Israel is in the throes of a struggle between opposing forces in support of its partly liberal democratic state and those proposing a fully neo-fascist one. For seven months now large demonstrations have taken place against legislative proposals by the most rightwing government in Israel’s history to remove the power of the judiciary to overrule government decisions as being unreasonable. The government has been described by Bret Stephens, a conservative New York Times columnist, and a strong supporter of Israel, as “a coalition of the bigoted, the corrupt, the dependent and the extreme.” Reforms to give more power to the government over judicial appointments, weakening the power of government lawyers and limiting judicial review of appointments, are yet to come. The already conservative Supreme Court has approved the torture of Palestinians, the destruction of their homes and the expansion of settlements.
The law was passed on Monday last by Israel’s Knesset (Parliament) with tens of thousands of protesting Israelis on the streets facing water cannons. All newspapers in Israel on Tuesday had blank front pages as a mark of protest. Haaretz, Israel’s English Language newspaper, in its Opinion on Wednesday described the government’s programme as seeking “the death of liberal democracy in Israel by neutering the judiciary, entrenching the occupation, empowering fundamentalism…with a heavy dose of cronyism, punitive intolerance, intimidation and…with a get-out-of-jail-free card for the premier…”
Israel has always had two faces as a settler colonial state – one responsible for the Nabka, the forcible expulsion of Arabs in the 1940s and the oppression of its Arab citizens, and the other presented to the world as a liberal democracy. Like many, though not all, settler colonial states, overtly democratic systems were the best methods of settling differences between rival new communities, although behind the façade, oppression of native or enslaved or oppressed (“different”) sections of populations, was part of the state system. Israel followed this pattern, first with the original Arab Palestinians in Israel, later with Palestinians in the occupied territories. In Israel, the occupation has become a dominant Israeli project to expand its territories, with the legal and military paraphernalia, not applicable in Israel, to enforce it. The basic premises of a liberal democratic state cannot survive simultaneously with this apartheid paraphernalia necessary to suppress the resistance to and expansion of colonial occupation.
The capture of lands Palestinian and other by Israel in the Six Day War in 1967, introduced the possibility of incorporating the captured lands, particularly Palestinian lands, into Israel. This promoted the growth of the right wing dedicated to the permanent occupation of lands. This right wing eventually gained political office through Menachem Begin (1977-1983), Yitzak Shamir (1986-1992), who both belonged to terrorist gangs, and Ariel Sharon (2001-2006), who was guilty of overseeing the mass slaughter of Palestinians in the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps. The anti-Palestinian right wing agenda, which became allied with the Orthodox community, could not be fully implemented because of international opinion and the Palestinian struggle for a homeland. In fact, world public opinion led to the Oslo Peace Accords of 1993, which recognized the Palestinian Liberation Organisation and established the Palestinian Authority, giving the latter limited self-government over Gaza and the West Bank, to eventually lead to a Palestinian state side by side with the Israeli state. It is a direct consequence of the recognition of Palestinians through the signing of the Oslo Peace Accords that Israeli Prime Minister, Yitzak Rabin, was assassinated in 1995 by a right wing fanatic.
The growth of neo-fascist Zionism, which now dominates the Israeli Government, is a direct consequence of Israel’s drive to colonize Gaza and the West Bank by force, so far with the collusion or silence of liberal Zionism and the US, although some liberal Zionists and Israelis are now recognizing the connection between the occupation and the entrenchment of neo-fascist forces in Israeli society. The support and protection given by the US to the Israeli government over its decades of continuing and growing violence against Palestinians and the more recent degrading of support for Palestinians by conservative Arab regimes by recognizing Israel, have together combined to encourage the strengthening of neo-fascist Zionism and to shatter the illusions of a Palestinian state. According to Marwan Bishara, of Al Jazeera English, the occupation gave “vigour and momentum to messianic, fanatical and hyper-nationalist Israelis ever since.” (25/7/23). Exception must be made for those who have spoken out and resisted for decades, in and out of Israel, the oppression of Palestinians and the occupation.
The entrenchment of neo-fascism in Israel is necessary for the accumulation of enough state power to complete the subjugation of the Palestinians and the seizure of all their lands. Instead of the US, Israel’s closest friend, sanctioning Israel to reign in the neo fascist objectives, it is plotting a deal by which Saudi Arabia would recognize Israel and limit relations with China in return for arms sales, assistance for civilian nuclear development and security guarantees, while Israel ceases settlement expansion (Thomas L. Friedman NY Times 28/1/23). US and Saudi Arabia appeasement of Israel will not persuade Israel to relinquish, or even limit, the occupation of Palestinian lands. Only US and world sanctions and Palestinian resistance can do so.