B. Michael : Inside the Mind of the Budding Fascist

Along the way to full, official fascism — especially fascism based on religious, ethnic or racial identity — a society must experience two critical stages.

The first is the complete dehumanization of “the “Other” — that is, members of a different religion, nation or race. In the mind of the budding fascist, they must cease to be human beings. They must instead be turned into animals without rights, dangerous objects, natural threats. Or, in contemporary language, they must be turned into “two-legged animals” and “wild beasts” from the jungle beyond the fence. This makes it easier for the nascent fascist to subjugate and abuse them, to deprive them of their rights and property and ultimately to kill them like pests.

Last week Israeli society proved it passed this stage with flying colors. The dehumanization of the Palestinian “other” is complete. In the neofascist Israeli consciousness, the Palestinians are like cockroaches. Even when they lie on the ground, helpless, their heads must be crushed with a slipper, or punctured by a bullet. Such is the fate of the cockroach.

But the act of the soldier-murderer in Hebron was not the proof of the completion of the first stage. It was only the last in a long, bloody series of similar acts. (I know, he hasn’t been tried yet. It’s wrong to call him a murderer already. I’m only applying to him what I’ve learned from the saints in the right wing. They bestow terms such as “murderer” and “terrorist” on Palestinians without waiting for an investigation, trial or verdict. So why can’t I?)

The response of the witnesses to the act attested to the completion of the dehumanization process. The total indifference. The relaxed calm. The silent, routine consent. It was as though a rat had been run over, as though a mosquito had been squashed. And when it was done, there was the soldier’s smiling handshake with one of the thugs of the late right-winger Rabbi Meir Kahane. The response to that too was indifference and tolerance.

All doubt has therefore been removed; we can check off the “dehumanization” box and move to the next stage.

Discomfitingly enough, to explain this next stage I must resort to an ancient German word, vogelfrei. Its literal meaning is “free as a bird,” but its meaning as a legal term is “fair game, like a bird.” In other words, an outlaw, whose property and whose very body are up for grabs. Even his life. Anyone who hurts or robs him will not be held accountable. If he is murdered, his body will not be buried.

The term originates in the Middle Ages, but it was revived in the 20th century. Gypsies, homosexuals, blacks, some Poles and members of a nation that has meanwhile managed to forget the lessons of its past, were semi-officially but publicly declared vogelfrei. A despicable government deprived them of their rights, looted their property and allowed them to be killed.

The sickening commotion now being raised by the supporters and defenders of the attacker from the Israel Defense Forces is about precisely this issue. It’s about completing phase 2. It’s about carrying out their desire to make the Palestinian “other” vogelfrei as well. Fair game. Deprived of all legal protections, so that they can maltreat him without hindrance, hurt him without having to justify their behavior. Plunder his property with impunity. And, of course, to shoot him at any time, without encountering the annoying questions of some traitorous minority, whose day is also coming.

It is fitting that Naftali Bennett and Avigdor Lieberman should lead this riff raff. From their perspective, so it would seem, the Palestinians have long become vogelfrei.

B. Michael

Haaretz Contributor
read more: http://www.haaretz.com/opinion/.premium-1.711887


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