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Israel: towards Zio-fascism

We don't use the word "fascism" lightly, but the growing consensus in Israel for a Jewish-supremacist state and genocidal solution to the Palestinian question has been further consolidated in the frightening election results. The coalition deal just announced forms the most right-wing government in Israel's history. Likud has signed a pact with the Jewish Home party, giving Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu the 61 Knesset seats needed to form the next government. The openly chauvinist Jewish Home, led by Naftali Bennett (who calls for annexing the West Bank settlements), won eight seats in the March elections. Under the pact, Bennett will hold two cabinet seats—education and diaspora affairs. The justice portfolio will go to the far-right party's Knesset member, Ayelet Shaked, while agriculture will go to Uri Ariel, another of its sitting Knesset members. The party is to get a further two cabinet posts, including that of deputy defense minister. Netanyahu has already formed coalition pacts with the centrist Kulanu Party (10 seats), the ultra-Orthodox United Torah Judaism Party (seven seats), and the Shas Party (six seats). (Middle East Monitor, May 7)

On the campaign trail, Netanyahu openly played to racism. "Right-wing rule is in danger. Arab voters are streaming in huge quantities to the polling stations," he told his supporters as the polls opened. "The left-wing nonprofit organizations are bringing them in buses." Urging his supporters to vote, he added: "With your help and God’s help we will form a national government and protect the state of Israel." He also said that if Likud won, he would never allow the creation of a Palestinian state—a reversal of a stance he had taken six years earlier. The new opposition Zionist Union alliance denounced Netanyahu's language (rather obviously) as racial fear-mongering. (NYT, March 17)

After the election, Netanyahu back-pedaled somewhat from his refusal to allow a Palestinian state. But the prospect of Ayelet Shaked as justice minister is especially ominous. She's the one who, in a controversial Facebook post last year, pasted the text of an article by the late Israeli writer Uri Elitzur that referred to Palestinian children as "little snakes" and sought to justify the collective punishment of Palestinians living under Israeli occupation. (The post has since been deleted, but an archived version remains.) (WP, May 7)

Such talk is becoming mainstreamed as Israel lurches to the hard right. At an election rally in Herzliya, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman ironically sounded like ISIS in calling for the decapitation of those who refuse to accept Israel as a "Jewish state." "Those with us, should receive everything" in terms of rights, he said. "Those against us, it cannot be helped, we must lift up an axe and behead them—otherwise we will not survive here." 

He added that there was no reason for Umm Al-Fahm, an Arab city in northern Israel, to continue to be part of the country. At the rally, Lieberman said those who raised the black flag of Nakba Day in mourning over the establishment of Israel, did not deserve to belong to the state. "I am quite willing to donate them [the people who raise the black flags] to PA chief Mahmoud Abbas. It would be my pleasure." (Miiddle East Monitor, March 9)

A bright side (although further evidence of polarization) is that Arab parties formed an unprecedented coalition for the race, winning 14 Knesset seats—making them the third largest bloc. (NYT, March 17) Dov Khenin, a Jewish leader of the Israeli Communist Party, ran with the Arab List—winning him a barrage of hate mail and threatening posts on social media. (AFP, Feb. 26)

Tens of thousands of Israelis (40,000 by police estimates; twice that by organizers') came out to oppose against Netanyahu and Likud at a pre-election rally in Tel Avivi's Rabin Square. (+972, March 7) But the decision by the opposition bloc to take the name Zionist Union cost them support among Arab voters.

Further signs of heightening social contradictions have since emerged. On Passover, the Temple Mount Faithful sacrificed a lamb in what has become a yearly ritual in Jerusalem. It was led by the revivalist movement's Yehuda Glick—but this year it was also attended by Jerusalem's chief rabbi and a municipal official who arranged funding from city coffers. This would be merely creepy if it weren't for Jewish millennialist designs on the Temple Mount—which make it genuinely dangerous. (YNet, April 1)

On May 3, angry protests by thousands of Ethiopian-Israelis against police harassment and brutality turned into street clashes in the center of Tel Aviv. The demonstration, redolent of the #BlackLivesMatter campaign, began with protesters blocking traffic, but escalated to stone-throwing and overturning a police vehicle. Officers responded with stun grenades and water cannons. Some 25 were arrested, and nearly twice that injured—half of them police (according to police). At protests in previous days, demonstrators likewise blocked traffic and gathered in front of the national police headquarters in Jerusalem, with signs reading "Racist police" and "Hit me, I'm Black."

The protests were launched after Demas Fikadey, a 21-year-old soldier of Ethiopian descent, was beaten by two Israeli police officers in the Tel Aviv suburb of Holon, where he lives. The seemingly unprovoked assault, caught on video, was broadcast on Israeli TV and went viral on social networks. A police investigation has been called, and Fikadey later met with Netanyahu in a bid to defuse tensions. But protesters say the case is iconic of a pattern of police harassment and discrimination against Israelis of Ethiopian descent. (NYT, May 5; NYT, May 4; The Forward, April 30)

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