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Extreme right-wing politics are considered mainstream in Israel today

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With Election Day in Israel less than two months away, parties are feeling more pressure than ever to garner support for the third election in less than a year.

It has been clear for a long time that there is no distinction between Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party and his main challenger, Benny Gantz’s Blue and White party. Indeed, when it comes to issues and policies regarding Palestinian, either citizens of Israel or those in the occupied Palestinian territory, the two were in complete agreement with each other. Gantz not only echoed and supported Netanyahu’s promise to annex parts of the West Bank last fall but in fact took credit for it, stating “We’re glad Netanyahu came to his senses and adopted Blue and White’s plan for recognition of the Jordan Valley, ”reflecting an overt Israeli consensus on a one-state solution. It was undeniable that Gantz’s image as a leader who will bring change and progress to the country was a fallacy. Gantz is nothing more than a wolf in sheep’s clothing.

Furthermore, the recent merger of center-left party Meretz with Labor-Gesher signaled yet another change in the political map in the country. Meretz was the only Jewish party that took a position against the occupation of the West Bank, Gaza, and East Jerusalem, a position that will surely be dropped in the deal. However, in a trend over the past decade or so, Meretz has consistently shifted closer to the center, a process that has been echoed across the board in Israel. The merger of Meretz with Labor-Gesher marked the official end of progressive, Jewish left-wing politics in Israel, leaving the Joint List, an alliance of Palestinian Arab parties, led by the joint Arab-Jewish Hadash party, as the sole voice for the progressive, left-wing base in the country.

Still, a recent development has trumped all others in cementing the Joint List’s status as the sole progressive, left-wing voice in Israel. Netanyahu has grown increasingly desperate in his efforts to maintain support. While a narrow majority of Israelis surveyed by the Israeli Democracy Institute said they want him to resign in the wake of his corruption indictment, his base has not budged. He outlasted an internal Likud election and his support and popularity remained steady among voters according to January polls from Channel 12 and 13. But to do so, he engaged in constant incitement and hate-filled rhetoric against Palestinians.

In a November “emergency rally” a month after the last election billed as “stopping the dangerous minority government that is reliant on terror supporters,” equated Arab parliamentarians to terrorists for no apparent reason other than being Arab. Netanyahu told supporters that Gantz was forming a government backed by the Joint List, described as those who want to “destroy the country.”

Netanyahu referred to the prospect of the Joint List backing his opponent as a “historic terror attack” against Israel.

Separately, Netanyahu has taken more extreme and frantic actions such as placing cameras in polls at Palestinian localities in order to suppress the Palestinian vote.

However, the latest action taken by the Likud may be the most drastic yet: appealing to the Central Elections Committee to ban the Joint List’s candidate for Knesset re-election, Heba Yazbak. While such a move by the Likud should not come as a shock to anyone, what is worrying is the response by other parties to it. All major parties running in the elections, with the exception of the Joint List, have supported the move to varying extents. Blue and White, Yisrael Beiteinu, and even members within the Labor-Gesher-Meretz supported barring Yazbak. A petition Likud circulated falsely accused Yazbak of supporting terrorism and claimed she violated Israeli candidacy laws, which prohibits, “support of armed struggle, by a hostile state or a terrorist organization, against the State of Israel.

The row centers around a 2015 post she made to Facebook about Samir Kuntar after the Lebanese-Druze man was killed in an alleged Israeli airstrike in Syria. Kuntar was a member of the Palestine Liberation Front and Hezbollah and was convicted in 1979 of killing five Israelis. He was later released to Lebanon in a prison swap. 

“It is uncomfortable for me to read Heba’s words on Facebook, but to disqualify a law-abiding civilian from running is like giving a prize to those slandering Israeli democracy,” Meretz Knesset member Yair Golan wrote on Twitter this week. “In a democracy, people are disqualified for their actions, not sharing outrageous things on Facebook.”

While a couple of members in Meretz have expressed their concerns with the proposal to sanction Yazbak, a vast majority of members in the newly formed Labor-Gesher-Meretz alliance do in fact support striking her from the roster, including some members of Meretz, further highlighting the end of left-wing Jewish parties in Israel.

It is also worth noting that there is no shortage of Likud, Yisrael Beiteinu, and even Blue and White lawmakers who have made a plethora of bigoted and hostile comments and social media posts over the course of years, such as the former minister of justice Ayelet Shaked, who is notorious for her hateful posts and considers all Palestinians to be “the enemy.” Another incident involves current defense minister Naftali Bennet who, when he was minister of education, stated he would implement a “shoot to kill” policy against Palestinians from Gaza attempting to cross into Israel.

These are but a couple of examples of the hate-filled and racist atmosphere promoted by right-wing politicians in Israel, greatly endangering democratic values and institutions in the country. Hence, there are countless politicians currently serving under Netanyahu’s government who are more than noteworthy of being barred from running in the elections due to the threat they pose to democracy in the country. In fact, Facebook banned Netanyahu himself for 24 hours due to an extremely hate-filled and threatening post he made. A recent report published by 7amleh – The Arab Center for the Advancement of Social Media, details Israelis incite against Palestinians on social media every 66 seconds.

For over two decades, Netanyahu has shifted farther to the right, appealing to the extreme settler far-right agenda and implementing its policies. This has caused the Overton window to shift dramatically to the right. Today, the extreme right is a wholly acceptable idea in the Israeli mainstream. Supporting illegal settlements in the occupied Palestinian territory has shifted to a centrist policy. Netanyahu has pushed it to the mainstream and still continues to shift further to the right. 

The rise in incitement against Palestinian citizens of Israel and the constantly expanding restrictions on their civil and democratic rights is nothing new. However, the eradication of progressive, Jewish parties is a prospect that threatens to expand such injustices to all those who oppose Netanyahu and his government’s extremist agenda. The Joint List, the sole voice of equality, justice, and peace in the country is the last hope for peace between Israelis and Palestinians.

Naim Mousa

Naim Mousa is a Palestinian citizen of Israel, currently living in New York. He is the Media Director of the Friends of Mossawa, a US-based sister organization to the Haifa-based Mossawa Center, which advocates for the rights of Arab Palestinian citizens of Israel.

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13 Responses

  1. Keith on January 24, 2020, 5:14 pm

    FOLKS, the rightward drift in Israel is similar to the rightward drift in the US. Over at Znet, I just read s shocking open letter to the Green Party from current liberal icons suggesting that they not run in contested states. One of the signers was former radical Noam Chomsky who seems to have abandoned any semblance of radicalism. Shocking. I print the last paragraph along with the link followed by a concluding comment. Apparently, some “progressives” feel that voting for corporate rule is the key to progressive outcomes. Ah, the life of a well-off intellectual.

    “But real solutions require Trump out of office. Real solutions will become far more probable with Sanders or Warren in office. Real solutions will become somewhat more probable even with the likes of Biden in office.” (Noam Chomsky, Bill Fletcher, Barbara Ehrenreich, Kathy Kelly, Ron Daniels, Leslie Cagan, Norman Solomon, Cynthia Peters, and Michael Albert)

    Real solutions require voting for the “Blue” corporate/financial candidate? Real solutions demand we vote for the neoliberal, warmongering Democrats? Real solutions are best served by not holding the Democrats accountable for their policies and actions? Hillary lost not because of her horrible record and her desire to warmonger but because Jill Stein stole votes from her in critical states? What BS. What an insult to the intelligence. Shocking to see Chomsky sign this piece of crap.

    • wondering jew on January 24, 2020, 6:41 pm

      I don’t know about real solutions, but some people see a 2nd trump term in office as catastrophic. Others feel that it won’t be much worse than his first term and as such it is worth suffering through if it leads to real change. (it has to get slightly worse before it gets better and it is better to get slightly worse than to set us on sail for permanent stasis.)
      But as I said, my mind is not on real solutions. Since real solutions have not been a feature of the political system in my lifetime I tend to dismiss such talk as hot air. In general those who advocate “real solutions” are zealots, who like most of their compatriots are unable to talk to those who are nonbelievers, and as such pretty scary people.
      Climate change will probably cause lots of dislocations over the next 50 years, making today’s migrations look like child’s play, so “real solutions” are “tempting”. But still i am allergic to zealots.

    • Tuyzentfloot on January 25, 2020, 10:18 am

      Chomsky’s point of view that you should choose the lesser evil, even if you have to go for an extreme case as Biden. You could disagree about ‘lesser evil’ strategies (his argument is here ) but at the moment you don’t even understand his position. There is room for different interpretations of the letter but you’re picking an interpretation which does not fit what Chomsky’s point of view is.
      There is no assumption that the lesser evil is actually better than we think.

      • Keith on January 25, 2020, 4:25 pm

        TUYZENTFLOOT- “…but at the moment you don’t even understand his position. “

        Seems pretty clear to me that when you cut through the pilpul Chomsky’s bottom line is that “progressives” need to vote for the Democrat if their vote may make a difference. No? Screw the rhetorical gamesmanship and placing Chomsky on a pedestal, voting for the Democrats is voting for the fat-cat agenda consisting of neoliberalism and war. You might think that is your “progressive duty,” but I don’t. The system needs changing. De facto voting for the system doesn’t cut it. Besides, the Democrats have moved to the right of the Republicans on the issue of war and peace, no small matter. And the fat-cats and corporations – particularly the financial corporations – run the empire in any event. Focusing on Trump is a diversion. For some additional thoughts on “lesser evilism” follow the link.

  2. echinococcus on January 24, 2020, 6:52 pm

    Seeing Chomsky sign this piece of crap among many other pieces of crap is not shocking, it’s not even surprising because it’s expected.

    What’s surprising is your sunny disposition, writing about this vomitive sausage right here, a select Democrat bastion, where your indignant indictment sounds like an approving note on the habits and intentions of most people in this room!

    They’ll mostly go with the sheepdog and end up supporting the officially selected Dim (don’t say history doesn’t repeat itself, and don’t say I didn’t warn you, there’s a strong chance of the Evil Witch herself making a comeback — by popular demand)

    • Keith on January 25, 2020, 4:06 pm

      ECHINOCOCCUS- “What’s surprising is your sunny disposition…”

      Sunny disposition? I have been accused of a lot of things but “sunny disposition” is a first. The shocking thing about the letter is that Chomsky in signing on (Jeez, I hope he didn’t have a hand in writing it) contradicts much of his own criticism of the system. The system stinks and by voting for the imperial Democrat the voter is voting approval of imperial policies. Whatever happened to the notion of holding elected officials accountable for their actions? And the letter is nothing but pilpul designed to hoodwink the ignorant masses into blindly supporting the Democrats. And Chomsky is well aware that private power runs this country/empire in any event. One doesn’t change the system by voting for it. And all of those liberal icons signing the letter demonstrate capitalism’s unrivaled ability to co-opt the opposition.

      Below is a link to a video of Chomsky discussing Trump and Russiagate in which he says that the Democrats abandoned the working class in the 1970s and that Russiagate is an attempt to evade the issues which likely will backfire. It is a pity he can’t bring himself to analyze the Democrats in similar fashion but chooses group loyalty instead. For those interested, below that is a second link to a mini essay I wrote on capitalist democracy.

      11 min video of Chomsky on Trump (Russiagate starts @ 6:30):


      • echinococcus on January 25, 2020, 8:30 pm

        “Sunny disposition” refers, of course, to the high level of optimism, bordering on happy-go-lucky, shown by posting your perfectly accurate indictment on MW, forward bastion of the Democratic faith. No doubt it got through to a few here who appreciate it, but they are a few. I was waging that many readers here read it as a commendation rather than an indictment.

  3. echinococcus on January 24, 2020, 6:56 pm


    Who gives a rat’s ass about “extreme-right” or “extreme-left” when it’s all about Zionism and invasion, theft and genocide?

    The worst until now weren’t Likud, Beitenu and Co. The very worst since 1948 were the “leftist”, even “socialist” genocidaires of Labor, the original invaders and Nakba’istas. Just try to remember that. Who cares if they are bitching among themselves over how better to pluck, skin and quarter you guys?

  4. wondering jew on January 24, 2020, 6:57 pm

    Gantz is not a wolf in sheep’s clothing. He is running as Mr. Security. He is running on fighting against Gaza. Straight up. I am a general.
    Why is he getting the left’s vote, because they want Bibi out.
    These 3 elections are not because of any inherent dysfunction in the politics, but because Bibi has overstayed his welcome and Avigdor Lieberman wants him out. Bibi fucked Lieberman and now Lieberman is getting his revenge.
    There are many faults to the Israeli democracy: a lack of a constitution. a high court that lacks a constitution to give it power to withstand the majoritarianism of the Knesset. Other more basic problems: the exile of the Palestinians in 47-49 and the occupation which was both condemned by the UN but ultimately tolerated by Resolution 242 (in comparison to the forced withdrawal that occurred in 1957 after the ’56 war). These are very basic problems: the religious versus secular struggle is another thing, and the drain on the economy of the haredi sector and the drain on the economy of neglecting the Arab (Palestinian) sector.
    But this 3 elections deal is about Lieberman getting vengeance, making Bibi sweat. And Gantz coming out in favor of annexation, is part of the rightwing tilt of Israel, rejecting the two state solution as naive and suicidal and the settler enterprise as a fait accomplis, so there is no left wing regarding, hope for a two state solution, so when the 2 state solution disappears, annexation is the next logical (or illogical) step.

    • echinococcus on January 24, 2020, 8:24 pm

      “Gantz is not a wolf in sheep’s clothing.”

      Correct. He is a wolf in a blood-dripping wolf’s coating.

    • eljay on January 24, 2020, 9:01 pm

      || wondering jew: … There are many faults to the Israeli democracy: a lack of a constitution. a high court that lacks a constitution to give it power to withstand the majoritarianism of the Knesset. Other more basic problems: the exile of the Palestinians in 47-49 and the occupation … ||

      You’re a Zionist, so it’s not at all surprising that you left out one of the most obvious problems with Israel – namely, that it exists:
      – not as a law-abiding, secular and democratic state of and for all of its Israeli citizens, immigrants, expats and refugees, equally; but, rather,
      – as a deliberately and unapologetically colonialist, (war) criminal and religion-supremacist “Jewish State” primarily of and for Jewish Israelis and non-Israeli Jews.

    • Talkback on January 24, 2020, 10:35 pm

      wondering jew: “There are many faults to the Israeli democracy: ”

      The biggest one: It’s not a democracy, but a a racist electoral oligarchy that has to keep voters denationalized and expelled to prevent them from participating in the electoral process, because of their faith and heritage. It is as democratic as South Africa under Apartheid.

  5. Talkback on January 24, 2020, 10:54 pm

    “Netanyahu referred to the prospect of the Joint List backing his opponent as a “historic terror attack” against Israel.”

    Ah, yet another Zionist iinvention of terrorism while refering to Nonjews. This time it’s: “democratic terrorism”.

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