Have you followed the news from Israel? A rightwing society has been veering ever rightward during the election campaign, just about going out of its mind.
The Justice Minister is running an ad in which she samples a perfume called Fascism and seems to like it fine. Another member of parliament once allied with the ruling coalition put out a campaign video in which he is seen shooting dead a Palestinian lawmaker, because that Palestinian is anti-Zionist and said he’d rather die than sing the national anthem.
Then there’s the prime minister himself, Benjamin Netanyahu, who has made one racist move after another to solidify his base on the right. He’s argued that his opposition is going to make a deal with Arabs, he’s said that “Israel is the nation-state of the Jewish people, and not anyone else,” and he’s forged an alliance with the David Dukes of Israel, the Jewish Power party, to try and hold on to power.
It’s not as if there’s any counterforce in Israel. The latest opposition to Netanyahu is a centrist party that is also veering right, all but ruling out a Palestinian state, because there’s no political hay to be made by going left. The term Arab-lover really works as a political curse in Israel; the opposition’s last leader implored the party to shed its “Arab-loving” image. So the new opposition leaders are given to Jewish chauvinism and are falling over themselves to assure Jewish voters that they won’t make a governing coalition with Arab parties. That’s completely racist, and yet this party is now the hope of liberal Zionists.
Netanyahu, says Israeli political psychologist Eran Halperin. has successfully indoctrinated all of Israeli Jewish society in three emotions that now dominate political analysis: Despair, Fear, and Hatred. As for despair, “70 to 80 percent of the Israeli public, even left, believes that no matter what Israel offers, there will be no peace.” Fear: the region is changing so rapidly that “we cannot even consider taking risks in any way.”
And the Hatred is pure racism: Palestinians shouldn’t be considered part of the public discourse of Israel or the electoral system. Worse, everyone believes it, Halperin says. Even the so-called liberal opposition has embraced Netanyahu’s analysis, including the racism.
The last time Netanyahu ran, in 2015, he also used explicit racism, and the Obama administration at least denounced it; and Netanyahu had to apologize, all the way to the prime minister’s residence.
So you’d think that this time around there might be a forceful response from the liberal press and Democrats. But you’d be wrong. Apart from the progressive base of the Democratic Party, it’s all business as usual.
Typically, the New York Times covers the racism but doesn’t call much attention to it. Its story yesterday by David Halbfinger is titled, “Hectored by Netanyahu, Israeli Arabs Could Have the Final Say,” as if this is a debate in the House of Commons.
Mr. Netanyahu’s racial provocations may spur turnout among Arab voters motivated to usher him out of office.
It’s more than racial provocations. And even if they do usher Netanyahu out, none of those Arabs will be in the government.
Segregation ought to be a big issue for the Times, but the paper’s columnists have largely ignored the Israeli racism, the way they lined up behind Israeli massacres last year. Bret Stephens is fanning the flames of racism. Bari Weiss is engaged in her project to solidify the Jewish people behind Israel in a “shared sense of history and destiny.” Michelle Goldberg is good about Israeli racism, but she’s now more worried about Ilhan Omar. Roger Cohen worries about Jeremy Corbyn more than Netanyahu.
AIPAC of course is celebrating Netanyahu’s appearance there next week with a bunch of Democrats. Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer and Steny Hoyer are all attending the conference, no questions asked, because they obviously think it’s good for fundraising.
The good news here is that many presidential candidates are staying away from AIPAC: Sanders, O’Rourke, Harris, Warren, Buttigieg, Castro, and Howard Schultz. They are all following the moral lead of the progressive Democratic base, which wants nothing to do with an organization that has supported colonization and massacres and the subjugation of citizens on a racial basis. Even Beto O’Rourke has the sense that needs to trash Netanyahu to gain traction with the base.
The responses from the liberal Zionist community are, as usual, tepid. The Israel Policy Forum, a liberal Zionist group, is proud of who it’s sending to the AIPAC conference! A bunch of young liberal Zionists has taken the lame step of writing a “Dear Bibi, We’re Concerned” letter that is frightening in its patience. Young people are supposed to believe in something! The young Jews call on Netanyahu to say at AIPAC that Israel “remains… a state of all its citizens” — or they’re going to have trouble standing up “for a strong US-Israel relationship.”
And while the liberal Zionist group J Street has been very good on Netanyahu’s racism, it too is avoiding anything with teeth, like say, a boycott call, and merely urging politicians who go to AIPAC to call out “Netanyahu’s bigoted rhetoric and enabling of right-wing extremism” — or the pols will lose credibility when fighting Trump.
How hard should this be? Bernie Sanders won’t go to AIPAC, per his spokesperson, because of bigotry.
Sen. Sanders has no plans to attend the AIPAC conference. He’s concerned about the platform AIPAC is providing for leaders who have expressed bigotry and oppose a two-state solution.
MoveOn is calling on politicians to skip AIPAC, again, citing the real issue here, racism:
AIPAC conference is headlined by Benjamin Netanyahu––under whose leadership Israel may have committed war crimes.
Netanyahu also recently made a deal to bring the “Israeli KKK” ultra-racist party into the next government.
IfNotNow gets the story. It will have a big ad in the streets of DC saying that Netanyahu, AIPAC and their racism are not representative of Jews.
While Jewish Voice for Peace is urging Congresspeople including Nancy Pelosi to skip AIPAC. “Don’t roll out a welcome mat for Netanyahu,” it says. “At a time when AIPAC’s power is clearly waning and we are watching change happen in real time – with groups like MoveOn coming out strongly in favor for Democrats to skip AIPAC – Nancy Pelosi is lending her legitimacy to [AIPAC].”
Again, how hard should this be?
As Allan Brownfeld writes, “It is not widely known in the U.S., but in recent years, religious fundamentalism and racism have come to dominate some sectors of Israeli society.” Sadly, that’s still a revelation waiting to happen for the liberal mainstream.
H/t Adam Horowitz, Donald Johnson, and James North.