This week’s Israeli Knesset elections reveal what Israeli “democracy” is all about: advancing settler-colonialism and securing ethnocratic rule. Only a minority of all those forced to live under Israeli control have full rights and will be allowed to cast their vote on April 9. Regardless of the election results, for Palestinians, any outcome will be disastrous.
Palestinians, who live under illegal military occupation in Gaza, East Jerusalem, and the West Bank, do not have the right to vote for the government that presides over their lives and deaths. While Palestinian citizens of Israel are allowed to vote, as quasi-citizens they are excluded from other privileges reserved for Jews only.
— ronnie barkan (@ronnie_barkan) April 5, 2019
In effect, then, only the will of a privileged minority counts.
Even for those eligible to vote, the choice facing them is between different forms of right-wing Zionism. Israel is a settler-colonial state, whose fragile identity and contested sovereignty are still in the making and whose politics depend on the exploitation of ethnocentrism and racist rhetoric. Racial supremacy and segregation, illegal military occupation, apartheid, and perpetual warfare are not up for debate. Indeed, they are taken for granted by the current regime, the so-called “opposition,” and most competing parties, all of which dehumanize the Palestinians.
As part of his re-election campaign, long-time Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu promised to intensify the already creeping annexation of the West Bank. He told Israeli Channel 12 News: “A Palestinian state will endanger our existence[.]” Netanyahu vowed to extend Israeli sovereignty over the illegally occupied territories and to “make sure we control the territory west of Jordan[.]” He also promised to ethnically cleanse a Bedouin village.
In Palestine, Netanyahu has consistently shifted further and further right and is now collaborating with members of the Kahanist group, which is designated a terrorist organization in the United States. Internationally, Israel has never been this open about its cooperation with racist, far-right regimes, from Brazil to Hungary, its ideological dependence on anti-Semitism, and its similarities to various fascist movements.
Like Netanyahu, his major rival, Benny Gantz, symbolizes everything Zionism is about. Gantz is a former IDF chief of staff, who oversaw Israel’s 2014 assault on Gaza. He has bragged about killing 1,364 “terrorists” in that war. For the elections, Gatz has formed the “Blue and White” alliance with right-wing politician Yair Lapid. Moshe Ya’alon, who previously compared Palestinians to cancer, is third on the coalition’s electoral list.
Gantz supports the strengthening of settlement blocs and continuing control of illegally occupied Palestinian and Syrian territories. In his first major political statement, he proclaimed: “The Jordan Valley will be our border, but we won’t let millions of Palestinians living beyond the fence endanger our identity as a Jewish state[.]”
As Israel’s candidates ignore international law and advocate for different ways to flout universal human rights, the differences between them have revealed themselves as cosmetic. Indeed, all forms of Zionism stem from the same supremacist ideology that necessitates the subjugation of Palestinians and other non-Jewish groups.