Harpaz, Guy, and Elisha Jacobsen. “The Israeli Collective Memory and the Masada Syndrome: A Political Instrument to Counter the EU Funding of Israeli Non-Governmental Human Rights Organizations.” Mediterranean Politics (early view; online first).
The EU’s practice of funding Israeli non-governmental human rights organizations (hereinafter ‘HRNGOs’) has in recent years encountered a counter-strategy, pursued by certain Israeli NGOs and members of the Israeli government, media and academia. This counter-strategy has succeeded in discrediting the HRNGOs and the EU and rendering their mutual collaboration less effective. The purpose of this article is to contextualize the counter-strategy within the sphere of Israel’s collective memory. The article analyses the manner in which certain politicians and various members of the Israeli society (agents of memory), who themselves are the product of the evolving Israeli collective memory and identity (structure), attempt to draw on Israel’s collective memory/structure in order to advance their particular political agenda.
Why do states responsible for unleashing violent nonstate actors fail to halt them despite rising costs and, at best, marginal utility? I argue that a historical-institutionalist approach helps scholars understand these dynamics. I present five path-dependent mechanisms—change in the balance of power, spiraling perception of threat, ideological shift among the public, state penetration, and weakening of the principle of state primacy—that diminish the prospects of policy reversals. I then demonstrate the usefulness of path-dependency analysis in the case of Israel’s entanglement with the Jewish messianic Right. Applying the theoretical framework sheds light on the process that brought Israel prohibitive costs—undercutting the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, undermining the state’s international standing, and weakening the state’s authority and democratic nature—and made policy reversal, in line with the state’s national interest and its responsibilities as a member of the international society, highly unlikely.
All the political parties in Israel, apart from Arab and ultra-Orthodox, define themselves as Zionist. The right in Israel identifies itself strongly as Jewish either in a religious or ethno-nationalistic sense or, more amorphously, in terms of the ‘politics of belonging’. In today’s political parlance in Israel, ‘Judaism’ is not a religion but a political ideology, best termed ‘political Judaism’, which claims the powers of religion: veracity, certitude, absoluteness and the polarity of good versus evil. To be a Jew according to the right means firstly not to be an Arab. To be on the left is tantamount to being an Arab because people on the left support Arabs. The right aspires to Jewish supremacy in Israel and says so explicitly. To be a Jew is not only to fulfill the religious qualification of being born to a Jewish mother; Jewish belonging is now expressed in primordial, essentialist, mystical terms. The politics of identity, of political Judaism, adds a McCarthyist rancour and an exclusionary dimension of banishment from the community to political divisions. To belong now requires unqualified loyalty.