FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

The Emerging Jewish Consensus in Israel

by JONATHAN COOK

If you want to understand what is concerning ordinary Israelis as they prepare to cast their ballots next week, the most revealing poll is also the one that has received least attention.

A few weeks after Ariel Sharon broke up his Likud party to form a new “centrist” faction, Kadima, his advisers conducted a poll to find out how potential voters would respond if its list of candidates included an Arab.

The results were unequivocal: Kadima would lose votes equivalent to between five and seven seats in the 120-member Knesset from Israeli Jews worried that they might be helping to elect an Arab.

Even allowing for a potential increase in Kadima’s support from the country’s Arab minority (a fifth of the population), the party decided the gamble was not worth it. Ahmad Dabah, an Arab mayor, was placed 51st on the list, with no hope of being elected.

Sharon established his new party late last year as an escape chute from Likud before its drift rightward became terminal. Kadima promised instead to occupy the centre ground of politics, representing the Israeli “consensus”.

But that consensus is looking increasingly like a Jewish, not an Israeli, one. The country’s one million Arabs are not being invited to join the party in every possible sense.

The principle of ethnic separation was always at the heart of the Jewish nation-building project. Hundreds of rural communities–including the kibbutz communes established after the state’s birth in 1948–are strictly off-limits to the country’s one million Arab citzens. Even in the the handful of “mixed” cities, Arabs inhabit their own isolated neighbourhoods.

Divisions are also enforced in the education system, with separate Arab and Jewish schools; and the “Hebrew labour” philosophy inherited from Zionism’s pioneers means that much of the workplace is segregated too.

Decades of quiescence by the Arab minority have done nothing to reverse the antipathy of the Jewish majority. Another poll this week, published by the liberal Haaretz newspaper, showed that 68 per cent of Israeli Jews reject living near an Arab–and 41 per cent want apartheid-style separate recreation facilities. Surveys show repeatedly that nearly half of Israeli Jews favour the forced emigration of Arabs from Israel.

But Kadima’s decision to exclude all meaningful Arab representation from its list points to a far more worrying stage in this ideology of separation.

Kadima’s expected success–according to projections, it is looking at up to 40 seats–has depended on the public’s close association of the party with the policy of unilateral separation. Sharon proved his own commitment to separation with his disengagement from Gaza last year and the building of a fence-cum-wall across the West Bank.

Sharon’s successor as leader of Kadima, Ehud Olmert, will extend the program, promising further small disengagements from the West Bank in an attempt–in his own words–to draw the “final borders” of an expanded Jewish state. It is the triumph of the “We are here, and they are there” philosophy articulated by two recent Labor prime ministers, Yitzhak Rabin and Ehud Barak.

But what kind of a Jewish state inside final borders is Olmert proposing? Well, to start with, one whose consensus has been crafted to silence a fifth of the population. But there may be worse to come if, as expected, Kadima romps home to victory.

According to the Israeli media, Olmert has been flirting with a small but increasingly popular far-right party whose seats he may well need to prop up the coalition government he must form. Avigdor Lieberman of the Yisrael Beiteinu party is being hailed as the most likely kingmaker after the elections.

He could also be the face of a very unpleasant future.

Lieberman, the Likud’s director-general in the days of Binyamin Netanyahu’s premiership, is a darling of the right. But in truth he is far closer to Kadima than Likud.

Whereas Likud under Netanyahu rejects all talk of separation and disengagement from the Palestinians as a solution to the conflict, Lieberman is the arch-advocate of “reciprocal”–as opposed to unilateral–separation. In short, he believes that, if Israel is making sacrifices in Gaza and the West Bank by “expelling” settlers from their homes, then the Arab minority currently living in Israel should expect to pay a similar price.

He wants hundreds of thousands of Arab citizens who live in a small area of Israel adjacent to the northern tip of the West Bank to have their homes transferred out of the Jewish state and incorporated into what will be left of a ghetto Palestinian state behind Israel’s separation barrier.

He also wants any remaning Arabs to be stripped of their citizenship unless they pledge loyalty to a “Jewish and democratic state”. In signing up, they will forfeit the right to vote for Arab parties, which demand Israel’s transformation from a Jewish state into a “state of all its citizens”.

Lieberman is said to believe that the citizenship of up to 90 per cent of the Arab population can be annulled this way. And what he is saying publicly, there is every indication Kadima is saying privately.

For some time the Hebrew media have been reporting Sharon’s interest in land swaps with the Palestinians as a way–in one fell swoop–to annex the settlement blocs and to strip Israel’s Arab minority of its citizenship in a Jewish state. Olmert is assumed to be just as keen.

Kadima appears to be on a winning streak. Separation of the crudest and most ruthless kind is now, as the polls all too clearly demonstrate, precisely what the Israeli consensus demands.

JONATHAN COOK is a writer and journalist based in Nazareth, Israel. He is the author of the forthcoming “Blood and Religion: The Unmasking of the Jewish and Democratic State” published by Pluto Press, and available in the United States from the University of Michigan Press. His website is www.jkcook.net

 

 

 

Jonathan Cook won the Martha Gellhorn Special Prize for Journalism. His latest books are “Israel and the Clash of Civilisations: Iraq, Iran and the Plan to Remake the Middle East” (Pluto Press) and “Disappearing Palestine: Israel’s Experiments in Human Despair” (Zed Books). His website is www.jkcook.net.

More articles by:
Weekend Edition
June 24, 2016
Friday - Sunday
John Pilger
A Blow for Peace and Democracy: Why the British Said No to Europe
Pepe Escobar
Goodbye to All That: Why the UK Left the EU
Michael Hudson
Revolts of the Debtors: From Socrates to Ibn Khaldun
Andrew Levine
Summer Spectaculars: Prelude to a Tea Party?
Kshama Sawant
Beyond Bernie: Still Not With Her
Mike Whitney
¡Basta Ya, Brussels! British Voters Reject EU Corporate Slavestate
Tariq Ali
Panic in the House: Brexit as Revolt Against the Political Establishment
Paul Street
Miranda, Obama, and Hamilton: an Orwellian Ménage à Trois for the Neoliberal Age
Ellen Brown
The War on Weed is Winding Down, But Will Monsanto Emerge the Winner?
Gary Leupp
Why God Created the Two-Party System
Conn Hallinan
Brexit Vote: a Very British Affair (But Spain May Rock the Continent)
Ruth Fowler
England, My England
Jeffrey St. Clair
Lines Written on the Occasion of Bernie Sanders’ Announcement of His Intention to Vote for Hillary Clinton
Norman Pollack
Fissures in World Capitalism: the British Vote
Paul Bentley
Mercenary Logic: 12 Dead in Kabul
Binoy Kampmark
Parting Is Such Sweet Joy: Brexit Prevails!
Elliot Sperber
Show Me Your Papers: Supreme Court Legalizes Arbitrary Searches
Jan Oberg
The Brexit Shock: Now It’s All Up in the Air
Nauman Sadiq
Brexit: a Victory for Britain’s Working Class
Brian Cloughley
Murder by Drone: Killing Taxi Drivers in the Name of Freedom
Ramzy Baroud
How Israel Uses Water as a Weapon of War
Brad Evans – Henry Giroux
The Violence of Forgetting
Ben Debney
Homophobia and the Conservative Victim Complex
Margaret Kimberley
The Orlando Massacre and US Foreign Policy
David Rosen
Americans Work Too Long for Too Little
Murray Dobbin
Do We Really Want a War With Russia?
Kathy Kelly
What’s at Stake
Louis Yako
I Have Nothing “Newsworthy” to Report this Week
Pete Dolack
Killing Ourselves With Technology
David Krieger
The 10 Worst Acts of the Nuclear Age
Lamont Lilly
Movement for Black Lives Yields New Targets of the State
Martha Rosenberg
A Hated Industry Fights Back
Robert Fantina
Hillary, Gloria and Jill: a Brief Look at Alternatives
Chris Doyle
No Fireworks: Bicentennial Summer and the Decline of American Ideals
Michael Doliner
Beyond Dangerous: the Politics of Climate
Colin Todhunter
Modi, Monsanto, Bayer and Cargill: Doing Business or Corporate Imperialism?
Steve Church
Brexit: a Rush for the Exits!
Matthew Koehler
Mega Corporation Gobbles Up Slightly Less-Mega Corporation; Chops Jobs to Increase Profits; Blames Enviros. Film at 11.
David Green
Rape Culture, The Hunting Ground, and Amy Goodman: a Critical Perspective
Ed Kemmick
Truckin’: Pro Driver Dispenses Wisdom, Rules of the Road
Alessandro Bianchi
“China Will React if Provoked Again: You Risk the War”: Interview with Andre Vltchek
Christy Rodgers
Biophilia as Extreme Sport
Missy Comley Beattie
At Liberty
Ron Jacobs
Is Everything Permitted?
Cesar Chelala
The Sad Truth About Messi
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail