Posts Tagged Israeli politics

Five reasons why everything you have heard about the Israeli election results is wrong

This is getting to me.

1. There is an even left-right split

This seems to be a the conventional wisdom, even amongst Israeli publications that should, and do, know better.

Haaretz: “right-wing to take 61 seats, center-left 59.”

Jerusalem Post: “Final election count: Right bloc 61, Center-Left 59 seats.”

Or in graphic form (which is slightly outdated – before the last seat had been properly allocated):

charty3_2

This is a lie, don’t believe it. The real picture looks like this (although I don’t fully agree even with this one):

chartyparty

Courtesy of Shmuel Rosner.

You see, Israel does not simply have ‘left’ and ‘right’ parties like we are used to in two-party system countries like Australia, the US, the UK etc. Israel has a lot of different factions, none of which the media seem to be aware of. I can only pin this down to lazy journalism and/or media groupthink. Below are a few of the incorrect assumptions that are being made in this calculation.

2. The Arab bloc

For starters, it is useless including the Arab parties in the ‘left’. This is because ‘Arab parties’ is not really what they are, a more accurate description would be the ‘anti-Zionist parties’. A lot of the Zionist parties have Arabs on their tickets, and Chadash – the communist party that is normally counted in the ‘Arab bloc’ – has Jewish candidates. Meanwhile, a lot of the Arab voters in Israel actually vote for Zionist parties because, believe it or not, many of them care about domestic economic and social issues, and aren’t just driven to destroy Israel like Arabs are ‘supposed’ to be.

The point here is that at least Balad and Ta’al, and probably Chadash too – which hold 3, 4, and 4 seats respectively – would never join a governing coalition with anyone from the Zionist left. That means that the ‘left bloc’ could win 71 seats and still not be able to form government, as 11 of those seats would refuse to join the coalition.

3. The right-religious bloc

Supposedly, 61 seats went to the right. The breakdown of these were: Likud-Yisrael Beitenu, 31; Habayit Hayehudi, 12; Shas, 11; Yehudat Hatorah, 7.

Once again, this is by no means a cohesive bloc. It is true that, while there is a very significant ideological difference between the secular-nationalist LYB and the national-religious HH, they are both on the right of politics. The other two, however, are not really. Shas and Yehudat Hatorah represent the Haredi (ultra-orthodox) community, the difference between them being that Shas is Sephardi (from Middle Eastern countries) and YH are Ashkenazi (from Eastern Europe).

Both are more accurately described as ‘interest groups’ than ‘right-wing parties’. They are happy to join any coalition so long as their demands are met – which are primarily that they continue be able to study torah instead of having paid work, be exempt from national service, have generous government benefits for having a lot of children, and generally have their lifestyles subsidised by the Israeli taxpayers. In essence, the left could deal with them if they were willing to accept these conditions, which has often been the case in past governments. It is a little dishonest, therefore, to include them in the ‘right’.

4. The centrist bloc

At the moment, there are four parties that are referred to as ‘centrist’: Yesh Atid (Yair Lapid’s party), 19; Avodah (Labour), 15; Hatnuah (Tzippi Livni’s party), 7; and Kadima, 3. The one party I have yet to mention is Meretz, which is unambiguously on the Zionist far-left and won 6 seats.

Here’s the rub: I do not remember any other point in history where Avodah was referred to as a ‘centrist’ party. In fact, looking at their platform coming into these elections, they would be giving Trotsky a run for his money. Shelley Yachimovich’s plan to save Israel seems to be along the lines of ‘put everything under government control, tax successful businesses, and increase the size of every public service department’. I am fairly sure that would make her ‘left wing’.

Meanwhile, Hatnuah is essentially comprised of former Avodah leaders who left Avodah because they weren’t being chosen as leaders anymore. I think that qualifies as ‘left’ too.

5. Israel’s new ‘centre-left’ sensation

Now that is in contrast to Yesh Atid. As explained by Michal Koplow, Yair Lapid was not running on a leftist platform at all. In fact, his platform was more in line with the traditional Likudniks than anything else – that would be the Likudniks like Dan Meridor and Ruben Rivlin, who were purged in the primaries due to heavy branch-stacking by the settlement movement. Lapid is actually much closer ideologically to Netanyahu than most of the current MKs from Netanyahu’s own party. He has also been running this entire time very openly intending to join a Likud-led coalition once elected. Yesh Atid are a centre-right party.

So what really happened?

I think Yossi Klein-Halevi said this one best:

Yair’s ideological challenge will be to clarify the political center and give coherence to the instincts of a majority of Israelis. That centrist majority seeks a politics that isn’t afraid to acknowledge the complexity of Israel’s dilemmas. These voters agree with the left about the dangers of occupation and with the right about the dangers of a delusional peace. Centrists want a two-state solution and are prepared to make almost any territorial compromise for peace. But they also believe that no concessions, at least for now, will win Israel legitimacy and real peace. Centrists want to be doves but are forced by reality to be hawks.

I voted for Yair because, as a centrist Israeli, I have no other political home.

Netanyahu, who accepted a two-state solution in principle and then imposed a 10-month settlement freeze, tried to turn the Likud into a center-right party, more pragmatic than ideological and able to attract voters like me. But the ideological right within the Likud revolted. Today’s Likud appears more hospitable to the far rightist Moshe Feiglin than to centrists like Dan Meridor, denied a safe seat in the Likud primaries.

The Israeli media is speaking relentlessly of an even divide between the left-wing and right-wing blocs. That’s nonsense. Yesh Atid isn’t a left-wing party; half of its voters define themselves as right of center. Instead, the rise of Yesh Atid affirms the vigor of the center. Despite the historic failure of every centrist party—Kadima, the last attempt, virtually disintegrated in this election—centrist Israelis continue to seek a political framework.

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Did the left give up on Israel or did Israel give up on the left?

I hear a lot of talk from the Zionist left and right about the abysmal state of the Israeli left. Take, for example, this report by Elisheva Goldberg on the recent Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) march in Tel Aviv:

The Israeli Left’s Identity Issues – The Daily Beast.

The trouble is this: when “leftism” becomes an identity element, it makes leftist politics involuntary. It turns marching with ACRI from a political act of free will into a necessary expression of self. It turns human rights activism from a fight for political victory into a fight for acknowledgement and recognition. And—most crucially—it turns the left from a movement of social change into a group of people who love each other, but have given up on winning and instead are just doing their best to preserve their community. Ella’s last comment to me was that “we need to feel that we’re part of something so that we can get up and go to work every day.” These ACRI marchers feel they’ve lost—and so they have. They’ve decided they’re content just to feel loved and appreciated by each other—and so they will be.

There are plenty of explanations for this from both sides.

Ask someone from the right, and they will tell you that the left’s policies failed — Israel withdrew from Lebanon and Hizballah fired rockets for 6 years until a brutal and bloody war; Israel withdrew from Gaza and Hamas took over and fired rockets for 6 years and counting, despite two brutal and bloody wars; Barak sat down with Arafat and made a generous offer and all we got in return was an intifada; Olmert sat down with Abbas and made another generous offer and we got nothing out of it; the Palestinians and Arabs continue to spread antisemitism in schoolbooks, on TV, and everywhere else; the Muslim Brotherhood is taking over the Middle East; they all hate us and they want to kill us like they did in the intifada, so  we need to be strong and defend our borders and prepare for the impending apocalypse by buying a camper-van and moving next to Ramallah so we can improve our security by burning down some Palestinian olive trees.

Ask someone from the left and you’ll hear all about how Israel’s continuing occupation of the Palestinians is eroding its moral character and transforming it into some kind of proto-fascist society — everyone goes to the army, and so militancy is being bred into the society; years of controlling the Palestinians and relating to them only as soldier to controlled society has led to them being seen not as humans, but as some kind of lesser creatures; the failure to halt the settlement enterprise has put Israel in permanent control of the West Bank and made the two-state solution impossible, meaning there is some kind of apartheid system in place; the religious-Zionist camp has become increasingly racist and has begun to have more influence over the secular right and over the haredim; Likud is being taken-over by Danny Danon and Moshe Feiglin, the Kahannists are the fastest-growing Knesset faction, they all hate us and want to kill us like they killed Rabin, so we may as well just give up and smoke pot in our run-down bauhaus apartment building in Tel Aviv while talking about how much smarter we are than everyone else and complaining that we don’t have jobs.

That’s not to say that there’s no merit in these theories. Maybe we can learn from both of them — for example, I don’t mind the idea of smoking pot near Ramallah and talking about how smart I am.

One thing that I do want to point out is that the two narratives are completely polarised in a way that is quite revealing of their respective mentalities: the Zionist left blame everything on the Israeli right and the Zionist right blame everything on the Arabs.

This annoys me, especially when I read things like this article by Peter Beinart, where he talks about how Obama has given up on Netanyahu without even mentioning that Obama may have also given up on Abbas — because it can’t be Abbas’ fault, the Israeli right is to blame for everything. Likewise for the many articles (I don’t have an example in front of me, but there’s no shortage) that keep talking about how much Israel just wants peace and it’s all the Arabs’ fault, as though the ruling party didn’t just preselect a lot of people who openly oppose a Palestinian state (the part about Danon and Feiglin taking over the Likud is true).

But anyway, that’s beside the point. I am going to posit another explanation for the state of affairs. We have a bad tendency in the Jewish community to think that we are the only ones affecting anything — when really, on a global scale, we are quite minor players. It’s probably some degree of internalised oppression resulting from antisemitic conspiracy theories, but that’s a different discussion.

A while ago, I read this piece on the geopolitics of Israel by George Friedman, which made a point that has stuck with me:

The Geopolitics of Israel: Biblical and Modern | Stratfor.

Israel exists in three conditions. First, it can be a completely independent state. This condition occurs when there are no major imperial powers external to the region. We might call this the David model. Second, it can live as part of an imperial system — either as a subordinate ally, as a moderately autonomous entity or as a satrapy. In any case, it maintains its identity but loses room for independent maneuvering in foreign policy and potentially in domestic policy. We might call this the Persian model in its most beneficent form. Finally, Israel can be completely crushed — with mass deportations and migrations, with a complete loss of autonomy and minimal residual autonomy. We might call this the Babylonian model.

Israel is a small fish in a big pond, but is very strategically located and therefore will always be in someone’s interests to control. When great powers compete over Middle East hegemony (as they tend to do), Israel can either survive as a client state, or be subsumed.

Until fairly recently, Israel was a client of the Western secular left. At the moment, Israel is a client of the Christian right. Europe — dominated by the secular left — has been becoming increasingly anti-Israel for a variety of reasons (and correlated with a dramatic rise in antisemitism throughout the continent). The Western academic left has essentially fallen to the Edward Said mentality and now speaks about Israel as though it were the root cause of everything that is evil in this world. A similar attitude pervades the UN (which is essentially where the academic left go on secondment when they are tired of academia).

Meanwhile, support for Israel in the Christian right has never been stronger. The massive Evangelical population in the US has become fanatically pro-Israel. In response to the growing cultural tensions in Europe and the ‘unholy alliance’ between the secular left and the ultra-conservative Islamists, the European right has begun to shift strongly towards Israel. I often hear remarks in Australia that the conservative Christian right is more pro-Israel than the Jewish community, and I think there is genuinely some truth to that assessment.

What does this mean? Put simply, Israel needs to maintain itself as a client state in order to survive. It can no longer rely on the secular left for support as, in a fit of post-colonial guilt and profound ‘Orientalism’, the secular left has determined that since the Islamists were fighting against George Bush, and they don’t like George Bush, the Islamists must be ‘part of the global left‘. Never mind all that stuff about hanging the homosexuals, stoning adulterers, and killing the women in your family for ‘dishonourable’ behaviour. That part’s not important.

In other words, the Israeli right has huge support from the global right, and the Israeli left is being scorned by the global left. Given the dynamics of Israel, it is small wonder that the left is in disarray.

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Israel’s new ‘right wing super-faction’

Bibi Netanyahu and Avigdor Liberman just announced a joint-ticket in the Israeli elections:

Likud, Yisrael Beytenu announce right-wing super-faction | The Times of Israel.

In a surprise move that caught even Knesset members from their own parties unawares, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman agreed that their respective Knesset factions, Likud and Yisrael Beytenu, will form a new right-wing super-faction to contest January’s general elections.Netanyahu and Liberman formally announced the partnership to the media at Jerusalem’s Dan Panorama Hotel at 8:00 p.m.

Obviously a lot of details are yet to be announced, but my gut reaction is that this is a bad move for both parties.

Likud is an established institution that appeals to a cross-section of Israeli the Israeli right – from the right-leaning secular Israelis to the religious-Zionists. Beitenu is a newly-established party that appeals predominantly to a base of Russian immigrants.

In the elections, Likud would have been hoping to capitalise on the voters swinging away from Kadima. I am not convinced that Liberman appeals much to that demographic. Similarly, I don’t think that the Russian population would see Liberman as an ally in the same way while his party moves closer and closer to becoming a faction of Likud.

If the information floating around Twitter at the moment is to be believed (which it probably isn’t), my reaction is being vindicated. Apparently Israeli Channel 2 conducted a poll which found the joint ticket getting only 33 seats, down from the 40 that the two parties currently hold separately. While the poll showed a complete collapse of Kadima’s vote (and I mean COMPLETE – they are on no seats at all), their votes were leaking primarily to Labor and to newcomers Yesh Atid.

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In defence of Bibi and Israeli democracy

I would like to highlight this response to a recent New York Times op-ed by former Knesset Speaker Avraham Burg. The response is written by Gil Troy on Karnage not-so-favourite editor Peter Beinart’s Open Zion blog (aka the best thing Beinart has done since he decided to dive head-first into the crowded pool that is the Jewish world’s Israel debate).

Troy makes some important points about Burg’s arguments, which I will conveniently identify below – although, as always, you are encouraged to click through and read the full piece.

Burg’s Blind Spots – The Daily Beast.

The first blind spot appears in Burg’s first paragraph, when he rants about a “misguided war with Iran” and calls Benjamin Netanyahu a  “warmongering prime minister.” … So far, as far as we can tell from the media, Prime Minister Netanyahu’s reign has included unconventional alternatives such as cyberattacks, coalition sanctions, and assassinations, rather than bombing raids or battles—a salutary, more subtle approach.

This gets to me too. Bibi definitely talks a big game, but he has yet to launch any major military operations – let alone wars – in either of his terms as Prime Minister. By way of comparison, Olmert – the much-lauded peacenik – invaded both Lebanon and Gaza during his term last decade. Before him, Sharon launched Operation Defensive Shield. Judging Bibi on his actual record and not his rhetoric, he is the least war-mongering Prime Minister of the past decade.

The second blind spot ignores any signs of life, liberty, equality or fraternity in Israel’s polity in order to justify the article’s hysterical title: “Israel’s Fading Democracy.” … How come we only hear from Burg about the “exclusionary ideas” of unnamed “rude and arrogant power brokers” as opposed to noble tales about the princes of the Likud, Ministers Dan Meridor and Benny Begin, Knesset Speaker Rubi Rivlin and Prime Minister Netanyahu himself, who, through their Beginite and Jabotinskyite liberalism have been fighting the anti-democratic and occasionally racist forces in their own party and coalition?

I was complaining about something similar in my Doug Cameron post last week. Bibi has spent the last four years blocking the vast majority of the antidemocratic reforms that Shas, Beitenu and the Danon faction of Likud have been trying to introduce. Instead of praising him for this, Burg et al seem to be doing whatever they can to make it not worth Bibi’s while to keep fighting – because win or lose, he gets condemned as though the reforms were his idea in the first place.

As a final thought, the Burg piece shows how the Israeli political debate seems to have descended into political point-scoring on every side. Ironically, this is not a sign that Israeli democracy is dying, but that it is just as vibrant as democracy in Australia or the US. (Yes, I said “vibrant”. That does not mean “good”.)

The problem is that partisan point-scoring makes more sense in a domestic context. Opened-up to the world, this does not do what Burg has developed these arguments to do (ie win votes for his party), it makes Israel look bad.

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For an opposite perspective, see Liam.

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The cancer that is eroding the Jewish character of Israel

Source: Activestills.org

Source: Activestills.org

It is hard to put into words what I feel about the events in the South Tel Aviv suburb yesterday with the bitterly ironic name of Hatikvah. That said, putting things into words is what I do. So here goes.

I’ll begin with someone else’s words: Ha’aretz journalist Ilan Lior, who was actually there and watched the whole thing play out. Here is how he described it:

How a Tel Aviv anti-migrant protest spiraled out of control – Haaretz Daily Newspaper | Israel News.

I have been a journalist for ten years. I’ve covered terror attacks, funerals, car accidents, and protests. I’ve seen fury, frustration, despair, and sadness in a variety of places and forms. But I’ve never seen such hatred as it was displayed on Wednesday night in the Hatikva neighborhood. If it weren’t for the police presence, it would have ended in lynching. I have no doubt. Perhaps a migrant worker would have been murdered, perhaps an asylum seeker, or maybe just a passerby in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Israel’s asylum seeker problem

I have written in the past on how Israel provides its African asylum seekers with a safe haven that is unmatched by any other country that side of Europe, but also that they still face difficulties. The situation that they find themselves in is depicted very well in this piece by Daniella Cheslow and I recommend clicking through and reading it, but in essence: Israel has no policy.

Tens of thousands of people have been fleeing for Israel over the past decade, primarily from Sudan and Eritrea. The horrors that they face at home and during the journey do not bear thinking about. Amongst other things, they are hunted for their ethnicity, quite literally shot on sight by Egyptian forces, and often abducted by Sinai Bedoins, held to ransom and then tortured to death when they can’t pay (African refugees do not tend to have a lot of money).

After weeks of travelling through harsh deserts, often on foot, they cross the border into Israel – where they are greeted by the Israeli border guards, given food and medical attention, taken to a detention centre in South Israel so that Israel can figure out who they are, and then given a one-way bus ticket to Tel Aviv.

That is the end of Israel’s plan for them. They arrive in Tel Aviv with absolutely nothing – no working visa, no knowledge of Hebrew, no friends, no family, no support network. There are now 60,000 of them – almost 1% of Israel’s entire population – and the Israeli government has had no policy at all to deal with the issue. For reasons outlined here by Shallya Scher-Ehrlich, this is in breach of international law.

What happens next is quite obvious: they serve the same functions as large groups of illegal migrants anywhere else. They work in below-minimum-wage jobs for people unscrupulous enough to employ them in these conditions, they live in crowded accommodation in the poorest neighbourhoods and, out of desperation and because criminal gangs are one group that do not exclude them for the colour of their skin, they often become involved in crime (although reports of them massively increasing crime rates are highly exaggerated).

The areas that they moved into were previously (and in some cases still are) the ones predominantly inhabited by Israel’s other marginalised groups – Jewish immigrants from Arab countries and from Ethiopia, or ‘Mizrachim‘. How the old residents have reacted was captured quite well in a profile by Ben Hartman on Sophie Menashe, a Mizrachi Jew who found herself to be the last Jew in a building now inhabited by African migrants:

Jpost | African influx to TA worries elderly Jewish holdout

Despite the descriptions of a gilded past, these neighborhoods were never upscale and had a persistent reputation for being crime-infested. However, the influx of Africans has added racial conflict to the already troubled social dynamic and has left many veteran residents feeling foreign and outnumbered. …

The apartment was once a source of pride for Menashe. …

Over the years, her neighbors grew older and died or moved out, and more and more foreigners moved in; first foreign workers, mainly from West Africa and East Asia, and over the past five or six years, East African migrants and asylum- seekers.

The sentiments that Menashe expressed toward the African migrants left little room for nuance: They carry AIDS and other diseases, are violent drunks and might be part of a plot hatched by the Jewish state’s enemies to flood Israel with African Muslims, creating a demographic threat to bring down the country from within.

Although such views would offend a wide swath of polite Israeli society, they come from a place of fear and frustration, and from long days spent cooped up in her apartment, afraid to step out into a world that has shifted beneath her feet – where Menashe now feels like a stranger.

These tensions have recently started coming to a head, and the government is finally reacting as a result – building a fence along the border to Egypt and building a massive detention centre to house the asylum seekers. In many ways, it seems as though they are taking a leaf out of Australia’s book.

Whatever your views on mandatory detention, one particular leaf that Israel has now taken is unambiguously disgusting, hateful and unjustifiable. That “leaf” is the 2005 Cronulla riots, which in many ways were mirrored by yesterday’s events in Tel Aviv.

This car with an African driver was attacked by the mob. Photo: Ha’aretz

I began the post with Ilan Lior’s eyewitness report of the incident and another, by Hagai Matar, can be read here. The worst part is undoubtedly the fact that the crowd was fuelled mostly by Members of the Knesset.

Hatikvah was a riot

Let’s be clear though, while some of these were government MKs, the protest was against the government’s policy. The protesters and the speakers were complaining that the government has not been harsh enough on the refugees. What the parliamentarians said, however, was disgraceful. Lior quotes Michael Ben-Ari, a Kahannist, saying, “there are rapists and harassers here. The time for talk is over.”

Wore still was the quote from Likkud MK Miri Regev, which I feel the need to emphasise in bold:

“The Sudanese are a cancer in our body. All the left-wingers that filed petitions in the Supreme court should be embarrassed – they stopped the expulsion.”

As a few have pointed out, this is precisely the kind of abhorrent, racist rhetoric that Iranian leaders use to refer to Israel and Jews, rightly drawing condemnation from most of the world.

Even worse, it is the kind of language that Sudanese President Omar Bashir uses when he’s busy inciting genocide against the black Africans in his Arab-ruled country. This is precisely what these people fled in the first instance, hoping for a haven in Israel, yet they are met with the same revulsion. It’s sickening.

Even this was not quite the evening’s the low point.

Ben-Ari, Regev and Major Karnage favourite Danny Danon  managed to rile the crowd enough that they transformed into a mob and began attacking the journalists mentioned above for being “traitors” and allegedly “throwing rocks at checkpoints” (which, needless to say, both of them deny ever doing).

The mob started chanting “Sudanese to Sudan!” and making their way towards the largely African neighbourhoods. What ensued was beyond harrowing. The mob went around South Tel Aviv, smashing the windows of African-owned businesses, looting African-run shops and attacking passers-by who happened to be black.

I cannot think of any epithets that even approach how repulsive this is. Jews Sans Frontiers, a group with whom I do not often agree, compared it — not unjustifiably — to Kristallnacht. Watching some of the footage, this is exactly what comes to mind:

Danon’s response? Well, he figured that he’d pen an op-ed. This was published in the Jerusalem Post the morning after the riot:

Deportation Now! – JPost – Opinion – Op-Eds.

We are at a critical crossroads with a strategic demographic threat developing within our borders that may upend our country’s very character as a Jewish and democratic state. It is nonsensical that such large numbers of illegal infiltrators from Africa are settling permanently in our country and so little is being done to rectify this problem. This is especially highlighted when taking into account that the crime rate among the infiltrators is almost double the rate of that in the general population. The desperately necessary solution is a three-pronged program to end this dangerous phenomenon: stop, arrest and deport.

A threat to Israel’s “character as a Jewish and democratic state”.

No.

The rhetoric that Danon was supporting and that pogrom he incited is exactly the sort of persecution that Israel was created to prevent. The Zionist dream was formed when Jews had to regularly endure this kind of treatment and longed for a place where they would be away from it, where they would be able to live without fear — not a place to import the violent prejudice that plagued the countries from which they fled.

The concept of a “Jewish state” may be difficult to define, but it was definitely not meant in the same way that the Nazis spoke of a “German state”. Whatever some anti-Zionists may choose to believe, Israel was never intended to be a land “cleansed” of non-Jews. It is supposed to be a homeland for the Jewish people, that to some extent embodies Jewish values.

This riot was about as far from Jewish values as anyone can possibly stray. Where is the “light unto the nations” now? Who is “doing unto others as you would have them do unto you?”

It is not the African migrants that are eroding Israel’s Jewish character, it is Danon, Regev and Ben-Ari. They are the cancer that is eating away at Israeli society, propagating this vile racism — not to mention trying to unravel the Constitutional basis for Israel’s democracy.

National unity

If there is some hope left to find in Hatikvah, it is in the fact that these MKs did manage to unite the Jewish people — against them. Jewish organisations around the world condemned what happened. Similar for everyone in Israel beyond a handful of extremists.

Even someone like Neil Lazarus — who has literally made his career out of defending everything Israel does — has come out strongly against Israeli racism as a result.

Moreover, the critical voices include members of the Government who are much more important than Danon:

Netanyahu condemns southern Tel Aviv violence – Israel News, Ynetnews.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu commented on Wednesday’s violent protests in southern Tel Aviv and made it clear that “there is no room for the actions and expressions witnessed (in Tel Aviv). I’m saying these things to the general population and the residents of southern Tel Aviv, whose pain I understand.”

Rivlin: ‘Lawmakers Must Guard Their Words!’ – Inside Israel – News – Israel National News.

[Knesset Speaker Reuben Rivlin said that t]he people “may demonstrate and protest and demand the government formulate a solution, but there should be no incitement – and it is forbidden to use the same tactics anti-Semites used against us [in the Exile].”

“We suffered greatly from incitement and harassment,” Rivlin said. “We must be committed to sensitivity and finding just solutions. The main problem is not the infiltrators and refugees, but the lack of a clear policy from the government of Israel.”

It is important to maintain perspective. As Michael Koplow pointed out, there were only about 1,000 people who attended the rally, and fewer still who actually rioted.

Also, while I did use the word “pogrom”, this is not like the state-sanctioned pogroms that the Jews of Eastern Europe were subjected to. Happily, no one was killed or seriously injured on the night – thanks in no small part to the heroic actions of the Israeli police. Israeli society has overwhelmingly condemned what went on and it has been made clear by the Prime Minister and the President that this kind of thing has no place in Israel.

In that spirit, I strongly believe that the Members of Knesset who were involved in the affair should be forced to resign. What they said and did is absolutely unacceptable and their parties should not countenance that behaviour.

Also, I will be donating money to the African Refugee Development Centre in Tel Aviv, I suggest that you do the same.

I will leave you with some words from Adam Ibrahim, a leader of Israel’s African migrant community:

An African migrant’s plea for a few basic rights – Haaretz Daily Newspaper | Israel News.

If you don’t want us here, don’t turn your rage at us, because we have no choice. I have nowhere to go. I just want to live in safety. I agree to be deported to any African country, other than Sudan. I just want to live with dignity, without people talking about the color of my skin, and I want to stop feeling hostility on the streets.

It is important for me to say that we are not a burden on society. We work for less than minimum wage in jobs that Israelis wouldn’t want to do themselves anyway. We pay rent, and make do with organizations that we established ourselves. It is hard for me to hear Eli Yishai’s statements in the media. Their impact on Israelis is tremendous, since in Israel everyone listens to the news.

The state is spreading negative propaganda against us – they say it is unsafe here because of us. I feel that the Jews are doing to us the exact same thing the Germans did to them. Don’t talk nonsense – we are in the 21st century. Don’t talk about skin color, don’t talk about slaves and don’t say that I stink. We want to see a real democracy – not only words.

I know that I will never have equal rights here. I just want to receive the few rights that I do deserve as a refugee.

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Beitenu is a socialist party and the difference between racism and the right

Liam quoting Neve Gordon quoting Menachem Begin. Both followed the “oh, what a surprise that the former doyenne of the Israeli right was using rhetoric that you think is left wing compared with the Israeli right now” kind of shtick:

Who said that Zionist quote? (You’ll never guess) – Liam Getreu.

“We do not accept the semi-official view … wherein the state grants rights and is entitled to rescind them. We believe that there are human rights that precede the human form of life called a state.”

“We have learned that an elected parliamentary majority can be an instrument in the hands of a group of rulers and act as camouflage for their tyranny. Therefore, the nation must, if it chooses freedom, determine its rights also with regard to the House of Representatives in order that the majority thereof, that serves the regime more than it oversees it, should not negate these rights.”

Here’s the thing: this does not show how the Israeli right has moved further right. For all the moralising against Begin for being some kind of proto-fascist, he was the one who gave away the entire Sinai peninsular in exchange for peace with Egypt. He was right wing in the classical tradition and he followed Jabotinsky’s strong secular, liberal tradition. As evidenced by these quotes, this was not just a nationalist movement, it was a fervently democratic one. In fact, Jabotinsky was the first Zionist leader to recognise Palestinian nationalism and the first to call for Arab residents to play a role in Israeli society.

The classical Revisionist doctrine has not been entirely lost, it can still be seen in the old generation of Likud — the likes of Bibi, Reuvlin et al. The anti-liberal activity that Liam/Gordon are railing about come from the left of politics — parties like Yisrael Beitenu, who are pretty much a group of racist socialists. Bibi is blocking Lieberman’s antidemocratic reforms as Lieberman blocks Bibi’s free-market reforms. Lieberman is demanding more public housing and social welfare while he busies himself with depriving Israeli Arabs and curtailing the judiciary.

In any country that didn’t define “left” and “right” according to how willing a party is to trust Palestinians, most of Likud’s “right wing coalition” would be firmly on the left. I am completely opposed to this characterisation of Beitenu as “right wing”. They are possibly the most socialist, interventionist, big-government party in Israeli politics today. Being racist does not make someone right wing, as anyone who has seen the bile that the far left spout about Jews and Israel will know, the left is not exactly lacking in racists.

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HUGE news: Kadima/Likkud unity government

This is a VERY welcome development in Israeli politics. Bibi Netanyahu and Shaul Mofaz have agreed to form a unity government instead of going to early elections.

In surprise move, Netanyahu, Mofaz agree to form unity government, cancel early elections – Haaretz Daily Newspaper | Israel News.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and opposition chairman MK Shaul Mofaz (Kadima) reached an agreement early Tuesday morning to form a national unity government and cancel early elections, which had been expected to take place on September 4.

Under the agreement, Kadima will join Netanyahu’s government and support its policies in exchange for a commitment that the government will support its proposal for an alternative to the Tal Law, which allows full-time yeshiva students to defer national service.

This was always a strong possibility with a Mofaz-led Kadima — remember that Kadima was formed when Sharon split from Likkud to withdraw from Gaza. Half of the Kadima MKs are Likkudniks and really it was only a matter of time before they joined Likkud in government.

Between them, the two parties have a near majority in their own right. Add Barak’s Atzmeut party and you have what a lot of us have been praying for: a strong, secular, centrist coalition (yep, “praying”).

Getting rid of all the crazies means that Bibi can allow the Tal Law to expire and stop this ridiculous Haredi exemption from contributing to Israeli society. It also means that he will no longer be beholden to Lieberman, which immediately curtails the encroaching Putin-esque antidemocratic reforms from Beitenu and gives space for the opening of markets that the country desperately needs in order to address its numerous economic woes.

Overall, this is the best thing that has happened in Israeli politics since at least 2009. Hopefully it will live up to its potential.

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Today in the annals of “WHY DO YOU DO THIS TO ME ISRAELIS?!?”

I was very happy last night when the Israeli High Court rejected the Government’s compromise on the Migron settlement and upheld their previous decision that building settlements on privately-owned Palestinian land is illegal under Israeli law, therefore Migron should be demolished.

Good news for once, no? Well…

Rivlin agrees to hold Knesset ses… JPost – Diplomacy & Politics.

In light of Sunday’s court ruling, however, MK Uri Ariel (National Union) said, “there is no option but to advance legislation that would give Migron legal standing at its present site without any relocation or evacuation.”

… MK Ya’acov Katz (National Union) said that from the start it had been clear to him that the only solution to Migron was legislation.

The government should not destroy any community it helped to create, he said.

“There is no reason why Jews should be evacuated from their homes under a Likud government,” said MK Danny Danon (Likud). “We must make use of the responsibility given to us by the people to lead the nation and the settlements in Judea and Samaria according to the values of Ze’ev Jabotinsky and [former prime minister] Menachem Begin.”

… MK Arye Eldad (National Union) said that “the court proved today that it preferred Arab interests over Jewish settlement even at the expense of spilling blood. If blood is spilled in Migron it will be on the heads of the court justices.”

Likud activist Moshe Feiglin warned that parliamentarians who opposed the legislation would lose his support and that of his followers in the next election.

… “The High Court justices could have made a decision to avoid conflict in Israeli society,” said Forum director attorney Nachi Eyal. “Clearly the court thinks human rights are only for Palestinians, not for Jews.”

“What do you expect from a panel containing a justice who won’t sing Hatikva?” Eyal added, in a dig at Supreme Court Justice Salim Joubran, who declined to sing the national anthem at Supreme Court president (emeritus) Dorit Beinisch’s retirement ceremony.

Ugh.

Let’s start with Danon: so this is against the spirit of Begin and Jabotinsky?!?! That would be the Begin who gave away the entire Sinai Peninsular – three times the six of Israel plus the West Bank plus Gaza? The Begin who sent a young Ariel Sharon to literally hose people off the roofs of the Sinai settlement of Yamit? And his mentor, Jabotinsky, the secular nationalist who never expressed much support for the Religious-Zionists who are trying to grab their “God-given land”?

Fortunately, Likkud stalwarts who do follow the Begin/Jabotinsky tradition of Revisionist Zionism are keeping to its ideals of a Jewish state that is secular and democratic by blocking everything the assholes quoted above are trying to push through. That said, Danon is the chair of World Likkud, he has a lot of power inside the party and is definitely getting more of his supporters onto the Knesset ticket. I am very worried for the future of Likkud if this continues, I have no doubt that he would do to Likkud what Barak did to Avoda.

Fortunately, there is still some integrity/competence in Likkud’s leadership, as evidenced by Bibi’s statement on the issue:

PM on Migron deal rejection: The … JPost – Diplomacy & Politics.

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu on Sunday reacted to the High Court’s rejection of a state request to delay the evacuation of the Migron Outpost until 2015, saying that “the government of Israel, along with its citizens, respects the court and acts according to the nation’s laws.”

And the guy who spoke about Joubran not singing Hatikva? Even Isi Liebler disagrees with him! There is pretty well a consensus in Israel that it is understandable for a non-Jew to feel uncomfortable singing about a “Jewish heart” yearning to be “a free people in our own land”. He stands for the anthem respectfully, but does not sing it – that is good enough for everyone else. What the hell is the ‘Legal forum for the Land of Israel’ anyway? And why are the Jerusalem Post paying them any attention?

As for Habayit Hayehudi and Halchud Leumi… well… we always knew they were nut-jobs.

I only hope that they get marginalised at the elections next year…

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