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 pictured with former prime minister and head of Mapai, 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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