A racist, religious-fundamentalist war-criminal land squatter in the form of Bennett, is now the cause of celebrations by the Israeli left, because they think the great change has come.
Bennett, of the religious-Zionist settler party Yamina (“rightwards”), is the most rightwing Prime Minister Israel ever had.
Many Zionists, especially on the left, are celebrating. The new government might mark the end of the long Netanyahu era, which has lasted longer than any other premiership, by far, including Israel’s ‘founding father’ Ben-Gurion. Netanyahu has ruled now for 12 consecutive years, and the 1996-99 term adds another 3.
You could think it was Independence Day – thousands were celebrating with confetti and Israeli flags at the Rabin Square in Tel Aviv, as well as in other locations in Israel that identify themselves as bastions of the left. But this is the Zionist left, and when it’s Zionism, the relativity is inside a paradigm which is rightwing in its ultra-nationalism.
And that’s how Naftali Bennett is now going to be sanitised as a liberal: because he is supposedly this dragonslayer who ousted Netanyahu. The dragonslayer’s party only got 7 seats in the last election – Lapid’s party got 17 – but the Israeli logic says that this is the necesssary pragmatism to make it work, to just get through this one, as it were.
Bennett may well tone down his rhetoric somewhat, and stop boasting about having killed “many Arabs”, especially now that he has a government depending on their support. He might stop saying that Palestinians were just recently “climbing trees”. But Bennett is not suddenly going to turn leftwards, when his party is called “rightwards”.
This is going to be a rightwing government, just without Netanyahu. Bennett is not only more rightwing than Netanyahu – he is more rightwing than any Prime Minister Israel ever had – more than Begin, more than Shamir, more than Sharon.
The 1977 turnover elections marked an end to the Labor Zionist rule of Israel’s first three decades, and were won by Menachem Begin of the Likud. Begin’s premiership was 1977-1983.
Begin’s political heritage was the Revisionist ideology of Ze’ev (Vladimir) Jabotinsky. These people were more ideologically set upon overtaking the whole of historical Palestine and more, while David Ben-Gurion’s Labor had these same ambitions yet slightly less pronounced. During the 1947-48 wave of the ethnic cleansing of Palestine (Nakba), Begin’s terror forces of the Irgun fought both Palestinians as well as British, and they had a rivalry with the Labor-Zionist factions, although they did cooperate at times, since they shared key strategic goals. It was Ben-Gurion’s Haganah militias that perpetrated most of the large-scale ethnic cleansing operations, and with the formation of the Israeli army after May 1948, all of the factions got incorporated into a one army, which continued the expansion and ethnic cleansing. Ben-Gurion tried to brand himself as the moderate in comparison to Begin, yet this was mere hypocrisy. Begin was subsequently also sanitized by his participation in peace agreements with Egypt. But while Israel ended up giving back the Egyptian Sinai desert, it did not give up its ambitions to take over historical Palestine.
Yitzhak Shamir was Begin’s counterpart within the Revisionist factions – he led the breakaway Stern Gang, which was even a touch more fascistic than Irgun. Avraham (‘Yair’) Stern, the founder of the Gang, even offered allegiance to Hitler in 1941, touting ideological affinity. Shamir’s two terms were 1983-84, 1986-92. Shamir, too, was written in as a player in the notorious “peace process”, which ensued in 1991 with the Madrid Conference. Shamir coined what he called the ‘teaspoon policy’: endless negotiating sessions at which countless teaspoons amounting to mountains of sugar would be stirred into oceans of tea and coffee, but no agreement would ever be reached.
Ariel Sharon (Prime Minister 2001-2006). Despite not having the same prominent historical Nakba credentials as Begin and Shamir, Sharon nonetheless had a notoriously murderous record of racist war crimes that mark him as one of the darkest Zionist figures in modern times, as far as Palestinians are concerned. Sharon was a platoon commander in the 1948 Nakba, in the Alexandroni Brigade of Ben-Gurion’s Haganah – the same brigade which perpetrated the Tantura massacre. Sharon led the murderous “reprisal operations” in the 1950’s with his 101-Unit, which perpetrated the Qibya Massacre. Serving as Defense Minister under Begin, Sharon was instrumental in enabling the massacres of Sabra and Shatila in Lebanon, in 1982.
Sabra and Shatila did not prevent him being elected Prime Minister in 2001, having become Likud’s leader in 2000. It is arguable that his bloody history served as a boon for his election. In Israel, Sharon had the aura of the ‘Sabra’, in that he was born in Palestine (which Zionists call ‘Eretz Israel’), and was also involved in agriculture. His person was thus a kind of bridging between the more urban-style Likud and the more rural-style Labor. Although he was not religious as such, his zeal for overtaking Palestine had a religious-fundamentalist nature. In 1998 he said, as Foreign Minister:
Everybody has to move, run and grab as many [Palestinian] hilltops as they can to enlarge the [Jewish] settlements because everything we take now will stay ours… Everything we don’t grab will go to them.
His credo was, of course, militarism, and Itzhak Rabin hailed him as “the greatest field commander in our history”. In 2005, Sharon supposedly turned into a kind of centrist, forming the party Kadima (later led by Tzipi Livni). At this point, Sharon initiated the unilateral withdrawal from Gaza (“disengagement”), which was actually more about getting out of the open-air Gaza prison and throwing away the key, while mainaining Gaza’s isolation from without. There were fears, especially in the Likud, that Sharon’s move might herald a series of other withdrawals in the West Bank, yet his advisor Dov Weisglass assured that the whole excercise had the function of “formaldehyde”, to “freeze the peace process”:
“The significance of the disengagement plan is the freezing of the peace process. And when you freeze that process, you prevent the establishment of a Palestinian state, and you prevent a discussion on the refugees, the borders and Jerusalem. Effectively, this whole package called the Palestinian state, with all that it entails, has been removed indefinitely from our agenda. And all this with authority and permission. All with a presidential blessing and the ratification of both houses of Congress… What I effectively agreed to with the Americans was that part of the settlements would not be dealt with at all, and the rest will not be dealt with until the Palestinians turn into Finns. That is the significance of what we did.”
Naftali Bennett is apparently a smaller fish than these historical figures, yet he carries elements of all of them: He has a record as a military combat unit commander; he belongs to the religious-nationalist settler movement. Bennett also has a record as a high-tech entrepreneur.
So his person is a kind of modern combination of religious fundamentalism and ultra-nationalism, mixed with a kind of secular, ‘Western’, ‘startup’ nature that Israelis like to identify with. Bennett lives in Ra’anana, a city north of Tel-Aviv, so he does not live in one of the West Bank settlements as one might expect (unlike Avigdor Liberman, the new Finance Minister, who is avowedly secular and hateful of ultra-orthodox religious Jews). Nonetheless, as leader of a religious-settler movement, Bennett is an ideological settler-leader. He leads the war criminals and cheers the war crimes, from Ra’anana, and now from the highest post in Israel.
In 2017, Bennett, as Education minister, declared war on what he called “auto anti-Semites”:
Auto-anti-Semitism is a social-psychological phenomenon in which a Jew develops obsessive contempt and hostility towards Jewish tradition, customs, and observant Jews.
This was in response to criticism from leftwing organizations that “Jewish (orthodox) content is permeating more and more into the education system”.
It is of course not the Jewish aspect in itself that is the problem, but the entry of Jewish fundamentalism, which in turn serves the entrenchment of Jewish supremacy. But to say Jewish spuremacy is auto anti-Semitism, for sure…
Also in 2017, Mehdi Hassan interviewed Bennett on Al Jazeera. Asked about the Occupied Territories, Bennett answered Hassan that he needs to “go back and change the bible”, because Israel’s supposed right to the land is all there.
That is actually not very different to Tzipi Hotovely (Likud), who as Deputy Foreign Minister in 2015 said that “this land is ours, all of it is ours – we did not come here to apologise for that”.
Nor is it any different to Ben Gurion’s bible waving at the Royal Peel Commission in 1937, answering that this was the “deed” to the land.
That religious-fundamentalist bible mythology is central to the full spectrum of Zionists. But still, there are shades of gray – there are those who are more outspoken about that mythology, and those who are less. Rhetoric aside though, it is the colonialist thrust that makes the difference on the ground. This thrust is driven by ideology, which is driven by mythology. And in Bennett, this mythology is a chief motivator.
Although many secular Zionist leftists may not see him as “Our guy”, they may still identify with him on the militarism and the startup ideology, and this may be enough to sanitize him for them, as a pragmatic partner whom they can emotionally accept.
Netanyahu and the intrinsic racism of Israel
The focus upon Netanyahu and his toppling may blind some to the consistent, intrinsic racism and even rightwards shift at that, of the Apartheid state of Israel. And hopefully, people will start to realize that it’s not all about Netanyahu, really. As a foreign policy friend told our site the other day:
I think Bennett et al will make the problem worse for Israel here in the US, because its behavior won’t improve even after Netanyahu is gone and it might get worse… Instead of blaming it all on one obnoxious guy who overstayed his welcome, people will begin to realize the problem is intrinsic to the system as a whole.
Many on the left seem to think this is just a phase, under the notion of ‘alright, Benett is very rightwing, but it was necessary to have him lead, for tactical reasons, in order to topple Netanyahu’. Supposedly, the centrist Yair Lapid is to replace him as Prime Minister after two years (never mind that this coalition is so wide and thin, that few Israelis give it more than 3 months, as Yossi Gurvitz notes).
How long it survives, doesn’t really seem to matter, for these people, because it may be enough to end the Netanyahu era. But what happens when the Netanyahu era ends?
Netanyahu’s person has been a divisive factor as much as it has been uniting in Likud. Gideon Sa’ar, who broke away late last year, took with him many Likud votes. But in the overall, Israel is an overwhelmingly rightwing Zionist state. About two-thirds of the parliament are right or center-right, and that’s in the relativity of the Zionist spectrum which is naturally right-tainted in its racial-nationalism. The celebrations on the left may well be premature – Netanyahu is not gone, he’s now in the opposition, and it may not be very long before another election arrives, with such a thin government.
But let’s say, for argument’s sake, that this point does mark the beginning of his departure from Israeli politics. What would such a departure mean? Such a departure may unleash a new unity on the right, undisturbed by the Netanyahu personal divisiveness. Who the uniting figure for that might be, Bennett or Sa’ar or someone else, has yet to be seen, but the political forces are there and they are unmistakably hawkish.
And there is no real challenge to Zionism here. On the contrary, the left-Zionists tend to brandish their credentials on how they are more Zionist than the right, as Israel’s incoming President Isaac Herzog used to do, regularly. That competition on how Zionist one is was marked by Herzog’s merger-party’s name from 2005, the “Zionist Union“, a center-left union of his Labor and Tzipi Livni’s centrist Hatnua (“the movement”). Herzog, by the way, is an unbelievably racist hypocrite, who called intermarriage between Jews and non-Jews in USA a “plague“, and would not apologise for it – instead he tried to wriggle out of it saying people didn’t get it because he said “plague” in Hebrew, where it means something else (it doesn’t, believe me).
There is no challenging of Zionist racism in all of this. It really is more of the same, and worse. A racist, religious-fundamentalist war-criminal land squatter in the form of Bennett, is now the cause of celebrations by the Israeli left, because they think the great change has come. But it is only more Apartheid with a new face.
About the author in his own words (and with our thanks to Mondoweiss for their courage and witness)
[dropcap]I[/dropcap] thought I was born in Israel. I never had a doubt about it at the start. It was obvious to me also, that the army was the most moral. Who would question this? I believed that my uncle died to protect us all, they didn’t even have to spell it out, because the army is the Israeli Defense Forces.
I had been nurtured and inculcated to believe all this from my birth.
Those ‘Arabs’, they were hardly visible. And when they were heard of, it was mostly because they were terrorists – ‘mehablim’ in Hebrew, that means ‘sabotagers’. They were sabotaging our brave and moral national project. How evil – didn’t they have better things to do than to hate us?
It all took a very long time for me to learn that I was born in Palestine, and that Israel was the name of the settler-colonialist project that I had been born into and raised upon. This project denied and rejected Palestine, because it was and is eliminationist. So actually, the two names, Israel and Palestine, are about the same place, but represent two different paradigms: one of nativity, one of settler-colonialist takeover. Ostensibly, the colonialist allows a certain potential existence of this “Palestine”, but that’s also under its occupation and is at most a form of lip-service.
The army that I at first thought was a defense force, is thus an aggressive colonialist militia. Sometimes it ‘defends itself’ against the response to its occupation, but that’s mostly the response to the aggression. That’s how my uncle died – trying to defend the occupation of Egypt in 1973, an occupation that began with a war and invasion of choice in 1967. We keep trying to frame these aggressions as wars that are forced upon us, but they basically never are. Even that 1973 war that caught Israel by surprise came after Israeli refusal to accept peace overtures from Egypt’s Sadat.
I was born in an aggressive place, where people spoke the language of force, yet projected that very trait upon the ‘Arabs’. And the hate for ‘Arabs’ has really been immense, if you listened to the private conversations where Jews thought other Jews agree. And we were awfully good at hiding that, because there is an understanding that we shouldn’t appear racist. I once confronted a ‘peace activist’ with the fact that she had personally told me she ‘hates Arabs’, and she denied it vehemently. The denial is another part of that societal psyche, it’s extremely heavy.
And the denial is not only personal, it’s national and externalised, unto Palestinians. It’s all about denying them what we believe we deserve and are entitled to, because after all, we are special.
In so many ways, I grew up in a diminished place and under diminished upbringing, upbringing which came from people who thought they were doing me a huge favor and ensuring me a great life.
Indeed, the life of privilege has given me opportunities which many do not have. I also worked hard to enhance some of these opportunities, and I do not regret all of it. But my rejection of such a central feature of my upbringing – Zionism – is a pain that permeates the essence of many of those who have invested in me, it tears that essence and breaks many hearts. This is a price that I have decided to pay. Many would no doubt have me speak more quietly, or shut up totally about this. But I chose to shout it from the rooftops. Because the injustice is calling for a thunderous roar, not a whisper. And I think that if I shout, maybe another person who didn’t even dare to whisper to themselves about this, may finally find their words.
There are at least two sides to every story
So where are the Palestinian voices in mainstream media?
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^3000US citizens have no real political representation.
We don't live in a democracy. And our freedom is disappearing fast.
I don't want to be ruled by hypocrites, whores, and war criminals.
What about you? Time to push back against the corporate oligarchy.
And its multitude of minions and lackeys.
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