by Gaius Marcius
The Israeli government recently arrested 15 members of an extremist group known for its racist, supremacist ideology. In an unexpected twist for casual observers of the Middle East, these extremists are not Muslims, but members of Lehava, a right-wing Jewish nationalist group famous for protesting LGBT parades and attacking Arabs in the streets. Members of Lehava, including one Schlomo Twitto, were indicted in 2014 for an arson attack on an integrated Jewish-Arab school. The most recent round of arrests stems from intimidation tactics used against interracial couples. From dw.com:
Lehava openly opposes inter-marriage between Israelis and Arabs. In August 2014, its activists staged a rally shouting racist slogans, including “Death to Arabs!” at a wedding near Tel Aviv between a Muslim man and Jewish woman.
Arabs account for nearly 18 percent of Israel’s 8.5 million population. They are descendants of Palestinians who remained on their land following the creation of Israel in 1948.
The Israeli government and secular media officially oppose the actions of Lehava, but their actions against the group are limited. International Jewish organizations like the Anti-Defamation League have issued condemnations of Lehava, but street level law enforcement often looks the other way while Lehava commits infractions, and during investigations the authorities tend, naturally enough, to side with Jews in any altercation while detaining Arabs for questioning. Overall, the Jewish community gets the best of both worlds; their official, anti-racist statements garner support from American conservatives, and yet the Israeli right wing remains free to use social shaming and violence to enforce ethnic homogeneity. Sincere globalists like the editors of The Economist lament the world-wide shift toward right-wing identity politics, but their criticisms of Israel reveal the foolishness of race-blind civic nationalism:
Politics is no longer a contest of right against left but of right against far right. Israel has become more ethno-nationalist and less universalist; more Jewish and less Israeli. Mr Netanyahu, once regarded as a demagogue, often looks like a moderate next to many of his cabinet members.
Get used to seeing mainstream editorials like that. Israel is confronting the realities of nationhood in a hostile environment, while the United States is relatively free of powerful adversaries in the Western hemisphere, but the same challenges will eventually appear in American politics. The United States has imported enough diversity to make ethnic resentment and conflict inevitable. Just as Lehava protests interracial weddings as part of their political agenda, America’s culture wars are slowly merging with politics. Demographic homogeneity will soon become as important a status symbol as progressive, diverse neighborhoods are now. However, even in a nation as survival conscious as Israel, extreme nationalism still carries the potential for terrorism charges and provokes accusations of fascism. Americans will probably remain more sensitive than Israelis about anti-egalitarian rhetoric and overt, strident displays of ethnic exclusivity despite the increasing deadliness of multicultural society.