Prominent in all the noise focused on the recent deals to expand Bibi's government, are the accusations that we've gone over the edge in the direction of fascism, and that Israeli politicians are being especially nasty to one another.

 
In other words, an extremism of policy is about to come from this government, and there is already an extremism of political meanness. 
 
My own secret is that this is not a fascist government, or anything close to it, and that politeness--leaving aside the rituals of feigned courtesy--have never been a hallmark of democratic politics.
 
Do unto others is the golden rule of politics.
 
Moreover, some of this country's most vocal politicians and media personality know little beyond their own tiny spheres of expertise, and many of the media people are not expert in anything other than looking pretty or handsome, and speaking articulately from scripts prepared by someone else.
 
As I look around, Israel's politics and public policy aren't significantly different from what exists in other western democracies, especially when viewed in the context of the threats that Israel faces from its Muslim neighbors, and assorted antagonists worldwide, including more than a few American Jews.
 
If we compare Israel with more than 100 countries that emerged in the fallout of World War II, it is hard to find one as successful as Israel in terms of its economic growth and performance, and the quality of its democracy.
 
Those who say that a country that calls itself Jewish cannot be democratic should notice that Israel is the most democratic of new countries, and not less democratic than any of the older ones.
 
Sure, Jews get preferences here, but ethnic and religious majorities do relatively well elsewhere. Israel's Arabs have nothing like the violence in the ghettos of American cities.
 
An overall measure of life quality is life expectancy. According to government statistics, the life expectancy of Israeli Arabs is lower than that of Israeli Jews, but equivalent to that of White Americans, and substantially longer than that of African Americans.
 
Politics can be nasty here, but if our standard of comparison is the politeness associated with the current US presidential campaign, and the expectations expressed by lots of Americans, then Bibi's new government and the comments about it are models of moderation.
 
Washington Post-ABC poll finds that nearly 60 percent of Americans have unfavorable views about both candidates.
 
It must be the decade's greatest political puzzle as to how a country of 320 million could fail to produce anyone substantially younger than 70, or anyone more desirable than those two candidates leading the competition for the world's most powerful office. 
 
American meanness isn't all that new. Watergate set a high standard of political shenanigans, deception, and harsh criticism. Earlier were the accusations that Republicans leveled against Democrats for curtailing individual freedom with Social Security and other reforms associated with the New Deal.
 
My recollection of history as taught in Fall River was that it was almost entirely American, and that it stopped at World War I. Arguments about FDR and what he did were too controversial for our young minds.
 
We're seeing a repeat of the nastiness focused on the New Deal, now focused on Obamacare.
 
Britain competes with the US for the title of being the mother of all democracies, and is often described as having a leg-up on matters of courtesy. There isn't anything in the US (or Israel) like polite Brits lining up to board a bus, with no shoving or otherwise violating the queue. Yet recent weeks have seen meanness in the Labour Party, with even its established anti-Semite leader Jeremy Corbyn removing from party offices colleagues whose anti-Semitism went too far even for him.
 
Israel's Labor Party, under its current label of Zionist Union, has gone beyond Likud in nastiness. Yitzhak Herzog seems likely to pay with his political life for participating in negotiations with the evil Bibi, even though Yitzhak pulled back from an agreement. 
 
Likud MKs are behaving reasonably well, especially when judged against the rough stuff that often marks their party conventions. However, former Likud MKs are letting us know, with terms equivalent to "despicable," that Bibi's move toward Lieberman violates their view of party principles. 
 
The height of nastiness has come from Ehud Barak, with his record of serving as Prime Minister in a Labor Government and Defense Minister in a Likud Government. Barak isn't stupid, but he was showing his lack of knowledge with the use of the term fascism.
 
No doubt that there are signs of extremism in some of the proposals coming from right wing Likudniks, Avigdor Lieberman, and the religious settlers of Jewish Home. However, politicians are known for proposing everything, enacting into law very little, with only some of the enactments actually implemented. It's part of the game, wherever there is freedom of expression and political competition.
 
Barak's comments about fascism are at the height of intellectual sophistication compared to Donald's trumpeting the size of his penis, associating a media star's criticism with her monthly intemperance, providing life to the screed that Barack Obama's birth certificate was fraudulent, trying to revitalize Hillary's connection to the death of Vince Foster as well as
  • "You know, it really doesn’t matter what the media write as long as you’ve got a young, and beautiful, piece of ass.” 
  • “Our great African-American President hasn’t exactly had a positive impact on the thugs who are so happily and openly destroying Baltimore.” 
Trump's supporters seem open to such appeals. And because Hillary is vulnerable on a number of items that fits his style, Americans should get use to calling him Mr President.
 
You need another American example of greater extremism? Look at what the Oklahoma legislature enacted, criminalizing abortion.
 
There are courts in both the US and Israel that are among the prominent bulwarks of decent norms. In this case, Oklahoma's Governor used his veto to save federal courts the trouble of outlawing yet another challenge to its ruling, way back in 1973, that abortions could not be forbidden. 
 
You want a learned, courteous discussion about politics, go to an academic seminar. But first check out the professor, and avoid those campuses where BDS is fashionable.
 
Comments welcome


-- 
Ira Sharkansky (Emeritus)
Department of Political Science
Hebrew University of Jerusalem

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