Is Israel in a similar situation as the Weimar Republic after World War I—on the road to a fascist, racist regime? In this article, IDI Research Fellow Yair Sheleg asserts that alongside the dangerous statements of the Israeli right, the extreme left's attempts to delegitimize Israel and its army, as well as its sweeping characterization of any initiative that seeks to strengthen Israel's security or Jewish identity as racist, are dangerous as well. He concludes that it's not enough to combat anti-democratic terrorism; the exploitation of democracy that feeds it must be combated as well.
"In 1919, the Treaty of Versailles was signed, ending World War I. It required payment of huge reparations and the ceding of territory by the war's main aggressor, Germany. The aggressor's punishment was absolutely justified. Nonetheless, one wise man, a British delegate to the peace conference, the economist John Maynard Keynes, resigned in anger, warning the victorious powers that humiliating Germany, justified as it was, was also a sure recipe for another war. History proved him right.
In Israel, a controversy has raged over whether we are in a similar situation as the Weimar Republic after World War I, on the road to a fascist, racist regime. But it's actually those who warn against such a danger who should be reminded of the broader context of Weimar's collapse. The Nazis took control of the country at the end of a process that began, along with other events, with Germany's humiliation by the victors of World War I. Moral responsibility for the atrocities is entirely the Nazis', but historic responsibility also rests with those with good intentions who created the chain reaction.
The Israeli right wing in 2011 has indeed made dangerous statements, in the form of the video calling for the murder of Deputy State Prosecutor Shai Nitzan and the rabbis' letter calling for Jews not to rent or sell to Arabs. The extreme left, however, also does dangerous things that intensify the extreme right's response and the legitimization the radical right receives from broad sectors of the public...."
Yair Sheleg is a Research Fellow at the Israel Democracy Institute who is conducting research as part of IDI's Religion and State project.