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When looking at the Israeli far right we can see the impact of the way in which it was created on their future and modern far right attitude. The spread of far-right politics in Israel is so vast that it seems forever embedded in the system, especially when the left side of the spectrum is so scattered and subsequently too weak to present an opposition. Many of Israel’s far-right parties have radical tendencies, especially when the power is in the hands of a very controversial far-right politician such as Nahyanhu whose reluctance, much like other far-right leaders, remains strongly skewed against Muslim Arabs. The entitlement and ideology behind their settler colonialism is present in many of the extremist groups that have operated and are operating in Israel today. The common ideological foundations of these groups is the removal of Palestinians from their land. The international roots of many of these groups is also explored, with the influence of Russia in the government and the US in non-governmental issues.  

Historical roots of fascism / far right in Israel?

            Israel is a settler-colonial state. Settler colonialism is the process by which a foreign people invade a territory under the oversight of an imperial power and establish settlements as part of a larger colonial project that involves the necessary displacement of the indigenous population. That larger colonial project, was in this case, Zionism. It is important to note that while some settler colonies, like the US and Australia, started as colonial movements which became national movements, Zionism started as a national movement which eventually became settler-colonial. This Zionist settler-colonial project ultimately operated on the imperialist paradox of Palestine existing as both an empty territory and one filled with “ignoble or perhaps even dispensable natives” (Edward Said, 1979).

Vladimir (Ze’ev) Jabotinsky was an early Zionist thinker and founder of Revisionist Zionism, which followed the legacy of Theodore Herzl and “political zionism.” Revisionist Zionism became the base for right-wing politics in Israel and insisted on the occupation of the full territory. Jabotinsky captures the essence of this settler-colonial project in “The Iron Wall” (1923): “There can be no voluntary agreement between ourselves and the Palestine Arabs. […] The native populations, civilised or uncivilised, have always stubbornly resisted the colonists, irrespective of whether they were civilised or savage.” This implies the necessity of ridding Palestine in order to found the new Zionist state. Edward Said states: the “implicit assumption of domination led specifically in the case of Zionism to the practice of ignoring the natives for the most part as not entitled to serious consideration.” This created the context and foundation for the ethnic cleansing of Arabs in Palestine and the mass fleeing that occured due to Israeli settlements. This settler-colonial dynamic materializes both in the Israeli government and its right-wing parties as well as in extremist groups operating in Israel. 

What far-right parties are active? What defines them as far-right/fascist/radical right?

Infamous radical right-wing parties, include but are not limited to the messianic Gush Emunim, committed to establishing Jewish settlements in the West Bank, recently assassinated Meir Kahane’s violent Kach party, the Tehiya party, which articulates an ultra-conservative agenda in parliament, and the Moledet party which demands the “transfer” i.e. deportation of all the Arabs of the West Bank to the surrounding Arab countries.

Today, Israel’s political outlook does not seem much different than its past. Since 1977, Likud was only truly out of power for 9 years. In all other occasions, Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s longest-serving Prime Minister to date and leader of the Likud, recognized that any space for dialogue with Palestinians was closed off. He thus brought the far right into his numerous administrations and managed to sustain its presence by making use of Israel’s stability stance in contrast with a continuous international unrest. Furthermore, discrediting democratic components in an often violent setting across the Middle East, Likud managed to strengthen its position in government and shift public opinion further to the right. 

Israel’s proportionate representation political system with its relatively low election threshold that is required to get a seat in the Knesset (3.25% since 2015) promotes a multi-party system in which various parties can be represented but none can get the necessary 61 seats to form a majority government. Hence, when a coalition is formed to get a majority, it is also difficult to overthrow. Although Likud has been one of the most successful parties of Israel, a great significance should be placed on other smaller right-wing factions that helped make up this majority in government. Other right-wing parties with seats in the Knesset are the Blue and White, the Shas, Yisrael Beiteinu, United Torah Judaism and Yamina. 

Why is it salient that Netanyahu remains in power? The PM has been widely criticised about his radical rhetoric: “In our neighbourhood, we need to protect ourselves from wild beasts” referring to Palestinians in 2016. Under his rule, the far right seems to blossom while internationally, he is renowned to have strong ties with other highly controversial figures of racist and radical far right origin, including Hungary’s PM Viktor Orban who is a far-right leader but who would much rather side with Israel than Muslim Arabs. 

Other than the parties already mentioned, there are a number of far right parties that are considered radical in Israel today. These include: 

  • The Jewish Home, closely tied to Kahanism and Otzma Yehudit, which has also been labeled as Kahanist (extremist Jewish ideology) and anti-Arab, one member of which was criticised for the instigation of Arab departion from the Land of Israel
  • Eretz Yisrael Shelanu, whose leader is a leading activist against “all territorial compromises to Palestinians” and has ties with right-wing elements in the settler movement, including Baruch Marzel’s neo-Kach party, The Jewish Front: “calling on iDF soldiers to refuse orders to evacuate Jewish homes and calls to populate illegale settlements”.
  • The National Union-Tkuma, an Orthodox Jewish, religious Zionist far-right party, violently against territorial concessions, with some members supporting the annexation of the entire West Bank. Homophobia and religion is again deeply rooted in its ideology, much like most far-right groups.  
  • The Jewish National Front, whose former leader was Baruch Marzel, the right-hand man of Rabbi Meir Kahane, once again, promoting the extremist Jewish ideology of Kahanism that initially drove the Jewish Defense League and the Kach party (labeled a Foreign Terrorist Organization) to anti-arab, racist activism. Arabs are portrayed as the enemy of the state, one that should be theocratic, where non-Jews do not benefit from voting rights.
  • Kach, a radical Orthodox Jewish ultranationalist party, although not as active and declared terrorist even by the State of Israel, still have a following of about 100 people. The party used explosives or firearms against civilians and property, including an attempt to bomb a Palestinian girls school in East Jerusalem. The US reports that the party has also conspired to carry out assassinations and to solicit funding from American Kahanists. Together with Ben-Zion Gopstein, Itamar Ben-Gvir and Michael Ben-Ari, the former Kach leader Marzel became founding members for the Lehava movement (or the “Prevention of Assimilation in the Holy Land”) including the opposition of inter-racial marriages and relationships between Jews and non-Jews, as well as other more violent forms of racial activism such as the burning of Christian churches. 

Are there any extremist/violent groups operating in the country? What acts of terror have they been responsible for?

One extremist group that operated in Israel is Gush Emunim. This group was founded in 1974 and the creation of the “Jewish Underground” in 1978 was an extreme reaction to the Camp David Accords, which established a historic peace treaty between Israel and Egypt. The ideology of the group requires members to become pioneers and to “personally settle all the territories of Eretz Israel that were recovered by the Joshuas of our time” (Sprinzak 1989, p. 180). Ehud Sprinzak claimed this group was founded on special territorial fundamentalism over Palestinian land (ibid., p. 180). The group have been known for violent intent, and until 1980 the primary agenda of the group was to blow up of the “abomination” Muslim Dome of the Rock (ibid., p.176). A more contemporary extremist group operating in Israel is the Temple Mount and Eretz Yisrael Faithful Movement. This is an Orthodox Jewish movement based in Jerusalem with the goal to rebuild the Third Jewish Temple on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem (Hasson 2012). This group is attempting to operate within Israeli law, and is no longer a fringe group but is instead becoming mainstream (ibid). The work of the group have led to arrests over fear of their actions inciting violence as they continue to pioneer for authority over holy Muslim land. Finally, the Jewish Defense League (JDL), although founded and originated in America by Meir Kahane is a violent extremist Jewish organization with branches having developed in Israel. This group has been and continues to be extremely active in the Israeli far-right. The group deny any Palestinian claims to now Israeli land and goes as far as to call for the removal of all Arabs from the “Jewish-inherited soil”. An example which demonstrates violent activity in Israel is the killing of 29 Muslim worshippers in the West Bank, by the JDL-inspired attacker Baruch Goldstein in 1994 ( These three extremist groups, ranging from the 1970s to the present day, are demonstrative of the reach and prevalence of extremist groups in Israel.

Is the far-right in this country looking globally for influence? Can you find evidence of global connections between the far-right in this nation and others?

            International  cooperation between the Israeli far-right and foreign far-right actors generally takes two forms: government-backed and anti-governmental. Israeli government-backed far-right cooperation manifests in several cases. Perhaps the most publicly scrutinized case is the contemporary relationship between Israel and two members of the UN permanent security council: the US and Russia. Russian President Vladimir Putin has taken largely pro-zionist stances throughout his career, including as recently as September of this year referring to Israel as a “Russian-speaking country” and that Israelis and Russians are “connected by ties of family, kinship and friendship” (JTA). Putin’s far-right rhetoric and nationalist sensibilities are largely in line with those of the increasingly far-right Israeli state, including three consecutive Israeli PMs from the conservative/far-right party Likud, which has also taken a pro-Russia stance. Israel’s relationship with the US is bolstered less by a mutual nationalism and rather more by a strong faction of identity Christian politics that compels a Christian Zionism (CUFI), which is coupled by a weak counter by the largely liberal American-Jewish community which tends to be more supportive of zionism (IfNotNow), and has huge financial leverage as a product of the military industrial relationship going back decades (Mintz).

More public extreme-right action has been a part of Israel’s history. This is usually facilitated by “diaspora Jews” (religious Jews born and still living outside of Israel) who feel their home country is in some way failing and that the Israeli state is being weakened by outside forces. The most infamous practitioner of extreme-right action like this is Meir Kahane. Meir Kahane, as a member of the Jewish Defense League as discussed earlier, was connected to a number of plots of domestic terrorism in the united states including plots to kidnap a Soviet diplomat and lead an attack on other Soviet dignitaries (Neff). Kahane eventually made aaliyah, the religious pilgrimage to Israel with intent to settle that many diaspora Jews choose to make. In Israel he established his own far-right pseudo-biblical party, Kach. Kach received enough to support to land Kahane a seat in the Knesset in which he pushed for ultra-nationalist, religious, and extremist politics. In this case a far-right zionist extremist traveled from the US to Israel and, while a US citizen, established a radical right-wing party. Despite Kahane having been assassinated in New York in 1990, and his party being outlawed in Israel, his message is still frighteningly tenacious in Israeli discourse (Guggenheim). 

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