Above Photo: Demonstrators wear masks and wrapped in Israeli flags during a protest against plans by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government to overhaul the judicial system in Tel Aviv, Israel, March 28, 2023. Oded Balilty / AP.
A few observations on things surrounding the issue of Israel. For reasons that are hard to understand at this point, the rapprochement between Iran and Saudi Arabia has had very little mention in the Israeli press. Considering its importance and potential impact on the region, it is difficult to see how Israel is hardly moved by this development. There was an expectation that Saudi Arabia would normalize relations with Israel. However, now the kingdom not only has not done so, but they are also building bridges with Iran, Israel’s biggest nemesis. It is a slap in the face of the U.S. and Israel and may soon be seen as diplomatic and intelligence failures of epic proportions.
The American attitude towards Israel has been consistently supportive, and of course, it is expected that it will continue to be supportive in the foreseeable future. $3.8 billion goes to Israel uninterrupted, even though Amnesty International has labeled it an apartheid regime. In fact, the U.S. support for Israel is not just “aid”; it is complicity in crimes against humanity as Israel continues to oppress the Palestinians.
Governments around the world discuss recognizing Palestine within the borders of 1967 – and some have already done so. However, the borders were created by Israel and have nothing to do with Palestine. Recognizing Palestine within these borders only legitimizes the Israeli crimes of 1948. There is one Palestine, and its borders are clear: the Jordan River in the east and the Mediterranean in the west. Palestine borders Syria and Lebanon in the north and the Gulf of Aqaba in the South.
Any recognition of a part of Palestine is really a recognition and legitimization of the apartheid state of Israel. If the U.K. – or any other government – was serious about supporting the Palestinian cause, they would recognize Palestine in all of historic Palestine and would support the fight to bring down the apartheid regime.
The reforms that the Netanyahu government wants to pass touch on issues that relate only to the privileged class of Israeli Jews within the apartheid regime. They take away the ability of the high court to strike down undemocratic laws and allow politicians to have more control over the selection of judges. It is an undemocratic reform, to be sure, but we have to remember that “Israel” was never a democratic state. It was always – as we are told by the Amnesty report – a regime of apartheid, committing a crime against humanity towards the Palestinian people.
The hundreds of thousands of Israelis protesting in the streets are blind to the Palestinian issue. They have the power to end the apartheid regime, free the Palestinian political prisoners and stop destroying Palestinian homes and lives. Hundreds of fighter pilots are refusing to serve now, but they never refused to bomb Gaza (or Lebanon and Syria) and kill civilians.
There are two causes behind the protests. First, Israelis who did not vote for Netanyahu and his government hate him and the racist gangsters in the cabinet. They want bigoted thugs like Itamar Ben-Gvir, Bezalel Smotrich and their allies to stay in the West Bank and terrorize Palestinians. They don’t want to see these faces as members of the “legitimate” Israeli government. This is also why the Biden administration and the British prime minister are criticizing Netanyahu. They are also embarrassed to support an Israel that is being governed by these figures.
Fragmented Israeli Society
There have always been inequalities among Israeli Jews of different backgrounds. In fact, one may argue that there was never a cohesive Israeli society. Israel is made up of a fragmented group of people who have very little in common. I grew up in a very white, European-centric suburb outside Jerusalem. I used to take the bus to go to school in Jerusalem and back. Just a few stops after mine, it was an entirely different world. There was another neighborhood, rather large, that was made up of Jews from Iraq and Kurdistan. We all used the same bus but went to separate schools. We never met or spoke to each other. We did not understand them, and they did not understand us. I came from “civilized” Europeans, and they were “Orientals,” – which means less privileged and beneath us. That is how I was raised; this is one small example of how fragmented Israeli society has always been.
One time I was in an Israeli jail after I was arrested at a protest in the West Bank. I was the only white guy in the jail cell with about ten or twelve other inmates. They were all Israeli Jews from Arab countries. Not only did we have nothing in common, they thought I was “worse than an Arab” because I was an Ashkenazi’ and an Arab lover – a leftist.
While there, I told my fellow cellmates a story from my childhood growing up in Jerusalem –
I went to a school that was only for Ashkenazi European Israelis. Then, one day, someone decided to initiate what they called “integration.” Not integration between Jews and Arabs who all lived in Jerusalem, but between Jewish Israelis of different social and economic classes. The authorities brought the children of the Arab Jews – who were of a lower social class and went to a school a few blocks away from my school – to the same school as me.
These kids were as different as could be. We never spoke to one another and never played with one another during recess. In fact, they placed them, the “other” kids, in different classes and with different teachers. When I told this to the other inmates in my cell, they knew what I was talking about. They all remembered how Israelis who are white or European treat them like dirt. They still thought I was a lefty enemy and worse than an Arab.
The illusion of a cohesive Israel, an Israel that is a miraculous success, exists only in the minds of privileged Israeli and some diaspora Jews. Some European politicians may also believe this to be the case, having been convinced by Jews in their countries. But it was never the case. And now, if Israel indeed does implode, if it really disintegrates, there will be no reason to mourn.