Tony Greenstein | 04 March 2020 | Post Views:

Israel’s General Election: Despite Indictments for Corruption Netanyahu Comes Out a Clear Victor

Israel’s Election Marks the Decline of Secular Zionism and the Death throes of Labour Zionism

Aymen Odeh of the Joint List meets leftist Jewish voters in a Tel Aviv cafe

Israel’s third general election in a year has shown a decisive shift to the Zionist Right but whether it will be sufficient to enable Netanyahu to cobble together a coalition is doubtful. According to the latest count Likud are predicted to gain 37 seats however the bloc with the religious parties – United Torah Judaism, Shas and the religious settler party Yamina – will fall 2 short of an overall majority.

These results are however provisional until the final tally next Tuesday and a Likud bloc may with the votes of soldiers increase their seats by one whilst still falling tantalisingly short

Aymen Odeh – leader of the Joint List – the only party bar Likud to gain more seats in the election – however Arab parties aren’t allowed to take part in Israel’s government

If early exit polls are correct then Netanyahu, even if he doesn’t get his get-out-of-jail free card in the form of immunity from prosecution, has faced down the challenge of the Generals Party in Blue and White (Kahal Lavan), led by former Chief of Staff, Benny Gantz.

Unless Likud and Blue and White form a grand alliance then Israel is stuck in a political quagmire. However appearances can be deceptive. What is clear is the political direction of wind is towards Zionist religious orthodoxy and against secularism which is what Blue and White represents

A Palestinian Arab voting in Israel’s election

This election not only marks the final death of two states, as both Likud and Blue and White are committed to annexing the settlement blocs, but both parties campaigned on who was most hostile to the Arabs. From the perspective of the Palestinians there isn’t a piece of paper that can be put between Gantz and Netanyahu.

Historically Zionism saw itself as a secular movement and indeed it was a political reaction to anti-Semitism, albeit of a special kind. The early Zionist leaders were atheists however secular Zionism with its focus on Palestine as the land of colonisation (although Theodor Herzl had suggested Argentina as an alternative) had its Achilles heel. These atheistic Zionists, Ben Gurion, Golda Meir and Moshe Sharrett, all based their claim to Palestine on the biblical claim that god had given the land to the Jews. In other words they based their right to colonise Palestine on the god whose existence they denied!

It is a contradiction that has woven a thread through all the lies and dissimulation of Zionism’s propagandists about the Jewish ‘right of return’ to Palestine. To them the Old Testament was not so much a religious tract as a historical document. The myth of the Jewish ‘return’ to Palestinian served as Zionism’s land deeds. To the religious however the Bible was much more than mere myth but the guide to the how a Jewish state might be constructed.

Labour Zionism from its very beginning had struck up a faustian pact with its religious counterparts. Israel today is paying the price in the growth of Jewish messianism, the ideology that underpins settlement on the West Bank

Likud’s racist base celebrates

With the capture of the Occupied Territories Jewish Messianism became a major political factor in Israeli and Zionist politics, the ideology of the settler right together with the movement to rebuild the third temple, animal sacrifices and all. Zionism contains within it the seeds of its own destruction. To Zionists of all parties, right or left, the Palestinians are a problem to be overcome, preferably by transfer out of the ‘Jewish’ state.

Ben Gurion was fond of quoting the Bible as providing a mandate for his desire to conquer the whole of Palestine. He was fond of referring to places by their Biblical names. In 1967 it was the militarist wing of Labour Zionism which gave support to Gush Emunim, the Bloc of the Faithful, which pressed the case for settling the occupied territories and creating a Greater Israel. Yitzhak Tabenkin, Yisrael Galili and Labour deputy Prime Minister Yigal Allon all supported the settlement of the Occupied Territories.

Today we are seeing the unfolding of this historic tendency. There is no difference worthy of the name between Blue and White and Likud in terms of their attitude to the Palestinians. Gantz, who was responsible, as Chief of Staff, for the bombing of Gaza in 2014, is a major war criminal in his own right. Moshe Yalon, one of its leaders, is a former Likud Defence Minister. He promised to bomb Lebanon back into the stone age and spoke of the Palestinians as a ‘cancerous manifestation.” Gabi Ashkenazi was the Chief of Staff before Gantz. The fourth leader is former TV presenter Yair Lapid, leader of the ‘centrist’ (in Israeli terms) Yesh Atid.

During the April 2019 election campaign Gantz distributed a campaign video which boasted that “parts of Gaza were sent back to the Stone Age” a reference to “Black Friday” in 2014 when Rafah, following the capture of the body of Lt. Hadar Goldin, the IDF implemented the “Hannibal protocol” in which it simply razed to the ground whole districts.

What Blue and White represents is that section of Israeli Jews which considers itself secular, i.e. it doesn’t want to be told that it can’t shop or travel by public transport on Saturday or that women should sit separate from men on a bus. They have no problem with the Occupation or discrimination against Israel’s own Palestinians but resent religious interference with their own lives. To secular Israelis being Jewish is a national/racial affiliation not a question of religion.

The problem for Israel’s secular racists is that if a Jewish state is to mean anything then someone has to define who is part of the settler population, the herrenvolk, and who is part of the colonised, the untermenschen. For this purpose you need a rabbinical caste to give their hescher, their kosher stamp of approval. To have a Jewish state you have to be sure of who is a Jew and only the rabbis can guarantee that the state remains racially and ethnically pure. Historically this has mean all ‘personal’ matters, i.e. who is Jewish has been left to the Israeli rabbinate.

The question of who constitutes the herrenvolk is a problem for all racially supremacist societies. Nazi Germany agonised over who is a Jew. It had a ‘mixed-race’ category of Mischlinge, half and quarter Jews which caused it all sorts of agonies. To the end it could not decide what to do with them (in the end most survived). South Africa also had similar problems in deciding who was and was not White.

The rule of the rabbis has presented a dilemma for Yisrael Beteinu, the party that represents the 1 million Russian Jews who came to Israel in the 1980’s. Hundreds of thousands of them are of dubious Jewish origin. They did not practice Judaism in Russia and many of them married non-Jews. Although they qualify as Jewish when it came to immigration, where the definition of being a Jew includes the partner of a Jew or their siblings, the criteria set by the rabbis as to who is a Jew is much stricter. Your mother has to be Jewish. Converts, other than Orthodox converts, are not recognised as Jews which is why Israel has a large ‘mixed-race’ category of half Jews. Without the approval of the rabbis you cannot get married in Israel or be buried in consecrated ground. For most of the time these things don’t matter but when it comes to getting married or whether one’s children are considered Jewish then the question ‘who is a Jew’ surfaces and causes much agony.

This is what lies behind the refusal of Avigdor Lieberman, a far-right settler thug and former Defence Minister, who is leader of Yisrael Beteinu, to form an alliance with Netanyahu and the religious parties. Portrayed as a conflict of personalities between Lieberman and Netanyahu what is really at stake is a secular Jewish population which doesn’t wish to see Israel turned into a theocracy. They are at one with the religious Zionists in seeing the Arabs as the enemy however. Lieberman is an ardent racist who has spoken of drowning thousands of Palestinians in the Dead Sea and who considers Israel’s Arab population a fifth column.

The major victor from the current election is the Joint List consisting of the Communist Party Hadash, the nationalist Balad and Taal and the United Arab List. In April 2019 they split in two but has since reunited and today they have gone from 13 to 15 seats (projected) and possibly even 16. The Joint List will be the 3rd largest bloc in the Knesset. However whether they gain 15 or 25 seats is immaterial. Both major Zionist parties have made it clear that they will not form an alliance with the Joint List or Arab parties.

It has been an unwritten rule of Zionist politics since Israel’s foundations that no government should rest on Arab support. Indeed it was the fatal mistake of Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin in 1992, the last time that the Israeli Labor Party came near to an outright victory, to rely on the votes of Arab parties to form an administration.

There are those who proclaim that Israel is a democratic state based on the fact that it has nominally free and fair elections. This is an illusion. Leave aside Likud and Netanyahu’s attempts at Arab voter suppression

Bedouin voters on a bus taking them to the polls – the Right has done their best to suppress the Arab vote in the Negev

In 2019 Likud joined the fascist NGO Im Tirzu in obtaining an injunction from the Central Elections Committee preventing Zazim from busing 15,000 Arabs from the Negev to polling stations. Half the Arab villages in the Negev are ‘unrecognised’ which means there are no polling stations in them even though their residents are Israeli citizens (theoretically anyway).

Any half-democratic state would say that polling stations are situated where people live, regardless of the ‘legality’ of their abode. But Hanan Melcer, the Judge heading the CEC was happy to issue an injunction preventing the Arabs of the Negev from being able to vote.

The ostensible reason for the injunction is a 2017 V15 law preventing foreign interference in an election. Because Zazim is heavily funded by the US based New Jewish Agenda this counted as ‘interference’. Thus the racism of Zionism permeates its election system in keeping Arab votes as low as possible. The idea that all Arab voters should be able to vote was probably considered a heresy by Melcer.

Israel is an ethno-nationalist state and therefore most Jews vote for Jewish/Zionist parties although an increasing number of Israeli Jews, 40,000 at the last elections are voting for the Joint List. The vote is divided on ethnic not class lines. Class politics play little or no part in Israeli elections. Nor does the occupation. The main card of Netanyahu’s Likud was to portray his opponents as needing to rely on Arab votes to form a government. The unsubtle message being of course that Gantz could not be trusted not to sell the Jews out to the Arabs.

The major loser in the election is Labour Zionism. Prior to April 2019 the Israeli Labor Party, in alliance with Tzipi Livni’s Hatnuah, had 24 seats in the Knesset. Within the space of a year they have gone down to 7 (possibly 6 depending on final returns). From 1949-1977 the ILP formed every government in Israel. In 1949 the ILP and Mapam gained 65 out of the 120 seats, though Ben Gurion preferred the religious Zionists as partners in government rather than a party that had illusions in the Soviet Union..The last time that the ILP came close to an outright majority was in 1992 when they obtained 44 seats together with Meretz’s 12 seats

Gabbay with his equally right-wing predecessor Isaac Herzog, who is now Chair of the Apartheid Jewish Agency

In 2017 the ILP elected Avi Gabbay who had been a Minister from 2015-2016 under Netanyahu. His previous job had been as CEO of Israel’s Bezeq Telecommunications monopoly. Gabbay declared that the settlement blocks would not be moved under a Labor government. He and he also supported Netanyahu’s attempt to forcibly deport all Black African refugees from Israel for the ‘crime’ of not being Jewish.

Gabbay rejected any idea of joining a coalition with the Joint List: “We have nothing in common with them.’, As Israel’s +972 Magazine reported, this ‘absolute rejection of partnering with Arab parties ruffled feathers even within his own party.’

When Labour’s only Arab MK Zuheir Bahlul announced he would not attend the Knesset’s celebration of the 100th anniversary of the Balfour Declaration, Gabby threatened that Bahlul “won’t sit in the next Knesset session,” He kept his promise but lost 18 seats in the process!

As Ha’aretz declared regarding his hostility to African refugees:

Avi Gabbay’s odious attempts to include non-traditional Labor voters alienate him from the values that justify a legitimate opposition in the first place.

Gabbay, with Livni looking on, announced that the partnership with Hatnuah was at an end. It didn’t however save him.

It was to prove prophetic. Gabbay then proceeded to break up the alliance with Tzipi Livni, leader of the Hatnuah faction of the Zionist Union, who was sitting besides him, on prime time television. He hadn’t even bothered to tell her beforehand.

Come the elections in April 2019 and the ILP crashed to just 6 seats. To prove that this was no fluke the same result was achieved last September. Gabbay had stripped away any reason for progressive Israelis to vote Labor. If all you wanted to do is to remove Netanyahu then you may as well vote for Blue and White.

Meretz was also going through its own travails. Formed in 1992 out of Mapam, Ratz (a civil rights party) and the centrist Shinui, it has declined from 12 seats at its peak to just 4 seats in the April 2019 elections. Even worse, but for the votes of some 40,000Arabs, Meretz would have failed to enter the Knesset.

In Kfar Kassem, a large town in The Triangle area, where MK Esawi Freige lived, Meretz obtained 39% of the vote in April 2019, higher than any other party. In September when Freige was lower down on Meretz’s list and didn’t make it into the Knesset, the Democratic Union into which Meretz had merged obtained 26%. In the latest elections, the new ILP-Gesher-Meretz merger obtained just 7% of the vote.

In order to keep the Arab parties out of the Knesset Avigdor Lieberman proposed raising the threshold for entering the Knesset from 2% to 3.25%. Meretz barely made it. For the September 2019 elections Meretz formed a wholly opportunistic alliance, the Democratic Front, with Ehud Barak, the former Israeli Prime Minister in the hope of gaining more right-wing Jewish votes and not having to rely on Arabs. This gained it just 5 seats. For this election, to be on the safe side, they merged again, this time with the ILP and Gesher. The result is that they appear to have gained just 7 seats (possibly 6 when all results are in), a loss of 4 seats for Labour Zionism in 6 months

Yamina MK and Deputy Speaker, the overtly racist Bezalel Smotrich surrounded by Baruch Marzel, Itamir Gvir and Michael Ben Ari (l-r) of the neo-Nazi Otzma Yehudit party, followers of the late Meir Kahane

As Anshel Pffefer caustically observes in Ha’aretz the last time the Israeli Labor Party (previously called Mapai) united with Mapam, the major faction of Meretz, it was in January 1969 to form the Israeli Labor Alignment. For the only time in Israeli history one party had an absolute majority in the Knesset (63 seats). In the October 1969 election under Golda Meir it fell back to 56 seats, more than enough to form a coalition government. Today it has a pitiful 7 (6?) seats. Quite simply Labour Zionism has no role other than propagandists for Netanyahu abroad.

Labour Zionism today is an anachronism. Once the Labour Zionist economy, companies owned by ‘trade union’ Histadrut were the second largest employers after the state itself. Today there is no Labour Zionist economy as Histadrut’s companies were privatised in the early 1990’s. The health service Kupat Holim was taken out of their hands and Israel is now one of the most unequal societies in the world. The lip-service paid to social equality has long been dispensed with and the term ‘leftist’ is an insult in Israel. As the ILP has moved further and further to the right it has all but ensured its own extinction. This election marks one more stage in the decline and disappearance of Labour Zionism.

The Orthodox Jewish parties Shas and United Torah Judaism have retained the same number of seats (16) and the far-right settler party Yamina has declined from 7 to 6. All these results are, however provisional, until the final declaration on Thursday.

What is however most noticeable about this election is who didn’t vote. 5 million Palestinians under occupation have no say whatsoever about who governs them, whilst the all-Jewish settlements, established on stolen Palestinian land, and which sit cheek by jowl with them, take part in the elections. The practice of separating the indigenous population from the settlers and only according political rights to the latter was what was called Apartheid in South Africa. However to racist Labour politicians such as Emily Thornberry this is classed as ‘Jewish self-determination’.

But then you can hardly have a Jewish state if the majority of its citizens aren’t even Jews. Just as an Aryan state was difficult to achieve with the presence of non-Aryans!Tony Greenstein See this important article

The Zionist Left Has Paved the Way to the Rise of the Extreme Right

Ilana Hammerman
Jan 26, 2020 2:38 AM

An Israeli settler walks past a Star of David graffiti on the door of a closed Palestinian shop in the Jewish settlement area of the divided West Bank city of Hebron on January 8, 2010 HAZEM BADER/ AFP

I was born in Haifa in 1944. I was four when my father returned home one day with a soft cloth doll in his hand and deep shame in his heart. He took it from an Arab house, he told my mother. His Hebrew wouldn’t have been good enough yet to have used the more accurate term and say he “plundered” it. A while later I heard him mention the doll again and say that others stole much more: decorative objects, appliances, carpets. And he took only a small doll, and still he felt ashamed. Really? I didn’t care. The shooting and explosions and later the bombardments we heard from the lower city instilled in me a huge fear of the Arabs. I just wanted them to leave and to have quiet.

This fear stayed with me for many years. During the 1956 war, I fled in terror from our apartment balcony on the top floor, because I saw a face in a red kaffiyeh looking back at me from the roof. I can still remember it. Maybe it was just an Arab worker fixing the elevator motor, or maybe it was the face from my nightmares that suddenly appeared to me. At any rate, as a child and a teen, in the mixed city where I was born I never met an Arab in regular social circumstances, not as a classmate or in the youth movement. In middle school, when it was time for me to choose a second language to study, I chose French and not Arabic. Our “French” group stood out in the schoolyard and taunted the smaller group that chose Arabic. Most of them probably went on to serve in intelligence.

Even though my parents were left-wingers and sent me to Hashomer Hatzair youth movement, like the vast majority of my generation, I was a victim of such thorough and profound emotional and ideological deception that when my eyes were finally opened, it was too late. New and fateful facts in the field had already been established.

Our Israeli world was built on three foundations: the cult of the Holocaust, a false narrative and ignorance. And it was the Zionist left that ruled in Israel then, without Herut and without Maki (the Israeli Communist Party).

The cult of the Holocaust: From preschool on, I learned to sanctify the Shoah, to nurture it as a national asset and to worship it in annual ceremonies. The very use of the biblical-mythological term “Shoah” and the attaching of a saintly aura to the victims – all this banished to another planet the things that occurred in the heart of Europe. I didn’t learn to recognize the growth of fascism and national-socialism that developed in its wake as a political-ideological chapter in European history. I didn’t learn about the murder of hundreds of thousands of Gypsies and millions of Poles and Russians who were also considered members of inferior races. I didn’t learn to despise racism in all its forms. Unknowingly, I was trained from the time I was small to be an Israeli-Jewish racist: I learned that there was never another genocide like the murder of European Jewry; that there was never any hatred like Jew hatred; and that the only answer to our haters, who rise up to destroy us everywhere and in every generation, is the State of Israel and its military strength.

False narrative: I learned about the one and only narrative about our political-national existence in this area – We Jews returned to our historic homeland after 2,000 years of exile. The Arabs did not recognize our right to establish a national home here, they wanted and still want to destroy us. In 1948 they were defeated in a war that they declared, and in wake of their defeat they fled from their communities of their own and their leaders’ volition, and so became refugees, and these refugees became a political pawn in the hands of the Arab states. This is what we were taught.

I only learned for the first time, with genuine shock, about acts of expulsion and massacres and the Jewish leadership’s expansion plans from Benny Morris’ 1988 book “The Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Problem.” I was 44 then. The fact that I came from a political leftist family had not shielded me from the brainwashing of the Israeli education system when the Zionist left was in power.

Today I know that many archives are still closed and that even those that were opened are being closed again to cover up plans and acts of expulsion and expansion that most of us know nothing about. When people talk about the “stage plan,” they’re referring to an Arab plan to wipe out Israel and not to what David Ben-Gurion wrote to his son Amos in 1937:

My assumption is – and for this reason I am a keen adherent of the state even if it entails partition now – because a partial Jewish state is not the end, but the beginning… The founding of the state – even partially – is a maximal boost of strength at this time. And it will serve as a very powerful lever in our historic efforts to redeem the entire land” (Benny Morris, “Correcting a Mistake,” 2000).

Ignorance: Due to the circumstances in Europe, I came into the world in an Arab Muslim area that was completely foreign to my parents and most of their contemporaries. One would think that the founding generation of the Jewish state should have worked to get to know this area and develop a closeness with it. But just the opposite happened. Those of my generation were brought up to look toward Western civilization and turn our backs on Arab civilization, on its language – a sister language of Hebrew – and on its cultural heritage. We were brought up to feel alienated from the Arabs who live in this same land with us and to feel hostility towards them and their lives. The founders’ generation also systematically suppressed this heritage among the hundreds of thousands of Jews who came here from Arab lands. They, too, were not my classmates or my companions outside of school, but for me, Israeli Arabs might as well have lived on a distant planet. Their villages were subject to martial law under a military authority and I never set foot in one. And it was the Zionist left that was in power then.

As an adult, after the occupation of the West Bank and Gaza, again I was a citizen of a country that keeps Arabs trapped – millions of Arabs – with regulations and military injunctions, in closed-off enclaves, behind fences and closures, with curfews and arrests. But now my eyes were opened to see the Zionist “stages plan” rapidly coming to pass throughout the occupied territories.

It was patently clear: A fateful decision had been made to annex to Jerusalem areas several times larger than it, with their villages and Palestinian inhabitants, and to build upon them ever-widening circles of huge Jewish neighborhoods. To the south they practically touch on Bethlehem now, and to the north, almost as far as Ramallah – a situation that thwarts any possibility of a peaceful solution. The seal of approval was given to the thuggish settlement in the Old City of Hebron, which under the protection of the army has become a fascist Jewish fortified community in the heart of an Arab city; Kiryat Arba, Beit El, Ofra, Elon Moreh and Ariel were established; Jewish communities were built in the Gaza Strip, and the list goes on and on. And all this, while the Zionist left was in power.

The disappearance of Labor and Meretz would mean the elimination of the only alternative on the left side of the political map,”

writes my contemporary Uzi Baram (“Don’t be so quick to toss out the Zionist left,” Haaretz, January 20). And I ask him: Where were you and your friends during all those years when your camp held power in the country and paved the way for the extreme right that holds power today? They are only continuing the path you began, and doing so openly and also openly saying: “Truly the Lord has delivered all the land into our hands; and moreover all the inhabitants of the land are fainthearted because of us.” But you did and you lied, you did and you deceived.

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Tony Greenstein

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