Palestine is a right-wing country with right-wing policies

August 4, 2021 • 12:00 pm

We constantly hear from the opponents of Israel and Jews–they often call themselves “anti-Zionists”—that the Israeli government is “right wing”. And yes, there were right-wing policies under Netanyahu, but I surely wouldn’t characterize Israel in general as a right-wing country. It’s also called an “apartheid state”, but if you want to claim that there’s more apartheid in Israel than in the Palestinian Territories, I’d look upon that statement with contempt.

But to each their own taste. If you Google “Israeli far right,” though, you’ll find a lot of articles like this one, about the far right-government, even the new coalition. And not just “right wing” but far right wing.

I just did the same thing with Hamas (the militant organization that runs Gaza) and Fatah (the largest faction of the PLO, which includes President for Life Abbas). If you Google, say, “Right wing Hamas”, you will find. . . . exactly nothing. But if you look at policies of both Hamas and Fatah, you would have trouble finding anything which is not far-right, for the policies of both Gaza and the rest of Palestine include these:  no rights for LGBT people, no equality for women, no abortion, religious fanaticism, no religious freedom, hatred of apostates and atheists, loads of antisemitism, and so on. Are’t those stances of the right wing?

I asked Malgorzata if there was anything she would add, and this is how she responded:

Well, I would add  admiration for Hitler (Mein Kampf is a bestseller in Palestine; you see the Nazi salute given by both Hezbollah and Hamas, also by members of the in Palestinian Authority), and you can’t get more right wing than Hitler! There’s also the desire to build a theocracy (with the law based on shariah law taken from the God-given Qur’an), the deep conviction that “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion” is authentic; and, of course, antisemitism—but that could be seen as a feature not exclusive to the right wing.

But I bet you haven’t seen anybody writing about “the far-right leader of Hamas” (or “of Fatah”).

Now why would that be?

 

45 thoughts on “Palestine is a right-wing country with right-wing policies

  1. I think the problem is that the only way to describe Israel as a liberal, open-minded and tolerant country is to compare it to their Middle Eastern neighbours.

    But that’s a pretty low bar. Fact is that Israel is an extremely racist country in an international comparison, compared with western countries it’s also pretty homophobic (Tel Aviv is called a liberal bubble for a reason).

    Sure, Palestine is worse. But shouldn’t these numbers worry pro-israeli liberals?
    https://www.timesofisrael.com/poll-shows-large-swaths-of-israeli-youth-hate-arabs-back-revoking-citizenship/

    Acceptance of homosexuality in Israel is about the same level of poor Bolivia, far from US/UK.
    https://www.pewresearch.org/global/2013/06/04/the-global-divide-on-homosexuality/

    Not much too brag about imho. But sure, better than Hamas and Palestine.

    1. 1. Israel is NOT a European country but a Middle Eastern country. So comparisons with Middle East countries make more sense than with Europe. And it’s not only comparison with the terrorists organizations, like Hamas, Hezbollah or Fatah, but also with Jordan, Lebanon, Egypt etc.

      2. The in Israel is clear: full equality for citizens of all ethnicities, skin colors, sexual orientations, etc. Penalties for discrimination. (There are penalties for LGBT people in surrounding countries – often the death penalty)

      3. If in this respect Palestinians are much, much worse than Israel, why this ubiquitous addition of “rignt-wing” when you read about Israel and never when you read about West Bank or Gaza Strip? You ignored the main question.

    2. Jamie, I agree. And I also mostly agree with Jerry. So, the first thing I want to say that Israel is better than Palestine, Hezbollah and Taliban. Those for whom this is not self-evident need to learn it.

      Second, I agree that a significant part of Jewish Israelis are right-wing. That’s a fact, not an opinion. Third, Israel has (partially fulfilled) aspirations to become a Western-style, therefore the comparison to Western countries is relevant. However, in Israel there is a high level of corruption (even in the government and the Knesset), widespread illiberal views among the population, high level of religiosity, the existence of several separate education systems (tens of thousands of ultra-orthodox kids are officially exempt from learning math, English and other secular subjects), there is no separation of religion from the state, there is a differential economic state support of different groups of population, and much more. Most teachers avoid teaching evolution, even in secular schools.

      All this doesn’t justify the anti-Israeli trends in much of the Western press, and overstressing the above problems with Israel in that context, is a red herring. Whatever problems Israel has don’t justify the tendentious reporting about Israel.

      Yet, from the internal Israeli perspective, in a different context, those problems are definitely worth stressing. I don’t want to compare my country to Gaza of Afghanistan, I want to compare it to the USA (not in everything, of course, but for example as far as the separation of religion from the state is concerned).

  2. I’m glad you grudgingly added the last sentence after your bout of Israel-dissing! My POINT was that the West lionizes Palestine and demonizes Israel. I presume, then, that you’d characterize Palestine as an “apartheid state.”

    And yes, those firuges are worrying among Israeli youth. But doesn’t the UNIVERSAL hatred of Jews in Palestine, taught to all Palestiniian schoolchildren, also worry you more?

  3. I don’t know that it means much to characterize an entity as right wing or left wing in these circumstances. There are countries/groups that promote their ends by terror and oppression (Hamas) and those that follow rule of law (Israel). There are right wing and left wing terrorists. I don’t know which type is Hamas. I only know that it is terrorist.

    1. I would agree. If Hamas is the politics, is running your people or region, then terrorism is pretty much the game. Israel is a democratic country with free elections and so on. They have various fractions or parties but i am not that familiar with each. On the whole, Israel may seem right verses left or middle compared to the U.S. for example but that is more by necessity. We do not live with the state in a semi war like state which Israel must. There is nothing to compare it with.

  4. I have seen thoughtful & balanced accounts of the current Israel-Palestine situation by Thomas Friedman, Nicholas Kristof Roger Cohen & others. All point out aspects that seem never to be addressed in your posts.

    1. Yes, and your definition of “thoughtful and balanced” appear to be those posts that don’t point out what I just did. Do all of these “balanced” articles point out the war crimes committed by Palestine, their oppression of gays, apostates, atheists, and women, the use of human shields, state-sponsored (“pay for slay”) terrorism, and the deliberate firing of missiles at civilians? Somebody on the left has to keep harping on these facts until the Left starts realizing what Palestine and Hamas really are. And that’s what I’m doing. If you don’t like it and want more “balanced” accounts, then please go elsewhere.

      1. One of the things I like about this site is that Jerry has a general pov (or editorial stance) that doesn’t change in order to cater to reader preferences. Some like TL who disagree on a particular view come by to disagree in the comments. Feedback ensues. But the pov of the site is relatively solid.

        When the pov here does shift on something important (trying to think of an example, I know there are some, drawing a blank, others will help me out), that change happens out in the open. Unlike some other public writers whose views seem to shift imperceptibly and without being publicly acknowledged (like the guys at SBM and their waning commitment to the medical science of transgender).

  5. I think Israel started as a kind of idealist ‘socialist paradise’, I refer to the kibbutzim and the like.
    Not much came from that, of course -as we can say with hindsight. Still, despite some right wing governments, Israel is the only country in the Near East that still tries (and generally succeeds) to maintain democracy and human rights.
    I think Jerry’s question is more than justified.

  6. Hence, the alternative word for militant, fundamentalist Islamism — Islamofascism (a word I think the Hitch helped popularize).

  7. Seems to me we use ‘left’ and ‘right’ to distinguish between different political camps within a system…but when a country is fairly unified in it’s camp, the terms don’t make much sense. Particularly given that left and right don’t have the exact same meaning from country to country. Both the US and UK have a left party and a right party, but their right parties are very different (the UK one supports socialized medicine, etc.)

    In cases like Palestine, where there’s not much difference between the parties vying to rule, I think it’s still communicatively meaningful to use the terms liberal, progressive, conservative, regressive etc. to describe the culture. But left and right sort of lose their operational sense. Palestine is conservative. It shares a lot of the cultural conservativism with the arab countries around it (and who fund it). But given that the difference between how the PA would run the country and how Hamas would run the country couldn’t be separated with a razor blade, there’s no real Palestinian left or right to speak of.

    At least, that’s the way I see it.

  8. This post illustrates that, to many on the left, “right wing” is not actually about policies but is simply a term of disapproval and opprobrium. Thus “right wing” means anything they dislike. So, of course, to them, Israel is “right wing” whereas Hamas and the Palestinians are not.

    As an illustration:

    … and you can’t get more right wing than Hitler!

    True under the above definition, but not true under other (arguably more sensible) definitions. It’s no accident that the NSDAP called themselves “socialists”, the policies they were elected on (the 25-point program) are actually fairly left wing and socialist — but only for the in-group, only for a narrowly defined national group, while rejecting and oppressing all those in the out-group — thus contrasting with the internationalist socialism of the communists.

    1. Your first paragraph is what I was about to comment. Since anti-Israel sentiment is seeing it’s greatest concentration and most rapid growth among the Left, it behooves anti-Israel commentators, activists, and the like to label Israel as “right wing.” When a certain segment of the population sees something like a nation, politician, or policy labelled as “right wing,” they instinctively know that they’re supposed to oppose that thing. “Right wing” is just a synonym for “bad” when used in this context.

    2. The “Nazis were actually left wing” talking point seems to originate with the American right wing, and might be oozing out from there to the wider english speaking sphere, but has no traction among serious historians. It‘s totally alien in Germany, by virtually every measure. I never encountered it, until I saw it online on english-speaking Twitter. It’s humbug.

      A quick refresher: Napoleon disbanded the medieval multi-tiny-state hodgepodge Holy Roman Empire (982–1806), in which most germans lived. His occupation (1793–1813) ironically brought nationalism to the Germans, which condensed like elsewhere into sweeping romantic nationalistic myths. But german as an “identity” emerged late and slowly, and it was not feasible to bring all germans together under one nation. A smaller version had to do. Prussia merged with the more nordic states only, forming the short-lived German Empire (1871–1918).

      An imbecile emperor, failed diplomacy and a world war later, and the germans were again disbanded. The reason is fairly simple. The big powers, the Good Guys who won, committed to various colonial enterprises and had arranged a balance where they wouldn’t get into each other’s hair. Germans were just an annoyance. You can bet that had Hitler stayed in the lane, and murdered millions of Jews inside the “Reich”, rather than blitzkrieging the neighbours, he’d be invited to shake hands with the Queen, visit the White House and enjoy a factory tour personally led by Henry Ford.

      The backdrop for the Nazis was an era of colonislism, where the prevailing ideology of the day was a kind of ethnic social-darwinist struggle for survival. Eat, get eaten. Annex, or be annexed. Plus fascist palingenesis. That’s another topic. Also Nazi fascism was an odd syncretism that was composed on whatever worked, wrapped in romantic nationalistic myths that were fairly new. The key idea was to create a unified “Volk” (folk) that would duke it out with others, and either prove heroic and victorious, or vanish. See palingenesis.

      This era, the Weimar Republic (1918–1933) was totally new. Political ideologies like we know today weren’t yet developed. People were unfamiliar with often untested political ideas, and couldn’t look at reified examples of, say, Soviet-style Stalinism. Further, advertisement and propaganda was unfamilar.

      Nazi appeal of “socialism” was first and foremost geared at workers, who they recognised as integral to the “organism” they wanted to create and unleash eastwards. It was part of the unification motif, just as Jews quickly became the counterpart (building on centuries of Christian anti-semitism).

      Hitler was not the sole leader of the NSDAP (Nazi Party) at first. There was a socialist wing named retroactively after Hitler’s co-leader Otto Strasser. Strasserism was a form of anti-semitic socialism where Jews were seen as money-counting, alien capitalistic parasites that exploit the masses. But Strasser also wanted genuine socialist changes, like putting workers in charge of their factory.

      However, Hitler won the rivalry with Strasser, became the leader and quickly turned against Strasserists, and to cut out any ambiguity, literally, in the “Night of the Long Knives” the socialist wing was either murdered or exiled. That was in 1934. Virtually everything people associate with Nazis happened long after the socialists were excised, purged and persecuted.

      Further, Hitler looked for partners in the conservative, capitalist, and monarchist corners, who financed him and then profited off the war machine, jewish dispossession and slave labour. An example here, Alfred Hugenberg, arch conservative media tycoon whose media empire massively helped the Nazi rise to power. There is absolutely no doubt on which side the bread was buttered.

      I hope to have conveyed that even a seemingly black-white part of history is more chequered, and complex. But even with that in mind, the Nazis that made history were definitely not left wing, or socialist.

      1. I never said it was black-white, and yes it is complex and chequered. But yes, the Nazis wanted socialism for German nationals. They were indeed socialists. As for whether they were “left” or “right”, well that depends pretty much on how one defines those terms — which is the point I was making. Perhaps the most sensible assessment is that they were a mixture of left-wing and right-wing attitudes.

        But, as I said, many people adopt a definition of “right wing” as meaning “bad”, and under that definition the Nazis are of course as far-right as one can get.

        1. I merely wrote that I tried to show how the situation was chequered, no need to feel accused. However, you are still wrong. The points you cite aren’t “left wing“ — welfare and insurance programs were introduced in the German Empire, for instance, and upheld by conservatives (they had to, or risk insurrection and socialism). Also, this program wasn‘t implemented. Further, a few more mainstream sources:

          “Many of those killed in the purge [1934] were leaders of the SA, the best-known being Röhm himself, the SA’s chief of staff and one of Hitler’s longtime supporters and allies. Leading members of the leftist-leaning Strasserist faction of the Nazi Party, including its figurehead, Gregor Strasser, were also killed, as were establishment conservatives and anti-Nazis” _en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Night_of_the_Long_Knives

          More?

          “Hitler allied himself with leaders of German conservative and nationalist movements, […] In April 1933 communists, socialists, democrats, and Jews were purged from the German civil service, and trade unions were outlawed the following month: _britannica.com/story/were-the-nazis-socialists

          With one aspect being Hugenberg…

          “Hugenberg [right wing media tycoon] had intended to use the Harzburg meeting as a forum to form a united opposition cabinet representing “national Germany” (i.e. the parties and groups of the Right) [however] Hitler had been personally received by President Hindenburg for the first time and in the night left for Bad Harzburg conscious that he would be the actual strong man on the Right.
          _en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harzburg_Front

          Snopes also goes into the origin of the myth, citing characters like Dinesh D’Souza, who just made it up.

          Want more? How about from the man himself: here is Hitler’s personal idea of “socialism”:

          “Communism is not Socialism. Marxism is not Socialism. The Marxians have stolen the term and confused its meaning. I shall take Socialism away from the Socialists. Socialism is an ancient Aryan, Germanic institution. […] Unlike Marxism, it involves no negation of personality, and unlike Marxism, it is patriotic. We might have called ourselves the Liberal Party.”
          _theguardian.com/theguardian/2007/sep/17/greatinterviews1

          I couldn‘t find quotations on the quick by Hitler on Strasserism, but they exist, too, where he says in no uncertain terms that he wants no such socialist ideas implemented. Not to distract from the actions, though. We know for a fact what the Nazis did. There is no ambiguity in the actual outcome.

          1. I’m well aware that most people regard Hitler as “right wing”, so quoting them proves little. (As stated, this whole argument is about how one defines “left” versus “right”, and many people regard anything they don’t like as automatically “right wing”.)

            More relevant is your quote of Hitler claiming socialism and regaring himself as socialist. And yes, he did indeed distinguish his nationalist socialism from the internationalist socialism of the communists. And yes, he did indeed purge some left-wing factions; so did Mao, Stalin, Pol Pot etc. Authoritarians often purge close rivals.

            1. Well, the facts disagree. If you discard virtually all sources in favour of Dinesh D’Souza and the likes, that’s on you. You can keep it short, and you need not pretend you base it on facts.

              This is not a case of “things I don’t like are right wing”. This rather strikes me as a right wing projection, after years of “cultural marxism” and suchlike. There are real ground facts that make politics left or right wing. It’s not just opinion. The Nazis had the means and opportunity to dismantle capitalism, put workers in charge — they didn’t.

              Rather, they went backwards, looked for monarchs and capitalists as their core, romanticised the Empires (hence “Third Reich”, after the HRR and the German Empire), also went with the colours of the Empire.

              One of the most essential, and base categorisations of left and right is that the right wants a hierarchy based on god, king and country (capital, land owners etc). The left wants to empower the masses and democratise everything (e.g. socialism, also corporations). This is also the base structure in Europe, and Germany at the time.

              To get your bearings, check out the history of social democracy for instance.

              1. On: “The Nazis had the means and opportunity to dismantle capitalism …”, actually the Nazis greatly extended state ownership, nationalising swathes of industry. (But then war economies often do.) And plenty of left-of-centre governments in Europe have not attempted to “dismantle capitalism”.

                On: “the right wants a hierarchy based on god, king and country (capital, land owners etc).” As I’ve said, this is, at root, a dispute over how to define the terms left and right, and I don’t agree with your assertion.

                On: “The left wants to empower the masses and democratise everything …” See multiple points of the NSDAP 25-point program, cited below.

      2. To add: the NSDAP 25-point program is here. Points 7, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 20, 21 are a left-wing socialist program under any sensible definition. People resist this claim because they regard “left” as a synonym for “good”, but to a centrist-minded person like me the “left” can be as bad as anything (e.g. Mao, Pol Pot, etc).

        1. It’s not based on opinion. Germany has the oldest insurance and wellfare programs implemented under Bismarck, in the Prussian-led German Empire (1871–1918). These programs were implemented under pressure from workers and unions, and implemented to take the wind out of the sails of socialism or Marxism.

      3. The “Nazis were actually left wing” talking point seems to originate with the American right wing …

        Right-wing pundit Jonah Goldberg managed to wring an entire book out of the fallacy of equivocation regarding the word “socialist” in the Nazi Party name — Liberal Fascism.

        Goldberg wasn’t the first to come up with this right-wing talking point, but he did his damnedest to popularize it in the US.

  9. Rather bizarrely, Hamas appears in Wikipedia’s list of active right-wing political parties [ https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_right-wing_political_parties ] but the term “right-wing” isn’t used in the Hamas article itself. I’ve posted a query about this on the Hamas talk page.

    However, it strikes me that several traits alleged to be right-wing by our host (e.g. “no rights for LGBT people, […] no religious freedom, […] loads of antisemitism, and so on”) equally apply to supposedly left-wing China and Russia, to varying degrees. For instance, I wouldn’t fancy being gay or Muslim in either…

    1. I don’t know anyone who knows a thing about China or Russia and who would also call them “left wing.” They would rightly say that China is an authoritarian state overall, and those better informed would further describe it as an autocratic nationalist and capitalist country. The policies that flow from that already decidedly not left wing structure are definitely not left wing. I don’t think China is “left wing” in any sense, either in structure, culture, or the vast majority of policies.

      Meanwhile, Russia is an autocratic oligarchy and, once again, the policies, culture, and structure of that nation are very, very far from “left wing.”

      1. I agree. But then the left/right-wing labels become meaningless if ostensibly Communist countries aren’t left-wing. Regardless, on any measure Israel’s neighbours are far more authoritarian, repressive, anti-human rights etc. than the world’s only Jewish state.

    2. Though now you have me wondering how many poorly informed people who nonetheless have very strong opinions on all sorts of issues think places like China and Russia are “left wing” simply because they partially oppose e.g. the US, or because of their recent political histories.

    3. I understand China (although it is debatable how much left wing they are currently, beyond the name of the ruling party), but Russia? They do not even claim to be leftish and they definitely aren’t.

    4. My view is that Russia and China have transitioned from left-authoritarian to right-authoritarian. China didn’t even bother to change the door plate – they still call themselves communist, even they’re hardcore capitalists now (which makes them a lot scarier, because capitalism actually works). With Russia it’s pretty obvious, just looking at who their allies in various European countries are.

  10. Leftists and liberals are unable to judge people they see as victims/underdogs by normal left/liberal standards. You can be a rabid ethno-nationalist, socially ultra-conservative, authoritarian and have “traitors” to your movement killed, as long as you call yourself a freedom fighter fighting oppression or a more powerful foe your being a right wing extremist will be overlooked. It’s a mix between victim veneration/empathy and the human tendency to simplify complex situations into black and white, hero and villain fairy tales. This is visible even within the US (Black Hebrew Israelites are normally not taken to task for their right wing extremism).
    Also, I have noticed a reluctance to use the normal political vocabulary on people from the Muslim world with the exception of Turks. Arab extremists might be called Islamists, they don’t get called right wing.

    1. Jez, that tells you everything you need to know about Jacobin, which conveniently overlooks the fact that independent journalism in both Hamas and PA-controlled territory is a life-threatening occupation. There’s ample documentation of both authoritarian establishments engaging in suppression of free journalism (see, for just one of a zillion examples, https://www.hrw.org/news/2016/08/30/palestine-crackdown-journalists-activists#—and this from Human Rights Watch, which never misses an opportunity to retail jihadist attacks on Israel as though they came from credible sources). When even HRW acknowledges that this is going on, you know things are dire for ‘free speech rights’. Jacobin reminds me of the old-time Stalinist rags that dutifully brayed about the ‘social facists’ (i.e., the anarcho-syndicalists desperately defending Barcelona against the Falangists and their Communist Party pals) during the Spanish Civil War. The level of intellectual honesty and integrity is roughly the same, along with that of Counterpunch and WSWW. These outfits aren’t the bottom of the barrel; they’re underneath the bloody barrel…

  11. Among the Rightist features of Right-wing Israel, we should certainly include the following.

    (1) The kibbutz movement, which are worker-owned and worker-managed collective enterprises. Although modern Progressive Thought ascribes the conception of such enterprises to something Professor Richard D. Wolff wrote yesterday, the first kibbutzim were founded under Ottoman rule more than a century ago. Their separation from Left-wing thought follows from the absence in the Kibbutz movement of political commissars, or a censorship office, or a secret police.

    (2) Histadrut, the umbrella labour organization of the Yishuv, the Jewish community in Israel. Histadrut was founded in 1920 as a labor union, and grew to be a cooperative owner of a variety of
    enterprises and the operator of a general medical and medical insurance system.

    (3) Multiple political parties, which change, fragment, merge, and rearrange like kaleidoscope images. This facet of Israeli life is most clearly contrary to the Progressive principles embodied in
    People’s Cuba, the People’s USSR (RIP), and the People’s German Democratic Republic (RIP).

    1. People are getting too hung up on the right-wing left-wing designation, which was, I suppose, my fault, but some are doing this, I believe, to engage in calling out the bad parts of Israel while remaining silent about Palestine.

      Let us take “right wing” as what the left wing in America criticizes as right-wing tendencies: oppression of women, of gays, and so on.. On those criteria, as one commenter said above, “Regardless, on any measure Israel’s neighbours are far more authoritarian, repressive, anti-human rights etc. than the world’s only Jewish state.”

      Somehow I don’t think that some of the commenters here would even agree with that anodyne statement. People are even defending Hitler as left wing when the American left associates Hitler worship with the extreme right. Jebus.

      1. Well, since that was me, I was certainly not “defending” Hitler as “left wing”. If I say that Mao and Pol Pot were left wing, that’s not defending them, it’s more condemning them. Indeed my whole point was to reject the notion that “left = good”, “right = bad”.

  12. It is I agree, a question of balance. No country and it’s power base is beyond criticism and calling out. What to me is appalling is in the way Hamas et al. are immune according to political characters of the west to this criticism and therefore seemingly ‘right’ in any callous, muderous, warlike action they care to take.
    What is not disputable IMO is the unproductive stasis that generations of individuals in that corner of the planet can look forward to. Their past IS their future… christ almighty and they call that living.

  13. Please see https://besacenter.org/give-war-a-chance-turkish-leader-finesses-political-defeat/ . The article addresses mechanisms useful for declaring that one is never wrong even when living in the jaws of defeat. This is essential to maintaining the right wing dictatorial structure, a basis for unfortunately successful propaganda. Also: Undeclared Wars with Israel: East Germany and the West German Far Left, 1967–1989
    by Jeffrey Herf : East Germany helped originate Israel is fascist, Israel is rascist.

  14. I have to observe, with some puzzlement, that the designations “Right” and “Left” have been denuded of much of their older meaning. Professor Judith Butler, and the former leader of the British Labour Party, both welcomed Islamic Resistance (Hamas) and the Party of God (Hezbollah) into the “broad Left”. In Britain, the Brexit issue went completely athwart the old, conventional Left/Right designations. In academia, proponents of what is described as “anti-racism” (is that the Left?) set up racially segregated “affinity groups” and other facilities. The ’64-65 Berkeley Free Speech movement was called “Left”, but adherents of today’s academic pop-Left dismiss free speech as a conservative ploy. Conversely, the Nordic political parties which oppose immigration, but support the Left’s historic welfare state (e.g., the Danish Peoples’ Party) are commonly called “Rightist”. ???

    The hallucinatory quality of the old political labels is illustrated most notably by the politics of–guess where—ISRAEL. Where on the old spectrum could one place the present Israeli government, a coalition extending from Bennett’ New Right party to Meretz and HaAvoda (Labour) on the Left?

  15. Its not clear what the Left/Right analysis even means in the Arab world. You have, historically, a bunch of Arab Nationalist regimes that were modelled explicitly on Italian Fascism being backed by the Soviet Union (the Communists) fighting European colonialists, and then being in opposition to Israel (allied with America). When Arab Nationalism sputtered out, you had Islamicists often back by the U.S. until they started flying planes into the New York skyline (at which point the US got a lot more clandestine in their support). U.S. support obviously intended to rein back Soviet and then Russian influence in the region. Thus, you have the “Iraq War” which was sold as a war against Islamists, deposing a secular Arab Nationalist regime in Iraq with Russian backing (in one the most successful P.R. con jobs of al time).

    Most places, being a communist was a good way to get killed or imprisoned and tortured in Black Sites. If you were a “communist” in an Arab Nationalist regime backed by the Communists, you were probably the wrong kind of communist. If you were a “communist” around the Islamists, you would be a target for assassination. Thus, not a lot of straight up “leftism” in the ME. That being said, you may be able to make distinctions within factions of Arab Nationalism and Islamicist movements between a “left” and a “right” but those distinctions probably do not translate into American politics, where those terms have come to be more about cultural signifiers than anything like substantive policies that anyone has any intention of enacting.

    I suspect that you may find a future for women’s rights, reproductive rights, criticism of Islam in ME politics as the Islamists seem to have played themselves out and more secular views are on the rise. How this aligns or conflicts with great power aspirations in the region are unclear (Russia faded, US fading, China and Turkey rising). However, unless there is a marked improvement between the Arab Street and Israel, it is hard to see the geopolitical rivalry disappearing, and the need to feed the Us and Them narrative with Anti-Semitism. That being said, Hitler used Anti-Semitism to whip people up as a weapon against a domestic minority for domestic political purposes. It is somewhat different when you have two rival nationalities organized into centralized blocks competing for the same territory. The substance may be the same, but the political function is different, and they might ultimately be resolved differently (one hopes).

    Israel has tried to be both the Jewish State and the universal State. Obviously, a religious and ethnic minority is going to be a second-class citizen in a Jewish State (if a citizen at all). On the other hand, it is unclear who amongst the Palestinians is willing to acknowledge the existence and legitimacy of Israel and willing participate in a universal democracy alongside Jews. You don’t hear a hue and cry for equality on the Palestinian side, you hear a lot of cries for autonomy, which is never going to happen, especially not along the activist’s lines, which just creates resentment and hatred.

    Fools rush in as they say, but its too bad that the Palestinian leadership seem so focused on their national identity and inculcating a sense of sacral victimhood and dependency instead of doing something constructive like growing their national wealth and co-operating with the Israelis to build a dynamic economy to help their people become independent financially (as compared to seeking to become another corrupt ME failed state dependent on handouts to survive as they would be if they realized their “national aspirations”). A large measure of the crisis is a failure of the imagination.

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