Israel Creates a New Political Normal

BDS movement has been ramping up its efforts to encourage people to snub 2019 Eurovision in Tel Aviv. (Photo: File)

By James A. Wall

Adam Shatz, writing in the London Review of Books, described Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s legislative victory on April 9, as a “tribute” to his “transformation of the political landscape”. 

He wrote:

At no point were [the legislative elections] discussed in terms of which candidates might be persuaded by (non-existent) American pressure, or the ‘international community’, to end the occupation. This time the question was which party leader could be trusted by Israeli Jews – Palestinian citizens of Israel are now officially second-class – to manage the occupation, and to expedite the various tasks the Jewish state has mastered: killing Gazans, bulldozing homes, combating the scourge of the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions movement (BDS), and conflating anti-Zionism with antisemitism.

Israel brags about its collective business successes. In his succinct summary of “the various tasks the Jewish state has mastered”, Adam Shatz writes that Israel’s success story is the achievement of a colonial state. 

To emphasize and repeat, Shatz’s list capsules that colonial state success as “killing Gazans, bulldozing homes, combating the scourge of the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions movement (BDS), and conflating anti-Zionism with antisemitism.”

That “success story” list should be posterized, emphasized, and weaponized, in the opening of any discussion of Israel as a “democracy”.

To convince the world of its success, Official Israel lives in a constant state of deceit. Fortunately, there are Jewish voices within the state who refuse to join the deceit.

In a recent Ha’aretz column, Gideon Levy exposes a governmental set of deceits as
he reacts to this week’s Eurovision song contest, underway this week in Tel Aviv.

Tourist Israel describes the event:

The 2019 Eurovision Song Contest will take place in Tel Aviv, Israel from May 14-18, 2019. The 64th edition of the international song contest, this will be the first time that Eurovision has been hosted in Israel for 20 years, and will be held at Expo Tel Aviv. Eurovision in Israel will be a memorable and exciting event, with international fans traveling to visit … Eurovision is set to be the event of the year, bringing locals and tourists together to celebrate music and unity.

Gideon Levy is well-aware that visitors to Israel under the guidance of Israelis, need
to study his A Trip Advisor to the Real Israel. 

So you’ve decided to come, despite Roger Waters and everything. Welcome to Israel. You’re here and everything is wonderful: sunshine, alcohol, rock and roll, nice people, a terrific production, a big party. I suggest you also dedicate one day to reality. See the Israel that the video postcards shown before each song will never show you – the Israel that’s hidden from view, the dark side of the moon on which you’re now dancing.

Levy’s Trip Advisor begins its tour:

When you leave Expo Tel Aviv, walk west for a few minutes. You’ll see a huge complex of buildings. This is a security compound, and the people who work there are responsible for many of the crimes and injustices you’ll see throughout the day. From here, for example, they dispatched the agents who instructed female soldiers to conduct a rectal and vaginal search of a Palestinian woman in her home.

This is the headquarters for the abuse of the Palestinian people in the name of security. In the parking lot you’ll see a fence and behind it some abandoned graves. This is the cemetery of the Palestinian village that stood there before 1948. Israel wiped off the face of the earth more than 400 such towns and villages, kindly leaving just the graves.

You can meet the descendants of the inhabitants, children of refugees who either fled or were expelled, when Eurovision is held in Lebanon, Syria or Jordan sometime. Oops, they’re not in Europe, but then again neither is Israel. Or you can meet them later on in our tour, in the refugee camps.

Gideon’s tour continues south to Gaza. Below is one look inside Gaza. For the entire tour click here, Make copies for anyone you know planning a trip to Israel. 

You’ve never seen anything like it. Just one hour from the exuberant Expo. It’s a place the United Nations says won’t be fit for human habitation by next year. The year 2020 will be the end for life in Gaza and no one cares. Now, with Qatari money, they’re handing out thin soup there, and the lines are getting longer. On Wednesday tens of thousands massed by the fence to mark Nakba Day, and soldiers fired at them.

This is a tour a Jewish citizen of Israel does not take. It is a reality that Israelis do not experience unless sent there in a military uniform “to keep order”.

How, then, did Benjamin Netanyahu win the legislative elections that returned him to his office of Prime Minister?

Look again at Shatz: 

With his promise to annex the West Bank, Netanyahu had won even before the election was held. It wasn’t simply Trump’s recognition of Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights that sped the incumbent on his way; it was the nature of the conversation – and the fact that the leader of the opposition was Benny Gantz, the IDF commander who presided over the 2014 Operation Protective Edge, in which more than two thousand Gazans were killed.

Israel’s voters on April 9 had two choices, a manager who promised even more land-stealing, and greater oppression, against a military leader who has shown his skills in military oppression, not management.

The voters kept the manager who demonstrated he could manage with one hand and pretend peace with the other. Two choices, both operating from the “new normal” of Israel’s political landscape.

Shatz also notes that Israel had help from the U.S. political leadership in pretending “peace” when it is now obvious Israel is operating with a “new normal” in which the Occupation is part of that normal. 

Illusions about the ‘peace process’ – and Israel’s ‘search for peace’ – die hard. The hopes invested in ‘peace’ were once immense, but they have never looked so shaky, even in America, which has underwritten these fictions for decades and rewarded Israel handsomely for paying lip service to them.

American liberals no longer lament the fact that Netanyahu has moved Israel away from its preordained, conciliatory course, or hope that ‘the left’ might steer it back.

What may we expect in the future from Israel’s so-called peace camp? With the exception of a few heroic small groups,  according to Shatz, “Netanyahu’s Israel – illiberal, exclusionary, racist – is now the political center”. And it is the “political center” that dictates normalcy. 

The path ahead is dark, my friends. It is a path, as Adam Shatz notes later in his essay, which began in 1948.

In 1948, Hannah Arendt, whose critique of territorial Zionism owed much to Ahad Ha’am, warned that after the Arab-Israeli war, the ‘victorious’ Jews would live surrounded by a hostile Arab population, secluded inside ever-threatened borders, preoccupied by matters of defense to a degree that would submerge all other interests and activities … political thought would center on military strategy; economic development would be determined exclusively by the needs of war. And all this would be the fate of a nation that – no matter how many immigrants it could still absorb and how far it extended its boundaries … – would still remain a very small people greatly outnumbered by hostile neighbors.

Arendt’s prediction was in large part borne out. More remarkable still, few Israelis – or their supporters abroad, among Jews and Evangelicals – fret over this ‘fate’. Arendt’s warning that an expansionist Israel would never realize the dream of Herzl and the founders and become a ‘normal’ state has lost its charge because Israel’s abnormality is the new normal.

Which brings us to the future: Benjamin Netanyahu has served as Israel’s prime minister for 13 years and 64 days as of May 16, 2019. He has just been re-elected to a new term, which means that two months from now, July 17, he will become the longest serving Prime Minister in Israel’s history. 

In that time, Netanyahu has pretended peace, while expanding a settlement policy designed to create an Israeli state from the Sea to the Jordan River. The peace facade has been dropped. Palestinians are officially second class citizens and captives in their own ancient land. 

In 2020, Donald Trump will have served four years as president of the United States, If he is reelected, barring legal problems, he will serve a total of eight years.

Out of abnormality, Bibi Netanyahu created a new normal in Israel in 13-plus years. If he is reelected in 2020, Donald Trump would follow Netanyahu, and move from his first four years of abnormal leadership to his creation of a new American political normal. Democratic and Republican primaries begin in eight months. It is time to reject or accept, a new Trumpian political normal.

– James Wall contributed this article to PalestineChronicle.com. To read more of his articles visit: http://wallwritings.me.

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