“No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.” (Nelson Mandela)
There are many conflicts and cases of extreme violence today around the planet, causing suffering and destruction for innocent civilians, many in Middle East and Africa, but also in Asia and Latin America. However the Israeli-Palestinian conflict seems to cause more resentment and popular uprising in the world, both the European-Atlantic one and the ‘Eastern’ Hemisphere one, respect to the other places. There is a reason among many: Israel is a democracy (actually praising itself to be the only one in the Middle East) that at the beginning of XXI century is becoming more and more radical and extreme in its lawlessness political practice, starting to commit something not far from a genocide, after applying occupation, reduction in imprisonment and apartheid, to a population residing in its land, that has been neglected since 66 years its right of existence.
At the same time in the world population the Jews are beginning to protest to Israeli ‘policy’ since the beginning of last war on Gaza. Even if Likud keeps being supported by majority of Israeli Jews, the Jews around the world are starting to rebel against the way the Israeli government is dealing the conflict with Hamas (also because of the growing planetary sympathy for Palestinian cause). This could represent a sign of healthy and maturity in a democracy, in particular for Israel, that consider itself the state of the Jews, it seems right that all the Jews in the world, not only in Israel, are entitled to comment, criticize and call accountable the Israeli government. Nevertheless Israel keeps its extreme policies without feeling threatened in its legitimacy by the criticisms of Jews population and, on the contrary, believing that the support of its local constituency entitle it to go on with its final goal, that is to chase sooner or later the people from Gaza, and in general the people from Palestine (actually what is remained of it, with Gaza and West Bank) whatever it takes. This is clearly shown by attacking not only the elected representatives in Gaza and its civilian population but also the culture and the identity of Palestinians (from the schools to the recent bombing of mosques and the Islamic University, accused to be sites of fabricating weapons).
From what is coming the radicalization of Israeli right government? Could be just a fear of losing control by the Israeli population with the clear recent possibility of a Palestinian state (like in authoritarian countries such as China and Thailand, where many middle-class people feeling threatened by the rising demands of the poor, support authoritarian governments that protect their class interests). Or there could be other reasons. But whatever reasons are there to which extreme and how far right a government that calls itself democratic can go before to enter in the sphere of autocracy? Israel clearly shows actions of apartheid, imprisonment, mass murdering and expulsion of population from Gaza and West Bank. (1) Is this a legitimate goal and policy for a democracy, even if it claims is for its legitimate defense? Or is it a symptom of a “permanent state of exception”, as my compatriot Giorgio Agamben would say, and so not anymore a real democracy? Is Israel still a democracy or is going downhill on the path to tyranny as Plato would have said? (2)
A “permanent state of exception” is a state in which the government, all powerful, operates outside the laws, and “a modern totalitarianism can be defined as the establishment, by means of the state of exception, of a legal civil war that allows for the physical elimination not only of political adversaries but of entire categories of citizens who for some reason cannot be integrated into the political system” (3). We could speak about crisis in the functioning of modern democracies, and so also Israel, when the so called “national interests” applied by governments are distant from the requests of their constituencies, because they lack real channels to shift government policies apart from during the elections. Or we could say that Israeli people are more and more distant from democratic values because of the immigration from former Soviet Union and the increasing number of national-religious Jews that are waiting for the Messiah and so are on far right and extreme positions. We could also argue that the UN, the only possible representative of international community, is already an institution out of history being a reflection of post WWII, and today is accepting helpless the policies of a state of exception as it is not able to even declare it as a ‘state of exception’, being its schools bombed and his places passing from places of protection to places of risk. Whatever is the reason though the “permanent state of exception” of Israel seems clear with its recent actions, carried out in particular in the last 10 years. And the third Gaza war seems to set forth the death of this already moribund democracy, which is becoming more a dysfunctional democracy and so almost a kind of tyranny (being in a permanent state of exception).
But the worst isn’t even this for the future of Israel democracy. The worst could be represented by the fact that to maintain the support from the population a tyranny has only one way: use the education, the media and the political rhetoric to do a brain washing to its people, making them believe that the things the autocratic government is doing are for its own good and that the others are the evil. Israeli state needed since its foundation for example to rely heavily on the advocacy and lobby to foster his cause around the world, but today the Israeli government is using this tool more and more evidently to retain its legitimacy even inside his state and among the Jews in the world, instead of thinking to shift or change policies towards more moderate ones in order to recuperate support. So finally the newest democracy product of the “West” could become not only a form of tyranny in the future but a form of “marketing product”, a state based on marketing itself with money, media and lobbies (first of all the most powerful of the lobbies in the world probably, AIPAC in the US). And it would base its legitimacy not on constructive and sustainable policies but on “delegitimizing the delegitimisers”, the ones they consider their enemy, as an interesting recent article from The Economist points out (4). It is the so called “logic of the oppressor” at its extreme potential, that allow for example Mr Netanyahu in his last farce, the press conference after the Gaza war, to say for example that every civilian loss in the last war was “a tragedy of Hamas’ making.” (5) This manipulation of reality trough the use of the media is a typical technique borrowed from autocracies by modern democracies (in Italy we are very expert on this with the capsizing of the truth on every issue by the media magnate and long time Prime Minister, Silvio Berlusconi).
So is this the future of democracy that is waiting for Israel and for us in the “Western” world? Is a polarized world trying to gain public support to its part, selling its product, manipulating reality trough the subjugation of media and stigmatizing the others that oppose us our future? It seems to me that this kind of future would be even more scaring of the Big Brother. Because if everyone will be not only controlled but brainwashed and taught to create divisions and hate, in order to gain support against the opposition, instead to care, in order to gain compromise with it, that would be the biggest loss of our civilization of democracy. And there are indicators of this kind of polarization also in Europe and in the US, with a strong wall to wall between populist/nationalist and reformist/democrats in Europe or Democrats and Republicans (Tea Party in particular) in the US since the election of Obama. So we need to start to work against this kind of approach now, without any further delay, and we need to build laws, systems and educative paths that will allow democracies to flourish and evolve, and not to go backwards, citizens to be really active and empowered citizens, and political system to step up on democracy and not go back to tyrannies, especially in a world going dangerously towards crony capitalism and private funding of party politics like our ‘Western’ world.
(1) Actually this attitude of Israel is currently facilitating a reunification of the Palestinian parties (Al Fatah, Hamas and Palestinian National Authority) and their visions. In fact in the West Bank there is another civilian disobedience movements and Intifada starting now, like the first Intifada, where Palestinian people seems unifying again in some way, realizing that they will have to struggle for their freedom, as a peace process with Likud, and Israel for that matter, is not going to be possible.
(2) According to Plato the government of humans is made of five type of regimes that progressively degenerate starting from Aristocracy, Timocracy (similar to plutocracy, where wealthy citizens govern), Oligarchy, Democracy and finally Tyranny. As Plato says the tyrannical man is the worst form of man, because he is consumed by lawless desires to do many bad actions, like mass murdering, close to complete lawlessness, as the idea of moderation does not exist in him.
(3) Giorgio Agamben, State of Exception, 2005, pag 2