Rising Extremism in Israel

  • 7 April 2010

Since the Benjamin Netanyahu government came to power, the Middle East has suffered from the consequences of its decisions, which run counter to the road prescribed for peace. It has also become clear during this time that the extremist tendencies are not limited to the government alone but has come to be identified with the community as well. Such a phenomenon has been confirmed by recent opinion polls conducted by Israeli institutions. The Smith Institute poll, published by Israel’s Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper on Monday, has been the most significant.

This poll, and other similar ones, have revealed several dangerous trends in the Israeli society including the rising support, up to 61 percent, for extremist right-wing parties among youth under 30 years of age. The second significant finding is the growing military mindset which expresses itself through the overwhelming demand by young people to join combat units in the Israeli army. Thirdly, there has been a noticeable escalation of racial attitudes among youngsters. According to one opinion poll, 46 percent of Jewish secondary school students object to granting Palestinians equal rights even though legally they are Israeli citizens.

These are the result of a robust religious, educational and political ideology that implants hatred for Arabs in the minds of the youth and portrays Israel as a country engaged in a battle of existence with its neighbors. It is these racist ideas that justify acts of killing and genocide being practiced by Israel against Palestinians thereby undermining peace efforts and negotiations with Arabs. These growing extremist and racist trends inside the Israeli society also brought Netanyahu and members of his cabinet to power. It is also the ideology that this government leans upon in order to implement policies that hinder the peace process. Judaization of Jerusalem, threatening the Al Aqsa mosque despite the inherent dangers, persistently building colonies and ending hopes of any resumption of peaceful negotiations are the results of this line of thought.

The underlying danger to such a situation is that when extremist and racist tendencies gain foothold in any society, begins to control it and directs its positions, it becomes a time bomb that could explode at any time. This is what is happening in Israel, where a clear escalation in militant practices is noticeable. It is beginning to transcend the red lines with regard to occupied Palestinian territories and Islamic and Christian sanctities in a manner that might drag the entire region into conflict. If the international community did not move quickly and seriously to put an end to Israel’s extremist rightist aggressive policies, there might not be any limits to these practices and their dangerous results.