“Fascism is not a product for export.” – Benito Mussolini, 1925

A mixture of repulsion and weird fascination was the reaction of many to the advertisement in the last election campaign in which Israel’s minister of justice modeled a vial of fictional perfume that bore a literally ideological label. It was a nifty idea, all in all, and the message was obvious: What her adversaries were smelling was not “fascism” but proper administration and a solid government.

The clip, as we know, did not salvage Ayelet Shaked’s campaign: Her party, Hayamin Hehadash, did not cross the electoral threshold this past April. However, the ad did raise a number of questions of both historical and contemporary interest: What is the “smell” of fascism? Can it be “smelled” at all? Has there ever been fascism in Israel, and if so, is it on its way back?

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