Jewish author Ilan Pappe points to three significant outcomes emerging from Bibi Netanyahu’s victory in Israel’s 2015 Knesset elections: An invigorated Likud, a defeated Labor Party, and a united Palestinian representation.
Score two for the settler colonialist state, Israel, and one for the Palestinians living in Israel, whose politicians finally got smart and ran a unified slate.
Pappe is the Israeli Jewish scholar whose seminal book on the Nakba, The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine, exposed Israel’s settler colonialist goals. Israel’s hasbara (propaganda) messengers have long pushed Israel as the “only democracy in the region”. American politicians constantly repeat the hasbara line by insisting Israel and the U.S. have “shared values”.
“Shared values” in religions, to be sure, Jewish, Christian and Muslim, when they are practiced religiously. More importantly, however, Israel and the U.S. share a common founding narrative. Each began as a “settler colonialist” state, a term rarely affixed today to either state, but decide for yourself after reading Wikipedia’s definition:
“Colonialism is the establishment, exploitation, maintenance, acquisition, and expansion of colony in one territory by a political power from another territory. It is a set of unequal relationships between the colonial power and the colony and often between the colonists and the indigenous population.”
For further evidence of U.S. settler colonialism, check with your nearest American Indian reservation. And for musical confirmation, spend some quality time with Johnny Cash’s 1964 album, Bitter Tears: Ballads of the American Indian. which most U.S. radio outlets refused to play in 1964.
A tribute album released 50 years later, Look Again to the Wind: Johnny Cash’s Bitter Tears Revisited, was named the “Most Valuable CD” in The Nation’s Progressive Honor Roll for 2014. This tribute album was reviewed here by Rolling Stone.
Meanwhile, fast forward to the most recent settler colonialist nation, Israel, which has just reelected Benjamin Netanyahu. (An IDF voter is shown above.)
Thanks to his extensive research into Israel’s modern history, Pappe quickly became unwelcome in Israel’s Zionism-protective academic circles. He soon moved to England where he is now professor of history and director of the European Centre for Palestine Studies at the University of Exeter.
Pappe’s “three outcomes”– an even stronger Likud, a Labor Party embodied in the Zionist Union as a partnership linking Labor with Tzipi Livni’s “Initiative” list, and the united Palestinian Israelis—can, he writes, “either be ignored by the international community or serve as a catalyst for new thinking on the evergreen question of Palestine”.
President Barack Obama falls into the catalyst response camp. He was not buying Netanyahu’s backward shuffle from his pre-election assertion that there would be no Palestinian state “on his watch” nor was he impressed by Bibi’s faux apology for his racist campaign language and tactics.
Obama reacted in his Niebuhrian realism voice when he told a New York Times reporter:
“This can’t be reduced to a matter of somehow, ‘Let’s all hold hands and sing Kumbaya. This is a matter of figuring out how do we get through a real, knotty policy difference that has great consequences for both countries and for the region.”
In his Electronic Intifada analysis, Pappe recalls the history behind the election:
“Ever since Likud took power for the first time after its historic 1977 victory, Jewish voters have preferred the real thing, so to speak, steadily turning away from [Labor] the paler, liberal version of Zionism.
Labor was in power long enough for us to know that it could not offer even the most moderate Palestinian leaders any deal that would have granted them genuine sovereignty — not even in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, which form only a fifth of historic Palestine.
The reason is very simple: the raison d’etre of a settler-colonialist society is displacement of the natives and their replacement by settlers. At best natives can be confined in gated enclaves, at worst they are doomed to be expelled or destroyed.”
David Remnick, editor of The New Yorker since 1998, described the Likud tactics in the election, tactics that angered President Obama and which Hillary Clinton chose to ignore:
“Netanyahu, sensing an electoral threat from a center-left coalition led by Isaac Herzog and Tzipi Livni, unleashed a campaign finale steeped in nativist fear and hatred of the Other. This time, there was not a trace of subtlety. “Right-wing rule is in danger,” he warned his supporters. “Arab voters are coming out in droves to the polls.”
On Israeli TV, he said, ‘If we don’t close the gap in the next few days, Herzog and Livni, supported by Arabs and leftist N.G.O.s, will form the next government.’ (Twenty per cent of the Israeli citizenry is Arab.) He warned darkly of ‘left-wing people from outside,’ including perfidious ‘Scandinavians,’ and ‘tens of millions of dollars’ being used to ‘mobilize the Arab vote.’ Pro-Likud phone banks reminded voters that Netanyahu’s opponents had the support of ‘Hussein Obama’.”
Pappe reaches what he calls a “clear” conclusion for the international community:
Only decolonization of the settler state can lead to reconciliation. And the only way to kick off this decolonization is by employing the same means exercised against the other long-standing settler state of the twentieth century: apartheid South Africa.
The option of BDS — boycott, divestment and sanctions— has never looked more valid than it does today.
Hopefully this, together with popular resistance on the ground, will entice at least some of the second and third generation of the Jewish settler-colonial society to help stop the Zionist colonization project.
Pressure from outside and from the resistance movement within are the only way to force Israelis to reframe their relationship with all the Palestinians, including the refugees, on the basis of democratic and egalitarian values.
Otherwise, we can expect Likud to win forty seats in the next elections, perhaps on the back of the next outraged Palestinian uprising.
Clinton’s comments to the American Jewish leaders were reported by Malcolm Hoenlein, executive vice chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations.
Hoenlein compared Clinton’s contrast “in tone”, according to the New York Times, “from recent remarks by members of the Obama administration, who have publicly criticized Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel amid tensions over a nuclear deal with Iran and comments Mr. Netanyahu made in the final days of his re-election campaign this month.”
After delivering his spin on Clinton’s comments, Hoenlein adds:
“Secretary Clinton thinks we need to all work together to return the special U.S.-Israel relationship to constructive footing, to get back to basic shared concerns and interests, including a two-state solution pursued through direct negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians.”
And there you have the first “constructive footing” kumbaya statement of the 2016 battle for the White House.
Will a future President Hillary Clinton sing kumbaya if Bibi Netanyahu speaks to a Republican-controlled Congress, and attacks one of her foreign policy initiatives?
The photo above is from Portnoy/Flickr. It appeared in the Electronic Intifada.