Bruce Katz is a founding member of Montreal-based Palestinian and Jewish Unity (PAJU). He has written a number of articles critical of Israeli policy and has been interviewed on numerous occasions on the question of Palestinian rights.
To the Jurors of the Court of Public Opinion I present the following: the task of measuring Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman's actions and views against a general definition of Nazism so as to decide if Lieberman, decidedly a fascist, is also a Nazi. Evidently, one must first judge the legitimacy of the proposed general definition of Nazism before deciding if Lieberman fits within the framework of that definition. What draws attention to Lieberman as a candidate for such a denunciation is his call for the 'transfer' of Israeli Arabs out of Israel proper.
It has almost been forgotten that Germany's National Socialist policy targeting Jews initially called for the transfer – the physical expulsion – of Jews from Germany. ( The barbarous mechanism of the Final Solution was not formally decided upon until 1941.) The Jews were to be expelled because they were not ''racially'' German; they were not ''Aryans'' and therefore could not legitimately live on soil meant ''naturally'' for Germanic stock. They were untermenschen (sub-human).
Unlike Italian and Spanish fascism which were not characteristically anti-Jewish (Mussolini had several Jewish advisors and several Jews were among those who initially conceived the fascia; Mussolini mocked Hitler's anti-Semitic sentiment and refused to deport Italy’s Jews. It was only after Mussolini’s downfall and surrender to the Allies when German troops continued to control much of northern Italy that the Gestapo there began rounding up and deporting Italian Jews to the concentration camps. Francisco Franco's fascist regime, which remained neutral during World War II, took in thousands of European Jews fleeing Nazi persecution). (1) Nazism preached racial purity, a romanticized mythical history incarnating a racially pure Germanic stock, the cult of the Dictator-Emperor, the rejection of parliamentarianism, and portended an arrogant, dehumanizing dismissal of all ''inferior'' peoples – essentially all the non-white peoples of the earth.
The particular brand of German fascism was, then, overtly racist, particularly anti-Jewish, preached the glorification of the military and war, and like Italian fascism, amalgamated the power of the State and the power of the corporations into one highly centralized entity. Ergo, while to be a Nazi is to be a fascist, to be a fascist is not necessarily to be a Nazi. Let us also state while on the subject that contrary to the opinions of certain among us, yes, there are Jewish fascists. One has only to look at the revisionist Zionism of Vladimir Jabotinsky and the attitudes and actions of his spiritual followers to understand that this is undeniable. In essence, the founders of the Israeli state succeeded in putting into effect in the physical world Mussolini's very notion of the State. For Mussolini the state is the nation; the nation issues from the state, not the other way around: everything for the state; nothing against the state; nothing outside the state.
Let us turn toward Israel's recently appointed Minister of Foreign Affairs, Avigdor Lieberman. A former bouncer in a night-club and one-time member of the terrorist Kach Party (2) , this Russian immigrant to Israel was first elected to the Israeli Knesset via the votes of Israel's Russian-immigrant population. His party, Beiteinu (Jewish Home Party) represents the Jewish settlers living in what is known as the Occupied Palestinian Territories (in effect, Palestine has been occupied since 1948). For Lieberman, as it was for Mussolini and Hitler, war is not the unfortunate result of the breakdown and negation of diplomatic solutions; it is rather at the very core of a policy which sets militarization and war as the primary tool of ''diplomacy.''
In a recent speech Leiberman declared in Latin, citing an ancient Roman dictum: Si vis pacem, para bellum (If you seek peace, prepare for war). This is not an expression of mere rhetoric. Lieberman believes that ''might makes right'' and in that sense he is no different from any other dictator, demagogue or fascist who has walked the earth in bygone times. Anyone who hangs on to the belief – be it from a basic naiveté or for reasons of political expediency –that the present Netanyahu regime, which will bend to the dictates of Il Duce Lieberman (Lieberman's fifteen elected members in the Knesset constitute the difference between a ruling majority and a minority for Netanyahu), will pursue serious peace negotiations with the Palestinians is either foolish or cynical. The most that Netanyahu will offer is a series of Palestinian enclaves joined together by way of roads or tunnels, the whole process properly staged as a great piece of theatre produced in the traditional vein of the Israeli-Palestinian 'peace process' genre.
It is Lieberman who will call the shots in this sham coalition made up of reactionary elements who have no intention of accommodating the Palestinians on any of a number of issues, let alone the fundamental issue of a viable, autonomous Palestinian state. In a recent article Uri Avnery has written the following about Avigdor Lieberman:
' What is his solution to the historic Israeli-Arab conflict? In the past,
he spoke about a regime of cantons for the Palestinians. They will live in several enclaves in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, which will be disconnected from each other and dominated by Israel. No Palestinian State, of course, no Arab East Jerusalem. He even proposed adding to these cantons some areas of Israel inhabited by a dense Palestinian population, whose Israeli citizenship would be
Here you have expressed in essence not only Lieberman's views, but also the true sense of Netanyahu's reference to a ''self-governing'' Palestinian state: a patch-work of Palestinian bantustans, or as Avnery describes it, a non-state ''without a currency, without control of the border crossings, without harbors and airports'' (4), without any of the fundamental powers and infrastructures required by any legitimate state. As to Lieberman's 'style,' Avnery writes the following:
His rude and violent style is both natural and calculated. It is intended to threaten, to appeal to the most primitive types in society, to draw public attention and to assure media coverage. All these are reminiscent of other countries and other regimes. The first one to congratulate him – not by chance – the ex-fascist Foreign
Minister of Italy. (5)
Lieberman, like proponents of the Third Reich vis-à-vis Germany's Jews, has proposed ''transferring'' Israel's Arab citizens out of Israel. During the recent election campaign which took place in Israel, his official program called for the annulment of the citizenship of any Arab-Israeli who did not formally pledge allegiance to the State of Israel. As a matter of fact, that was the main slogan of his campaign. As Uri Avnery comments: ''This, too, is reminiscent of certain parties in history.''
During Israel's military assault on Gaza in January 2009, Lieberman proposed 'nuking' Gaza. He stated that Israel should do to Hamas what the United States had done to the Japanese in World War II, in so doing ''alluding to the dropping of atomic bombs on Nagasaki and Hiroshima.'' (6) He has proposed transporting thousands of Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails to the sea in buses and drowning them there en masse. From the floor of the Knesset Lieberman ''openly fantasized three years ago about executing the handful of Palestinian Knesset members.'' (7) According to Avnery, Lieberman has previously suggested bombing Egypt's Aswan Dam, an act which would certainly result in the deaths of thousands of Egyptians. He has made it clear that Arabs cannot be part of Eretz Israel. The soil is for Jews only, in the genetic sense, it would seem.
The Israeli newspaper Ha'aretz recently created waves when it pointed out that Israeli soldiers from certain battalions involved in the assault on Gaza had designed t-shirts with graphically racist, dehumanizing inscriptions on them: one t-shirt depicting a pregnant Palestinian woman with a target encircling her abdomen and the accompanying inscription, '' One bullet, two kills,'' another depicting a young Palestinian woman covered with bruises and the inscription, ''Bet you got raped!,'' still another showing angry soldiers and a mosque in ruins with the inscription, '' We came, we saw, we destroyed.'' (8)
These images are not that far removed from the hideous depictions of bespectacled Jews with flaring nostrils and menacing regard prevalent in Germany in the Thirties. This is the reflection of a society poisoned by a self-inflicted venom of which Avigdor Lieberman is the latest manifestation, but certainly not the only one of his kind. Uri Avnery hints at an uncomfortable truth when he states that '' some people believe that Lieberman is really not a new phenomenon at all and that he simply brings to the surface traits that were there all the time but were buried beneath a thick layer of sanctimonious hypocrisy.'' (9) (That a Lieberman by any other name would have come to prominence in Israel was inevitable given the conceptual origins of the state. In effect, Lieberman's story is the story of the chicken coming home to roost).
The days of sanctimoniousness are long gone for Israel. Lebanon and Gaza in 2006 and Gaza once again in late 2008 to early 2009 have dispelled once and for all the myth of a sanctimonious, morally superior Israel. The problem which Lieberman presents to the duplicitous, morally bankrupt Western political elites of our time is that his is an in-your-face fascism (as differing from Netanyahu's more camouflaged strain) which prevents duplicitous politicians from being able to bury their complicity in Israel's crimes ''beneath a thick layer of sanctimonious hypocrisy.'' Lieberman is so 'out there' that his policies do not permit other individuals to fudge their own positions: if Lieberman as Israel's Foreign Minister represents Israeli policy, then if our political mavens do not denounce that policy, they support it implicitly. Hence they are supporters of fascism (and if by our analysis we find that Lieberman is a Nazi, then these politicians implicitly align themselves with his ''world-view.'')
The attempt to pretend that Lieberman's politics are not essentially Netanyahu's politics (minus the transfer and 'nuking' of Palestinians) as per Hillary Clinton's insistence that it is Netanyahu and not Lieberman who sets policy will no longer wash. It is, of course, in Netanyahu's interests to have Lieberman there, so that he, Netanyahu, can play at 'good cop, bad cop'. He can position himself between Lieberman and Barak the 'socialist', thereby playing the role of the 'middle-of-the-roader.' The jig, however, is up. Now, those who support Israel's racist, apartheid policies will themselves be measured by the yardstick of Avigdor Lieberman's presence as Foreign Minister; they cannot help but be stained by it. All of the intellectual terrorism enacted against those who resist this deeply-rooted racism will not succeed in the long term.
Lieberman's emergence as king-maker has implications for Israel's political system. Its proportional system is one which does not permit any one political party to form a clear majority, thereby ensuring that the balance of power is held by a religious party like Shas or an ultranationalist party like Beiteinu, hence a choice between clerical fascism and a populist, anti-parliamentarian fascism as the balance of power in the Knesset. Israel's political system is the reflection of its polarization as a society, the structural and ideological strait-jacket which impedes any real possibility of reaching a just resolution of the Palestinian conflict.
When Yitzhak Rabin moved forward with Yasser Arafat toward a comprehensive peace accord, Rabin stated that he intended to achieve peace with or without the assent of the Israeli Right. He was assassinated by an individual with ties to Meir Kahane's Kach Party, Kahane being Lieberman's mentor. Kach is on the list of terrorist organizations of both the U.S. State Department, the European Union and was even outlawed by the government of Israel in 1988. Its acolytes in the Jewish Defense League, however, recently advised Canada's Minister of State, Jason Kenney, to ban British M.P., George Galloway from speaking in Canada. Apparently, some terrorists have an ‘in’ with Harper’s Canadian government. (10)
Lieberman's presence as Israeli Foreign Minister is the reflection of a failed political system. It remains to be seen whether or not a disillusioned Israeli youth can renew a system conceived to institutionalize a racist concept of the nation-state, not the bi-national state proposed by Nahum Goldmann, but the state for Jews only preached by Jabotinsky, institutionalized by Ben-Gurion, and expanded and maintained by Meir-Begin-Peres-Sharon-Barak-Omert-Netanyahu et al.
It is highly unlikely that any real change can be affected internally. Israel is constantly in crisis whether manufactured or the result of 'blow back' from its failed strategies, and in times of crisis the greater part of the population of any given society will move to the Right, often to the extreme Right. It will require the external pressure of a Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign to provide the political leverage which will force the hand of Israel's racist regime.
True, there is the possibility that this external pressure may actually help propel Lieberman to still greater heights as the result of resistance to the boycott movement in the form of a xenophobic ultra-nationalism, but if there is to be any movement toward a meaningful denouement of the Palestinian-Israeli situation, the boycott will be its vehicle. (This is not an article dealing with the question of one bi-national state as opposed to two states but it would be negligent of me not to remind the reader that a viable Palestinian state is no longer a logistic possibility: the Israeli settlements in the Occupied Territories are there to stay and the ethnic cleansing of East Jerusalem continues. Under the circumstances the only real possibility for a lasting peace between Palestinians and Israelis is one state, perhaps a federated one, one freed from the notion of racial purity.) Phony conferences and empty statements will not do the trick nor will staged theatrics built around a pre-ordained two-state solution where 'two-states' means a collection of Palestinian enclaves presided over by a puppet government.
Fascism needs only the proper conditions like economic turmoil, social despair and an existential threat to become ingrained; to become ingrained, it requires that the mass of the public, particularly society's youth, move to the extreme Right . That comes about if a charismatic figure incarnating all of the myths and prejudices of fascist ideology happens on to the scene when these conditions are prevalent. The conditions provide the pedestal for that charismatic figure who in turn fans the flames. Remove those conditions which brought Germany to the depths of despair in the period following World War I , and it is highly unlikely that the once itinerant Adolf Hitler ever comes to predominance in Germany. Let us be clear on one thing: Nazism, as a form of fascism, is not exclusive to the German experience. Change its name if you like, but the fact remains that whenever and wherever the conditions are ripe for fascism, and that unique and charismatic personality with mass appeal is present, the possibility for Nazism by any other name is also present. Moreover, fascism may very well come in the name of democracy as Huey Long once suggested. It can happen anywhere where the conditions permit.
What? There are those who say that there is no such thing as a Jewish fascist? Allow me to enlighten you on the period of the Thirties, a period during which the Zionist leadership in Palestine collaborated closely with the Third Reich to defeat an anti-Hitler boycott being organized by the American Jewish Congress and the Jewish War Veterans of America. (This boycott movement was underway as early as 1933, subsequent to Hitler being appointed to the position of Chancellor. Thousands of protestors turned up on March 23, 1933 in New York for an anti-Nazi parade organized by the Jewish War Veterans, inaugurating the boycott against Hitler, and thousands more on May 10, 1933 in Manhattan followed by another massive anti-Hitler demonstration in Britain on July 20, 1933.) In exchange the Third Reich would permit a certain number of German Jews, chosen expressly by the Zionist leaders in Palestine, to emigrate to the Jewish sector of Palestine. (It is estimated that between 40, 000 and 60,000 German Jews were permitted to emigrate to Palestine by virtue of the agreement between the Third Reich and the Zionist leadership.) (11)
There were commercial relations existing between Zionist Palestine and the Third Reich by which Nazi Germany imported Jaffa oranges and exported to Jewish Palestine industrial products such as agricultural machinery, this at the point in time when other Jewish organizations were trying to bring a boycott against Hitler on behalf of Germany’s Jews. This commercial relation was named ‘The Golden Orange’ in lieu of ‘The Golden Calf.’(12) Among those Zionist groups in the Jewish Diaspora taking their cue from Zionist leaders in Palestine on behalf of the Third Reich was the American B'nai Brith, known today as the Anti-Defamation League. (13) This does not preclude that all of the Zionist leaders in Palestine were Nazis - many others representing other political tendencies were eager to court the Third Reich as the means of driving the British out of the Middle East; the Grand Mufti also sought the support of the Third Reich – but neither can one dismiss a priori the possibility that some conceived of a Jewish state and a Jewish race along lines similar to the National Socialists’ view of the German race and the German state, and that the fate of European Jews was not their first priority. The time has come to acknowledge the fact that the Zionist leadership in Palestine and its acolytes in the Diaspora who, during the decade of the Thirties, worked to block the boycott launched by the American Jewish Congress and Jewish War Veterans helped pave the way for the Holocaust.
The irony is that the Zionist leadership of Palestine sold out their fellow Jews in order to strike a deal with the Third Reich that would help establish the logistics for a Jewish state in Palestine. Their spiritual descendants who now direct the State of Israel, and whose spiritual fathers collaborated with the Third Reich in order to form the infrastructure which would permit the construction of the state of Israel, today raise their hands solemnly in memory of the victims of the Holocaust for the sole purpose of silencing the critics of Israel's racist and colonial policies.
As early as 1920 Hitler stated that Jews did not belong on German soil, that Jews belonged in Palestine, there would they be on their 'national' soil. Ergo, like the German 'race,' the Jews constituted a race, and their race belonged in Palestine, not in Germany. On this point the Zionists were entirely in agreement with Hitler and the National Socialists. Ergo, on the question of race and the question of Palestine, the Nazi and Zionist discourses of the Twenties are essentially the same. It is erroneous to view the Nazis and Zionists of the period as enemies; despite Nazi hostility toward all Jews including Zionists, they and the Zionists were objective allies, and it was the Jews of Europe who were eventually sacrificed at the altars of their racist conception of the nation-state.
In a discussion of the mechanisms which underlay the use of nationalism as the vehicule used to bring certain elites to power, Fredy Perlman has this to say about the contribution of Zionism to the methodology of ultra-nationalism:
I do not include the Zionists among the heirs of Lenin because they belong to an earlier generation. They were Lenin's contemporaries who had, perhaps independently, discovered the power of persecution and suffering as welding materials for the mobilization of a national army and police. The Zionists made other contributions of their own. Their treatment of a dispersed religious population as a nation, their imposition of the capitalist nation-state as that population's end-all and be-all, and their reduction of a religious heritage to a racial heritage, contributed significant elements to the nationalist methodology, and would have fateful consequences when they were applied on a population of Jews, not all of
them Zionists, by a population wielded together as a 'German race'. (14)
Perlman's assessment of Zionism's use of a 'racial heritage' is concise. Moreover, as a body of political thought, Zionism precedes National Socialism in chronological terms as Perlman also points out. What about Lieberman then? Is he a fascist? Yes, obviously, undeniably. But is he a Nazi? A brief summary of the facts before allowing the jury to leave the room and consider the case. I have described Nazism as a romanticized notion of national history based on the concept of an exclusivist racial purity 'rooted' in a 'national' soil which has a particular 'genetic' quality; it promotes the cult of the unique and charismatic proto-Emperor, preaches the expulsion of 'impure' peoples from its soil, (particularly anti-Jewish in the German experience of Nazism), glorifies the military and war, and creates a highly centralized and authoritarian State.
To judge Avigdor Lieberman, to decide whether or not to refer to him as a Nazi, depends then on whether or not one accepts the general definition of Nazism which I put forward here, and whether or not Avigdor Lieberman fits within the framework of such a definition. (I do not believe that Israel's racist regime is synonymous with the Third Reich. This accusation has followed the particularly barbarous attack on Gaza in 2008-2009. Despite such savagery, it seems to me that such an accusation constitutes a conceptual jump which is not borne out by the actual nature of Israeli society, at least, not yet. The fact that in terms of conceptual underpinnings Zionism is comparable to National Socialism (15) does not automatically make the State of Israel synonymous with the Third Reich, nor for that matter does it rule out certain individuals within the State apparatus being Nazis by definition. It would be closer to the mark to compare Israel's policies with those of the British in India, the Belgians in the Congo, the French in Algeria, the Americans in Viet Nam, the Chinese in Tibet.)
Lieberman believes that the soil of Israel is for Jews only. In his conception of what it means to be a Jew, 'Jewish' is a 'race,' not just the expression of religious and cultural traditions. (One wonders if the Jewish 'race' is exclusively Ashkenazi (of European stock) or inclusive of all Jews. There are Jews in China and India, for example. Are they Jews in 'good standing' according to Lieberman's views? One can only speculate. If, however, the Jewish ‘race’ is synonymous with ‘Ashkenazi’ then what we have here is simply Jewish white supremacy.) For Lieberman, Arabs are inferior; they are untermenschen. They are to be 'transferred' out of Israel because they are non-Jews, and the land is for Jews only, the ideological fruit of the biblical description of Judea and Samaria. Lieberman is dismissive of the parliamentary process, a populist demagogue appealing to the basest instincts of the mob (16), a man who brooks no opinion other than his own; he has suggested exterminating entire neighboring populations; he is himself an exceedingly violent man who has been found guilty of beating up a twelve-year old child (17); he has been linked to drug-traffickers (18); he is a militarist and proponent of war.
Once again, let us remember that the Final Solution was adopted by the Third Reich two years after the advent of World War II after the idea of 'transfer' had been abandoned. It was decided around a table by high-ranking officials in a cold, calculating manner in much the same way that genocidal attacks against civilian populations can be planned. The question which begs asking is this: Given absolute power, could an Avigdor Lieberman undertake a Final Solution against the Palestinians? We cannot provide a definitive answer to this question, of course, but the very fact that it cannot be readily dismissed as a possibility is a statement in itself. The fact that one professes a certain religion or issues from a 'non-Aryan' ethnic background does not disqualify one's being a Nazi; one's own value-system and political philosophy is the yardstick by which to measure liberalism, fascism, Nazism. The experience of the Thirties provides us with a framework by which to judge the actions and attitudes of public figures, especially those in positions of authority. Let Avigdor Lieberman be judged by the Court of Public Opinion on that basis only. Judgement should be effected in a dispassionate, reasoned manner taking into account the evidence only. You, the Jurors of the Court of Public Opinion have two things to consider: First, is the conceptual framework of Nazism such as it is presented by the author a legitimate one? Second, does Avigdor Lieberman's thoughts and actions fit within the framework of that definition?
1. See: Martin Gilbert. Auschwitz and the Allies. New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1981.
2. Chris Hedges. ''Israel's Racist in Chief.’’ http://informationclearinghouse.info/article22406.htm
3. Uri Avnery. ‘’Who’s The Boss?’’ http://zope.gush-shalom.org/home/en/channels/avnery/1238914988
6. Chris Hedges. ''Israel's Racist in Chief.’’ http://informationclearinghouse.info/article22406.htm
7. Uri Avnery. ‘’Who’s The Boss?’’ http://zope.gush-shalom.org/home/en/channels/avnery/1238914988
8. Dead Palestinian babies and bombed mosques - IDF fashion 2009 http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1072466.html
9. Uri Avnery. ‘’Who’s The Boss?’’ http://zope.gush-shalom.org/home/en/channels/avnery/1238914988
10. Scott Weinstein. “Terrorist organization that planned to bomb Concordia University advised Canadian government to ban MP George Galloway.” http://www.freedominion.com.pa/phpBB2/viewtopic.php?p=1341957
11. See: Edwin Black. The Transfer Agreement: The Untold Story of the Secret Pact Between the Third Reich and Jewish Palestine. New York: Macmillan, 1984.
Also, Lenni Brenner. Zionism in the Age of the Dictators. Chicago: Lawrence
Hill, 1986. Also, Webster G. Tarply and Anton Chaitkin. George Bush: The Unauthorized Biography. Executive Intelligence Review, 1991, Chapter 2, ‘The Hitler Project.’ (Also at: http://www.tarpley.net/bushb.htm). Also, Hannah Arendt, Eichmann in Jerusalem. New York: Viking Press, 1963.
12. Edwin Black. The Transfer Agreement: The Untold Story of the Secret Pact Between the Third Reich and Jewish Palestine. New York: Macmillan, 1984. Chapter 36, ‘The Golden Orange,’ pages 315-324. Also, Lenni Brenner. Zionism in the Age of the Dictators. Chicago: Lawrence Hill, 1986, Chapter 6, ‘The Jewish Anti-Nazi Boycott and the Zionist-Nazi Trade Agreement.’
13. Edwin Black, Lenni Brenner, Webster G. Tarpley and Anton Chaitkin respectively in their works cited above.
14. Fredy Perlman. The Continuing Appeal of Nationalism. Detroit: Red & Black,
1985. Pages 40-41.
15. See: Zeev Sternhell. The Founding Myths of Israel: Nationalism, Socialism and
the making of the Jewish State. New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1998.
Also, Bruce Katz. ‘Le sionisme : du national socialisme.’
16. Uri Avnery. ‘’Who’s The Boss?’’ http://zope.gush-
17. Chris Hedges. ''Israel's Racist in Chief.’’