Opposition demonstrations of more than 100,000 people have taken place in Israeli cities since the new
extreme right-wing government, including undisguised fascist ministers, took office on Dec. 30.
The protests, in the name of democracy, have been organized by multiple organizations and politicians
focusing particularly on the new government’s attempt to weaken the judicial system and thereby grant
itself unfettered power to enact its reactionary agenda.
Another major point of contention is a bill introduced by the new minister of communications aimed at
shutting down the public broadcasting system, setting up a committee to supervise commercial media, severely restricting investigative reporting and making it illegal to publish most information obtained
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu desperately sought to return to office to avoid prosecution on
corruption charges against him and his family. The new government he put together is so dominated by unabashed bigots that Minister of Finance Belazel Smotrich had no compunction about recently stating in an interview, “I am a fascist homophobe.” Smotrich is also deputy speaker of the Knesset (parliament) and holds a second position in the ministry of defense giving him and his settler-based party control over much of the West Bank.
The glaring omission in the demonstrations has been any mention of those who are the primary targets
of the new regime – and all preceding Israeli regimes – the Palestinian people. Even participation by
Palestinians living inside the 1948 borders with the Palestinian flag has been discouraged or, in some
cases, prevented. Instead, the protests have been seas of blue and white Israeli flags.
The fascist National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir threatened that anyone carrying a Palestinian flag
in the Jerusalem protests would be arrested and jailed. He was saved the trouble of carrying out his
threat by the protest organizers who made it clear that they didn’t want to “confuse” the message that
this is a family dispute among Israel-loyal Zionists.
Leaders of the Israeli protests say that they are fighting for democracy. But it is not possible to speak of
democracy in any real sense inside an apartheid system. Under the defunct South African apartheid
system whites could vote, go to court, print newspaper, etc., but no one could credibly call apartheid
South Africa a “democracy,” and no one today can credibly claim that Israel does not have an apartheid
system. Apartheid is an international crime.
Fascists in office – greenlight to settler mobs
Netanyahu’s granting Smotrich’s and Ben-Gvir’s key positions in the repressive state apparatus promises stepped-up aggression against the Palestinians. But it should not be forgotten that in 2022, under the outgoing “centrist” government, 220 Palestinians were killed, including 56 children, and thousands wounded and imprisoned. Settler gangs backed by the police and army carry out non-stop attacks on Palestinian farmers, villagers and supporters. In just 10 days in October 2002, over 100 settler attacks were recorded in the West Bank and 39 Palestinians killed in that month alone.
Given the green light by the new government, settlers and the military have stepped up their
aggression. On Jan. 27, an Israeli army attack on Jenin refugee camp left eleven Palestinians dead and
more than 20 wounded. The next day saw massive protests across the West Bank and Gaza and an armed attack by a Palestinian on the illegal Israeli settlement of Neve Yaacov in Jerusalem, leaving seven
dead and three wounded. The same night settlers carried out 144 reported attacks in the Nablus district
of the West Bank alone.
Statements of sympathy and condemnation by President Joseph Biden, Secretary of State Antony
Blinken and other U.S. officials have exclusively focused on Israeli casualties. Blinken, visiting the region and clearly worried that the policies of the recently installed government could lead to a new mass upheaval destabilizing the region, issued the familiar appeals for “both sides” to reduce tensions. This
seemingly even-handed appeal is nothing but a fraud.
The U.S. sends $4 billion annually in military aid to Israel while proclaiming, in Blinken’s words, an
“ironclad” commitment to Israel’s “security.” No such aid or commitment is promised to the
Palestinians. And though U.S. officials and other supporters never tire of promoting the idea that Israel
is “the only democracy in the Middle East,” most of the world is well aware that Israel is in fact an
Israel, despite its relatively small size, has one of the most powerful militaries in the world thanks to
hundreds of billions in U.S. military aid over the decades. The Palestinians have no air force, navy or
other elements of a modern military. When Israel bombs Gaza, the pilots don’t have to worry about air
defenses, the Palestinians have none.
Last year, 29 Israeli’s were killed in conflict as compared to more than 220 Palestinians, but that is just
part of story. While thousands of Palestinians were arrested by Israeli police, no Israelis were arrested
by Palestinian police. No Israelis had their home or farms destroyed as did thousands of Palestinians.
While more than 4,700 Palestinians are held illegally in Israeli prisons, exactly zero Israelis are held in
Palestinian jails. Palestinians in the West Bank are subject to Israeli military code, while Jewish settlers
are governed by Israeli civil law. Numerous moderate human rights organizations, including some inside
Israel itself, have presented irrefutable evidence of the apartheid system.
Drawing an equal sign between “both sides,” as Blinken did in his Jan. 30 speech is to draw an equal sign
between the colonized and the colonizer, between the oppressed and the oppressor. The aim is to
perpetuate the Big Lie that dominates both the U.S. and Israeli mainstream as the justification for the
crucially important military aid and diplomatic protection the U.S. ruling establishment extends to Israel.
Why? No one should believe that this is due to sympathy or friendship for Jewish people. Friendship and
imperialist foreign policy are mutually exclusive categories. Israel is an integral force in the U.S. plans for
global domination, situated in a particularly strategic region, the crossroads of Europe, Africa and Asia.
The mask has been ripped off
That is what is so worrying to Israel’s backers. It is impossible to paint a government dominated by
right-wing religious zealots and outright fascists as a “liberal democracy.” From day one of this
administration its leaders, starting with the Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, have made clear their
intention to annex as much territory as possible. The day before taking over Netanyahu issued a
statement saying that the new government’s top priority is to “advance and develop settlement in all
parts of Israel — in the Galilee, the Negev Desert, the Golan Heights and Judea and Samaria [West
Bank-ed].” The Negev and Galilee are area inside the 1948 borders of the Israeli state that have large
Netanyahu’s statement, underlined by the references to Negev and Galilee, is an open admission that
the new government plans to accelerate the ethnic cleansing that began with the expulsion by means of
terror of more than 750,000 Palestinians in 1948-49. Another 300,000 Palestinians were driven out
during the 1967 war when the West Bank, Gaza, East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights were conquered.
While there was the pretext for a half-century of a “two-state solution” where the Palestinians would be
granted a West Bank/Gaza/East Jerusalem state, this is hardly mentioned anymore except to placate the
benefactors in Washington.
Today, the Israeli and Palestinian populations in what was the British Mandate (colony) of Palestine from
1920-48 are almost the same, a little over seven million each. But that is where the similarity ends. The
Israelis live in a highly modernized and highly militarized state. The Palestinians exist on broken up
pieces of land under various forms of law, economy and governance, constantly under threat of military
attack from the air, sea and land. Hundreds of thousands still live in refugee camps in Jordan, Lebanon,
Syria and inside occupied Palestine.
Despite all the suffering inflicted on the Palestinian people over the past century and more they have
never given up their movement for self-determination and liberation. Nor will they do so today.
While there is no predicting in advance how the struggle will unfold, it is clear that the situation is highly
volatile now. The antiwar and all progressive movement must be on alert and continue to stand in
solidarity with the Palestinian people in their just struggle.