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Welcome to Netanyahu's Westworld

Israelis have a choice: they can either oppose the occupation or watch the Right turn their country into a sadistic theme park.

By Alon Mizrahi

Education Minister Naftali Bennett, MK David Bitan, Culture Minister Miri Regev and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attend a Knesset plenum session, December 5, 2016. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Education Minister Naftali Bennett, MK David Bitan, Culture Minister Miri Regev and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attend a Knesset plenum session, December 5, 2016. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

‘Westworld’ is a new science fiction television show that revolves around a futuristic amusement park populated by androids. Westworld caters to high-paying guests who can do whatever they wish within the park, without fear of retaliation from the hosts. In Westworld neither morals nor the law prevent humans from acting on their often sick desires.

Under the ruling Likud party, Israel is becoming a kind of Westworld. Our amusement park includes two groups: rich, powerful guests, and residents who aren’t real humans — they exist only to allow the guests to turn their frequently sick whims into reality.

If you are not a right-winger in the low, violent, ignorant sense of the word, you are not one of the guests. Your blood, respect, and property are for the guests to take. You are an android, and the purpose of your existence is to take part in an experiment designed to demonstrate how you react to humiliation and fear.

If you are an Arab citizen of Israel, the state has never truly recognized you as a human and your position in society has not significantly changed under Likud rule. But if you are a Jewish Israeli who once thought that only one group plays the role of the androids, who never thought that this sadistic worldview could affect him, the only thing I can say is this: welcome to the extreme right’s amusement park.

The Mapai myth

The myth of Mapai, the predecessor of the present-day Labor Party, goes as follows: once upon a time Israel was controlled by mean, avaricious Ashkenazim who oppressed everybody. Now we’ll hit back at anyone who resembles them, or anyone we want. Because once upon a time we were the victims, so it only makes sense that we hit back.

I want to propose a very clear difference between Mapai’s regime and that of Likud: Mapai built up political power, often in an exaggerated and corrupt fashion, stemming from a cultural worldview that promoted a progressive and just society of Jews in their historic homeland, during years of difficult challenges. Likud is building political power for the sake of political power during years that Israel’s existence is unchallenged. Its ideology is power, it practices chutzpah and unruliness, and humiliates those who do not belong to its camp.

Senior IDF staff with David Ben Gurion 1961 (GPO/CC BY NC SA 2.0)

Senior IDF staff pictured with former prime minister and head of Mapai, David Ben Gurion, 1961. (GPO/CC BY NC SA 2.0)

It isn’t even the expressed worldview of the average Likudnik that boggles the mind — after all, they make sure to always express support for democracy, that they do not intend to revoke Arabs’ right to vote, that they are against civilian casualties. It’s how they act, the atmosphere they create, that matters. The sense that everything is allowed, that nothing can stop us, that we hold the big stick now. Who’s going to mess with us?

Likud will never be Mapai, since it lacks the manpower and the cultural, moral vision that propelled the latter. It has a sick lust for power, and its ranks are full of sadistic, criminal figures. A historic Likud figure such as David Levy wouldn’t have lasted a minute among them today, since they would have likely thrown him to the dogs as a mole of the left-leaning New Israel Fund or a collaborator of the global Left. Just like they are doing to Benny Begin, just like they did to Dan Meridor and Tzipi Livni. Just like they will continue to do until everyone in the party sounds like a member of the Mafia, who threatens others in the name of his boss. Gila Gamliel, one of the last normative people in Likud, will soon find that she has no place in the movement. Maybe because she isn’t Mizrahi enough — who knows?

The myth of Likud’s legitimacy

It does not matter how many people vote to support this situation, and it does not matter how popular the leader of this movement is: a political party that espouses separation between humans on the basis of ethnicity is illegitimate. The fact that Likud has turned into a crude embodiment of a party drunk on its own power is the inevitable result of its craze over a Greater Israel that goes back several generations.

From the moment that Likud tied itself to the settler movement, which is the movement to humiliate and oppress Palestinians, while using the bible as its own PR firm, it will remain irremediable. The lack of basic morality that lies at the heart of its ethos will only push away the moderates, and will continue to attract people like Miri Regev and David Bitan, who on Saturday said he would prefer if Arab citizens did not vote in Israeli election, until the party’s inevitable implosion.

It does not matter how many people support the party: the fundamental worldview of the Israel Right of our time is a moral hazard and we cannot grant it any kind of legitimacy.

A Palestinian boy holds a pictures showing photos of prisoners from the village during the weekly protest in Kafr Qaddum, a West Bank village located east of Qalqiliya, December 19, 2014.

A Palestinian boy holds a pictures showing photos of prisoners from the village during the weekly protest in Kafr Qaddum, a West Bank village located east of Qalqiliya, December 19, 2014.

One word about those who are trying to change Likud from within, or rather are trying to maintain its liberal facade: it won’t work. The party sealed its own fate when it decided that Palestinians are not humans, and thus it is okay to settle among them and rule over them as if they were livestock.

Political parties and organizations that want to compete with Likud need to learn this lesson well: if they do not want to turn into something that looks and sounds like a crime family, they will need to fill their ranks with people who — even during relentless attacks, even when it is highly unpopular, even when a clown such as Donald Trump leads the most powerful country on earth — do not agree to normalize the occupation under any conditions.

Opposition to the occupation, which at its core recognizes the humanity of the Palestinians and the limitations of an ancient religious ethos in the modern world — this is the only opposition that can form the basis for a different Israel.

The choice is between unequivocal opposition to the occupation, or an Israel that looks like a Westworld run by the sadistic Right. And it’s time to choose.

Alon Mizrahi is a writer and a blogger at Local Call, where this article was first published in Hebrew. Read it here.

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    COMMENTS

    1. Subway1EightyNine

      If the choice is between an opposition to the occupation without offering any practical alternatives and a the continuation of the status quo, then Israel has already chosen and you find yourself in a very small minority.

      Regardless of how many sanctimonious articles you write you will have no impact on the Israeli preference for the relative safety of the status quo unless you actually offer a workable alternative. The only possible workable alternatives are based on movement on the Palestinian side that has yet to happen. No amount of moralizing and grandstanding is going to alter this situation. In practice you offer only empty rhetoric on this issue.

      As for your dislike of the Likud. I share it. It has become a rather disgusting party and that has nothing to do with the occupation. What makes it disgusting is the high level of corruption, the low quality of MKs, the low level of rhetoric and the persistent purges conducted by Bibi to push out any and all competition.

      If you want to change Israel you are going to help take over the Likud from the inside. It is doable. Likud is a democratic party that holds primaries. In the same way that the settlers managed to get an outsized voice by registering as members, any other group that organizes itself can likewise push the Likud in the desired direction. I don’t vote Likud, but I am a registered member. I will vote in the next Likud primaries, but I will almost certainly not vote for them during the elections. This is the best way to change Israel because the Israeli Left is too busy with internecine warfare while its loud and obnoxious voices only push people even further towards the right.

      In case the lessons of the elections in the US and the referendum in the UK (and the previous elections in Israel) haven’t yet been absorbed in your camp, haranguing people and accusing them wholesale of being racists, bigots and fascists, is not a winning election program. If your camp wants to win elections bring something meaningful to the table. Otherwise you are just going to be wallowing indefinitely in your righteous anger.

      Reply to Comment
      • Ben

        “and that has nothing to do with the occupation.”

        Oh no, of course not! Nothing ever has anything to do with the occupation. Why it doesn’t even exist! There could be no possible connections between a “high level of corruption, the low quality of MKs, the low level of rhetoric and the persistent purges,” a mafia, and the occupation.

        “The only possible workable alternatives are based on movement on the Palestinian side that has yet to happen.”

        Pure occupier’s logic.

        Reply to Comment
        • Subway1EightyNine

          Right. Because there are no corrupt semi-autocratic leaders taking power by using low level rhetoric anywhere else in the world. I am sure there is an occupation to blame in each one of those too.

          When the Palestinians accept living in peace with a Jewish state next door then there will be room for peace. Otherwise we are just surrendering strategic territory in return for ceasefires.

          Reply to Comment
          • Ben

            “Because there are no corrupt semi-autocratic leaders taking power by using low level rhetoric anywhere else in the world. I am sure there is an occupation to blame in each one of those too.”

            This makes no real sense.

            “When the Palestinians accept living in peace with a Jewish state next door then there will be room for peace.”

            The Palestinians have quite clearly, during negotiations, accepted living in peace with an Israeli state next door. Regarding “a Jewish state,” Noam Scheizaf argues that “a Jewish state” will always be an exclusive and racist, discriminatory state. And he makes intelligent distinctions that support this, which you can read at this link:

            http://972mag.com/why-i-oppose-recognizing-israel-as-a-jewish-state/78751/

            “even if Netanyahu’s demand was genuine and not part of his (non)negotiation strategy, it should be opposed – not just by the Palestinians but also by Israelis….”

            Reply to Comment
          • Subway1EightyNine

            Trump, Erdogan, Duerte all spring to mind as corrupt semi-autocratic leaders taking power by using low level rhetoric. None of those were “corrupted” by any “occupation”. Hence the claim that there is some sort of intimate tie between the current state of the Likud and he occupation is baseless and absurd.

            The Palestinians have never accepted the idea of living next door to a Jewish State and insist that they will continue the struggle until they eliminate it. That they agree temporarily to co-exist with a state called Israel is meaningless as long as they continue to try to overturn it. The conflict over the past 100 years has been between the Jews that have wanted to establish their own country and the Arabs that do not accept a Jewish state within any borders. Until the Palestinians accept that they have failed there will be no peace. And as long as the Palestinians insist on their opposition to the existence of a Jewish state within any borders, any agreement with them is at best a ceasefire rather than peace. It is not worthwhile to make strategic concessions in return for a ceasefire, especially if it makes your opponent stronger.

            How Noam Sheizaf sees it doesn’t matter in the slightest to me. Idealists are the worst people to listen to when deciding on policy.

            Reply to Comment
          • Ben

            The logic here is something like saying that because diphtheria, dysentery, and scarlet fever are not spread by mosquitoes, yellow fever must also not be spread by mosquitoes.

            The bit about what you know the Palestinians insist on is just something you made up.

            Sheizaf is the sober realist here. You are a fanatic. There is no talking to fanatics. There was no talking to Dr. Jack Kevorkian. He had to be arrested, tried, convicted and imprisoned. Fanatics have to be stayed by whatever means states have at their disposal. You will not give up your view of Israel’s entitlements any sooner than an anorexia nervosa patient is going to come around spontaneously, without interrupting of her behavior, and say “hey, you know what, you’ve got a point, I am way too thin, can you order a double cheese pizza for me?”

            Reply to Comment
          • Subway1EightyNine

            The logic here is that if malaria, dengue fever and yellow fever are spread by mosquitoes elsewhere then it is likely that mosquitoes are spreading them here, rather than say, bears.

            I love how you insist that I am making up that the Palestinians refuse to accept living next to a Jewish state but then have previously argued strenuously about how they are justified in rejecting the idea and refusing to negotiate on the basis of two states for two peoples. The noble Palestinian people refuse to accept the idea of a Jewish state and always will! How dare you claim that the Palestinians insist on not accepting living next to a Jewish state! Kudos on a consistent argument!

            Sheizaf is not a sober realist. He is very much an idealist that believes in silly ideas like socialism and Jews living in peace as a minority in a majority Arab state. What makes him interesting to read is that he actually has a good grasp on the actual power relations and he is not a propagandist that clings to false hopes. The combination of the honesty, tactical pragmatism and misguided idealism is fascinating to read. He has an ideology that he supports, he knows it isn’t in a good place right now, and he is honest about it. It is unfortunate that he does’t write here more often. Instead we are exposed to tirades by moralizing and grandstanding pro-Palestinian cheerleaders. It might provide a daily dose of righteous outrage to the pro-Palestinian crowd but for the most part it is empty of content. Or rather, full of content, but empty of meaning. Full of emotion, but little sense.

            My view of Israel’s “entitlements” is that the Jewish people have the right to self-determination in their homeland. I am not going to give up this view. Bring it on.

            Reply to Comment
          • Ben

            What I insisted you made up is not honestly reduced to “the Palestinians refuse to accept living next to a Jewish state”.

            ‘My view of Israel’s “entitlements” is that the Jewish people have the right to self-determination in their homeland.’

            No, your view is of Israel’s entitlements is that the Jewish people have the right to self-determination in their “Jewish state” and this entitles you to deny self determination and many other things to another people at your imperious leisure. You have two standards for realism. You apply a far less stringent standard of realism to how a “Jewish” state would be democratic. Scheizaf, the realist, twice uses the phrase “national home for Jews” or “national homeland,” in his essay, but he uses it honestly, drawing a clear distinction with “Jewish state.” I think you use it misleadingly. Scheizaf has a wider and wiser scope then you and is much more realistic than you.

            Reply to Comment
          • Ben

            More Scheizaf:

            “Those on the right in Israel will tell you that they don’t oppose the Arabs themselves, just their ideas. That is, of course, feigned naïveté. As long as Israel is defined as a Jewish state, Arabs will always feel alienated from it. An Arab can become Israeli like he or she can become German or American, but he cannot become Jewish, which Israeli Jews wouldn’t want either. That’s the fundamental difference between the Israeli model and the Western democratic model, where even if there sometimes exist symbols of Christianity or some other nation, Western democracies are ultimately based on the idea of “a state of all its citizens.” In Israel, that idea is so terrifying to people that some want to criminalize even advocating for it.”
            http://972mag.com/the-israeli-rights-palestinian-delusion/120791/
            By Noam Sheizaf |Published July 21, 2016
            The Israeli Right still hasn’t internalized that Palestinians exist

            Reply to Comment
        • Eliza

          Ben: In a way Subway1Eigl is right; the accusations that Alon Mizrahi is leveling against Likud and Netanyahu has nothing much to do with the occupation. This is just an intra-Zionist stoush and the occupation is being used as a weapon against the right.

          Mizrahi is complaining about treatment once just reserved for the non-Jew within Israel and the O/T, now being meted out to some degree to Israeli Jews on the left. He says so quite clearly:

          ‘If you are an Arab citizen of Israel, the state has never truly recognised you as human and your position in society has not significantly changed under Likud rule. But if you are a Jewish Israeli who once thought that only one group plays the role of androids, who never thought that this sadistic worldview would affect him, the only thing I can say is this: welcome to the extreme right’s amusement park.’

          In other words, those on the Jewish left within Israel are getting a bit of the Palestinian treatment from the Jewish right and they don’t much like it.

          Every Israeli administration since 1967, whether they be of the right or the left, has systemically encouraged and supported Jewish only settlements within the O/T. Every government has provided tax benefits to Jews who are prepared to set up residences in EJ and the W/B. The right within Israeli is no more culpable than the left when it comes to appropriating Palestinian land.

          And then we go back to the supposedly glorious past when the left dominated. No question that the left did provide a good social democratic framework for Jews but the secular left did effect the 48 transfer and did allow the 67 transfer to take place. The left has launched military duck shoots against Palestinians, broken their bones as requested by the champion of Palestinian human rights, Rabin.

          As Mizrahi says the left operated within a ‘cultural worldview that promoted a progressive and just society of Jews in their historic homeland during years of difficult challenges..’

          Or, in other words, its actually OK to do the Nakba/transfer thing and to hold non-Jews under military occupation if you provide good medical insurance etc to Jews. The whole occupation thing only becomes unseemly when the right has the upper hand in Israel and starts being a bit snippy towards Jews on the left. Yes, very convincing argument.

          These internal Jewish arguments within Israel have very little to do with the well-being of the non-Jews under their control.

          Reply to Comment
          • Ben

            Eliza, thank you very much for your most insightful reply that provides a decisive shift in the frame of reference and makes me see anew. I see how, in a way, I have got too caught up in an intra-Jewish squabble, a pseudo-struggle between left and right, that serves as a distraction from the larger picture (a distraction the Right is only too pleased to make the main show). I see the hypocrisy of a Left complaining about “the moment that Likud tied itself to the settler movement….” Mizrahi himself seems to realize this in his last three paragraphs. I’m grateful for the perspective you provide.

            Reply to Comment
          • Eliza

            Ben: Thanks for your response.

            I agree that the last 3 paragraphs of the article where Mizrahi refers to the limitations of ‘an ancient religious ethos in the modern world’ and the recognition of the humanity of the Palestinians nail it. I think he is right to be wary of normalizing the occupation in any way – I just also think that recognizing the role of the Israeli left in creation of modern Israel, which necessarily required the dispossession of Palestinians of their ancestral homes/land and their access to resources has got to part of the process of arriving at some form of justice for the Palestinians. And as far as I can see, there will be real peace for Israeli Jews unless there is a measure of justice for Palestinians. Eggs cannot ever be unscrambled, but the very least we can do is to honour the past suffering of the dispossessed/persecuted; whether they be Jewish or Palestinian by facing up to the past and not trying to whitewash it. There is very little nobility in engaging in massive population transfers or subjecting people to military law.

            Reply to Comment
    2. Carmen

      Laughing hyenas. The oppressed have taken their oppressor status to incredible heights. Another 2+ years before the next election? I don’t think we can afford to wait.

      Reply to Comment
    3. Ben

      ​This article by Alon Mizrahi elaborates, substantiates and vindicates some themes long noted here:

      1. The Disney theme park atmosphere (I’ve noted this in relation to American transplant settlers living an ersatz, bad faith, “Wild West” escape experience while coddled by a massive army but that is a subset of the larger and more sinister Westworld theme explained here.)
      2. The right wing and settler establishment as a kind of mafia.
      3. The excuse of “but we are at ‘war’, you see.”
      4. The sadism.

      It’s all in this excellent article.

      Reply to Comment
    4. i_like_ike52

      This is typical, old-style MAPAI/Labor Party propaganda….”we are the progressives, we care about ‘the workers’, we are democratic, we are socialists, THEY (the Likud) are primitives, anti-democratic”, blah, blah, blah.
      Israelis stopped buying this kind of nonsensicle propaganda years ago. That’s why the Labor Party has lost most of the elections since 1977. When propaganda like this says “We believe in democracy, THEY don’t” it’s like when the old USSR said its bureaucratic dictatorship represented “the will of the masses”.
      The most amusing claim here is that the MAPAI only wanted power “in order to build a progressive society” but the Likud “only wants power for its own sake”. Is the writer kidding? MAPAI leaders weren’t power drunk and didn’t fight fratricidal political wars for the sake of power? Ben-Gurion vs Sharett, or BG vs Eshkol, Dayan vs Alon, Rabin vs Peres,
      Herzog vs Yechimovich? You think all these people were idealists? Why has the Labor Party changed so many leaders, unlike the Likud which has had only 4 in its entire history? But most importantly, why have the voters rejected the Labor party and its supposedly “progressive” values? Why has the socalist Kibbutz movement collapsed? why has Israel progressed economically under the Right than it did under the suffocating, corrupt, stagnant socialism of the Labor Party?

      Reply to Comment
      • Ben

        Alon Mizrahi’s article is unrecognizable from your caricature of it. You perpetuate the stock myth of Mapai he takes aim at, and ignore the very clear difference between Mapai’s regime and that of Likud that he articulates. To say “Israelis stopped buying this” leaves out that in the last election the percentage of the popular vote for Netanyahu was 23% and Likud plus Jewish Home plus Yisrael Beiteinu got only 35%. You inappropriately insert an “only” where Mizrahi does not use it. He did not write that “MAPAI only wanted power in order to build a progressive society.” He wrote that “Mapai built up political power, often in an exaggerated and corrupt fashion, stemming from a cultural worldview that promoted a progressive and just society of Jews in their historic homeland, during years of difficult challenges.” Mizrahi addresses why Likud cannot change, and what lessons those who want to compete with Likud need to learn. Your caricature even manages even to evade any mention of the occupation and thus miss the main point. Read Mizrahi’s last four paragraphs.

        Reply to Comment
        • i_like_ike52

          Parties whose voters who wanted to see Netanyahu continue as Prime Minister got far more than 50% of the vote, and this has to include the Haredi parties as well as Kahlon’s Kulanu party whose platform is close to that of the Likud.

          Reply to Comment
    5. Itshak Gordin Halevy

      I am very satisfied with our government. It democratized for the first time for decades the Israeli theater. On the other hand it is marginalizing associations hostile to the Jewish state and paid by foreign governments.

      Reply to Comment
    6. Lewis from Afula

      I believe Israel should simply close down the theme park, dismantle the robots and annex the land. Any Jordanians who remain in the theme park should be repatriated.

      Reply to Comment
    7. Barry Meridian

      There is no moral equivalence between the Israelis and the Palestinians
      A must read article that Alon Mizrahi doesn’t want you to know about.
      http://markhumphrys.com/israel.conflict.crimes.html

      Reply to Comment
    8. Barry Meridian

      The Palestinians continually initiate the violence. The Israelis have not fired the first shots.
      Do the Palestinians expect not to be fired back on? Its ok for them to blow up school kids on buses, shopping malls, disco’s, pizzeria’s and Passover Seders.
      Someone please explain to me how the Israelis could possibly live next to such a violent people. I personally don’t see how it can be done at this point. All I see is the Palestinians provoking war and using any method they can to get all of Israel.

      It seems that after 5 decades of terror and murder against Israel, the Palestinians might have realized that this campaign of terrorism and rejectionism has failed.

      By the way, how many Muslims have been killed by Muslims this week in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Libya, Bahrain, Lebanon, Somalia, Yemen? How many have been killed by Jews? Numbers please.
      Palestinians should get one thing into their heads: the world does not revolve around them. They share the blame for their situation, because they always wanted everything and never wanted to compromise. First and foremost that NOBODY, and least Israel owes them anything.

      Reply to Comment
      • carmen

        “It seems that after 5 decades of terror and murder against Israel, the Palestinians might have realized that this campaign of terrorism and rejectionism has failed.”

        Palestinians have the right the obligation to fight against their oppressors. They won’t stop resisting until the occupation ends. 7 decades of occupation has been an abject failure. You’d think if the zionists were reasonable people, this would have never started. Fortunately jews in the diaspora and some here are finding the occupation of Palestine not a jewish value, but something quite sinister and evil.

        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zM2fXTkjU2E

        Reply to Comment
        • Subway1EightyNine

          If this is failure, then may we fail forever. If the Zionists of 100 years ago could see Israel now they would think that a miracle happened and cry from joy. A successful and powerful Jewish state in the homeland of the Jewish people? This was their dream. And it is a reality.

          Reply to Comment
          • Carmen

            “May we fail forever”. A colonial racist state in the 21st century. Are jews supposed to have power? I don’t think so. How do you measure success? Quality of life is one way. Here like the u.s., the rich get richer, the poor get poorer, so not a lot to brag about. The educational system? It’s been in a steady decline for years and will get much worse with Naftali Bennett’s plans for continued dumbing down of israeli youth. The masses don’t need to be intelligent, they only need to follow orders and the dumber they are the easier to control. Women’s rights – what rights? Modesty police at the knesset, in 2016? The insistence of the few to control the lives of the majority? The rabbinate? But hey, don’t want to stop you from self-flagellation, wank away.

            Reply to Comment
          • Ben

            ” If the Zionists of 100 years ago could see Israel now they would think that a miracle happened and cry from joy.”

            Actually I think a lot of them would be deeply disappointed at what Zionism has become. They would never have foreseen the atavistic religious zealotry fueling judeofascism. I think most of them would be appalled actually.

            Reply to Comment
      • Average American

        It’s totally ok for Israel to fire on Arabs/Palestinians. Just make it a fair fight. Don’t pretend it’s a “war”. Arabs/Palestinians don’t have any weapons with which to make war but a few cheap inaccurate low payload short range rockets. They are reduced to personal bombs and knives. They do not have well-armed expensive ever-present soldiers and army. Make it an even fight and see what happens.

        Reply to Comment
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