OPINION by Iqbal Jassat- Racism wins.
These two words encapsulate the results of Israel’s latest election.
Though early exit polls indicated a tie between the two contesting blocs, official election returns give Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud a more decisive margin of victory.
“Against all odds: a great victory for the Likud. A major victory for the people of Israel!” Netanyahu posted on Twitter.
Likud has a distinct anti-Arab flavor and pundits believe that its vile racism will secure Netanyahu’s fourth consecutive term of premiership as intense bartering behind closed doors proceeds. As Israel’s main rightwing block, Likud’s victory – though marginal – illustrates how rife racism is in the body-politic of the regime and its Jewish population.
While the Zionist Union led by Isaac Herzog scored equally well, it would be a mistake to perceive its narrow defeat as a loss for the “left wing”. Indeed it’s a misnomer to believe that Herzog or any of his colleagues embrace policies that could be defined as distinctly “anti-rightwing”.
Undoubtedly western media coverage of the elections as a contest between “Left and Right” has been misleading. At best the elections may be described as a battle between warring factions of the same Zionist household trying to outbid each other in a race to entrench Israel’s apartheid status.
It explains why Netanyahu has been able to successfully play the racist and Islamophobic card without major fallout within Jewish population. In a macabre sense, they seem to find resonance in his bizarre claims that a win for Likud will stave off existential threats from Palestinians whose rights he juxtapositions as a “danger to right-wing rule”.
“I think anyone who is going to establish a Palestinian state and to evacuate territory is giving radical Islam a staging ground against the State of Israel,” Netanyahu claimed in his usual unashamed rhetoric. When asked point-blank as reported in the JTA “If you are a prime minister, there will be no Palestinian state?” he responded without any hesitation, “Indeed.”
Rejecting Palestinian statehood, raising alarm about “radical Islam”, fear of Iran’s nukes and Arab hordes voting “left”, are the four pillars which paved the way for Netanyahu’s decisive win. That each one of these are extremely racist and alarmist seemed not to bother the electorate who rallied and responded to give Likud the edge.
Netanyahu’s current forthright rejection of the “two-state” solution is not new. Neither is his bigoted Islamophobia. Back in 1994, Haim Baram, writing from Jerusalem, revealed that Netanyahu had embarked on a global tour to spread the “new gospel”.
“The feared and respected enemy now is Islam: the demonization of Muslims is part of the same propagandist strategy reserved until recently for Palestinian nationalism.”
Netanyahu’s rejectionist stance back then was built on the reasoning that territorial concessions to Palestinians are absolutely pointless. His current rhetoric which Israelis have bought into, is no different from his ancient position.
The only major difference is the tangible unprecedented levels of tension with the Obama administration, whose role as a key component of “peace talks” has regressed to a breaking point. All this due to Netanyahu’s intransigence and insistence on expanding settlements and imposing severe measures to retain Occupation.
Not surprising that even collaborators within the discredited Palestinian Authority such as Saeb Erakat are forced to concede that the election results reflect success of campaign based on settlements, racism, apartheid and the denial of human rights.
Does the election result present a dilemma for Israel’s lobbyists around the world and particularly in South Africa? Indeed it does. Chiefly they are confronted with having to reconcile so-called “progressive” views with their support for a rightwing-led Israel whose leader has yet again been unmasked as a racist.
As is the nature of propaganda, expect their Hasbara campaign to focus exclusively on the Arab voter as proof that Israel is a democracy which does not discriminate and thus cannot be labelled as an apartheid state. Of course they will painstakingly avoid acknowledging plain truths as spelled out by author Ben White:
-Only one in seven of the total Palestinian population live inside Israel’s pre-1967 borders and have citizenship;
-A third live under Israeli military rule in the West Bank and Gaza Strip and can’t vote [though the Jewish settlers living among them can];
-Around half of all Palestinians are prevented from returning to their homeland by Israel;
-Expelled and denationalized, their forced exclusion is the reason why the majority of Israel’s citizens are Jewish.
As the reality of disastrous policies by successive Israeli regimes since the dispossession of Palestine more than six decades ago becomes manifest, the all-important question of “where to from here” seems remotely detached from the aspirations of millions unjustly punished for not being Jewish. MEDIA REVIEW NETWORK