Israel's Rightward Turn

Evron, Nir
Date Written:  2022-11-16
Publisher:  Dissent Magazine
Year Published:  2022
Resource Type:  Article
Cx Number:  CX24778

The backlash against the increasingly vocal demands for recognition and equality on the part of Israel’s Arab citizens has decisively shaped twenty-first-century Israeli politics.



According to a 2016 Pew survey, 79 percent of Jewish Israelis believe it is right for the country’s laws to favor Jewish over non-Jewish citizens, and 48 percent support the transfer or forced expulsion of Arabs from the country. These numbers track with the results of the previous elections. In 2021, only around 10 percent of Israel’s Jewish population voted for parties with any kind of commitment to egalitarian values. Political figures who have espoused openly transferist agendas—a position once considered outside the bounds of political legitimacy—now proudly occupy Knesset seats, and their numbers are predicted to grow significantly in the upcoming elections in November.

How did we get here? Why did Israel’s Jewish majority shift so decisively to the right? When did Israel begin its transformation into a majoritarian illiberal democracy?

Some would argue that it is misguided to ask why Israel is becoming increasingly illiberal. Israel, they would say, is not, never has been, and cannot by its very nature become a liberal democracy. True, Israel has never regarded the members of its Arab minority as equal citizens, let alone treated them as such. This is not a bug but a feature of Israel’s self-definition as a Jewish state—a project devoted to the welfare and future of an ethnically defined majority. Consequently, the best a young Palestinian citizen of Israel can hope for is to live as a second-class citizen in her country of birth, hemmed in on all sides by legal, economic, and cultural impediments designed to keep her in her place. The worst she can rationally fear, especially if she follows the explicit statements of political and thought leaders on the hard right, is far worse. So it has ever been for Israel’s Palestinian citizens.

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