Israel Stares Down the Abyss into Full Fledged Apartheid
April 16, 2019
Israeli elections are a done deal by now. Benjamin Netanyahu launches himself into a record fifth term as prime minister. This makes him Israel’s longest serving PM. A campaign punctuated by hatred of the Palestinian will now be a ground level agenda.
Throughout the campaign, Netanyahu invoked the Nation-State Law as one of his cornerstones. He unashamedly asserted the hideous principles of apartheid, of racism, and of impending harsher colonialist practices by the Israeli state. Painting Palestinians in images of the enemy, he told his audiences that he would return them from ‘our land’ to ‘their lands’.
That is clearly code for expulsion. For those who have studied Netanyahu’s political tendencies, it is clear that he will follow his rhetoric with policies and practice along the lines of his election rhetoric. These will be discriminatory and repressive in dangerous ways, and can set back the Palestinian condition by many years.
Netanyahu is not alone. He has allies in a coalition of parties from the right, all of which live on a diet of hate and racist inequality. Any opposition within Israel, be it in the political arena or civil society, is too undersized to matter.
Netanyahu’s planned colonialist measures include a move to annex the West Bank, where more than 2.5 million Palestinians live under a military regime that treats them separately and unequally from Jewish Israelis living beside them in illegal settlements.
Under this regime, Israel systematically violates Palestinian rights with impunity. It was central to his election tactics and paid excellent dividends as far as he was concerned. It attracted more voters when combined with the other political carrot of sorts: ‘Head for the polls in droves; it’s what the Palestinians are doing in masses.’
Netanyahu also used the social media to the hilt in stirring up fear and hate muddled in a deadly cocktail to win.
And yet, while he may have ended up being first past the post, he barely scraped through. He made it by allying with parties who are possibly even more extreme than his own Likud. One must ask: Did the voters have a real choice? It seemed a contest to show who would conquer more Palestinian land than the other, and who would bring more grief to the Palestinians than the other. It was really a crude competition about who would be the worse tyrant and who would be more genocidal.
In the end, Netanyahu won the race only because he could muster more partners for his pledge to be more genocidal than anyone else in the past.
What lies ahead is daunting to say the least. Trump will soon announce his deal of the century. Every hint about what it contains suggests that the ‘deal’ will critically distress the Palestinians and privilege Israel.
The truth is that Trump shaped Netanyahu’s victory, by what he said, what he did not say, and what his administration selectively leaked to the Israeli voter. Trump dealt some aces for Netanyahu, gifting the Golan Heights to Israel, which is land stolen from Syria in 1967, and not Trump’s to give.
This allowed Israeli voters to see that their founding bases were being actualised. After all, Israel was created on the back of a vision to achieving a state with a Jewish ethnic majority – after considering many other locations, the founders settled on occupying as much as possible of Palestine and surrounding regions.
This was and will continue to be sustained by billions of dollars in the form of US military and economic aid, designed to ensure that Israel remains the most powerful military in West Asia.
The policies of the Trump-Netanyahu combine will throw the region into some form of chaos, and carry forward the colonial agenda of the Americans and Israelis by sowing divisions among Arabs. Already, Saudi Arabia and Egypt have made calculations about the costs and benefits of a tacit Israeli affiliation.
Europe will be inconsequential because all they can possibly do is condemn and disapprove, and little else. They live in the comfort of a guilt-complex that suits their sympathy for the Jews, and their self-interests in the region. Their own policies resemble the racist agenda of Israel and the US. Therefore, one does not expect a surge of calls to isolation and punishment.
Israel will remain unsanctioned. For wouldn’t it be anti-Semitic to sanction it? they’ll ask, muddling the colonial ideology of Zionism with the racial category ‘Semite’, this time held not to include the ‘Arab’.
It is a slur on classical democratic traditions that Israel could produce such a result as obtained in elections where a trail of aggression, racism and conflict made somebody its longest-serving prime minister. Netanyahu even overcame serious charges of corruption to prevail. His third consecutive term comes on the back of the most hateful and racist campaign, which will be propped up by the ruling group of right-wing parties, some of which demand a devastating war on Gaza and the expulsion of Palestinians from their land.
But it’s not just Netanyahu and his Likud partners. Racism against Arabs is embedded in Israeli society, so much so that even so-called left-wing parties repudiate Palestinian refugees’ right to return to Israel, and do so in the guise of shielding Israel’s ‘security’.
There are few in Israel who do not want to see Israel’s extension of settlements across the occupied West Bank. As long as this remains central to the Israeli political and social schema, the prospect of a separate state for Palestinians diminishes. So, never mind how the government looks, or for that matter Israel’s parliament the Knesset – Palestinians will not expect voices of solidarity from within it.
Netanyahu’s main opponent, Benny Gantz, an ex-army general is as rabid as Netanyahu despite his supposedly ‘centrist’ or even ‘left’ leanings. During the election campaign Gantz flexed his muscles vainly advertising that, as head of Israel’s military during its 2014 war on the Gaza Strip, he flung parts of Gaza ‘back to the stone age’. Other smaller parties in the coalition have just about identical radical choices.
The extermination of the Palestinian is not a term that was spelled out. But isn’t it intended by almost all? In the final analysis, an election that should have been about Israel in the main, turned out to be one on the question of Palestine. It won Netanyahu victory although he and his opponents fought on more or less the same platform.
It may or may not be a cakewalk for Israel going forward. Annexing Palestinian land means including the substantial Palestinian population that will come with it. That, in turn, threatens its Jewish majority – not to mention the growing population of Arabs who are second-class citizens within Israel.
These facts present Israel with an either/or set of choices. To overcome resistance and opposition to exclusionary policies, Israel will resort to heightened violence against Palestinians. The other choice is for Israel to surrender its pick of being an exclusively Jewish state. This in Israeli politics would be suicidal.
Netanyahu does not have clear assurances that the US will offer sightless cover for any plans to annex the settlements. Trump’s evangelical base might stoutly approve, but it’s not that simple. The question is: how will Israel rule territory where Palestinians comprise the majority, without facing tough ethical and political consequences?
Israel cannot be both Jewish and democratic, and this is the abyss into full-fledged apartheid.
The lone answer that remains is a single, secular state for Jews and Arabs, with equal democratic rights. But that would imply radically challenging the Israeli state, not measly internal tinkering and reform. The answers do not lie within the realm of romanticism. Which political force will summon the courage to go down this path?
First published in The Citizen.
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