For a moment, it seemed there was a light at the end of Israel’s political tunnel. Although Benny Gantz’s Blue and White party won fewer Knesset seats in the March 3 election than Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party, sheer hatred of Netanyahu drove his former ally, the right-wing Avigdor Liberman, toward Gantz’s camp and what seemed like a narrow majority of support for a new government.
The idea was that Blue and White, with 33 seats, would create a coalition with the Labor-Gesher-Meretz center-left bloc (seven seats) and Liberman’s Yisrael Beiteinu party (seven seats) and get support “from the outside”— the Joint List, the mostly Palestinian bloc of parties which won a remarkable 15 seats. With Netanyahu’s coalition yielding only 58 seats, all Gantz would need is one more than that to form a government, under Israel’s parliamentary rules. It would be a highly unstable government, but it would at least avert yet another election on top of the three Israel has held in the last year. And it would augur Netanyahu’s long-awaited departure from the Prime Minister’s Office. Read more at Responsible Statecraft
In my most recent piece, I examine some questions which touch, at least tangentially, on Israel’s recent, and racist, so-called “Nation-State Law.” Despite that, I elected not to mention the new law in my piece.
I had a few reasons for that decision. First, there is a lot of work out there already on the law, and I don’t feel I have much to add to it. The New Israel Fund has had plenty to say about it and if you’d like to support their action around it, just click here.
More to the point, though, I see the nation-state law as just another step on a road Israel, unfortunately, committed to years ago. The rightward march, the consistent choice of nationalism over democracy, and the increasing hostility to all Palestinians, very much including citizens of Israel has been accelerating steadily, and this law is the logical next step in that evolution. It paves the way for the High Court in Israel to become more complicit in these processes, rather than slowing them a bit as it has done over the years.
But little else has changed with the bill and the current fight–despite it being one I am certainly interested in and definitely have a favored side in–is more a symptom than the disease. That disease is the one I dealt with in my last piece, the idea that a Palestinian person, regardless of political views, activities, or any other attributes, is, in and of herself, a threat to Israel and to Israeli people.
Therefore, I chose to focus on the root, one which I think is being overlooked as the fight over the nation-state bill is engaged. While I think it unlikely that the opposition to that law will end up winning this fight, it is not impossible. But even if it does, the root of the problem will remain and, at best, the absence of the new law will just mean the divisive and oppressive conditions it encourages will move ahead a little slower than they might.
The issue is equal rights. Do Palestinians deserve them or not? Nation-state law or no, that question is at the core of everything all those engaged in the question of Israel-Palestine are struggling over.
Last week, just ahead of the failed “Unite the Right” rally in Washington, Fox News commentator Laura Ingraham spewed some venomous anti-immigrant statements. She said that “in major parts of the country, it does seem that the America we know and love doesn’t exist anymore. Massive demographic changes have been foisted on the American people and they’re changes that none of us ever voted for and most of us don’t like.”
In about a decade, the Arabs between the Jordan and the Mediterranean will be a majority and the Jews a minority. The Jewish national home will become the Palestinian national home. We will be again, for the first time since 1948, a Jewish minority in an Arab state. I want to separate from the Palestinians. I want to keep a Jewish state with a Jewish majority. I don’t want 61 Palestinian MKs in Israel’s Knesset. I don’t want a Palestinian prime minister in Israel. I don’t want them to change my flag and my national anthem. I don’t want them to change the name of my country to Isra-stine.
Those remarks were made in June 2015, at the annual Herzliya Conference in Israel. Who made them? Benjamin Netanyahu? Or perhaps one of the far-right figures in his government such as Ayelet Shaked, Miri Regev, Avigdor Lieberman, or Naftali Bennett?
No, those words were uttered by Isaac Herzog, who was, at the time, the opposition leader and chair of the Labor Party, the largest part of Zionist Union coalition. He was the leader of the center-left in Israel. Notably, his words drew little attention. Laura Ingraham would wish for such indifference. Read more at Lobe Log
UPDATE 8/16: Labor chief Avi Gabbay took a while, but today did issue a very strong statement condemning the events in Charlottesville, clearly blaming the white supremacists and implicitly complaining about Trump’s response. Statement in Hebrew here, translation by Mikhael Manikin here
Author’s Note: This article was published just hours before Benjamin Netanyahu made his reprehensibly late and weak statement on Charlottesville. To this piece, which I hope you will read in full at LobeLog, I will add that Netanyahu’s pro forma statement was, in its way not just an imitation of Trump, but actually far worse. What we have seen here is an Israeli Prime Minister, one who has, over the years, been only too eager to cynically use anti-Semitism to defend holding millions of Palestinians without the most basic human and civil rights that most of us simply take for granted; to marginalize, demonize and physically imperil political opponents, activists and those who work for peace and human rights; and even to protect his own personal position, take his cues from a US President who supports, and seems very much to agree with, white nationalists and neo-Nazis. Netanyahu has truly shown the world what the “new anti-Semitism” is. It is not, as he and others would have it, a phenomenon of the “pro-Palestinian left.” It is certainly not connected in any way with supporters of a two-state solution. No, it is the phenomenon that Netanyahu has led in creating and cultivates today with his allies and friends in a white nationalist White House. It is the phenomenon, in the grand tradition of classical anti-Semitism, of differentiating between the good Jews and the bad Jews. What makes it new is that it is being done by Israeli leaders.
For Netanyahu, as with his friends in the Trump Administration, the Zionist Organization of America, Christians United for Israel and, yes, much (though not all) of AIPAC, among many other channels, the good Jews are the nationalists. For them, any ally is a good ally, no matter how anti-Semitic or racist, as long as they support Israel in all it does, particularly its occupation and denial of Palestinian rights. The good Jews are the Stephen Millers, the David Friedmans, the Jared Kushners, the Morton Kleins. The bad Jews are pretty much all the rest of us, including many Zionists who support two states, believe Palestinians deserve human rights, or just think that a small group of misogynistic, anachronistic orthodox rabbis do not have the right to dictate Judaism to all of us.
It couldn’t be more clear. Netanyahu, already well established as a racist (we have not forgotten the last election, just to name a relatively recent and very blatant example), has sided with white nationalists, Jewish nationalists, even European nationalists (see the article for more on this) against the vast majority of the Jewish people, including against most Israeli Jews. Never forget it. And think it through clearly as you consider your politics regarding Palestine, Israel, and the Jewish people.
Israel’s Silence on Charlottesville
The awful events in Charlottesville, Virginia this past weekend presented politicians with an opportunity to score an easy political point, simply by condemning the white supremacists who sparked the violence. Many politicians took advantage of that opportunity. That included right wing politicians such as Senators Marco Rubio (R-FL), John McCain (R-AZ), and Orrin Hatch (R-UT), as well as the Vice President, Mike Pence. German Chancellor Angela Merkel was the most prominent of international voices deploring the display of racism and bigotry.
US President Donald Trump, by contrast, condemned violence “on many sides,” and for two days pointedly refused to criticize the racist thugs who brought their march of hate to Charlottesville, one of whose number is a blatant murderer. For this, Trump was sharply criticized by Democrats and Republicans, until finally, today, he was forced to condemn the right wing violence and name some of the hate groups—even though they support him.
But there is silence coming from another corner, one that is far more surprising. That deafening silence is coming from the Israeli government, and most notably from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Netanyahu has a long history of condemning anti-Semitism, both real and imagined. He has played a huge role in creating the narrative that virtually all support for Palestinian rights and criticism of Israel’s human rights record is rooted in anti-Semitism. Until recently, he rarely missed an opportunity to raise the specter of anti-Semitism.
NOTE: The following piece is purely my own view. While anything on this blog that is not a piece written for the Foundation for Middle East Peace may not reflect the Foundation’s view, this piece in particular is a personal opinion. To date, the Foundation has not decided whether to make any statement about the policy platform issued by the Movement for Black Lives. The views here are strictly my own. They should not be taken as being in any way reflective of FMEP’s views, nor should this disclaimer be interpreted as meaning that FMEP disagrees with the views expressed here in part or whole.
A collection of groups that are part of the Black Lives Matter Movement have released an historic document. It is a policy platform that is broad in scope and wide-ranging in vision. Naming themselves the Movement for Black Lives (MBL), the 50 organizations do not claim to speak for any but themselves, but they clearly represent a large portion of the Black community in the US and of the Black Lives Matter movement.
So far, the opposition to the MBL platform has mostly come from the right wing. Liberals and leftists are either supportive or, I suppose, silent about any reservations they may have. But one controversy has been raging throughout the political spectrum, at least with in the Jewish community, and, not surprisingly, it’s about Israel. Two paragraphs are at issue:
“The US military accounts for over 50 percent of discretionary federal spending, a total of 598.5 Billion dollars spent annually, as compared to 70 billion spent on education, 66 billion spent on healthcare, $63.2 billion spent on housing and 29.1 billion spent on social security and unemployment. In addition, approximately 3 billion dollars in US aid is allocated to Israel, a state that practices systematic discrimination and has maintained a military occupation of Palestine for decades. Together with aid to Egypt — Israel’s most important regional ally — this figure represents nearly 75 percent of all US aid dollars. As these figures demonstrate, resources and funds needed for reparations and for building a just and equitable society domestically are instead used to wage war against a majority of the world’s communities.”
“The US justifies and advances the global war on terror via its alliance with Israel and is complicit in the genocide taking place against the Palestinian people. The US requires Israel to use 75 percent of all the military aid it receives to buy US-made arms. Consequently, every year billions of dollars are funneled from US taxpayers to hundreds of arms corporations, who then wage lobbying campaigns pushing for even more foreign military aid. The results of this policy are twofold: it not only diverts much needed funding from domestic education and social programs, but it makes US citizens complicit in the abuses committed by the Israeli government. Israel is an apartheid state with over 50 laws on the books that sanction discrimination against the Palestinian people. Palestinian homes and land are routinely bulldozed to make way for illegal Israeli settlements. Israeli soldiers also regularly arrest and detain Palestinians as young as 4 years old without due process. Every day, Palestinians are forced to walk through military checkpoints along the US-funded apartheid wall.”Continue reading →