The most surprising thing about the Israeli elections is the surprise and “disappointment” expressed by liberal Zionists, in Israel and abroad. “How could this happen?” Shock at “the most right-wing government in Israel’s history.” As if anything has really changed except that Israelis no longer feel the need to dress up their settler regime in liberal, “democratic” terms. The fact that people are surprised means either that they have never grasped the meaning of Zionism – a case of mass self-delusion – or that they are embarrassed by the public exposure of their violent Judaization of Palestine.
In fact, the outcome of the elections was a natural consequence of the Zionist enterprise – indeed, the very culmination to which Israelis have aspired since 1948 (and well before). From its very beginning some 130 years ago, Zionism has been up-front over its intent to Judaize Palestine. To displace the indigenous population and replace it with Jews. To turn an Arab country into a Jewish one. To transform Palestine into Israel.
Casting Zionism as a settler colonial enterprise is not merely an academic exercise; it explains the necessary and ongoing the violence of conquest, displacement, land grabbing and ultimate repression, if not elimination, of another people whose very presence poses a challenge to exclusivist Jewish national claims to Palestine. Ben Gvir, odious as he may be, is simply the true face of Zionism that has been well hidden behind the suited and “moderate” politicians: Gans, whose election video a couple years ago featured him boasting of having killed 4000 “terrorists” in Gaza; Kohavi, the IDF Chief of Staff who just launched a billion dollar plan to boost the “lethality” of the IDF; Bennett, whose government oversaw an unprecedented peak of house demolitions; Labor and Meretz, the (Zionist) “Left” parties that never mention the occupation; and of course Netanyahu and all the others.
As long as people continue to view Israel as a normal country that just happens to be beset by a “terrorism” problem, they will continue to be surprised by election results and the heights of violence against Palestinians that Israel is capable of. Ben Gurion, Settler-in-Chief, would have been pleased by those results, but not surprised. Zionism’s supporters, American and European leaders at the head, might be less pleased because the unleashing of Netanyahu, Ben Gvir and Smotritch will expose their complicity in permitting Israel to carry out its settler agenda with impunity. They must reject the accusation of apartheid presented in painful detail by Amnesty, HRW, B’tselem and the UN.
Apartheid is today a fact. Zionism’s decades-old campaign of replacing Palestine by Israel has, in Israeli eyes, been accomplished. Israel is now in the process of mopping up. Prime Ministers Netanyahu and Bennett publicly support the annexation of the West Bank (not Gaza, God forbid). Only two things remain: breaking once and for all Palestinian resistance, a task Gans and Kohavi have readily accepted, the IDF and the settlers given a free hand; and the normalization of Israel’s apartheid regime over all of historic Palestine with the help of the international community, including the corrupt and repressive Arab regimes who rely on Israeli surveillance and technologies of repression to stay in power.
So let’s stop pretending that we didn’t know. Ben Gvir, Smotriych and their cronies are not an anomaly. The upcoming Netanyahu/Ben Gvir government is the “most right-wing” one only in its rhetoric, not in its policies. They are merely the product of Zionism’s 130 years of colonization. Only by formulating a program of decolonization, of thoroughly dismantling the structures of Israeli control and establishing a state of all its citizens (refugees included) can the Zionist project be defeated. The required intellectual honesty and political courage on the part of liberal Jews and “Left” Israelis is, however, totally lacking. It is incumbent upon Palestinians, supported by anti-Zionist Israelis, to mobilize the international grassroots towards the end of decolonizing Israel and liberating Palestine through an inclusive, shared civil democracy.
For a more decorous mainstream take, there’s always Thomas Friedman at The New York Times. But Friedman’s reaction is in a sense what Halper is referring to. Incidentally, note Friedman’s sly, subtle suggestion that Israeli settler violence is a problematic vigilante reaction to Palestinian violence.
Smotrich is known for, among other things, suggesting that Israeli Jewish mothers should be separated from Arab mothers in the maternity wards of Israeli hospitals. He has long advocated outright Israeli annexation of the West Bank and argued that there is “no such thing as Jewish terrorism” when it comes to settlers retaliating on their own against Palestinian violence.
Where and when was it established that the Palestinians were or are the initiators of violence? It doesn’t need to be established. That it doesn’t is the axiom that facilitates the Zionist enterprise in the first place.