Tuesday, 8 January 2013

Israeli election - worse to come

While forecasting political outcomes in the Middle East is often difficult, it seems pretty safe to assume that Israel will continue self-destructively rightwards this election year.

With Likud hardliner Moshe Feiglin's rapid ascendancy and the ultra Jewish Home, headed by rightist zealot Naftali Bennett, tipped to become the second largest party, Netanyahu's Likud-Beiteinu platform will likely form the most reactionary coalition in Israeli history.

And with another incoming Likud-dominated government, more dreaded reality looms for occupied Palestinians: violent invasions, settlement expansions and state-directed killing.
If only, some might say, Israeli voters were more attuned to leftist parties. Yet, even the far-fetched prospect of a Labor victory suggests little difference for weary Palestinians. Indeed, Labor's campaign barely even mentions the Palestinian issue.

As Rashid Shahin points out, any 'distinction' between left and right parties in Israel is not only marginal, but a close indicator of the falsity of what passes for 'progressive' policies:
There is not much difference between the left and right parties in Israel; both are calling for more land confiscation and more settlement building. During the years of occupation, reality and facts on the ground show that the Israeli Labor party, which is classified as a leftist party, has confiscated more Palestinian land than the Likud did, with many more colonies built during the Labor party era.

Commentators predict that Likud will once again come to power with a coalition from the very fundamentalist right-wing groups and parties, and this will be the choice of the Israeli people. The position of this coalition with regard to a peace process is clear; more land confiscation, more colonies, judaizing the occupied part of Jerusalem, "East Jerusalem", denying Palestinian rights and the two state solution. 
Consider also, says Rashid, the West's differing responses to the election of 'extremist' parties:
When Hamas was elected by Palestinians in 2006, Palestinian people were collectively punished for their choice, the Western countries with the backing of the USA, accused Palestinians of being extremists for choosing an "extreme" party. If the Israeli people will choose (and they will) extreme parties, are the Western countries going to act in the same way? Are they going to boycott the "extreme government" to be formed in Israel? Or will the same double standards be applied, as usual, to Israel?
As ever, we can be sure of international consistency here.

An increasing number of disenfranchised Arab 'citizens' look likely to boycott the election, reviled by the ever-rightist drift, purging of Arab politicians and pandering of 'leftist' parties.

None of which prevents the Guardian's Jonathan Freedland from asserting a 'new dawn' of right-left polarities, post-election:
The right will be exposed, the moderate fig-leaves of the past stripped away. Meanwhile, the centre-left will include a greater number of robust liberals and genuine democrats, the ex-Likudniks of the now-defunct Kadima party having mostly departed. Instead of clustering around an artificial middle ground, Israeli politics will present a clear left-right choice.  
To which Jonathan Cook (on Facebook) suitably comments:
So now Netanyahu-lite ex-TV star Yair Lapid, ex-Likudnik Tzipi Livni, and Shelley Yacimovich, the Labor leader who refuses to mention the P-word, are the components of a true left. Left, my foot!
In a small, if more encouraging, gesture of solidarity, Facebook activists are asking Israelis to give their election votes over to a Palestinian

Limited in its reach, the sacrifice of such votes would not, of course, change anything. Indeed, given the consensual Zionism permeating Israel's political spectrum, which useful party might Palestinian 'proxies' actually vote for?

Still, with opinion polls showing a strong majority of Israelis opposed to a two-state deal even with a completely demilitarised Palestine, we might take some comfort from such civil-led initiatives.

As Cook (again at Facebook) notes, limitations aside, the campaign:
itself does make a powerful, if obvious, political statement, highlighting that, although Palestinians live under Israeli rule, they have no say in who rules them. It also reminds us that there are some Israelis prepared to put Palestinian interests before their own. And it might, if it gets more publicity, provoke a debate, however limited, among Israeli Jews about where Israel is heading with its current Greater Israel approach. One-person, one-vote anybody?
Yet, welcome as it is, such dissent remains no more than a token effort in a society deeply scarred by militarist fear and Zionist ideology.

Reflecting on a recent return visit to Haifa, the honourable academic and activist Ilan Pappe asked whether it's possible to feel any sense of compassion for certain Israelis relentlessly conditioned by their state's colonising project.

It's a hard thought to countenance for suffering Palestinians and others appalled by sixty-plus years of occupier brutality. It's also a difficult question for Pappe himself to pose.

And yet, in Pappe we find not just the uncompromising defender of full Palestinian rights, but an observer pained by the very understanding of how many Jews - from once-respected fellow-historian Benny Morris to inclusion-seeking Arab Jews - become so easily compromised and willing parties to their state's wicked oppressions.

Of another blindly-led grouping, Jewish students on Western university campuses, Pappe expresses similar exasperation:
Here too, the pathetic human condition triggers the compassion. They could have played a vanguard and leading role — as their predecessors did when they spearheaded the struggles for equality in the United States and the movements against apartheid in South Africa and imperialism in Vietnam — in one of humanity’s greatest campaigns for peace and justice: the solidarity movement with the Palestinians. But they find themselves confused and disoriented, representing the oppressor, the colonizer and the occupier. The end result is parroting slogans prepared by the Israeli diplomacy that make little sense I suspect even to those who chant it unconvincingly along with hysterical allegations of anti-Semitism and terrorism.
Though perhaps trusting in some eventual awareness to Israel's crimes, Pappe can find little evidence of any such breakthrough.  And of the political landscape itself, he remains acutely certain:
It is the totalitarianism of the right which is going to be the hallmark of the Jewish state in 2013.
Meanwhile, beyond Israel's competingly shrill election, Israeli indifference to persecuted Palestinians and the grim prospects of even harsher apartheid policies to come, here's a laudable message of support for the occupied victims and backing for a one state solution from Jews for Palestinian Right of Return:
As Jews of conscience, we call on all supporters of social justice to stand up for Palestinian Right of Return and a democratic state throughout historic Palestine — “From the River to the Sea” — with equal rights for all. The full measure of justice, upon which the hopes of all humanity depends, requires no less.
There, at least, alongside Pappe's honest searchings, is a compassionate, hopeful and welcome declaration to commence another year of pain and struggle.


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