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Yes, extremist politics increases the threat to a nation's national security.
Today, it's about Israel.
For the past decade or so, the world has been under assault, from a global wave of rabid nationalism and populist leaders, often working with existing authoritarian powerhouses like China, Russia and India. Most of these movements share an array of false narratives, tactics and messages. Their targets and victims have been global democracies. In my professional opinion, this wave, mostly peaked somewhere in the 2020/ 2021 timeframe but the threats still are acute.
We have witnessed few bright spots like seeing Trump and Bolsonaro voted out of office, Putin’s failures in Ukraine and even Xi’s once powerful economy is sinking into the quicksand of Xi’s own making. Still, sound, well-functioning democracies like Israel’s, are under duress.
Israel’s Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu or better known as “Bibi,” is now mimicking Trump and assaulting the nation’s judiciary via undemocratic legislation. If this sounds familiar, it’s because it is exactly what Trump and his MAGA movement are still doing here. It’s what Bolsonaro did in Brazil and Modi does in India. These are well-synchronized tactics and date back to nearly the dawn of time. We see the same precise trends in regimes like Hitler’s pre-WW II Germany, that made their ideology legal, enabling NAZIs to use the law against the people of Germany. The US South, prior to, during and after the Civil War used similar tactics to maintain slavery and even legislated racism into post war and post-Civil Rights Era laws.
Authoritarians use these tactics, because they work. When moral citizens recognize these trends, we must work together to root them out, in order to restore our nations, to a healthy democracy. We are in the process of that right now in the US, while that Israel is still in the throes of their struggle against Bibi’s violent, right-wing extremist ruling coalition. Like Trump, the law matters a great deal to him, due to also being an indicted felon.
The overwhelming majority of Israelis are unwilling to see their hard-won democracy be handed over to the Israeli minority, of the religious, far-right. Again, like Putin’s Russian Orthodox Church, operating on their own extremist Christian Nationalism, just like the US GOP’s aberrant religious beliefs that have become a large part of the party ideology. In India, Modi uses a similar form of nationalism, it’s called Hindutva or Hindu extremist nationalism. All of these forms are violent in nature. Bibi’s ruling coalition deploys an aberrant form of Judaism as an ideological weapon, just the same as the others do with Christianity or Hinduism.
Every week now, for months on end, hundreds of thousands of Israeli citizens take to the street, denouncing Bibi and RWE/ Right-Wing Extremist politicians. They are unified around saving their democracy and their self-respect. In a nation that reveres their still living Holocaust survivors, they know all too well, what happens when an extremist, hateful government is in charge.
Israel has compulsory military service and children know that when they graduate high school, the first stop is the army. Everyone remains in the Reserves until a very late age. Now, facing their biggest crisis in decades, Israeli’s are signing petitions that they won’t show up for Reserve military duty. The highest-level Reserve officers pledge to strike as well until their democracy is safe and a coalition of former high-level officers are standing against Bibi’s shameful pursuit of a fascist government.
The bottom line to Bibi’s intransigence and support for the lunatic far-right is that now, Israel’s national security is compromised, just as ours was under Trump. Nations like people, need a good reputation in order to effectively engage in global affairs. The far-right movement infecting the globe is actually creating a new, Cold War of sorts, with nations lining up on one side or the other. The new BRICS expansion is designed for just this purpose. From a security perspective, Israel is an important US security partner in the region as well. With Israel’s close cooperation with China and the BRI, as well as Bibi’s technology connections with Russia, Bibi is causing Israel’s global relationships to suffer as well.
The Jewish people, know exactly what they are up against with an extremist government. This is what puts hundreds of thousands of protesters in the streets each week. In a nation of only 9 million, that is a very large percentage actively fighting for freedom. Although the ruling coalition of extremist political parties are in charge, due to the way Israel’s democracy is set up, again like the US, the far-right is the minority but bundled with enough similar party support to acquire power.
I’ve had a powerful appreciation for Israel for nearly 50 years and have a daughter who lives there. As with the US in the Trump era, I never expected to see fascists running the Jewish State. Judging by the size of the weekly protester crowds, I don’t think most Israelis did either. I am heartened to see such powerful resistance there and hope to see such again here in the US come the 2024 elections. We must always remember that democracy is incompatible with fascism and that, it is only well and accurately informed voting citizens, that can protect it.
As Israel’s dilemma evolves and as a friend to the Jewish State, we must invest the time and energy in democracy projects globally again, much like we did during the Cold War. Not nation-building but democracy enhancing or shoring up. This is the only thing that will stop the attrition of other friendly democracies around the globe. No democracy needs to look or act like ours, but simply be a fair, representative government that respects human rights.
In a global world, where democracy is under assault, all existing governments that are free and fair, must band together even more tightly while under assault. This is comparable to what we had to do during WW II and the long Cold War that followed. Unified evil can only be effectively challenged, by unified good. The more good, the better.
I have faith in the good people of Israel putting Bibi’s evil to rest. We did it here in the states and will likely have to do it again during the 2024 election cycle. The best way to lead, is from the front, and where we can set a visible example. Helping the protesters on the streets of Tel Aviv, is helping ourselves too. Let’s keep at it.
Have a great Wednesday.