In response to the news about the upcoming early Israeli parliamentary elections, set for April 9th, opposition leader Tzipi Livni (Zionist Union) tweeted: “From now on, say: Not election day – revolution day.”
She was tweeting in Hebrew, using the Hebrew term MAHAPACH, which is akin to ‘revolution’ (MAHAPECHA), just a bit lighter.
Former Prime Minister Ehud Barak used the same term a year and a half ago when Avi Gabbay was elected to lead the Labor party. And nothing happened, really. Gabbay, who had recently served as minister in the Netanyahu Government, immediately announced that he would not consider joining forces with the Joint List of Arab parties, and has been pandering to the right by saying that the “left has forgotten what it means to be Jewish” and selling out African refugees as “infiltrators”.
That’s the Israeli Zionist left for you. Haaretz journalist Amira Hass actually called the Israeli Labor “the non-Messianic right” (as opposed to the settler-right) yesterday. These are all just shades of grey of the “Israeli colonial-settler regime”, as Hass also wrote.
And the polls are predicting a major win for Netanyahu’s Likud, roughly maintaining the current 30 parliamentary seats (out of 120), making it by far the biggest party. Even though most polled would not want Netanyahu as Prime Minister, they will very likely get him again.
Netanyahu is likely to make his usual race-baiting like he did last election, when he said on election day that “Arabs are coming to vote in droves.” Ayman Odeh, the chairman of the Joint List, has already sarcastically preempted that by saying that the Palestinian citizens of Israel indeed “will come out to vote in droves”.
But even if they do, Israel is already conditioned to silence them and make them irrelevant. Even the Zionist ‘left’ won’t have them.
Israel has managed to arrange a system since its inception wherein politics would essentially be decided by Zionist Jews, so as to maintain a Jewish State which they would pretend is democratic. It’s an amazing feat. It’s called “demographic engineering”. Professors Richard Falk and Virginia Tilley noted this in their breathtaking report commissioned by a UN agency, on Israeli Apartheid (2017):
The first general policy of Israel has been one of demographic engineering, in order to establish and maintain an overwhelming Jewish majority in Israel. As in any racial democracy, such a majority allows the trappings of democracy — democratic elections, a strong legislature — without threatening any loss of hegemony by the dominant racial group.
Lest it pass unnoticed, the way in which Israel established that majority, was by ethnic cleansing.
This is really why nothing can happen in Israeli politics, not in any meaningful way, certainly not in any revolutionary way. Because Zionism is secured. It is even secured by the ‘Basic law’ referring to what a party may be permitted to stand for. One Basic law has an amendment (adopted in 1985) that includes a section that bans certain kinds of party lists from running for election:
A candidates’ list shall not participate in elections to the Knesset if its objects or actions, expressly or by implication, include one of the following:
(1) negation of the existence of the State of Israel as the state of the Jewish people;
(2) negation of the democratic character of the state;
(3) incitement to racism
Notice those pious items: “incitement to racism” and “democratic character”, coming after the “state of the Jewish People”.
This last formula has been cemented in a separate ‘Base law’ this summer, the ‘Nation State of the Jewish People’ law.
Imagine, that a party in Israel seeks to advocate a secular, democratic country with equal rights for all citizens. In liberal democracies around the world, that would, on the face of it, be a no-brainer. Of course they would agree to it as a principle. But not in Israel. In Israel it is simply unconstitutional (even though Israel hasn’t created a full constitution yet). In Israel, that would be a revolution – and one that the state would not allow.
A recent case at hand is instructive about this aspect:
This year, ironically in response to the promoting of the Nation State bill, members of the Balad party (part of the Joint List) have been trying to promote a similar bill, also a “Basic law”, only one that defines Israel as a “country of all its citizens”. The bill wasn’t even allowed to reach the floor. The Knesset has an additional protocol concerning bills (article 75), which says that “the Knesset Presidium will not approve a bill which according to its view denies the existence of the State of Israel as a state of the Jewish people or that is racist in its essence”. Thus the bill was disqualified. Even the Knesset itself noted that the disqualification move was “highly unusual,” in that it marked the first time that proposed legislation had been disqualified before being discussed in the plenum during the past two Knesset terms.
Balad have taken the issue to the Supreme Court. The judges were apparently relieved to hear the news on Monday, about upcoming elections, because it could serve as an alibi for shelving the case. Orly Noy reports (Local Call, Hebrew, my translation):
Now that this Knesset is anyway dispersing, they argued, the appeal turns theoretical, since the Knesset members would be able to submit the law proposal to the next Knesset, which would not be obliged by the decision of the current Presidium.
Whew, that’s a relief. Imagine having to discuss the validity of “Jewish state” against the validity of a secular, democratic state of all its citizens. Noy summarizes:
There’s no doubt that this appeal presented the court with an embarrassment inherent for anyone who insists upon the “Jewish and Democratic”: if they accept the appeal, they will expose themselves to fierce critique as those who endanger the Jewish character of the state. If they reject it, they would be giving an official seal of approval to the fact that the Israeli democracy is a limited affair by definition.
Everything we are about to see in this upcoming election is framed within that paradigm – the Nation State of the Jewish People. Jews can play this game of “democracy”, and we will hear a lot of noise about this and that person coming in, tipping the balances, speaking of a “revolution” here and there.
But nothing, nothing of any substance is bound to happen in any way that is meaningful for Palestinians under the control of that Jewish Nation State.
So what “revolution” are people like Barak and Livni talking about?
Barak– the ‘leftist hero’ who celebrated Trump’s racist warning about “Mohammed” becoming Prime Minister, who bemoaned that USA didn’t recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital already 65 years ago, and who brags about how the left “liberated Judea and Samaria”– is now hinting that he may come into the election race. Promoting a big center-left bloc, he urged politicians to “put their egos aside”:
“If a center-left bloc coalesces that is led by a man who can both win elections and govern the country, he will win the election. It’s important to me that this bloc be formed — certainly I could lead it, I’ve led [a party] to victory in elections over Netanyahu — but I cannot make myself a condition to the formation of the bloc,” he told Hadashot TV.
I just can’t hold my breath for the leftist hero to save us.
And Livni– that centrist who congratulated Israel for showing “real hooliganism” and for “going wild” in Gaza in the 2008-9 onslaught, she who leads the battle against the movement for Boycott, Divestments and Sanctions as “delegitimization“–she will surely lead the change…
The Israeli elections are essentially a fake battle between right-wing and left-wing Zionism, between slightly-more and slightly-less fundamentalists.
On that liberal-Zionist front, is the leading American-Jewish columnist Peter Beinart. Yesterday in the Forward, he urged “Young anti-Zionists” to “be uncomfortable, as I am with my Zionism”. In a personal letter to an unnamed anti-Zionist, he brings up the romanticism of what Zionism could have been – a bi-national one, which he anyway advocates against. He declares that he would “change Israel’s discriminatory land laws, add a stanza to Hatikva that speaks of the hopes of the twenty percent of Israel’s citizens who aren’t Jews [actually, over 25%, J.O.], and break the tradition that excludes Arab parties from Israel’s coalition governments”.
Well, that doesn’t seem to be happening, it’s not even close.
Despite all this talk of change, everything that will happen in this election will essentially happen within the Zionist paradigm. It’s only a show of democracy, it’s not real. That’s why it will get relatively little of my attention. I want to focus on what is real.