Tony Greenstein | 26 February 2019 | Post Views:

Israel’s Racist Election – The main debate is ‘Who Has Killed the Most Palestinians?’

As the Zionist ‘Left’ Disappear will the Generals’ Blue & White Party Replace Netanyahu?

In most Western countries, parties compete over issues such as taxation, nationalisation/privatisation, poverty, Brexit, refugees, global warming in general elections. Political parties in most European countries, with the exception of avowedly racist parties of the far-Right, are inclusive of ethnic minorities and supporters of different religions and faiths. It is unknown in Europe, with the exception of fascist parties, for parties to frame their arguments in terms of maintaining a demographic majority of a certain section of the population.

In Israel, the self-styled ‘only democracy in the Middle East’, politics are entirely different. You have Jewish parties and Arab parties. Only the Communist Party, Hadash, and to a less extent the left-Zionist party Meretz, has a mixed membership.

Leaders of the Blue & White ‘General’s Party (l to r)
Moshe Yalon, Benny Gantz, Yair Lapid, Gabi Ashmenazi

The other feature of Israeli politics is its political instability. Parties come and go virtually every election. So Tzipi Livni’sHatnuah, which was the offshoot of Kadimah and in 2009 the largest party in the Knesset, latterly in alliance with the Israeli Labour Party, will disappear.

There have been a plethora of ‘centrist’ parties in Israel, from the old General Zionists, to Shinui to Yesh Atid, each more right-wing than its predecessor.

Springing up out of nowhere is the Blue and White Party an alliance of the right-centrist (though in the Israeli context labels like left, right and centre are largely meaningless)Yesh Atid and Resilience, a new party formed by former Chief of Staff Benny Gantz together with two other former Chiefs of Staff Moshe Yalon and Gabi Ashkenzi. Not for nothing is it known as the General’s Party.

As Elizabeth Tsurkov of the liberal Zionist Forward observed‘Campaign ads seem to be competing over which candidate has killed the most Palestinians.’ This is what British politicians such as Emily Thornberry and Barry Gardiner calla ‘beacon of democracy’. Presumably Jews getting to have a vote on which party can kill most Arabs is an example of democracy at its best!

Likud’s Avi Dichter, a former Director of Shin Bet, Israel’s equivalent of MI5, put out a video which ends with “A thousand mothers of terrorists will cry and my mother won’t.” In the minds of most Israelis every Palestinian is a terrorist. Gantz put out an ad boasting of how many Palestinian militants had been killed in Gaza in 2014. Tsurkov wrote that these campaign ads ‘demonize, ridicule and belittle Palestinians, who are presented as a people without history, pathological liars and terrorists.’ This is Israel today.

primaries campaign video put out by Likud’s Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotoveli shows her speaking in the Knesset where she presented a book filled with empty pages. According to Hotovely, that book represents the history of the Palestinian people. She proclaimed that: “You have no Kings, no heritage sites” in Israel. An ad produced by Culture Minister Miri Regev, a self-proclaimed fascist, refers to Palestinian citizens of Israel as a “trojan horse,” and the Joint List uniting several Arab parties as a “fifth column.” Those with a sense of history will remember that accusations of being a fifth column were a favourite in the days of McCarthyism. It is a rerun of the Nazi theme of the ‘stab in the back’.

Gantz boasted of sending Gaza back into ‘the stone age’ during Operation Protective Edge in 2014.  A boast not without foundation.  Netanyahu who is playing the Arab card for all its worth accused Gantz and his party of being ‘leftists’ which in Israel today is an insult.

Yair Lapid has led Yesh Atid since 2012.  In 2013 it obtained the second largest number of seats, 19, and entered into coalition with Netanyahu. In the 2015 election it fell back to 11 seats. It had been engaged in protracted negotiations with Benny Gantz regarding an electoral coalition until Netanyahu made what could be a fatal mistake inpressurising the far-Right Jewish Home party into allying with the neo-Nazi Otzma Yehudit. This resulted in the formation of the Blue and White Party. See Ultra-nationalists join forces ahead of Israeli elections as liberal and Palestinian blocs splinter

Last week Jewish Home’s Central Committee agreed to an electoral pact with Otzma Yehudit which will receive the 5thand 8th seats on the list making it all but certain that one of their members will be elected.

Even the worm, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, turns

Otzma Yehudit is led by an open supporter of the late Rabbi Meir Kahane, former MK Michael ben Ari. The actions of Netanyahu in seeking to unify the ultra-Right with Otzma Yehudit has led to an unprecedented backlash amongst diaspora Zionist organisations.  Even the American Israel Public Affairs Committee has condemned this alliance ashas the American Jewish Committee though this hasn’t stopped AIPAC from inviting Netanyahu to its conference in March. Netanyahu’s opportunism however may backfire on him judging by the reaction amongst even loyal Zionists abroad. As Phillip Weiss and Yossi Gurvitz note

The outrage at Netanyahu over the move has been unprecedented, for rehabilitating the “David Dukes” of the Israeli political scene, heirs to Meir Kahane who advocate for transfer of Palestinians to other countries.’

Israel Hayom, an Israeli free-sheet which is owned by Sheldon Adelson, one of the largest donors to Trump’s election campaign, had a screaming headline calling AIPAC‘irresponsible’ for getting involved in domestic politics.

Netanyahu’s rationale was that Otzma Yehudit might, as in the 2013 and 2015 elections ‘waste’ votes by standing and thus imperil the election of a Likud government. His solution was for Jewish Home to form an electoral pact with Otzma Yehudit because a party now needs 3.25% to enter the Knesset.

The Jewish Home Party is already in an electoral alliance with Bezalel Smotrich MK’s Tkuma party. Smotrich describes himself as a ‘proud homophobe’ and openly supports the segregation of Israel’s Arab citizens. He has defended the practice of Israeli hospitals which separate Jewish and Arab women in maternity wards.

Israel’s General Election is impossible to call at the moment because there are a number of variables, not least the impact if Netanyahu is indicted for corruption. In most countries this would be a death sentence for a candidate but Israel is not most countries.

According to polling from Israel’s Channel 12 in Israel (tweeted by Lahav Harkov) the following is how the parties fare:

Blue and White 36
Likud 30
Labor 8
UTJ (religious party) 7
New Right 6 (Shaked/Bennett)
Ta’al Hadash (Tibi/Odeh) 6
Joint List 6
Shas (religious Mizrahi party) 5
Yisrael Beytenu 4
Bayit Yehudi (including Jewish Power) 4
Meretz 4
Kulanu 4

It is clear that the Israeli Labour Party is heading for disaster.  The ILP formed every single government from 1948 to 1977 as well as the 1992 and 1999 governments. It was last in a coalition government in 2011. Since then Netanyahu has formed every government. In 2015 under Isaac Herzog the ILP ran on a joint electoral list with Tzipi Livni’s Hatnuah and gained 24 seats. 

In 2017 the ILP elected a new leader, Avi Gabbay, a formerMinister in Netanyahu’s government, who immediately decided to move the ILP several degrees further to the Right.  Among his policy innovations were to supportNetanyahu’s attempt to deport Israel’s 40,000 Black African refugees on the grounds that they were neither White nor Jewish. He also supported the retention of the settlements. Gabbay, who was Chief Executive of Israel’s largest company, Bezeq International, a telecommunications giant, from 2007-2014 echoed Netanyahu when he declared that:

“In 1997, Bibi [Benjamin Netanyahu] said that ‘the left has forgotten what it means to be Jewish.’ Do you know what the left did in response? Forgot [how] to be Jews,”

This is the pathetic level of the ideology of the Israeli Labour Party. It is a sign of desperation of a party which has no purpose and it would seem no social base in Israel.

Gabbay at the beginning of the election campaign, in front of the TV cameras, publicly humiliated Tzipi Livni by announcing that their electoral pact was over. Livni, although a horrendous racist and a war criminal in her own right, is nonetheless seen as on the left in Israel, which is an indication of just how far right-wing Israeli politics are today. But if Gabbay thought that he would receive an electoral boost from this he was soon to be disappointed. The ILP ‘strategy’ of moving further and further to the Right simply alienates those Israelis still on the Left without appeasing those on the Right. Gabbay is yet to learn that however fast and far he moves to the Right Netanyahu can move even faster, even to the extent of taking genuine neo-Nazis on board.

At the moment although Blue and White is estimated to gain 36 seats to the Likud’s 30, Netanyahu still has the greatest chance of forming a government coalition. Gantz’s B&W, even if it receives the support of Meretz, the ILP and Kulanu will still only have 52 seats. Given their refusal to contemplate a coalition with Arabs, Netanyahu is likely to be able to form a coalition with the religious parties (12) and the far-Right parties (15) making a total of 57.

If current projections are correct then the Jewish Orthodox parties will go down from 13 to 12 seats, Kulanu – a Likud offshoot – will decline from 10 to four – and the far-Right will increase from 11 to 14.

Netanyahu and Mendelbit in happier times

However this is to miss out one factor. The Police long ago recommended that Netanyahu should be indicted for corruption and it is likely that before the election campaign finishes Attorney General Avichai Mendelbit will charge Netanyahu.  In most states purporting to be democratic and a few which are not, that would spell the death knell of a candidate.  However in Israel nothing is guaranteed.  There has been a systematic campaign of intimidation against Mendelbit including the desecration of his father’s grave. Such is the nature of Israeli politics.

Meretz, which originates in Ratz, the Civil Rights Party and Mapam, the United Workers Party, had 12 seats in 1992. Today they have five seats and are hovering on the brink of extinction with a predicted 4 seats. If Meretz do fail to get candidates elected to the Knesset it will be the end of a long tradition of left-Zionism, the most hypocritical face of Zionism. They talked socialism but practised segregation. Mapam talked about co-existence but their Kibbutzim were not only Jewish only but were established on the ruins of destroyed Arab villages.

In March 2018 Tamar Zandberg replaced Zehava Gal On as leader of Meretz. Tamar Zandberg was elected after havinghired a right-wing election fixer Moshe Klughaft as an adviser to her campaign. Klughaft was previously a strategist for Jewish Home and had targeted left-wing activists and NGO’s.  

Under Zandberg Meretz has focussed mainly on peripheral topics such as the environment, cannabis legalisation, civil and gay marriage to the exclusion of the major issue in Israel which is the Occupation of the Territories and the racism and discrimination against Israel’s Palestinian citizens.

Avi Gabbay (Israeli Labor Party) and Tamar Zandberg (Meretz)

Zandberg is on record as stating that she would join a government coalition with Avigdor Lieberman’s Yisrael Beteinu. Lieberman is an open advocate of the transfer of Israel’s Arab population out of Israel and the imposition of a loyalty oath on Israel’s non-Jewish population. Galon called this ‘flushing ideology down the toilet” though to be fair Meretz has long ago dispensed with anything in the way of ideology.
Zandberg also called on the Israeli Labour Party to form a joint party or electoral pact, which would save Meretz from extinction but Gabbay rejected this out of hand.
The other major development is the splitting of the Joint Arab-Jewish List into two. Previously the Arab parties have run separately but in 2014, on the proposal of Avigdor Lieberman, Israel’s fascist Defence Minister, the threshold for election to the Knesset was raised from 2% to 3.25%. The purpose was to eliminate the Arab parties from the Knesset but what happened was that they unified in one Joint List.  Ironically Lieberman’s Yisrael Beteinu nearly didn’t qualify!

Ahmad Tibi (Ta’al) and Aymen Odeh (Haddash)

However this time around the Joint list has split into two separate electoral alliances. Ahmad Tibi’s Ta’al has combined with Haddash (Communist) and Balad (National Democratic Union) has united with the United Arab List (Ra’am). Tibi, a veteran member of the Knesset, believedthat his group, was underrepresented in the Knesset.
According to the Channel 12 poll above both alliances are scheduled to get 6 seats each though according to Channel 13’s poll, as reported in The Times of Israel, the Hadash-Ta’al group will get 10 seats and Balad and Ra’am will get 4 seats, which if true would be an improvement of one over the present situation.
I hesitate from this distance to make any predictions about Israel’s General Election.  My hunch is that Likud will be rocked by Netanyahu’s indictment and that this may propel the General’s party into power. What isn’t in much doubt is that the Zionist ‘left’, if it can be called that, is going to be heavily defeated. It is quite possible that Meretz, whoseraison d’être has long since vanished will disappear and the Israeli Labour Party will pay a heavy price for trying to imitated Likud.
On the Israeli Palestinian front it is regrettable that the Joint Arab List split. It is entirely possible that Balad and Ra’am will also fail to make the minimum of 4 seats and thus be eliminated from the Knesset. It is a great pity that firstly Ahmad Tibi put the interests of his own party above Arab unity and secondly that Hadash and the more nationalist parties were unable to unite.
Hadash has always had a Jewish member of the Knesset even though it receives very few Jewish votes. The days have long since gone when Israel’s Jewish voters would elect communists to the Knesset.  However the replacement for Dov Kheinin, Dr Ofer Cassif, a lecturer at Jerusalem’s Hebrew University is a far more dynamic character. He has had no hesitation in describing Israel today as politically similar to Nazi Germany in the 1930’s.
In a lecture to his students, which was secretly recorded hestated that
‘”those who refuse to see the similarities between what is happening in Israel, specifically in the past two years, and Germany in the 1930s, has a problem and will be responsible for the potential situation of the state.”

Dr Ofer Casif, Hadash’s Jewish candidate and lecturer at Hebrew University

Cassif also called Ayelet Shaked, Israel’s ‘Justice Minister’ and a member of Jewish Home (now the United Right) Party a ‘filthy neo-Nazi’ Which is about right. Shaked has previously declared that Israel should abandon universal values of human rights in favour of ‘Jewish values’ and that the Torah and halachah should form part of the jurisprudence of the Israeli legal system. Shaked also calledfor the genocide of Palestinians in Gaza in a (now deleted) Facebook post where she wrote, quoting Uri Elitzur, a settler leader, speechwriter and close advisor to Netanyahu, who had died a few months previously that:
‘What’s so horrifying about understanding that the entire Palestinian people is the enemy? Every war is between two peoples, and in every war the people who started the war, that whole people, is the enemy….
They are all enemy combatants, and their blood shall be on all their heads. Now this also includes the mothers of the martyrs, who send them to hell with flowers and kisses. They should follow their sons, nothing would be more just. They should go, as should the physical homes in which they raised the snakes. Otherwise, more little snakes will be raised there….
There is nothing more just, and probably nothing more efficient. Every suicide attacker should know that he takes with him also his parents and his house and some of the neighbors. Every brave Um-Jihad who sends her son to hell should know she’s going with him, along with the house and everything inside it.”
No doubt if Dr Casif was a member of the Labour Party he would have been suspended for ‘anti-Semitism’ for having dared to compare Israel to Nazi Germany!
Tony Greenstein
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Tony Greenstein

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