The big political split in the Israeli establishment is now getting coverage from Politico, in a piece describing Israeli war “heroes” as the most moderate force in the country, arrayed against Benjamin Netanyahu’s extremist right. Written by an Israeli, the piece is typical of our mainstream coverage in its utter Israel-centeredness, its adoration of Israeli generals and their medals for bravery, and the complete absence of Palestinian voices.
Just because Palestinians are absent from US and Israeli coverage doesn’t mean they are absent from the Israeli political scene. In fact, the big split that is taking place inside the Israeli establishment would not have happened without Palestinians playing a part: in violent resistance.
Let’s review the events that precipitated the political shift (as chronicled by Yakov Hirsch): on March 24, the murder of an incapacitated Palestinian by an Israeli medic in occupied Hebron that was captured on camera and that shocked the world; the determination by military leaders to try the medic for manslaughter; the overwhelming support for the medic from Israeli Jews and the Netanyahu cabinet, to the point that Netanyahu called the murderer one of “our children” and telephoned his family; the April speech by the army’s deputy chief of staff, Yair Golan, saying that Israel was reminiscent of Nazi Germany in its intolerance toward non-Jews; the resignation of the Defense Minister, Moshe Ya’alon, after Netanyahu summoned him to repudiate Golan and he refused; Ya’alon’s replacement by a racist ideologue, in Avigdor Lieberman; a speech by Ya’alon that Israeli leadership contains the “seeds of fascism”; a speech by former PM Ehud Barak saying that Netanyahu has been taken hostage by the right and has no intention of securing the country’s future by establishing a Palestinian state; and many reports that Netanyahu will be taken on politically by one Israeli general or another.
These have been momentous events in Zionist history. And however they are resolved in the next year or so, in an even more rightwing government or a government that makes a genuine effort toward creating a Palestinian state (likely a bantustan), it is wrong to give the credit for these changes to Israeli Jews. The Israeli security establishment has swallowed a lot from Netanyahu before, and it has signed off on massacres and persecution and apartheid against Palestinians for decades.
What crossed the line here? The total demonization of the Palestinian people by Netanyahu (and his propagandists) as subhumans who just hate Jews in their blood. That degree of ethnocentric incitement makes it impossible for the security establishment to police the occupation, it turns the conflict into a religious and racial battle that can only escalate into more extreme forms of violence.
So now there is a crisis in the Israeli establishment, and many are warning that the entire Zionist project is in jeopardy. It’s about time, I say (because Zionism/Jewish supremacy is an anachronism.)
But again I must point out that Jews had little to do with this. This crisis would not have take place without Palestinian agency; and in this case Palestinian agency has been the series of attacks that some call the intifada of knives that broke out last October, lone and uncoordinated attacks using knives, cars, or guns that has now claimed about 40 Israeli lives and resulted in the killings of over 200 Palestinians, a great number of them by extrajudicial execution.
Many of these Palestinians are hailed as martyrs, as I saw for myself on my travels in the occupied territories in January; I am sure it is impossible to criticize these Palestinians inside Palestinian society, even as they are called terrorists in Israel and in due order linked to ISIS by the New York Times.
These people are not heroes to me because they caused bloodshed and suffering; but I’m not seeking to moralize here, just describe the Israeli reality. And anyone who has studied history knows that terrorist attacks are an essential tool of revolution. The Zionists compelled the British to abandon their control of Palestine in 1947 through a series of terrorist attacks, including the destruction of a wing of the King David Hotel, killing 91. Nelson Mandela openly embraced the tactic of “terrorism” in order to bring down the apartheid regime in South Africa. The Civil War, which liberated the slaves and killed 600,000 people, was precipitated by John Brown’s terrorist attack on a slave state in 1859. Today both that site and Brown’s farm in upstate New York are places of honor because Brown so hated slavery. And he said that it could only be ended by “verry much blood.”
In Palestine, it was an alleged knife attack on occupying Israeli soldiers in Hebron on March 24 that led to the shooting down in the street of two Palestinian men, both 21, followed by the filmed execution of one of them, Abdel Fattah al-Sharif. Al-Sharif sacrificed his life for a larger cause, and seems to have propelled that cause forward. Al-Sharif sparked the Israeli political crisis.
Of course no one can say where this crisis will lead. The Politico piece, by Amir Tibon, suggests that the Israeli generals’ political coup will fail and the United States will have to get used to “a new reality in the Jewish state,” in which rightwing zealots run the country for the forseeable future. I am more hopeful that there will be a real shift in Israeli politics, leading toward the (inevitable) non-Zionist future. Or if not, that the political solidification of Israeli extremism will lead U.S. Jews, and therefore the U.S. government, to cut ties with a pariah state.
But something has been set in motion, and the credit belongs to Palestinian martyrs/terrorists. I wish I did not have to say that, I wish that the world and Israeli had wakened to warnings about fascism in that society years ago issued by countless writers of conscience, who were then all smeared or ignored by the Zionist intelligentsia; I wish that the US power structure had embraced the nonviolent means of pressuring Israel– Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS)– years ago. But that’s not how the world works. Humans effect historical changes through violence.