Friday 19 July 2024

Will the world soon see the victory
of democracy over racism in Israel

Basim Naim

We may be surprised by the result of the pressures exerted by the massive public protests and political opposition in Israel. We might see the collapse of the fascist far-right government coalition, and the formation of a new government without some of the more overtly extremist members, such as Itamar Ben-Gvir and Bezalel Smotrich, but including others such as former Chiefs of Staff Benny Gantz and Gadi Eizenkot, or even Yair Lapid. There might even be another General Election, the sixth since 2019. Such a scenario would have been considered unlikely before, but not now.


It is becoming increasingly possible to see this happen in light of the increasing numbers and segments of society that support the opposition against the government, not least because of the judicial coup and the change of Israel's identity from an allegedly "liberal democratic" state to a state driven by fanatical religious Zionism. To this must be added the fact that there is unlimited support from the West, led by the US, for the opposition because judicial "reforms" give politicians power over the courts and a change in Israel's status threatens America's strategic interests in the region. This also makes it difficult to market Israel and garner support for the occupation state within the US itself, given that such support is supposed to be based on "shared values".


Every day we hear about new sectors joining the protests inside Israel, including the army, security forces, media, judiciary and economists. Foreign governments have expressed their rejection of the judicial coup (while not actually calling it that), along with political commentators and intellectuals in the West in general and the US in particular. Even Jewish Zionists are declaring their rejection of the planned change and threatening to speak out against Israel in the media. With the possibility that the Israeli economy faces lost investments worth billions of dollars, economist Michael Bloomberg has said that Israel is heading towards a "disaster".


It is almost certain that the active powers inside Israel affiliated with the left and center of the "deep state" that consider themselves the descendants of the founders, as well as the pressure exerted by the West on Netanyahu, will not allow this "disaster" to happen or this judicial coup to go through. There are many reasons for this, not least that the deep state knows well that Israel's existence and prosperity are linked to continued external support, especially from the US and the Jewish community there.


This will not be achieved if Israel abandons its identity and the image that it is a representative of Western values and an advanced base for the colonial powers after their withdrawal from the region post-World War Two.


However, none of the above, despite the importance of what is happening, answers the main question: is there any difference between the essence of the Israeli coalition government and the protesters on the streets? A distinction must be made between the position of the two parties regarding the internal dispute over the identity of the state, and their position on the Palestinians and their aspirations for freedom, independence and self-determination.


With regard to the former, the dispute is real, radical and deep, to the extent that strategic thinkers and senior security leaders consider it the main threat to the state at this stage, ahead of the Iranian nuclear threat as well as the conflict with the Palestinians. Many commentators and observers have written about the danger of horizontal and vertical divisions in Israel and the possibility of internal strife and civil war, leading to the collapse of the entire state. This would be similar to historical Jewish experiences, as the Israeli philosopher and thinker David Passig theorized in his 2021 book The Fifth Fiasco – How to escape the traps of Jewish history in the twenty-first century.


With regard to the position towards the Palestinians, any differences in approach are mere formalities; the essence is the same for the government and protesters alike. While some may claim that the chances of peace and coexistence are greater under the center and left compared with the extreme far right, history and reality demonstrate that such a conclusion is wrong. Unfortunately, though, this is the narrative promoted in Israel and the West and believed by many around the world.


The fact is that all the statistics about the conflict in Palestine confirm without doubt that there is no essential difference between the vast majority in Israel — left, right or center —when it comes to the Palestinians. Those responsible for the protests in Israel categorically reject the participation of any Palestinian ("Arab Israeli") citizen; it is a "Jew-Jew" conflict and non-Jews can have nothing to do with it. The plan adopted by Yair Lapid to solve the conflict is only "conflict management" or "conflict mitigation" by economic gestures. It has no place for any political horizon that includes Palestinians.


Let us not forget that many of the wars and military offensives that Israel has launched against the Palestinian people — killing and wounding thousands — were carried out by supposedly left of center governments, including the 1948, 1956, 1967 and 1982 wars, the "breaking bones" policy in the first intifada and the 1996 and 2006 Qana massacres.


All settlement projects and schemes to control Palestinian resources over the decades since the establishment of the occupation state in 1948, were implemented by left and center parties. Last year was the worst and most brutal for Palestinians since 2005, with more than 230 killed in Gaza and the occupied West Bank; the Israeli government in 2022 was led by center politician Lapid in an alliance with the left.


All the plans of the Israeli political parties are based on the Judaization of occupied Jerusalem; the promotion and development of illegal settlements; the denial of the Palestinian right to an independent, fully sovereign state; the denial of the legitimate right of return of Palestinian refugees; and, most importantly, the establishment of a Jewish state in which Jews enjoy more rights than non-Jewish citizens. The Western powers that support Israel are well aware of this, but they turn a blind eye and do nothing about it, as long as it does not threaten their own interests.


Human rights are indivisible, and racism, whether overt or covert behind sweet words, will remain an outrageous and ugly act and must be rejected everywhere, no matter who is responsible and who is the victim. With major human rights bodies such as B'Tselem, Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International finding Israel to be imposing apartheid — a crime akin to a crime against humanity — on the Palestinians, Israeli-occupied Palestine cannot be allowed to be an exception.



Dr Basem Naim, who resides in Gaza, is the former Minister of Health and Advisor to the Palestinian PM on International Relations. His article appeared in MEMO.

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