[News] Israel lurches into fascism

Anti-Imperialist News news at freedomarchives.org
Thu Feb 12 15:11:32 EST 2009

Israel lurches into fascism

Ali Abunimah, The Electronic Intifada, 12 February 2009

Whenever Israel has an election, pundits begin the usual refrain that 
hopes for peace depend on the "peace camp" -- formerly represented by 
the Labor party, but now by Tzipi Livni's Kadima -- prevailing over 
the anti-peace right, led by the Likud.

This has never been true, and makes even less sense as Israeli 
parties begin coalition talks after Tuesday's election. Yes, the 
"peace camp" helped launch the "peace process," but it did much more 
to undermine the chances for a just settlement.

In 1993, Labor prime minister Yitzhak Rabin signed the Oslo accords. 
Ambiguities in the agreement -- which included no mention of 
"self-determination" or "independence" for Palestinians, or even 
"occupation" -- made it easier to clinch a short-term deal. But 
confrontation over irreconcilable expectations was inevitable. While 
Palestinians hoped the Palestinian Authority, created by the accord, 
would be the nucleus of an independent state, Israel viewed it as 
little more than a native police force to suppress resistance to 
continued occupation and colonial settlement in the West Bank and 
Gaza Strip. Collaboration with Israel has always been the measure by 
which any Palestinian leader is judged to be a "peace partner." 
Rabin, according to Shlomo Ben-Ami, a former Israeli foreign 
minister, "never thought this [Oslo] will end in a full-fledged 
Palestinian state." He was right.

Throughout the "peace process," Israeli governments, regardless of 
who led them, expanded Jewish-only settlements in the heart of the 
West Bank, the territory supposed to form the bulk of the Palestinian 
state. In the 1990s, Ehud Barak's Labor-led government actually 
approved more settlement expansion than the Likud-led government that 
preceded it headed by Benjamin Netanyahu.

Barak, once considered "dovish," promoted a bloodthirsty image in the 
campaign, bolstered by the massacres of Gaza civilians he directed as 
defense minister. "Who has he ever shot?" Barak quipped derisively 
about Avigdor Lieberman, the leader of the proto-fascist Yisrael 
Beitenu party, in an attempt to paint the latter as a lightweight.

Today, Lieberman's party, which beat Labor into third place, will 
play a decisive role in a government. An immigrant who came to Israel 
from the former Soviet republic of Moldova, Lieberman was once a 
member of the outlawed racist party Kach that calls for expelling all 

Yisrael Beitenu's manifesto was that 1.5 million Arab Palestinian 
citizens of Israel (indigenous survivors or descendants of the 
Palestinian majority ethnically cleansed in 1948) be subjected to a 
loyalty oath. If they don't swear allegiance to the "Jewish state" 
they would lose their citizenship and be forced from the land of 
their birth, joining millions of already stateless Palestinians in 
exile or in Israeli-controlled ghettos. In a move instigated by 
Lieberman but supported by Livni's allegedly "centrist" Kadima, the 
Knesset recently voted to ban Arab parties from participating in 
elections. Although the high court overturned it in time for the 
vote, it is an ominous sign of what may follow.

Lieberman, who previously served as deputy prime minister, has a long 
history of racist and violent incitement. Prior to Israel's recent 
attack, for example, he demanded Israel subject Palestinians to the 
brutal and indiscriminate violence Russia used in Chechyna. He also 
called for Arab Knesset members who met with officials from Hamas to 
be executed.

But it's too easy to make him the bogeyman. Israel's narrow political 
spectrum now consists at one end of the former "peace camp" that 
never halted the violent expropriation of Palestinian land for Jewish 
settlements and boasts with pride of the war crimes in Gaza, and at 
the other, a surging far-right whose "solutions" vary from apartheid 
to outright ethnic cleansing.

What does not help is brazen western hypocrisy. Already the US State 
Department spokesman affirmed that the Obama administration would 
work with whatever coalition emerged from Israel's "thriving 
democracy" and promised that the US would not interfere in Israel's 
"internal politics." Despite US President Barack Obama's sweet talk 
about a new relationship with the Arab world, few will fail to notice 
the double standard. In 2006, Hamas won a democratic election in the 
occupied territories, observed numerous unilateral or agreed truces 
that were violated by Israel, offered Israel a generation-long truce 
to set the stage for peace, and yet it is still boycotted by the US 
and European Union.
Worse, the US sponsored a failed coup against Hamas and continues to 
arm and train the anti-Hamas militias of Mahmoud Abbas, whose term as 
Palestinian Authority president expired on 9 January. As soon as he 
took office, Obama reaffirmed this boycott of Palestinian democracy.

The clearest message from Israel's election is that no Zionist party 
can solve Israel's basic conundrum and no negotiations will lead to a 
two-state solution. Israel could only be created as a "Jewish state" 
by the forced removal of the non-Jewish majority Palestinian 
population. As Palestinians once again become the majority in a 
country that has defied all attempts at partition, the only way to 
maintain Jewish control is through ever more brazen violence and 
repression of resistance (see Gaza). Whatever government emerges is 
certain to preside over more settlement-building, racial 
discrimination and escalating violence.

There are alternatives that have helped end what once seemed like 
equally intractable and bloody conflicts: a South African-style 
one-person one-vote democracy, or Northern Ireland-style 
power-sharing. Only under a democratic system according rights to all 
the people of the country will elections have the power to transform 
people's futures.

But Israel today is lurching into open fascism. It is utterly 
disingenuous to continue to pretend -- as so many do -- that its 
failed and criminal leaders hold the key to getting out of the 
morass. Instead of waiting for them to form a coalition, we must 
escalate the international civil society campaign of boycott, 
divestment and sanctions to force Israelis to choose a saner path.

Co-founder of The Electronic Intifada, Ali Abunimah is author of 
<http://electronicintifada.net/bytopic/store/548.shtml>One Country: A 
Bold Proposal to End the Israeli-Palestinian Impasse (Metropolitan 
Books, 2006). A version of this article first appeared on the 
Guardian's Comment is Free website with the headline "No peace for Israel."

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