Thought Crimes

Would Meryl Streep, Spike Lee, Tim Robbins or Susan Sarandon be willing to swear an oath of loyalty to the United States and its policies in order to receive public funding for feature films that they star in, direct or produce? In Israel, the far-right Knesset member Michael Ben Ari has proposed a bill that would require entire film crews to pledge allegiance to Israel as a Jewish and democratic state, and to declare loyalty to its laws and symbols, as a condition for receiving public funding. It’s just one of more than ten bills to be discussed during the Knesset’s winter session that several commentators in Ha’aretz have characterised as proto-fascist.

As in most democracies, all new Israeli citizens must declare loyalty to the state and its laws, but the cabinet last month decided to support (22 in favour, 8 against) an amendment to Israel’s citizenship law that would require all newly naturalised citizens to declare loyalty to the Jewish character of the state. In Britain, this would be like requiring Jews, Muslims and atheists who wish to become citizens to declare loyalty not only to the laws of the United Kingdom but also to the Church of England.

The Association for Civil Rights in Israel has warned that this amendment, which will soon become law, is the tip of an iceberg. Some of the bills now going through the Knesset, which have a good chance of being ratified, would make support for an alternative political ideology, such as the idea that Israel should be a democracy for all its citizens, a crime.

A proposed amendment to the existing anti-incitement bill, for instance, stipulates that people who deny Israel’s Jewish character will be arrested. This extension to the penal code, which has already passed its preliminary reading, incriminates a political view. Another bill lays the groundwork for turning down candidates for membership in communal settlements built on public land if they do not concur with the settlement committee’s political views or are adherents of a different religion. The point of this is to make it legal to deny Palestinian citizens of Israel access to Jewish villages.

Still another bill that has already passed its first reading stipulates that institutions marking the Palestinian Nakba of 1948 will be denied public funds. This is like denying public funding to schools in the United States that wish to commemorate slavery or to memorialise the crimes perpetrated against Native Americans.

Then there is a bill against people who initiate, promote, or publish material that might serve as grounds for imposing a boycott against Israel. According to this proposed law, which has also passed a preliminary reading, anyone proven guilty of supporting a boycott will be ordered to pay affected parties about $8000 without the plaintiff’s need to demonstrate any damages.

Finally, eight Knesset members are proposing a bill to ban residents of East Jerusalem from operating as tour guides in the city, potentially putting hundreds out of work. The rationale behind this is that Palestinian residents of Jerusalem should not be certified guides because they do not represent Israel’s national interest well enough ‘and in an appropriate manner’.

The sudden spate of these bills at this historical juncture is no coincidence. The struggle between the democratic demand that all citizens be treated equally and Zionism’s hyper-nationalist ideal seems to have been determined once and for all: Zionism’s aspiration to promote democratic values is giving way to its nationalist ethos.

Neve Gordon is the author of Israel's Occupation and can be reached through his website. Read other articles by Neve.

6 comments on this article so far ...

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  1. MichaelKenny said on November 6th, 2010 at 9:20am #

    The answer to the question in the first sentence is almost certainly yes! Not because the people named are in any way evil but simply because that is the normal working of human nature.

  2. Maien said on November 6th, 2010 at 10:04am #

    Mr Kenny, I disagree with the statement “because that is the normal working of human nature”. This certainly may be normalcy for those who have been educated and nurtured to the level of 8-12 year olds by religions which demand that humans stay as children run by their fears, addictions and demands (deception, greed, lust etc.) , producing a population that is so much simpler to control. I believe that even most religions would consider “sell-outs” like this to have some degree of evil. That is why we have terminology such as “sell-out” or “they would sell their soul for an extra buck, another drink, hoot, hit or a chance to ‘sleep’ with the latest hollywood pop tart/ bimbo”

    Your type of statement is used constantly by the power brokers and social scientists simply to keep the population dumb and obedient. Anyone…being told the same thing repeatedly (You are inferior, you’re dumb, you’re less…) will believe the nonsense and not even try to grow up. This is why..addiction and other control mechanisms are so necessary for the current rulers.
    I am sure that the occupiers of Palestine are simply practising and perfecting what they are planning to inflict on as much of the planet as they are able. The word Evil does come to mind. I expected more from you, Mr. Kenny, call it … what it really is….. rather, just like the powerbrokers, justifying their actions to themselves by deciding that “oh well, because humans are such immature idiots, it’s o.k. to be deceptive”.

  3. Don Hawkins said on November 6th, 2010 at 10:15am #

    Ok Kenny let’s take a deeper look.

    Would Meryl Streep, Spike Lee, Tim Robbins or Susan Sarandon be willing to swear an oath of loyalty to the United States and its policies in order to receive public funding for feature films that they star in, direct or produce?

    Hay I have this diamond is it a blood diamond that’s right they are all. Now the last person who owned this kind of drove over a cliff let’s just call him Randy he ended up in Canada and some say this diamond has a curse as much misery human misery to get it, yes that would be a good name for a movie. Have I got a deal for you four it was priced at a million but now because of it’s history and the misery I have reduced it to half that price. Come on we all know that this curse is just myth for the little people who want’s to start the bidding Meryl, Tim, yes spike what is it? Wasn’t that also Michael Jackson’s diamond. Ok you got me on that one let’s start at $250,000. Ok now your talking.

  4. Maien said on November 6th, 2010 at 10:28am #

    What is your problem Don Hawkins? Your posts seem to end interest in articles. I learn a lot from many of the commentators on this site as well as the excellent articles.
    Can’t you find another hobby? Or if you do have some intelligent motive here, could you become a little more transparent? Or are you being paid by someone to waste space. Get a grip, man! Get a life … one that has an actual visible purpose!

  5. Don Hawkins said on November 6th, 2010 at 11:02am #

    “A dog has the soul of a philosopher.”

    Don’t you just love the old philosophers?

  6. Maien said on November 6th, 2010 at 12:09pm #

    I enjoyed the article. Your last sentence, “Zionism’s aspiration to promote democratic values is giving way to its nationalist ethos.” you are assuming that Zionism actually had the original intention of promoting democratic values. This is a false assumption as history and the actions of Zionism speak very differently.