Judy Mandelbaum

Judy Mandelbaum
Brooklyn, New York, United States
June 01
Freelance writer, editor, and first citizen of Judy's World.

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AUGUST 2, 2010 11:54AM

Yes, it can happen there: Artists envision "Israeli fascism"

Rate: 15 Flag

 Meir Kahane 
Avigdor Lieberman as "Dear Leader"
(Turn Right at the End - all other images from
Haaretz and Jerusalem Post)

We’ve all heard the claim before: Israel is a “fascist state,” whether it’s applied to its treatment of the Palestinians or its single-minded determination to maintain its ethnic/religious purity. Such statements, when uttered by foreigners, are designed to sting. After all, what could be more hurtful than to place the eternally imperiled Jewish state (“the only democracy in the Middle East”) on the same level as its historical oppressors? But when the claim comes from an Israeli – let alone from two – it can be downright painful to behold.  

In July, two Israeli art students unveiled art exhibitions painting a gloomy future for their home country – this time in living color. Last April, Yosi Even Kama, a student at the Shenkar College of Engineering & Design in Ramat Gan, was shocked to read a report on Israeli attitudes about dissent. The survey of 500 adult Jewish Israelis, commissioned by the Tami Steinmetz Center for Peace Research at Tel Aviv University, revealed that "more than half of Jewish Israelis think human rights organizations that expose immoral behavior by Israel should not be allowed to operate freely, and think there is too much freedom of expression here.” Moreover, “57.6 percent of the respondents agreed that human rights organizations that expose immoral conduct by Israel should not be allowed to operate freely. Slightly more than half agreed that ‘there is too much freedom of expression’ in Israel. The poll also found that most of the respondents favor punishing Israeli citizens who support sanctioning or boycotting the country, and support punishing journalists who report news that reflects badly on the actions of the defense establishment.”


In response, Kama created an art project - recently featured in Haaretz - consisting of four pillars displaying images and political posters that one might expect to see on the streets of Tel Aviv during and after a far-right coup between 2020 and 2023. In the fascist “State of Judea,” freedom of expression is banned, gender equality is eliminated, Jewish religious law reigns supreme, and dissidents are sent either packing or to the gallows. The fascist revolution’s symbol: a black Star of David inside a white circle on a red background.


The State of Judea exhibition 
The State of Judea exhibition
(Jerusalem Post)


State of Judea
Kama sees the politics of division running wild -
"They are NOT our brothers" 

State of Judea
"Let's destroy democracy" 


State of Judea
"Join the rebel forces"


 State of Judea 
"Killing heretics is a religious obligation"


State of Judea
 "Shutting up the leftists"


State of Judea 
"A fertile womb is the future of Judea" 

Many Israelis are outraged by Kama's vision of a totalitarian Israel. “I understand that people call it art,” one critic told journalists, “but in my view, it is targeted to the most primitive feelings of the public. It raises fear and hate toward people who are different from you.” But even Kama agrees that he may have gotten a little carried away: the exhibit includes fake quotes from real rabbis calling for non-observant Jews to be exterminated. He has since apologised for the quotes, but not for the exhibit.


A few days later, Sivan Hurvitz of the Holon Institute of Technology exhibited a set of cartoon-like images entitled “Turn Right at the End of the World: The Future of a Country that Gave up on Democracy.” Her pictures depict everyday scenes in a fascist Israeli state. In this near-future dystopia, homosexuality is banned, abortion is criminalized, contraceptives are available only on the black market, dissent is punished by prison, and human rights groups are outlawed. In the introduction to her exhibit, Hurvitz writes:

Recently, it would seem as if Israeli citizens and their political representatives have decided that democracy is not so important -- and is sometimes even an annoyance. Every other day a racist bill is presented to the Knesset, or there is an incident of army or police brutality, or political activists are persecuted. …  I used to think that people who don't live here cannot possibly understand what it's really like. But when I was out of the country, I was surprised to find that these people were not ignorant at all -- in fact, they proved to be very knowledgeable. … There is a huge paradox that lies at the heart of the Israeli state, its designation as “Jewish and democratic.” Which is paramount? Judaism or democracy? Before I am a woman, or Jewish, or Israeli, I am human. And I believe that rights should be based on our humanity, not on whether we are Jewish or not, or how Jewish we are or aren’t.

Call them prescient, alarmist, or simply bad taste - Kama's and Hurvitz's images get under our skin and provide us with a vivid reminder of how thin the membrane between heartless words and cruel actions can be, and that fascism really can happen anywhere, any time, including - but by no means limited to - the State of Israel. 

Turn Right 
A young lesbian is forcibly taken to the "Center for
Treatment of Sexual Perversions"


Turn Right 
In the new anti-abortion Israel, condoms are exchanged
beneath the table - under the eyes of informants


Turn Right 
Passing out human rights leaflets is banned...


Turn Right 
...as is "subversive" literature


Turn Right 
Greater Israel becomes a reality

I already covered some of this territory in my recent essay "His crime: Having sex while gentile."

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Sadly this is not uncommon. When the Russian revolution and the French revolution happened there were some similarities although they may be hard to see. The people from both these revolutions were raised with violence in an authoritarian state and the only way they knew how to overcome it was through violence in a new authoritarian state under new tyrants. Israel was similar in some ways. There were many angry people and they didn’t know how to set up a real democracy. I attempted to address this basic idea more in my entry about an “educational revolution” re-posted on Salon about a week or so ago. This can be overcome if they educate people better on both sides and deescalate the violence for a cooling off period but that is much easier said than done.
Fascinating. Wonderfully written with passion and style. Unsettling information.
See http://www.counterpunch.org/cook08022010.html
Thanks, I just did - and I'm appalled!
I'll check out your post!

Well, how about populist militarism instead of fascism. It is the same thing, and might not raise some people's hackles, and, let's hope for the best; it usually beats the alternatives.
One of the best purposes of art is to allow the unartisitic to see with new eyes.
I am glad that this is being done.
i like when art is on the side of humanity...and shows it.
You have a gift, Judy, in selection of materials/news, thoughtful consideration of ideas, compact and vivid thinking on the page, er, screen.

I loathe the ahistorical anti-semitism growing on the left -- and I think this exhibit is a good thing. I hate the double-standards and hypocrisy applied to Israel and yet I see this art as worthy and important.

To the extent that ii shows the difference, how Israel is in fact NOT (yet?) a truly fascist state, these exaggerations serve a useful purpose. In the way it underscores the logical development, the dangers, of theocracy in any form, this is legitimate art. Any art that unveils a veer toward authoritarianism is art with purpose.

For those on the ultra "left" who try to walk away with ammunition from this, good luck with your cartoon version of reality. For thoughtful people who want Israel to finish becoming a truly secular democracy, that puts human ahead of dogma, as you say, let this useful, distorting Art remind us all how True Believers in the Knesset are just as unwelcome as Imams with fatwah power over dissenters, or the advocates for thought-crime Ten Commandments being codified by the US Congress.

And maybe, just maybe, this will persuade some of our lundsmen that the rightist, theocratic settlers are the enemies of Israel security.
Facisim has lost all meaning outside of the base "totolitarian" myopia we have collectivly inflicted upon it.

If one were to truly examinine facisim in its purest forms, without the bias of the sins of Mussolini hanging over our eyes, we might yet see the benefits of a nation built upon the virtues of a strong centrist movement focused upon modernization.

With that said, I liked this piece.
Awesome! It is about time! Thank you!
I fail to see how anyone who has been following events in israel could possibly characterize the genocidal state in any way as being a democracy.

I would expect a state made up of individuals in aggregate to manifest the traumas and paranoia that we see. I repeat and expand for the slow, it is only to be expected that Israel would have some overcoming of fascism to do in it's future given the fascism to which it's members were subjected and normal human responses to such.
Only someone who passionately loves an ideal will risk ignominy and worse by warning the beloved who is heading into trouble that they are headed for trouble.
(R)ated for being that passionate lover of an ideal.
so the diference between jews and nazi is that the nazi beat them to it.
Case point warsaw/ gaza.

You guys might like to know that Zyklon B is still being made; its now called "Uragan D2"
Astonishing, the colors-with-crayons commentary here. It's like they skimmed the piece, took away "Jews!" "Hate!" "Nazi!" "Evil!" and said "Yo! Right on!"

All I can say is: Tony Judt. David Shulman. David Grossman. Leon Weiseltier. And you, too, Judy. Careful Thinkers who actually read history, understand Art as social commentary, and get that the difference between totalitarian, authoritarian, fascist, nazi, theocracy, deliberative democracy, republic, parliamentary autocracy, corporatist electoral state, MATTERS and profoundly so.

The millions of serfs and slaves and drones before us who manned the barricades and endured the nightsticks? would shake their heads in wonder at the blithe ignorance expressed in these comments, and give their lives to pass on a state like America or Israel or Denmark or even Turkey to their children.

Flawed as they all are, they are not fascist, feudal or totalitarian. As gratifying as it is to get vehement chins up and pretend they are to some patoots ans haters and self-righteous True Believers.

Yes, Virginia, there is a tragedy clause. It says all human endeavors are flawed, and worse yet, we have to read complex histories, think hard, doubt harder, embrace lovingkindness, and not pretend Satan is doing a jig beyond yonder wall.