I must admit I never had as much fun watching Israeli politics as I did this week. I spent the week glued to i24 News television for the Israeli election and was laughing a lot of the time.
I’ve never seen such a display of out-and-out racism on TV, and all parading as the democratic process.
The display was so blatant that (I want to believe) it can’t be very long before Israel’s shadow catches up with its shining American image. I know I’m biased, but I felt I was watching the disintegration of Zionism, right before my eyes.
You see, the Palestinian parties were big winners Tuesday night, getting 13 seats, third behind Blue/White at 33 and Likud at 31, and no one in Israeli politics knows how to deal with this, except to say We don’t want anything to do with the Arabs!
Kingmaker Avigdor Lieberman, who came in fifth, with 8 seats, well behind the Palestinian parties, said it the night of the election, No way will I make a coalition with Arabs.
The sonofabitch got five seats less than the Palestinians, and came in two places behind them in the race, but he gets to condescend to them!
Netanyahu issued the same racist pronouncement at 3 a.m. on election night. A beaten man, Netanyahu pivoted from his call for a rightwing government to a call for a “strong, Zionist… government that is committed to Israel as the nation state of the Jewish people.” No Arabs, Netanyahu said explicitly– no “anti-Zionist Arab parties that oppose the very existence of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state.”
Former Israeli ambassador Michael Oren echoed Netanyahu on i24. The new government should be a coalition of parliamentarians from the two main parties along with some parliamentarians from the religious parties Shas and UTJ.
The religious parties finished fourth and sixth, well behind the Palestinian parties. But Palestinians don’t count for Oren.
While another former ambassador, Daniel Shek, said Netanyahu had brought the Arab problem on himself by his ugly race-baiting during the campaign, but: “Honestly, no one wants them [Arabs] as part of a coalition.”
And today on i24, the messianic Islamophobic rightwinger Yehuda Glick called for a government that solidifies Israel’s hold on Jerusalem and strengthens the “unity” of Israeli society, i.e., its Jewishness.
Glick speaks with an American accent. Just like rightwing Israeli pundit Jeremy Saltan, who was using NFL analogies in the i24 studio today to explain why Netanyahu will come out on top.
And it all just makes you think, Who are these a******es who moved there from America to tell Palestinians they have no standing in the government of the country they live in?
Surely my favorite moment on i24 this week was when Dennis Ross was interviewed (at an election watch party held by the “Israel Forever Foundation” in Washington), and said it’s necessary for Israelis and Palestinians to “separate.” Otherwise Palestinians will demand equal rights! And the settler Yishai Fleisher, who was raised in New Jersey but now lives in occupied Hebron and is published by the New York Times, responded that Ross is a “segregationist,” but Israelis can be “creative” with Palestinians– and hand them over to Jordan.
It is really hard to say who the bigger scoundrel was! Do you want your apartheid hard or soft, and with sprinkles or dipped?
All the racist gerrymandering could result in another scary outcome for the Jewish state: The Palestinian parties become leaders of the official opposition in parliament, and thereby included in security briefings.
Not to worry. Danny Ayalon, former Cabinet official, and Oded Revivi, a settler leader, agreed on i24 that no Palestinian leader would be allowed to see Israeli defense documents. “He won’t get the full. Only diluted,” Ayalon said.
All of this is reminiscent of the Jim Crow era in the U.S., when the Democratic Party was on board with southern racists up into the 1960s, till the Democrats reformed. But as keen students of Israeli politics all agree, from Mike Wagenheim of i24 to Yossi Gurvitz and Jonathan Ofir, Israeli politics swung further right this election.
“This was an unprecedented right-wing victory,” Michael Koplow writes.
As the Jewish State gets older, it only gets more anachronistic. And its adherents get more embattled, seeing enemies on all sides.
Which brings us to the great showing of the Joint List. Both anti-Zionist and liberal Zionist Jews have celebrated the Joint List’s incredible results, with Einat Wilf, a former Labor parliamentarian, saying on i24 that Odeh should be Interior Minister and Ahmad Tibi minister of health.
Consider Ayman Odeh’s final campaign message (as reported by Harry Reis of New Israel Fund):
“I turn now to Israel’s Jewish citizens: friends, our interests are shared. The interests of 90% of Jews, of 90% of Arabs is to live in peace; to live in democracy, with social justice and equality. But it’s not just interests; it’s our values that we need to live by. This time, I want to talk to you about another direction. A direction of solidarity; of identification. Who better than the Jews can understand what it is to live as a minority–to be a persecuted minority? We — Arab citizens of Israel — are suffering from unrestrained incitement of the prime minister @netanyahu– and from a bold-faced lie: whether it’s Arabs ‘flocking to the polls in droves,’ or ‘Arabs are stealing our elections’ of last week;or ‘Arabs want to annihilate us’ of 3 days ago, we have gone from a persecuted minority in this country–to an endangered minority.”
Odeh frankly describes the racist politics that I observed on i24. His voice represents real leadership, far different from the religious national authoritarian demagoguery on display in Jewish politics.
American Jews have needed Palestinian partners to liberate themselves from Zionism. We could never have reached an understanding of the damage of Zionism on our own. The same goes for Israeli society. There is only one way out of the ugly place you have painted yourself into, democracy.