What are we – anti-colonial Israelis, Jews of conscience and international supporters of Palestinian rights – going to do about it?
Benjamin Netanyahu, due to return as Israel’s prime minister within the next few days, has one overriding concern: evading conviction and possible imprisonment in the three corruption cases for which he is currently being tried. After last month’s election in which the fascist settler party Religious Zionism won 15 seats – absolutely critical if Netanyahu is to set up a coalition government – he entered into a Devil’s Deal that has shaken even members of his own Likud party. In return for helping to pass legislation to “reform” the judicial system, including legislation that would annul Netanyahu’s trial and invalidate the ability of the Supreme Court to override the overtly illegal reforms Netanyahu needs, he has agreed to give virtually unchecked power to the settlers to complete their eviction of the Palestinians from Area C, the 62% of the West Bank controlled by Israel in which the settlements are located, and to employ the army, police, militias and the prison service to violently repress any Palestinian resistance.
To save his own skin, Netanyahu has done exactly what Russian Czar Alexander III did in the 1880s. Just as the Czar handed over his country’s Jewish population to the murderous and antisemitic Cossacks, which initiated 20 years of pogroms that killed thousands and drove millions of Jews westward, so too has Netanyahu done so by handing over the fate of the Palestinians to murderous settlers dedicated to driving them out of the Land of Israel, taking their lands – and not hesitating for a second to kill as many as necessary in the process.
Not that the settlers have a monopoly over murderous ethnic cleansing. Benny Ganz, the “moderate” outgoing Defense Minister, opened his electoral campaign bragging of many thousands of “terrorists” he killed in Gaza. When he became Ganz’s Chief of Staff, Aviv Kokhavi promised a more “lethal” IDF – and delivered. Besides repeated assaults on Gaza, 2022 saw over 150 Palestinians killed, including 33 innocent children, the highest in many years.
In preparing for his incoming government, Netanyahu has dismantled the Ministry of Defense in order to pass control of the Palestinians to the Religious Zionist Party This party is headed by Bezalel Smotrich, a known racist, who founded Regavim, a pro-settler organization that lobbies the government to demolish Palestinian homes (registered as a charity in New York state). He will now be in charge of the Civil Administration, the actual government of the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT). It will have several key functions including the demolition of Palestinian homes that have not been granted building permits by the Israeli authorities. So far, some 60,000 homes, schools, mosques, businesses and farm structures have been demolished in the OPT since 1967 and now no obstacles will exist to ethnically clearing Area C, confining three million Palestinians of the West Bank to tiny bantustans, until they are expelled (or “induced” to leave).
Itamar Ben Gvir, leader of the far-right Otzma Yehudit party, has been appointed “Minister of National Security” in Netanyahu’s new government. He is a fascist Kahanist living in Hebron whose hero is Barukh Goldstein, his neighbor who murdered 29 Palestinian worshippers at the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron. That means Ben Gvir will have augmented authority over the Israeli police – the only force that until now gave (minimal) protection to Palestinians – plus control over the Border Police, a combined army/police militia which will now be his private army in the OPT.
The most immediate response to the pogroms to which the Palestinians are now facing must be a demand for the UN to urgently deploy a Protection Force in the OPT, something that the Palestinian Authority has formally called for. Israel opposes that, of course, wanting a free hand to Judaize the West Bank. And, indeed, every time a resolution to establish such a force has been brought before the Security Council, the US has vetoed it.
This is the time, in my view, that every Palestinian support group in the world should set aside the important campaigns they are pursuing in order to focus on this most urgent need: establishing a UN Protection Force for a Palestinian population whose very existence is in immediate peril.
Longer range, we must get political, focusing our efforts on dismantling Israeli apartheid so that we can move on to a new post-colonial reality.
Whatever, Zionism’s final push to cleanse Palestine of its Arab population and transform it from an Arab to a Jewish country is being launched. What are we – anti-colonial Israelis, Jews of conscience and international supporters of Palestinian rights – going to do about it?