Israelis living in a self-imposed cultural bubble, in which they see themselves as living somewhere in the mid-Atlantic remote from the Middle East, saw their composure very slightly dented by displays of the Palestinian flag by boycott-breakers Madonna and Icelandic band Hatari at the Eurovision song contest in Tel Aviv in mid-May. These minor acts of defiance have caused much more anger than the shooting of scores of Palestinians in Gaza, or the repeated bans on Palestinians praying at Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa Mosque during Ramadan. The Israeli authorities expressed their anger by harassing Madonna’s dancers at the airport when they left the country, and by deliberately assigning the Icelandic band “the worst seats” on their El Al return flight.
Meanwhile, US President Trump has been signalling support for the so-called “peace plan” drawn up by his son-in law Jared Kushner. This would allow the Israeli annexation of all of the illegal settlements, and the entire Jordan Valley. A “New Palestine” would be recognised, consisting of a patchwork of disconnected Bantustans, on just 12% of pre-1948 Palestine, separated by a strengthened network of Israeli checkpoints and military oversight. To add further insult to injury, Palestine would be expected to pay Israel for this “security”. Having withdrawn all financial support for Palestine, Trump and Kushner are now pressing Arab states to provide the necessary financial support for this, and for economic development designed to incorporate this New Palestine into a global capital economy. Even the compromised leadership of the collaborationist Palestine Authority has rejected this abject surrender.
These developments have come following the recent Israeli elections, in which prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu confronted, and defeated, several parties even further right than his own racist Likud. One former government Knesset member, running for a minor far-right party, produced a video showing a mocked-up film of himself shooting dead a leading Arab Knesset member, while Minister of Justice Ayelet Shaked, running for a right-wing split from a right-wing coalition partner, produced a video in the style of an advert, in which she sprayed herself with perfume from a bottle labelled “Fascism”. Although neither of these charmers was re-elected to the Knesset, Shaked continues to serve as Minister of Justice. Netanyahu outflanked them by making an electoral pact with a formerly banned party even further to the right, the Jewish Power party, successor to the banned Kach.
Netanyahu’s main rival in the election, described by Haaretz as the “great white hope” of the Israeli left, former Chief of Staff Benny Gantz, based his own campaign on his military record, boasting that he had “bombed Gaza back to the Stone Age”. His campaign video had to be withdrawn after a complaint that it was based on stolen footage from a Palestinian media company.
The once hegemonic Labor Party, which had ruled Israel and the preceding Zionist bodies in Palestine for over fifty years until the 1970s, slumped to just six seats in the 120-seat Knesset, gaining fewer votes than the Communist Party. The election marks the continued shift of Israeli politics to the right, and only fourteen Knesset members now support a two-state solution to the conflict. All of the rest favour Israeli annexation of at least part of the 1967-occupied territories, continuing the creation of further illegal settlements, and the denial of any real Palestinian autonomy. And even of these fourteen, only a handful support the return of Palestinians dispossessed and exiled since the establishment of the Israeli state in 1948.
The election also confirms Israel’s role in the new world alliance of far-right parties and governments. The first world leader to congratulate Netanyahu on his electoral victory was India’s Narendra Modi. Netanyahu responded with warm congratulations after Modi’s landslide win in the Lok Sabha election. Netanyahu has also established close links with Brazil’s Jair Bolsonaro, Philippines Rodrigo Duterte, Hungary’s antisemitic Viktor Orban and other reactionary leaders, and has been leading attempts to create a coalition of the European nationalist far-right. It was in this spirit that Netanyahu’s son Yair tweeted support for Orban, Nigel Farage, Matteo Salvini and Geert Wilders on the eve of the EU elections. And this also accounts for the growing presence of Brazilian flags alongside the cross of St George at recent anti-Palestinian mobilisations by Zionists in London.
Support for Palestinian rights and opposition to Zionism is now, even more than in the past, an essential element in the resistance to the new global right alliance, which is likely to be strengthened with the probable appointment of a supporter of this alliance as the next British prime minister.
Roland Rance, 26 May 2019