Elimination Round: Hurtling Down History's Dark Roads

With the backing and the blessing of local government and the police, the anti-Semitic organization takes its program into the local schools, to hammer home its stern, unyielding message: Girls, do not give your bodies to the racial enemy! Do not let them seduce and defile your innocence with their devious ways!

The city's own welfare representative heads up the program of the "Anti-Assimilation Department." He shows the schoolgirls a film -- "Sleeping with the Enemy" -- which dramatizes how the filthy Semite worms his way into the affections of an innocent girl then cruelly abandons her. This "abnormal phenomenon" is plaguing several cities in the area, says the police chief; there have already been many cases of racially pure girls "joining with" Semite men. The propaganda efforts of the Anti-Assimilation Department are aimed at eliminating the sexual machinations of the "exploitative" Semites.

Even though these Semites are citizens of the country -- indeed, many of them serve in the armed forces -- the Anti-Assimilation Department's view is gaining wider and wider acceptance in the nation at large. Racial consciousness has reached new heights in the country, a recent study shows: more than half the population now favors the removal of these minority Semite citizens. And 74 percent of the nation's youth now believes that these Semites are "unclean."

Another new study shows that dozens of these Semite citizens have been killed by police, military and private security forces in the past seven years, with almost no legal repercussions for the killers.

A report taken from the crumbling pages of Der Stürmer or some other German paper of the 1930s? No; it all comes from Haaretz, the liberal Israeli paper, and is happening right now. The Semites now being accused as sexual predators, racial defilers, devious operators and "unclean" subhumans who should be removed from the land are the Arab citizens of Israel.

As Haaretz reports this week, the Anti-Assimilation Department of the religious group Yad L'ahim -- "which works to prevent Jewish girls from dating Muslim men" -- has taken its "Sleeping With the Enemy" program into the schools of Kiryat Gat, where the city fathers also fret about local Jewish girls "joining with Bedouin men."

The Anti-Assimilation Department says its relentless efforts to prevent sexual contact between Jews and Arabs "is not racism, because it is not mutually exploitative, "says Chaim Shalom, the presenter of the program."This is a matter of racism on their end," because it is "the exploitative Arab, the exploitative Bedouin," who pursues the Jewish girls.

The Kiryat Gal program comes in the midst of a steep rise in racism among Israelis, as Haaretz noted a few months ago, citing a report by the Association for Civil Rights in Israel:

"Israeli society is reaching new heights of racism that damages freedom of expression and privacy," [ACRI president Sami] Michael said. The publication coincides with Human Rights Week, which begins Sunday. "We are a society under supervision under a democratic regime whose institutions are being undermined and which confers a different status to residents in the center of the country and in the periphery."

The number of Jews expressing feelings of hatred toward Arabs has doubled, the report stated...Among Jewish respondents, 55 percent support the idea that the state should encourage Arab emigration from Israel and 78 percent oppose the inclusion of Arab political parties in the government. According to a Haifa University study, 74 percent of Jewish youths in Israel think that Arabs are "unclean."

In March, a report by Mossawa, the Advocacy Center for Arab Citizens of Israel, also detailed the increasing support for "the delegitimization, discrimination and even deportation of Arabs," Haaretz notes:

The report, written by Mossawa director Jafar Farah and others, mainly examines racism against Arabs in Israel, using criteria taken from the anti-Semitism reports in Europe.

The report covers Arabs killed by the security forces and by Jewish citizens, anti-Arab incitement by leading Jewish public figures, workforce discrimination by private Jewish organizations, the barring of Arabs from public places, and the destruction of Arab property. The report particularly highlights what it calls the government's helplessness in the face of the problem.

The report lists Arab citizens killed by police, soldiers, security guards and Jewish civilians over the past seven years. It notes that only one Jewish citizen, of Ethiopian origin, was killed under similar circumstances during this period. Indictments were issued in only seven cases, the report states. In two cases, the assailants were found not guilty, and the State Prosecutor appealed the verdict in one of these cases.....

We've said it before and we'll say it again: there are no exact historical parallels, but there are resonances that can be instructive. As Arthur Silber notes (in explaining the nature of his questions and warnings about the thrust of the Obama campaign):

NO, I do NOT think Obama is Hitler reincarnated. I must note, however, that his full embrace of the U.S.'s truly insane foreign policy of aggressive, non-defensive war is not precisely unHitlerian, just as his full embrace of corporatism bears a rather disturbing resemblance to aspects of Hitler's political program. But the same could be said of every major American politician.

...What I have been getting at are very broad cultural and political dynamics, general patterns that repeat throughout history, assuming one studies and understands history. [emphasis mine] So, no, Obama is not a Hitler duplicate, but, to a readily noticeable and troubling extent, he is someone riding a similar kind of cultural wave and response, and he may well use an already existing authoritarian-surveillance state that repeatedly engages in aggressive war to wreak great destruction both at home and abroad.

I came upon the Kiryat Gal story just hours after finishing a most instructive work of history examining cultural and political dynamics: "Hitler's Willing Executioners," by Daniel Goldhagen. And no, I do not think Israel is Nazi Germany reincarnated, despite its many brutal policies; a reading of Goldhagen's book, with its copious detailing of what the hands-on perpetrators of the Holocaust -- most of them "ordinary" Germans, non-Nazis, good family men, thousands and thousands of them -- actually did, would make anyone wary of hair-trigger equations of other regimes to the Nazis.

But equation is not the issue; as Silber notes, it is resonance, pattern, the dynamics of human behavior in certain particular configurations of political, social, cultural and psychological currents. Israeli society is clearly sliding toward something similar to the "eliminationist anti-Semitism" that permeated -- saturated -- German society in both the pre-Nazi and Nazi eras. Israel has already walled off the "unclean" Arabs in horrendous ghettos where they must live degraded lives, subjected them to collective punishment and repeated military attacks, forced them from their homes, and so on. The resonances of Israeli policy with other race-based oppressions in modern history have long been painfully clear.

The increasing brutalization and coarsening of Israeli political culture has also long been evident, as well as the inexorable, apparently irresistible rise of extremist sectarian factions whose obsessions and strictures mirror those of some Islamic extremists and, yes, have strong resonances with the German anti-Semitic extremists who rose to state power in the 1930s.

There is no good destination at the end of such a road. There is no good outcome to the dynamic of eliminationism and dehumanization. It leads, quite literally, to madness and death and ruin. Israel is not the only nation on that road; the dynamic is not specific to any country, creed, race, religion or polity. It belongs to all of us, it's a danger we all face. And it requires vigilance, skepticism, action and awareness to break up these patterns as they rise among us, to derail the dynamic -- before it's too far gone and must play out, in one way or another, in the given extent and circumstances of the historical moment, to the bitter end.