Palestine: Israeli coalition crumbles

Palestinians protest on the Great March of Return, November 2018

On 11 November 2018, in a botched undercover operation, Israeli agents attempted to infiltrate the Gaza Strip. They were discovered by Palestinian security forces and opened fire attempting to escape. Seven Palestinians and one Israeli agent were killed. The fallout from this operation exposed the racist and fascistic character of the Israeli state. The operation shattered an uneasy truce between Israel and Gaza. Wesam Khaled reports.

In the days following the attack, Israel pounded Gaza with airstrikes, killing a further 14 Palestinians. In response, Hamas, which governs the Gaza Strip, launched a series of rocket attacks into Israel and Israeli settlements in the West Bank that killed one person, and blew up an Israeli military bus carrying soldiers to Gaza, injuring one soldier. An Egyptian-brokered ceasefire was de­clared 36 hours after the fighting began. Less than 24 hours later Israel shot dead a Palestinian fisherman off Gaza’s coast. Following his agreement to the ceasefire, Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu was be­sieged by critics in the Israeli political establishment. The substance of the criticisms: that Netanyahu was being too soft on Palestinians by refusing to escalate the fighting into an all-out assault on Gaza. Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman resigned from the government in protest, calling the ceasefire a ‘surrender to terrorism.’ Naftali Bennett, leader of the Jewish Home Party, accused Netan­yahu of lacking the courage to ‘do the right thing.’ Even supposedly left-wing parties in Israel joined in the chorus. Tzipi Livni, head of the opposition coalition in the Israeli Parlia­ment, called on the government to resign, accusing it of having ‘failed in defence.’ Former Israeli Labour Party leader Ehud Barak called Netanyahu ‘weak’ and bragged about killing ‘more than 300 Hamas members (in) three and a half minutes’ when he was Defence Minister – an obscene reference to Operation Cast Lead in 2008 when over 1,400 Pales­tinians including 344 children were killed by Israel’s bombardment of the Gaza Strip.

Netanyahu is currently embroiled in what some commentators are describing as the biggest political corruption scandal in Israeli history. Netanyahu’s own hesitation about launching an all-out war on Gaza comes not out of any concern for Palestinian lives but out of fear of the political repercussions of what could be a politically damaging war involving significant loss of Israeli lives and difficulties with Israel’s Arab allies. Netanyahu has previously overseen countless attacks on Palestinians, including a seven-week assault on Gaza in 2014 which killed over 2,100 Palestinians, 495 of them children. That such a man is now accused of being ‘soft’ on Palestinians shows the extent of the extreme racism that characterises Israeli politics. This is how political points are scored in Israel today – by championing the most ruthless brutality against the Pales­tinian people and accusing your rivals of not doing the same fervently enough.

This fascistic bent in Israeli politics is mirrored by Israel’s support for far-right and fascist governments and political movements around the world. After the victory of the crypto-fascist Jair Bolsonaro in Brazil’s presidential election on 28 October 2018, Netanyahu phoned the new President-elect to congratulate him. Bolsonaro is an outspoken supporter of Israel, pledging that Brazil will be the third country to move its embassy in Israel to Jerusalem. One Israeli official said that Brazil would be ‘coloured in blue and white,’ a reference to Israel’s flag colours. Hungary’s far-right Prime Minister Viktor Orban has received similar treatment from Netanyahu. Despite Orban being widely criticised as anti-Semitic and overseeing a rise in anti-Semitism in Hungary, Netanyahu praised Orban during a visit to Jerusalem in July 2018 as a ‘true friend of Israel’.

Perhaps the most important example is that of the US. In the aftermath of the shooting at a Pittsburgh synagogue on 27 October 2018 in which 11 people were killed, US Jewish communities criticised Trump’s hostile rhetoric against minorities and immigrants as contributing to anti-Semitism in the US. The shooter was a member of the white-nationalist movement that has been invigorated by Trump’s rhetoric. Yet the Trump administration continues to be one of Israel’s most important allies. When Israel’s ambassador to the US escorted Trump through Pittsburgh in the aftermath of the massacre, one Israeli journalist noted that he looked like a ‘bodyguard’ for Trump, protecting him from Jewish protesters.

Israel knows that its interests are best served by currying favour with right-wing governments that share its opposition to refugee rights, equality, democracy and social justice. If this means courting far-right or anti-Semitic movements around the world, it is a price the Zionist state is willing to pay. That these issues do not figure in mainstream media coverage of Israel shows just how much the left in Britain has failed to pose a real challenge to Israel and the racist British state that backs it. Jeremy Corbyn, who we are constantly reminded by both his opponents and his supporters is a long-standing defender of the Palestinians, has not said one public word about Israel’s latest assault on Gaza. Instead, the campaign to root out any opposition to Israel using the International Holocaust Remem­brance Alliance’s definition of anti-Semitism has completely defeated Corbyn and his supporters. In Nov­ember, Scotland Yard launched an investigation into allegations of anti-Semitism in the Labour Party; the examples it listed carelessly mixed apparent cases of real anti-Semitism with what appear to be nothing more than anti-Zionism. And what do those making these spurious allegations of anti-Semitism have to say about the nakedly racist character of the Israeli state? That, like the deaths of countless Palestinians, is something Israel’s supporters will continue to ignore.

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! No 267 December 2018/January 2019


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