Netanyahu panders to anti-Palestinian racism - GulfToday

Netanyahu panders to anti-Palestinian racism

Michael Jansen

The author, a well-respected observer of Middle East affairs, has three books on the Arab-Israeli conflict.

The author, a well-respected observer of Middle East affairs, has three books on the Arab-Israeli conflict.

Netanyahu panders to anti-Palestinian racism

Palestinians take part in a demonstration against the reduction of aid by the UN agency in Khan Yunis. File / Agence France-Presse

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu is no longer “king of Israel.” The country’s third parliamentary election in 11 months has deprived him of his crown. During the latest campaign Netanyahu played hard and dirty but did not achieve his objective of securing a majority by forming a coalition with hard-right nationalist and ultra-Orthodox religious parties. Consequently, Israel remains in limbo and the threat of a fourth election looms.

His Likud bloc won only 36 seats in the 120 member Knesset and his potential partners have only 22 seats, giving a Netanyahu-led coalition only 58 of the 61 seats needed. At present, the anti-Netanyahu coalition has the backing of 62 members. This is comprised of the Joint Arab List plus a range of Jewish parties: right-wing Blue and White, a Labour-left list, and the party of rightist renegade Avigdor Lierberman.  He threatens to back Blue and White  leader  Benny Gantz for the premiership.

To make the situation worse for Netanyahu, his chief rival Gantz has proposed a law barring politicians who have been criminally indicted from forming a government.  Netanyahu is set to go on trial in this month for bribery, fraud and breach of trust.

Furthermore, Blue and White hardliner Moshe Yaalon, a former army chief, has agreed to a government led by Gantz with the backing of Labour and the external support of the Palestinian-led Joint Arab List. The latter, which increased its seats from 13 to 15 since the second election in September, is the third largest party and could be kingmaker.

The Joint List is an alliance of three Palestinian parties — Balad, Ta’al and the United Arab List — with Hadash which fuses the old Jewish-Palestinian Communist party with other leftists.  Therefore, the Joint List is democratic, pluralist and anti-racist. The Joint List, formed ahead of the 2015 election, brings together pan-Arab and Palestinian nationalists, socialists, other leftists feminists, and Muslim fundamentalists. Since the April 2019 election, the List has increased its support by 70 per cent to 575,000.  Among its voters is a larger number of Jewish Israelis than ever, projecting the List into the mainstream.  It is notable that a female Muslim lawmaker from the List, Iman Yassin Khatib, 55, has become the first woman in the Knesset to wear a hijab, or headscarf.  She is from a Galilee village near Nazareth.

Joint List head Ahmed Odeh argues that if Blue and White wants List support in forming a coalition, Gantz must abandon his support for a “Jewish majority government” and reject Netanyahu’s plan to annex West Bank colonies and the Jordan valley.  Spurned by the international community and the UN, this plan is supported only by the Trump administration which proposed annexation in ts so-called “Deal of the Century.”

Israel’s longest serving premier, Netanyahu has only himself to blame for his parlous position.  He has incited hatred of Palestinians, who comprise 21 per cent of Israel’s population, by calling them an existential threat to Israel.”

During the campaign he accused Gantz of preparing to collude with “terrorists” from The Joint List simply because it represents Palestinians and non-Zionist Jewish Israelis.

In the aftermath of Netanyahu’s electoral defeat, he insists the List must be excluded from decision-making in the formation of a government.

Palestinian citizens of Israel have never been accorded equal treatment with Jewish citizens. From 1948 until 1967, they lived under martial law. Their lands are routinely expropriated, their municipalities are unrecognised and underfunded, housing is sub-standard, schools and health facilities are starved of money, they cannot reside in more prosperous Jewish neighbourhoods, towns, and villages.  No Palestinian party has ever been in government during Israel’s 72 years of existence. Apartheid reigns. Consequently, Israel’s Palestinian citizens have a deep reservoir of resentment toward Zionism and Israeli Jewish domination. In 2018, to please his right-wing and religious partners, Netanyahu championed the adoption of the controversial “Nation State” law which holds that only Jews have the right of self-determination in Palestine and “Israel is unique to the Jewish people.”  The law states that Hebrew is the official language of Israel and demotes Arabic to an undefined “special status.” And, the law promotes Jewish colonisation as a “national value” and pledges to advance this enterprise despite the fact it proceeds apace at the expense of Palestinian citizens and subjects of the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem. Although the law is blatantly racist and discriminatory, Netanyahu praised its adoption as a “defining moment in the history of the Jewish state.”

Netanyahu’s subservience to Israel’s radical and religious right, anti-Palestinian racism, rejection of the “two state solution” and promotion of the Nation State law have alienated liberal members of the US Jewish community, 70 per cent of whom vote Democratic in US elections.  Some Democratic members of Congress now dare speak out in criticism of Israel. Indeed, Israel can no longer count on bipartisan backing in Congress and has come to rely on the Republican party and, of course, Donald Trump who repeatedly tried to influence Israel voters to cast ballots for Netanyahu by promoting policies benefiting the Israeli right wing.

If elected Democratic party presidential hopeful, Bernie Sanders has vowed to change US policy toward Israel and refused to attend this year’s annual conference of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), the powerful US Zionist lobby.  He has even called AIPAC a platform for “bigotry.” While pointing out that he is of Jewish background, Sanders said that “in Israel, through (Binyamin) Netanyahu, you have a reactionary racist who is now running that country.”

Little wonder that the first Palestinian woman to sit in the US Congress, Rashida Tlaib, has urged voters in Michigan, a crucial state in the coming election, to support “Ummu Bernie,” employing the Arabic word for “uncle” to show respect and affection for him.

In response to Democratic defectors, AIPAC advertisements have said such lawmakers are more “sinister” than Israel’s Arab antagonists, Hamas, Hizbollah, and Daesh. Such comments show just how far targeted US Congress members have moved from subservience to Israel and the Israeli lobby.

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