Practice Imagining Fascism

On the evening of Septemeber 30, 2011 a group of forty activists from the Solidarity Movement drove to Anatot, a Jewish settlement ten-minutes from Jerusalem, to non-violently protest the violence meted out to a Palestinian farmer that morning. Sara Benninga, one of the leaders in Solidarity, wrote a moving account of her experience. at 

Dear Sara,

Thank you for writing about the night “you came in close contact with fascism,” the night your perception changed. The Supreme Court of Israel had ruled that this Palestinian farmer’s private land had been illegally expropriated by Anatot’s  movable fence and that he had every right to till his soil. But the residents of Anatot spit on the decisions of the Supreme Court just as they spat on you and your friends when you stood at the settlement’s gate. They called you “slut,” “whore” and “traitor.” When the gate opened, they beat you with fists, rocks and clubs. They kicked you to the ground, threatening “to fuck you over” and to kill you. One of the attackers wielded a knife. While the crowd attacked your group, Israeli police stood nearby, silent, watching. Worse than your bloody lip and the black eyes, broken nose and smashed head of your friends, was your emotional pain–feeling abandoned by the people who were supposed to protect you, the Israeli police. Protection collapsed. Some of the attackers from Anatot were themselves off-duty policemen. 

Protection Collapsed

In your report you say that before this night you could not imagine fascism. You are not alone, Sara. Most of the people in Israel cannot imagine fascism. Most of the Jews in Germany and Holland, even in the early 1940’s, could not imagine fascism. It’s hard to connect the dots—a law here, a ruling there; broken window here, graffiti there; silence here, apathy there—until it’s too late and the dots become a wall with no exit.  We fail to put the pieces together because we cannot bear to imagine  the home we love becoming a fascist state. That’s why it’s important for us all to practice imagining fascism. I use that word cautiously, though, because it is overused and mis-used. Let us say that Israel has become a state of bullies who use violence to suppress opposition. Thus, it behooves us all to study the rise of fascist states.

As long as the violence against Palestinians took place in the occupied territories, we didn’t see, we didn’t hear, we didn’t know. We could continue to delude ourselves in our quiet lives that we lived in a democratic country. It took the courage of your generation, Sara, to break the silence. Don’t let others belittle you now by saying you lived in “a bubble.” You were “naïve.” You were “privileged.”  We were all duped into not looking, not hearing, not knowing.  Other than a few brave journalists and activists, we all lived in the same naïve privileged bubble.

Never let your self-doubt or others’ critical words stop you from telling your story.  These words—naïve and privileged—become the voice of the inner critic with which every writer must contend. This is the voice that can silence you. Ignore this voice, Sara.  Remember, the blood dripped from your lips.  The horror really happened; it is happening here and now in the land we love.  The “civilized façade” falls and we are face to face with the monster.

It is instructive that your night of horror, the night that changed your perception of where you live, took place in Anatot, birthplace of Jeremiah, prophet of doom. Nobody wanted to listen to him either. The authorities tried to silence him. But 2,500 years later it is the prophet’s words that can give you and me and all those who are scared of losing their democratic State of Israel to the Israeli bullies faith to carry on the struggle:

For a voice of wailing is heard out of Zion. How are we ruined! 


About Judy Labensohn

I'm a writer and teacher of writing.
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7 Responses to Practice Imagining Fascism

  1. estherhecht says:

    Thank you so much for this. Outside Israel, it is too easy to pretend this is not happening.
    I’ve just finished reading a memoir titled The Nazi Officer’s Wife and again I’ve begun to understand how easy it was not to connect the dots, as you say. Please continue to speak out as loudly and clearly and powerfully as you have this time.


  2. Jane A says:

    Thank you for writing this,, Judy. And to Sara and the group who paid the physical & emotional price for standing up against the Establishment. What courage. At Yom Kippur, it gives us much to contemplate. I plan to share this blog with my friends– make good use of the “social” media.

    Here, at the moment, we have police bullying the peaceful demonstrators in NY. There’s unrest around the world. What a time to be living in…..


  3. Joan Leegant says:

    Judy, thanks for posting this and being willing to speak out. You give the rest of us courage to do the same. Your blog is not only wonderfully written; it’s critical for helping those of us outside Israel, who love Israel and care deeply about its future, to appreciate and convey the full weight of these very dire developments.


  4. Pingback: A Personal Note to Readers « Seven Months in Tel Aviv

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