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Israel Ditches Democracy Amidst Independence Day Celebration

israeli independennce day

Triumph of the Jewish will: Israel Mt. Herzl Independence Day ceremony featuring flag standards of IDF service units and reminiscent of another historic triumphalist ceremony

On Israel Independence Day, the Netanyahu government succeeded in torching democracy at the expense of  a budding theocracy.  A bill to amend Israel’s Basic Law and declare Israel as a Jewish state, one which has been fought successfully by former Likud elders who were eliminated in a settler putsch during the last party primaries, will be introduced in the Knesset next week.  If it passes it will represent what I ironically call the Triumph of the Jewish Will.

For the naive Zionists among you (the few there are left) you may ask: what’s so bad about declaring the obvious, that Israel is a state for and by Jews.  Aside from the fact that this is a false premise (one out of five Israelis are Palestinian), turning Israel into an declared religious state will jeopardize democracy.  Contrary to the solemn declarations of generations of Zionists in Israel and the Diaspora, Israel cannot be both.

The law declaring Israel to be the nation-state of the Jewish people is Netanyahu’s updated ticket into the heart of the Israeli right…By placing this law on the agenda, Netanyahu is attempting to shake off any vestiges of the negotiations he was forced to hold, and which caused him to be suspect by the right. Even if this dramatic law ultimately fails, Netanyahu can pride himself that at least he tried. On the other hand, if the law does pass in the Knesset, it would leave an enormous question mark hovering over the democratic nature of the state.

The meaning of this is simple: Netanyahu is prepared to gamble on the democratic nature of the State of Israel to stay in office and reap political benefits. The very person who came out in his previous term against the uninhibited laws proposed by Knesset members from the right…has abandoned all that is left of revisionist Zionist leader Ze’ev Jabotinsky’s respectful…manner [toward democracy] and the heritage of the late Prime Minister Menachem Begin in the Likud.

…There is a connection between this atmosphere of total anarchy when it comes to containing acts against Arabs and the consolidation of the rule of the settlers within the Likud Party and the government. It seems as if Netanyahu had not only abandoned any efforts to combat extreme right-wing elements in his party such as the Danons and the Elkins. He is actually aligning himself with them by adopting the same kinds of legislation and patterns of operation.

Netanyahu is the first prime minister to vilify the legacy and the existing legislation which anchor Israel as a Jewish state that successfully maintains a democratic regime, and he is doing it for populist reasons.

The Al Monitor report further notes that Bibi judges that to retain power indefinitely, he feels he must hitch his star to the far-right element within his party.  Only by an alliance with the rising young “populists” will he be able to win future election contests.  Now, instead of deferring to the elder statesmen of the Likud and reigning in the firebrands, Bibi has thrown his arms around the latter and embraced them as his own sons.

It’s also no accident that settler price tag attacks have become epidemic.  Instead of one a week or month previously, now there is one or more a day.  Shootings, vandalism, destruction of property, desecration of mosques and cemeteries are now so common they don’t even break into the news cycle.  Israelis have become anaesthetized to settler hate.  One of the reasons such hate thrives in the political hothouse that it modern Israel is racist legislation like this.

It’s also no accident that the settler hate crimes are barely investigated, let alone prosecuted.  My last post recounted the attacks by a former Shabak and Mossad chief against the current Shabak head, Yuval Cohen, for failing to combat Jewish terror.  Impunity endorsed at the highest level of Israeli society also conveys the clear message that Israel is a state by and for Jews–let others be damned.

The article finally concludes on this note:

The passing of this law is a seminal move that goes far beyond disturbing the balance between the democratic and Jewish nature of the state, which have existed in tandem for the past 66 years. It could alter the established order and grant legal preferences to Jewish principles over democratic ones. In other words, it can officially turn Israeli-Arabs into discriminated-against and second-rate citizens. US Secretary of State John Kerry’s prediction of an apartheid state could be realized even sooner than anticipated.

…It is obvious to all that he [Netanyahu] has raised a white flag of surrender to the right wing and the settlers.

I would go much farther and say that such a law would open the floodgates of racism to new-old proposals like ethnically cleansing Israeli-Palestinians or rejiggering borders so that Israel’s Palestinian citizens are eliminated from Israel (a Lieberman proposal which I call ethnic cleansing lite).  It will revive proposals like the loyalty oaths of which Lieberman was so enamored during the last campaign.  Right now, Israel places African refugees into internment camps in places like Holon.  What do you think people like Lieberman, Danon and Elkin have in store for Palestinian citizens who refuse to take such an oath?  It ain’t summer camp!

There is, of course, a still small voice alive within Israel.  A voice that represents that tiny surviving remnant of democratic values.  It could be found yesterday in Tel Aviv at Combatants for Peace 9th annual joint Israeli-Palestinian Memorial Day commemoration.  It presents Israeli and Palestinian performers and speakers (though the Palestinians have been impeded by security forces from attending past events as some sort of threat to the Israeli consensus).  In honor of this band of hearty activists who represents the best of Israel, I offer this short video of the ceremony.

There will undoubtedly be a reader or two who believe I’ve gone too far in my reference to Leni Reifenstahl’s Triumph of the Will in the Israeli context.  To them I want to be clear that history never repeats itself verbatim.  So if Israel turns into a racialist theocratic state of the sort Meir Kahane envisioned, which is a distinct possibility, it won’t ape Nazi Germany.  There hopefully will not be extermination camps and crematoria.  There will be no genocide.  But there will be ugliness you and I can’t even imagine.  It will shock even someone like me who has witnessed these episodes for decades.  That is why the reference to Nazi Germany is apt.  It reminds of the worst the future may have in store even if it doesn’t quite come to that.

{ 18 comments… add one }
  • Oui May 6, 2014, 1:56 AM

    From your earlier tweet: Tikun Olam @richards1052
    Bibi’s lies: ‘Israel will always preserve equal rights, personal and civil, of all citizens, Jews & non-Jews as 1.” [http://] buff.ly/1jny8jw

    I wrote a diary covering all elements from Feiglin, third temple to price tag terrorism in Israel – Netanyahu Confirms Apartheid State of Israel. The war of words is reaching levels not seen before after Goebbels and indeed the Nazi era of the 1930s in Germany with propaganda films by Leni Riefenstahl. Waiting for Marlene Dietrich to come forward in Israel.

    • Jackdaw May 6, 2014, 10:18 AM

      No Oui, Israel is not an apartheid State.

      This article, written by an expert, explains why.
      link to 972mag.com

      The article contains a valuable history lesson that you’ve obviously missed.

      • Oui May 6, 2014, 12:44 PM

        h/t 2 U .. thanks!
        If this isn’t apartheid, then what is it? by Ran Greenstein

      • Oui May 6, 2014, 3:31 PM
      • Richard Silverstein May 7, 2014, 12:19 AM

        @ Jackdaw: What you conveniently neglect is the replacement terms the author suggests to describe Israel: “settler colonialism” and “pro-settler military occupation.” I’ll be so generous as to allow you to take your pick among the three. Which one do you prefer?

        • Jackdaw May 7, 2014, 10:48 AM

          I don’t neglect anything.
          Both “settler colonialism” and “pro-settler military occupation” are apt descriptions of the Occupation.
          ‘Apartheid State’ is a just a misplaced hate word.

          The one small problem with “settler colonialism” and “pro-settler military occupation” is that Jews are not new to Judea and Samaria and that Jews had lived in Hevron and the Etzion bloc until forced out by the Arabs.

          Am I wrong?

          • Elisabeth May 7, 2014, 11:16 PM

            Jews are not new to Judea and Samaria?
            The point is that the settlers are new to ‘Judea’ and ‘Samaria’. (B.t.w. Do you propose we call Istanbul ‘Byzantium’ too?)

      • Andy May 7, 2014, 9:36 AM

        In a sense I would agree with Jackdaw. The legal definition of apartheid implies a static situation, and the situation in the Levant is anything but static. Israel is not interested in “maintaining” its subjugation of the Palestinians; rather, that subjugation is a means to the end of eliminating the Palestinian presence in the Levant. The term “apartheid” fails to come to terms with Israel’s actual intentions: “ethnic cleansing” and “genocide” are the terms that really apply.

        • Jackdaw May 7, 2014, 10:57 AM


          The State of Israel is home to 1.5 million Palestinians who are generally pleased with their citizenship and don’t feel ethnically cleansed.
          Genocide? How many Palestinians has Israel killed over a total of 66 years? Twenty-thousand?
          How many Jews have Palestinians killed over a total of 66 years? Ten thousand?

          This numbers of fatalities suggest a pretty weak effort at ‘genocide’.

          Am I wrong?

          • Andy May 7, 2014, 9:12 PM

            I’m not willing to take your word for it that the Palestinians in Israel proper “are generally pleased with their citizenship”; after all, as Adalah has documented, there are dozens of laws that discriminate against them. Do you support the repeal of each and every one of these laws?

            My comment was about the situation in the West Bank, however. Are you an American, Jackdaw? Israel is carrying out its elimination of the West Bank Palestinians in s-l-o-w m-o-t-i-o-n so that Americans, with their 10-minute attention spans, do not grasp what is going on. Moreover, Israel behaves as it does because it calculates that it will be successful in its plan to drive the Palestinians off the land.

            If Israel were really interested in co-existing with the Palestinians, then it would open the settlements to Palestinian residents. Do you see that happening anytime soon? Would you agree with me that Israel should open the settlements to Palestinian residents, and that the Palestinians have just as much right to live in the settlements as do Jews?

            If Israel could wave a magic wand and transport the Palestinians to Mars without killing them, then it would do that, so it is fair enough to take issue with my use of the word “genocide”. But it is disingenuous on your part to claim that “ethnic cleansing” does not apply to Israel: that Israel wants the Palestinians gone is clear to anyone paying attention.

          • Jackdaw May 8, 2014, 9:33 AM


            “Israel is carrying out its elimination of the West Bank Palestinians in s-l-o-w m-o-t-i-o-n”
            Your proposition is idiotic. But what more can you expect from a person who takes the time to hyphenate ‘slow motion’.

            Elimination? Have you begged off the ‘genocide’ slur?

          • Richard Silverstein May 8, 2014, 1:31 PM

            @ Jackdaw:

            1.5 million Palestinians who are generally pleased with their citizenship and don’t feel ethnically cleansed.

            Never ceases to amaze me how someone using a New York City IP address can speak on behalf of “1.5 million Palestinians!” How did you earn this honor? Did they make you their chosen representative? Do you have some sort of telepathic knowledge of what Palestinians believe? Have you done polling research?

            The truth of the matter is that Israeli Palestinians have a very complicated, ambivalent relationship with their Jewish fellow Israelis and the State.

            How many Palestinians has Israel killed over a total of 66 years? Twenty-thousand?
            How many Jews have Palestinians killed over a total of 66 years? Ten thousand?

            The “kill ratio” is six to one. So about 3,000 Israelis have died during that period. Not that you care about facts. But for the sake of the truth which the rest of us do care about.

            Am I wrong?

            Amost always.

          • Andy May 8, 2014, 10:12 PM

            @ Jackdaw:

            There’s nothing “idiotic” about ethnic cleansing; however, I realize you are blind to the Palestinians and their victimization at Israel’s hands.

            My use of the term “genocide” is not a “slur”; consider the following text in Wikipedia’s Genocide entry:

            While a precise definition varies among genocide scholars, a legal definition is found in the 1948 United Nations Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide (CPPCG). Article 2 of this convention defines genocide as “any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such: killing members of the group; causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group; deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life, calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part; imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group; [and] forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.”

            This will be my last comment in this thread. The last word is yours, Jackdaw.

        • Richard Silverstein May 8, 2014, 1:33 PM

          @ Andy: I would agree with use of the term “ethnic cleansing,” but we’re far from legitimately using the term “genocide.” It could in the future move in that direction. But not yet. Which is why it’s important to be vigilant.

  • pabelmont May 6, 2014, 5:49 AM

    The boundary-rejiggering (transfer-lite) idea is important (to me) for this reason: it shows that important Israelis do not regard Israel’s borders as permanent (which we knew — they clearly contemplated growing the territory) and contemplate reducing the territory of Israel (removing Israel from parts of Palestine occupied in 1948) as well as increasing it.

    Simply: Israel has no intrinsic territory, all is in flux, all is negotiable, the civil war of 1948 (which is one way to look at the settler-colonialist-invasion of 1900-1948) continues and territorial boundaries are up in the air. This negates the idea (which might, in extremis someday, be offered to the UN and EU, the claim that Israeli territory IS EXACTLY the territory of 1948-1966.

    Last night I heard Norman Finkelstein talk. He was wonderful as usual and I almost understood his very firm, very principled rejection of BDS (with which I disagree). He mentioned in some context that there was no chance of a “snoball in hell” for something to happen soon — peace? justice? Anyhow, “snowball” has another resonance.

    If the Kerry withdrawal is or becomes a hand-off from the US to UN/EU of the I/P problem, and if the UN/EU begin to feel their strength (and escape from under the thumb of the USA) and, of course, see any reason to act on I/P, THEN their efforts no matter how directed initially may SNOWBALL with increasing effort and, as might happen, increasing success.

    And I ask: why should the UN/EU, seeing that Israeli ministers see no necessary permanence of the 1948-1966 Israeli borders limit their efforts to restoring those borders? If they are pushing Israel with sanctions to remove settlers, settlements, wall, and siege, why not also push for a return to the borders proposed by UNGA in 1947 (What Abba Eban called Israel’s birth certificate)? Why allow the spoils of the war of 1948 while not allowing the spoils of the war of 1967?

    Will there be any SNOBALLS under global warming?

  • David May 6, 2014, 9:00 PM

    I think the Nazi analogy, the “Triumph” analogy, is apt. It’s not hard to envision a torchlight ceremony of true Jews forming a Magen David on the Israeli field. (Or maybe this has already happened at one or another ceremony??) If we consider the decades of Palestinian oppression and dispossession, not to mention kill ratios of the conflagrations, plus the obvious effort to disappear Palestinian life and culture, this might all qualify as genocide to a future historian with sufficient perspective. Lastly, many believe that there are repetitious elements in history. If there were not, there would be little value in studying history and the “Triumph” analogy would have little meaning. I just don’t understand how RS is compelled to make the analogy and then qualify it at length even before any question is raised.

    • Richard Silverstein May 7, 2014, 12:33 AM

      @ David:

      I just don’t understand how RS is compelled to make the analogy and then qualify it at length even before any question is raised.

      I know some of those right-wing readers better than you, apparently!! I like to head ’em off at the pass if I can.

      • David May 7, 2014, 3:24 PM

        Yeah — that would send discussion into the ozone yet again. For the record — Jewish Nationalism is becoming as repulsive as any nationalism in history.

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