Bibi Netanyahu’s recent comments about the nature of the Israeli state have exposed both him and the nation as a joint Kahanist enterprise. Until now, Netanyahu played it coy. He was like the old Enlightenment saying: be a Jew at home and a human being in public. With the Israeli public, he spoke candidly and betrayed the racism inherent in his world-view. But abroad, he would talk-the-talk: two states, we’re ready for peace…blah, blah, blah. It was all a sham. One which enabled him to sit in pleasant company when he rubbed shoulders with world leaders. But on his arrival home, he dispensed with the niceties and became the tough-talking, street-fighting bully, (“King Bibi,” as he was known) he knew his electorate craved.
American presidents, both Republican and Democrat, served as a restraint against Netanyahu’s worst impulses. He knew that not only did U.S. Middle East policy endorse a two-state solution, the presidents themselves did. He also knew that at least formally, U.S. policy viewed settlements as an impediment to peace. So he built those settlements covertly (and not so covertly) with a wink and a nod. He’d tell his American interlocutor he wasn’t building new settlements, but rather “thickening” existing ones. As if this somehow made the ongoing theft of Palestinian land less objectionable.
But a funny thing happened on the way to the forum…Netanyahu saw the rise of far-right nationalism-populism both in Europe and the U.S. He realized he could dispense with the bromides about wanting peace, and unleash the brass knuckles against the Palestinians, both those in the Territories and those inside Israel. In this he showed his true colors, reminiscent of the hectoring Hitler-like 1995 speech he delivered on the Jerusalem balcony, which led almost directly to Rabin’s murder. This was the brutish, sullen, malevolent Bibi. The one who lashed out violently at enemies, either his own or Israel’s.
What really sealed the deal was the ascendancy of Donald Trump, with his unleashed id. Trump endorses the tenets of white supremacy and espouses the same xenophobic impulses he shares with Netanyahu’s Jewish nationalist base. All this was music to the Israeli leader’s ears. Trump would let Bibi be Bibi.
That Trump also employs anti-Semitic dog whistles is not Bibi’s problem. That’s the problem of American Jews, those liberal Democrats for whom the Israeli premier has nothing but scorn.
Thus Netanyahu personally orchestrated the awkward marriage of the last remnants of the National Religious Party, Bayit Yehudi, with the successor to Israeli Kahanism, Otzma Yehudit. He did this because he knew that every vote would count in the coming election. Unless these two far-right religious nationalist parties merged, neither would enter the Knesset and their votes would be lost to him. Now that he’s promised them two seats in the cabinet and an almost guaranteed place on the Likud list, he knows that the settler far-right will be in his camp. In doing this, Netanyahu completely abandoned any remnant of western liberal values which he used to flaunt in his forays to the west. Gone was the consummate world leader, and in his place the snarling voice of Meir Kahane.
American Jewish leaders were aghast. But in their timidity they criticized only the merger of the two parties, but not the author of this monstrosity, Bibi himself. American Jews are so hypnotized (and I use Ilhan Omar’s term deliberately) by their long-term fealty to Israel that they cannot rouse themselves from their comatose state. They cannot call a spade a spade. They cannot admit that Israel is not only no longer a liberal democracy, but that it has become a Kahanist state. They will stay loyal to the end. And at this rate, there may be an end to this Kahanist state.
Further, Israeli model and TV presenter, Rotem Sela, complained about hysterical Israeli Jewish attitudes toward their fellow “Arab” citizens:
“Miri Regev is [warning] that the public needs to beware, because if Benny Gantz is elected he will have to create a government with the Arabs…And I ask myself…: ‘And what’s the problem with the Arabs???’ Dear God, there are also Arab citizens in this country.”
She went on, “When will anyone in this government tell the public that this is a country of all its citizens, and all people are born equal. The Arabs are also human beings. And also the Druze, and the gays, and the lesbians and… gasp… leftists.”
Not about to be lectured by one of the effete Euro-Israeli liberals he and his base detest, Bibi retorted:
“Israel is not a country of all its citizens,” the embattled prime minister wrote. “According to the nation-state law that we passed, Israel is the state of the Jewish people — and is theirs alone,” adding that “there is no problem with Arab citizens – they have equal rights like everybody.”
Imagine if you will, that a Christian white American president declares that this country is no longer one of all its citizens, but only of its Christian white citizens. He says furthermore, that all others may live in this country, but that it is not theirs. They live here by sufferance of the white Christian majority. What do you think the response would be? Sheer pandemonium.
But has there been any such uproar in Israel? Yes, the Druze raised a stink because they were “loyal” to the State even before it existed. Their youth have served in the IDF for generations. But even they were shut out of the Nation-state law. So a few “liberal-minded” Israelis thought it was a terrible shame that such loyalty was disrespected by the Knesset. But not a peep on behalf of Israel’s Palestinians, except from the Palestinians themselves, who were none too happy. But what leverage do they have? None. Not only are they a minority, they are a virtually powerless one.
Now, the mask is off. Bibi is Bibi, the snarling Jewish werewolf ready to sink his fangs into any Palestinian who forgets that he’s an Israeli only by the sufferance of the Jewish majority. When Nazi Germany sunk into the fascist morass in the early 1930s, American Jews organized an international boycott to protest the rise of such Jew hatred. There is a similar movement today, BDS, which demands Israel be a nation of all its citizens. Instead of embracing it, American Jews have sought to turn it into the devil itself. How long before they realize that the liberal democracy they worshipped in their youth is no longer. It can never be restored. It has been hijacked by a monstrous Israeli Jewish fascist movement. We must divorce ourselves from it and declare we are for a true democracy of all Israel’s citizens, in which all are recognized as equal partners in this national project.