As Israel moves to the openly racist far-Right, there is no longer any room for a hypocritical Zionist left that talked equality and practised ethnic cleansing
On Tuesday Israel will hold its second General Election of 2019. The last elections in April gave Netanyahu’s Likud and his Blue-White opponents 35 seats each. They also saw the Israeli Labour Party [ILP] nosedive, going from 24 to 6 seats and the left Zionist Meretz, cling on with 4 seats.
This time the ILP is forecast to get even fewer, possibly 4 or 5 seats and Meretz, which is now the Democratic Party, 5 or 6 seats. When you think that the ILP, or Mapai as it was before 1968, gained 46 seats in the 1949 elections with Mapam to its left gaining 19, then you can see the scale of decline. In 1949 Mapai leader David Ben-Gurion chose to form a government with the religious parties not Mapam.
In 1951 Mapai and Mapam gained 60 seats. In 1955 Mapai, Mapam and Ahdut gained 59 seats. In 1959 Mapai gained 47 seats and Mapam and Ahdut Ha’avodah gained 16 seats, an absolute majority of 63 out of 120.
As late as 1969 the Israeli Labour Alignment, which included Mapam and Ahdut gained 56 seats. From 1949 to 1977 the ILP/Mapai formed every single coalition government. The last time that the ILP was in this position was in the 1992 elections under Yitzhak Rabin when the ILP gained 44 seats and Meretz, which included Mapam, Shinui and Ratz, the Citizens Rights Party, gained 12 seats. Even then the government rested on the support of the Arab parties.
The ILP hasn’t formed a government in its own right since 1999 when Ehud Barak defeated Netanyahu for the post of Prime Minister. Within two years he had resigned and Likud’s Ariel Sharon became Prime Minister.
The ILP has seen a steady decline in the number of seats from 26 in 1999 to 19 in 2003 and 2006, 13 in 2009 and 15 in 2013. In 2015, after a merger with Tzipi Livni’s Hatnuah there was an increase to 24 seats. Labour’s new right-wing leader Avi Gabbay ditched Livni in the April 2019 elections and the ILP gained just 6 seats.
Meretz, which is all that remains of the left-Zionist Mapam, gained 5 seats in 2015 and 4 in April 2019. Even worse from its standpoint, it only managed to cling on to representation in the Knesset (where you now have to gain 3.25%) because it gained over 40,000 Israeli Palestinian votes. This was primarily due to the reaction of the Druze population to the Jewish Nation State Law. However for a Zionist party to rest on Arab votes is untenable, so Meretz has cooked up a deal with former Prime Minister Ehud Barak.
Barak is a war criminal having been responsible for the saturation bombing of Lebanon and for coining the phrase which Likud adopted that Israel ‘has no partner for peace.’ He also oversaw the murder of 13 Israeli Palestinians on Land Day in October 2000, which saw the start of the Second Intifada.
The alliance with Barak and Labour defector Stav Shaffir has been named the ‘Democratic Party’ and it is forecast that they will enter the Knesset. However it represents the last desperate throw of the dice of the Zionist left. Lacking any social programme worthy of the name and having little or nothing to say about the military occupation in the Occupied Territories and the expansion of the settlements, they can only resort to rearranging the deckchairs on what is the Zionists’ Titanic.
Labour Zionism founded and built the Israeli state through organisations and institutions such as the kibbutzim and Histadrut. Collective colonialism which was essential to building the state, is now an anachronism. There is no longer any need to pay lip service to social democracy still less socialism. Israel is now an openly racist society with a Prime Minister whose Facebook page bore the message that the ‘Arabs want to annihilate us all – women, children and men’.
For over half a century the ILP practiced ethnic cleansing at home, building Israel’s apartheid state whilst preaching the brotherhood of man abroad. It presided over a large state run economy with its ‘trade union’ Histadrut being Israel’s second largest employer. Today the Histadrut enterprises have all been privatised. There is no longer a Labour economy. Netanyahu’s Stabilisation Pact saw to that. Israel is the apostle of free market capitalism.
Israel no longer has a need for Labour Zionist hypocrisy. Zionism no longer needs to be Janus faced, one racist face turned inwards towards Israeli Jews and the other, social democratic face turned outwards to gullible world leaders and western public opinion.
Labour Zionism no longer has a role to play. Israel is aligned with the far-Right and Trump internationally. There is no longer a need for any pretence. Labour Zionism’s formulation of a Jewish Democratic State was always an oxymoron, a lie based on a contradiction. If the state was democratic then how could it be based on just one section of the population? By definition a Jewish state meant one which privileged Jews over non-Jews.
The reason that a second election is necessary is because Avigdor Lieberman, leader of Yisrael Beteinu, refused to join Netanyahu’s coalition after the April elections unless the Orthodox parties agreed that their supporters would serve in the Israeli army. Lieberman represents mainly Russian immigrants and is on the far-Right of Israeli politics, for example supporting the transfer of Israeli Arabs, whom he considers a fifth column, calling for them to swear a loyalty oath to Israel.
Nonetheless Lieberman represents secular racism in a state where racism is legitimised by a rabbinical caste. Much of Lieberman’s Russian base is either half-Jewish or non Jewish. Many Russian Jews are the equivalent of the Mishlinge (mixed race Jews) in Nazi Germany.
The cleavage between orthodox and secular Jews represents a fundamental division within Israel’s herren volk. It represents a division between Zionism’s secular origins and today’s messianic settler movement.
However it is a battle that the Orthodox will win because the whole ideological justification for Zionism is that it represents the ‘return’ of Jews to the Promised Land. Without the rabbis’ blessing, Israel’s claims to dispossess the Palestinians lack all moral justification, other than that of brute force.
If it wasn’t for the Palestinians Israel could be consumed by civil war. Hatred of the Palestinians provides the glue for Zionist unity in Israel much as anti-Semitism provided the ideological glue for the Nazi party.
Yet despite Lieberman’s virulent racism, many in the Labour Zionist parties consider that because he is anti-Netanyahu then he is somehow of the Left. There is an almost total failure by the Zionist ‘left’ parties to recognise that the problem is not Netanyahu but Zionism, the Jewish nature of the Israeli state is the real problem
It is no accident that a party such as Otzma Yehudit, which is the inheritor of Rabbi Meir Kahane’s Kach should be tipped to enter the Knesset with 4 seats, possibly as many as the ILP. In 1984 Kahane obtained 1 seat (at that time 1% of the vote entitled a party to enter the Knesset). Today with a plethora of far-Right and further Right parties, there is a distinct possibility that a Jewish neo-Nazi party will enter the Knesset.
Otzma Yehudit includes within its leadership Benzi Gopstein, leader of the fascist Lehava group which campaigns against mixed Jewish-Arab relationships and employs groups of thugs to physically attack Arab men suspected of seeking relations with Jewish women. In April Netanyahu successfully pressurised the United Right party to include Otzma Yehudit on its ticket. Today it is actively helping Otzma Yehudit to cross the electoral threshold.
Netanyahu himself is desperately trying to avoid corruption charges, if necessary by a statutory provision that exempts the Prime Minister whilst in office from criminal charges. This is what his election calculations are based around
The far-Right has coalesced in the Yamina list headed by former Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked. It is tipped to gain 9 seats. It consists of 3 parties – the New Right and the Union of Right-wing parties (itself a combination of Jewish Home and Tekuma).
The ultra-Orthodox Shas and United Torah Judaism will pick up between 14 and 16 seats.
It is impossible at present to predict the outcome. Netanyahu has excelled himself with the racist nature of his campaign. Even Facebook suspended his talking bot after a message appeared on his official Facebook page saying that all Arabs wanted to annihilate the Israelis. The message of Likud’s campaign is that the ‘leftist’ Blue and White Party will form a coalition government with ‘the Arabs’.
Blue and White is headed by former war criminal and Chief of Staff, Benny Gantz, responsibility for Operation Protective Edge in 2014 which murdered 2,200 Palestinians in Gaza including 550 children. There is no real difference in their attitude towards the Palestinians or Arabs between Netanyahu and Gantz.
Netanyahu accuses Blue and White of intending to form a ‘leftist’ government which includes the Arabs. Gantz denies that he will have anything to do with the Joint List which is made up of the Communist Hadash, United Arab List, Ta’al and Balad parties. This is the level of political debate in Israel today.
This kind of accusation is what is driving the election campaign. Instead of Benny Gantz, the leader of Blue and White saying ‘what does it matter if I form a government with the Arab parties’ he immediately denies any such intention. God forbid that Arab parties were included in a governing coalition.
The Arab parties and Hadash have reunited after the divisions of April
2019 but whether they can regain their former position after the 2015 elections when they gained 13 seats is doubtful. Whatever the result Israel is in for a period of instability as Netanyahu tries to fend off criminal charges. Unfortunately the ‘left’ in Israel today sees Netanyahu as the main problem not the racist anti-Arab society that Zionism has created. Netanyahu feeds off the racism of Israeli settler colonialism. He is not the cause.
It also seems clear that Israel politically is going to face a continued period of political paralysis. Neither Netanyahu nor Gantz is going to be able to form a coalition and indeed the obvious coalition is one between Likud and Blue and White or even between Likud and what remains of the Labor Party.
There is also talk of another attack on Gaza and a postponement of the election entirely, which might also suit Netanyahu as he seeks to evade his corruption charges.