(Image: a Jewish settler in Hebron throws wine on a Palestinian woman)
The election of Benjamin Netanyahu to his fourth term as prime minister of Israel has solidified what many have already known about the state of Israel: it is a racist, colonial state that cannot be considered a democracy in any shape or form.
Netanyahu’s opponent, Zionist Union leader Isaac Herzog had looked set to win the hard fought election, but Bibi’s desperate last minute plea to the hard right appeared to have tipped the balance. “The right’s regime is in danger,” Netanyahu had told potential voters on Facebook. “The Arabs are moving in droves to the polling stations.”
Nothing like some good old fashioned race baiting to get people to the polls. At least Netanyahu was being honest about his political motivations.
To deny that modern day Israel is a racist, anti democratic state is to deny objective reality. While Israeli Arabs are allowed to vote in national elections, the four million Palestinians living in the territories controlled by Israel are not. Netanyahu stated explicitly that under his watch there would be no Palestinian state, so it stands to reason that he aims to continue Israel’s occupation and remove any possibility that the Palestinians can determine their own future in any meaningful way. For Gazans, the Israeli elections are particularly obnoxious given Israel controls its borders, airspace, territorial waters, population registry and taxation system. As Israeli journalist Gideon Levy wrote days before the election:
The real hole in the ozone of Israeli democracy is the ongoing lives of over four million people living under a brutal, violent rule, all the while having not even the slightest amount of participation or involvement. There is no other country in the world in which millions of its subjects are denied the right to vote – while that country is labeled a democracy, and not just any democracy, but the only (!) democracy in the region.
The predicament of the Palestinian people is eerily similar to black South Africans during Apartheid. Like black South Africans, Palestinians are not allowed to move freely on their own land. Like black South Africans, Palestinians must carry ‘passbooks’ to identify themselves to their military occupiers. Like black South Africans, Palestinians are subjected to the cantonization and theft of their ancestral homeland. Like black South Africans, Palestinians cannot vote for the people controlling their lives, and like black South Africans, Palestinians are discriminated against purely on the basis of their ethnicity.
There is no positive spin on Netanyahu’s reelection. Life will continue to be unfathomably difficult for the millions of Palestinians living in a virtual prison with mass unemployment, poverty and lack of access to basic human need. Netanyahu will continue his policy of overt colonization, building Jewish settlements on Palestinian land while thumbing his nose at the international community’s attempts to stop him. He will continue to slaughter Palestinians when they dare to fight for their freedom, and he will continue to fan the flames of war with Israel’s neighbors to make himself relevant as a war time leader. Of course none of this is good for Israel – the further it isolates itself from America and the rest of the world, the more fragile its existence becomes. Sadly, this what Israel has become. As Phil Weiss wrote just after this week’s election:
This is Israel. Everything you have been told about the “Jewish democracy” by the Israel supporters: it is wrong. It may be Jewish, but it is no democracy, this is a white settler society where a fearful privileged group of Jews holds on to its power in ever-expanding colonies by reelecting a strong leader, now in his tenth year as premier, who will use threats and violence against the Palestinians. This place is what Ali Abunimah and Max Blumenthal told us it was years ago. Blumenthal’s video Feeling the Hate in Jerusalem [link here] was censored just about everywhere he put it up six years ago. MJ Rosenberg, a liberal Zionist, said that Blumenthal had caricatured the Israeli public by quoting a few yokels.
Well today those yokels have spoken, and they are Israel.
So let us stop with the pretenses and stop referring to Israel as a democracy. Netanyahu and his zealots in office run a modern day apartheid of which all Israelis should be ashamed.
Ben Cohen is the editor and founder of The Daily Banter. He lives in Washington DC where he does podcasts, teaches Martial Arts, and tries to be a good father. He would be extremely disturbed if you took him too seriously.