Note: I wrote this post before news of today’s synagogue attack in Jerusalem. I plan a post on the reciprocal terror attacks in Jenin and Jerusalem in the coming hours.
There have been many Israeli peace and social protest movements over the years. The rallies for Palestinian peace of the Peace Now era, flawed as they were, appealed to the ethical values of Israeli Jews in recognizing the evils of Occupation. There were anti-war rallies against the war in Lebanon. The J14 social justice movement of 2011 was dedicated to removing social inequality and improving the quality of life of poor and working-class Israelis. The Crime Minister protests of the past year were fed by disgust with corruption at the highest levels, including Netanyahu himself.
In a similar sense, the anti-government protests of the past few weeks sought to stop a rising tide of fascism in the country. This includes proposed legislation which would dismantle the Supreme Court and permit a majority right-wing government to rule by fiat. The protests have caught the fancy of the Israeli zeitgeist. Demonstrators from left, right, and center have joined in disgust at misogyny and homophobia of the government.
But in recent days, a new phenomenon has arisen: for perhaps the first time in Israeli history political protest has been joined to economic interest. As Foreign Policy reports, the Israeli technology industry is a powerhouse in the national economy. Without it, Israeli GDP would be equivalent to a small central European country like Hungary. With it, it rivals powerhouse economies like Singapore, South Africa or Sweden.
CEOs of some of the country’s largest high-tech companies have begun to realize that the new government’s “regime change” agenda doesn’t just concern itself with politics. Many of the proposals were drafted for Knesset MKs by far-right libertarian groups like the Kohelet Forum funded by US Jewish billionaires. It plays a similar role in Israel to the Koch-funded ALEC in the US: insinuating radical libertarianism into the body politic and gradually destroying social democracy, its institutions, and legislative foundation. Kohelet’s goal is to turn Israel into a laboratory for such economic principles, a model of the libertarian state. After implementation in Israel, they can then turn around and present it to Congress as a “field-tested” program. Much as it does with its weapons, which are tested and proven on the battlefield in Gaza, then exported throughout the world.
But most companies don’t want the market to be a bare-knuckled version of the Wild West. They want a level playing field in which their products compete with rivals based on price and value, rather than on whim or manipulation. They value the rule of law and fair market regulation that offers an orderly system.
As the CEOs of these multi-billion dollar companies realize the entire economic system which enabled them to succeed beyond their wildest dreams faces a grave threat, they are just beginning to understand that “regime change” endangers them and their companies. Here is one of them:
“No wealth holder will put money in a state where democracy is crumbling,” she told the masses who had gathered underneath the sleek glass-and-steel towers of central Tel Aviv. “The Start-Up Nation without democracy can’t exist,” she said, invoking a label often attached to Israel.
You can hardly find any government official more sober than chief economists, and two of Israel’s most recent central bank governors have rung a warning bell:
“Weakening judicial oversight [will] allow the government to advance measures that will lead to economic damage as a result of a possible infringement on property rights, investors’ fears of arbitrary and unpredictable decisions, and changes to the rules of the game in the absence of judicial oversight,” the authors wrote.
The CEO quoted earlier announced at the weekend rally she was moving all her company operations and investments out of Israel. Israelis are used to foreign tech companies entering the Israeli market with billion-dollar investments. They are used to Israeli tech start-ups unicorns enriching their founders, turning them into global venture capitalists. They are not used to their own, their homegrown entrepreneurs, abandoning them. That is an entirely new and unwelcome phenomenon.
Foreign Policy notes that several hundred tech companies and small businesses held a “warning strike,” an hour-long work stoppage to dramatize their concerns. It was a warning shot across the government’s bow, not to mention a dramatic gesture intended to catch the attention of the rest of the tech sector.
Netanyahu risks doing to Israel’s economy what Elon Musk did to Twitter: turning it into a toxic brand, from which companies and investors will eventually flee. They can withstand a certain amount of controversy and drama. But once the global market sees the true ugly face of Israeli apartheid and fascism, they could shun it like Musk’s advertisers have shunned his platform.
Former Shin Bet chief calls for General Strike and massive civil disobedience campaign
Perhaps as important as all of these developments is a remarkable public statement by former Shin Bet chief, Yuval Diskin weighing in on the political turmoil. It is unprecedented for former intelligence chiefs to enter into the midst of rancorous public debate. They will sometimes speak publicly on national security issues, since that was their prior government assignment. But clearly, Diskin feels the nation itself is in jeopardy. His advice was sharp and radical. He urged a campaign of mass civil disobedience, including nationwide strikes. He described a coordinated, strategic campaign to use the economy to bring the government to its knees.
He argues that while the far-right may dominate electoral politics, the country itself depends on the wealth and skills offered by the business sector. Without it, there can hardly be any politics. Here is his cry:
There is no more room for apologies, no room for slackness or hesitation in our fight to preserve democracy and the rule of law. Our message must be sharp, clear, decisive and above all uncompromising. In order for our struggle to be effective and achieve its goals – the actions we must take must be different…
The [recent] demonstrations are the source of strength and legitimacy of the struggle. However, in this emergency affecting the nation and its democracy, much more decisive and clear steps must be taken at the same time. The best and fastest way is a national strike, or at least partial one. It would be best if it could be with the participation of the Histadrut. But even if not, we will have to think of creative ideas to stop the state in its tracks.
…Bottom line, one in two civilians did not vote for this evil government. The power of ‘minorities’ [i.e. LGBTQ, Israeli Palesitnians, tech sector, academics, professionals, etc.] is great, and we will explain through strikes in unambiguous terms, that with half the people it is impossible to run a country.
He lists four key strategic planks of the national program. One of the most important rejects Judeo-supremacy, calling for an:
Uncompromising fight against racism of all kinds: We will demand that every sign of racism be removed from public discourse in the State of Israel. Racist Jewish supremacy is not our Jewish identity.
Israel, in my recollection, has never had a general strike. If it happened, this would be a radical strategic escalation.
As Palestinians’ Blood Flows, Israel Remains Indifferent
Yet the movement to protect what protestors call “Israeli democracy” ignores Palestine and massive increases in violence.
Yesterday, hundreds of Israeli forces invaded Jenin, purportedly to “arrest” a group of militants suspected of planning a terror attack. Though this account originates with a Haaretz reporter known for his allegiance to security and intelligence sources. Hundreds of defenders mobilized against the Israeli marauders. In the resulting gunfight 10 Palestinians were murdered, including an elderly grandmother.
They claim they kill terrorists while in reality they terrorize our people. Videos of young mothers running with their newborns in hospitals flooded with tear gas, young brothers dragging their siblings out of pools of blood.
Umm Ziad, 1 of the 10 victims of the Jenin Massacre. pic.twitter.com/R4iVjeFYxY
— Dr. Omar Suleiman (@omarsuleiman504) January 27, 2023
lsraeli occupation forces raid Jenin Government Hospital and fire tear gas bombs suffocating patients, including women and children. pic.twitter.com/wfjyzaxrSt
— TIMES OF GAZA (@Timesofgaza) January 26, 2023
They broke down the doors to Jenin’s hospital and threw tear gas canisters into the baby ward, where nurses were seen frantically carrying children away from the potentially fatal gas. One pro-Israel Twitter user insisted the soldiers were seeking terrorists. I suppose they were after terror babies.
It’s part of an insane policy meant, supposedly, to prevent terror attacks against Israelis; but which, in fact, only incites more such attacks [this was written before today’s Jerusalem attack]. When you see your fellow Palestinians murdered before your eyes it motivates you to take up arms against the invader.
Meanwhile, world leaders continue their futile efforts to…well, it’s not certain what they intend. They mouth the mantra of “peace negotiations” and “two-states.” Phrases devoid of meaning, but which linger in death throes of irrelevance.
We look forward to maintaining a positive momentum in 🇪🇺🇮🇱 relations, I told @Isaac_Herzog
We discussed the need for sustained support to Ukraine and work to promote peace in the Middle East.
— Ursula von der Leyen (@vonderleyen) January 25, 2023
Social media featured video of Israeli Pres. Herzog traveling to Europe to meet EU Commission Vice-President, Ursula van Leyden. She’s seen offering him kisses of welcome. In light of the slaughter in Jenin, it is nauseating to behold. Not to mention that her tweet referencing Holocaust Remembrance Day fell on the same day of Israel’s mass slaughter.
In another model of cluelessness, the US announced that national security advisor Jake Sullivan will be touching down at Ben Gurion in preparation for a visit of Secretary of State Tony Blinken. They announced that despite the mass murder the visits would proceed (to which I would add–as if nothing had happened). By the way, while an anonymous State Department official expressed “concern” about the Jenin dead. Blinken himself released a statement full of righteous indignation at the Jerusalem assault, while Pres. Biden called Netanyahu personally. It goes to show how much value the US attributes to Palestinian lives compared to Israeli?
Last week, Jordan’s King Abdullah received Netanyahu at a secret meeting. It was ostensibly arranged to discuss Israeli incitement at Haram al-Sharif, for which Jordan acts as Islamic guardian. But why reward Netanyahu for permitting his Judeo-fascist police minister, Itamar Ben Gvir, to desecrate the holy site? The visit shows how bereft of fortitude and, to use a Palestinian term, steadfastness, the Arab world is in the fact of Israeli brutalism. Not to mention that Israel played him for a fool in its Jenin assault only days after the visit.
Instead of butterfly kisses and high-level visits which offer Israel a seal of approval, nations must shun it. No officials should visit the country. Diplomats in Israel should refuse to interact with Israeli officials. Especially those directly responsible for the killing. The world must treat Israel as the pariah it is.
In the meantime, what will world leaders say when they meet Herzog and Netanyahu? Tone down the violence? Kill fewer Palestinians? Peace talks? You must be kidding. What can the US possibly offer in such circumstances? The Middle East is no longer a major priority for US foreign policy. Our attention and interests are in Ukraine and Asia. Biden, when he was vice-president, witnessed the dead end of intense US negotiations with Israel and the Palestinians. Talks which were sabotaged, and whose terms were ultimately rejected by Netanyahu. Why would the US president want to step foot in such a quagmire again.
The most disturbing phenomenon of all is watching hundreds of thousands of Israeli Jews (there are almost no Palestinians among the protestors as they see nothing reflecting their interests) rally for their democracy; while totally oblivious to the mass murders committed in their name mere miles away. It is a willed form of social schizophrenia—a bifurcated reality permitting total erasure of Palestinians from memory and existence. Yes, the economy is roaring. The will of the people is being seen and heard in the streets. But right next door a festering sore oozes blood.