sick society”. Instead he eulogized him, saying that “it was a pleasure to be his friend”. Genuinely sick behavior of this sort is considered normative among Israel’s anti-Israel elites.
What offend them are not the calls for violence against Jews or the destruction of the Jewish State by members of their own class. Instead they are carefully attuned to denouncing even the faintest suggestion for strong action against Islamic terrorists by members of the country’s lower classes. A call for the mass murder of Orthodox Jews or Middle Eastern Jews from a respected actor in Neve Tzedek will meet with wry smiles. But a few Mizrahi soccer fans shouting that it’s time to strike back against Islamic terrorism after the latest brutal atrocity will occasion “democratic” alarms in editorial offices across the country.
This is a tale of two classes and two realities. It’s a fundamental gap between entitled human rights hipsters and working class teens whose grandparents were little better than slaves in Yemen. It’s a division between an elite whose parental ties secured them a soft spot in the economy and working men and women who spent all their lives doing heavy labor. This division could not endure forever.
Prime Minister Begin had already broken the power of the left by taking on its arrogant privileges. But Islamic terrorism is rapidly accelerating the collapse of the Deep State of Israel’s entitled elites who have chosen the side of the terrorists over those of their Israeli victims. The ordinary Israelis whom Rivlin views as “sick” and Golan as Nazis will be the ones to determine its future.