Pogrom state made manifest
The far-right terror campaign against Palestinians sees the police arresting those who dare resist. Meanwhile global opposition to Israel grows apace. Tony Greenstein looks at the changing picture
Since the ceasefire between Israel and Gaza, Israeli police have been taking their revenge on Israel’s Palestinians for what Jonathan Freedland concedes has been a “strategic disaster”.1 Oren Ziv in Israel’s +972 magazine described how, in response to the pogroms against Palestinians in Israeli ‘mixed’ cities by Jewish vigilantes and armed settler gangs, the police have been engaged in a widespread round-up - not of the attackers, but those who tried to defend themselves!2
The behaviour of Israel’s paramilitary police is reminiscent of the pogroms that drove over two million Jews from tsarist Russia to Britain and America at the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th centuries. Whenever Jews mounted any self-defence, the police and army took the sides of the pogromists.
Although there were isolated reprisal attacks by Israeli Palestinians, including setting fire to synagogues in Bat Yam, this was not the ‘communal violence’ that it has been portrayed as. Israeli Palestinians saw the attacks on Al Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem, which is as much a political as a religious symbol, as directed against them. The police even stopped buses taking thousands to the mosque during Ramadan - it would be inconceivable that they would do the same to Jewish worshippers.
The attack on Israel’s Palestinians by vigilantes and armed settlers was encouraged by the security minister, Amir Ohana, who defended “law-abiding citizens”: that is, Jews who carry weapons to ‘assist the police’. The Electronic Intifada described how Israeli Jewish vigilantes used instant messaging services to organise armed militias.3 One WhatsApp group was titled ‘Death to the Arabs in Haifa - War Group’. Members were instructed to bring Israeli flags and to meet at the entrance of the Old City of Acre, masked.
“The police won’t do anything to us: they will back us up and turn a blind eye,” said one Israeli in a voice message to other far-right Jewish activists.4 And how right they were. Israeli human rights group B’Tselem said settler groups, including the far-right groups, Regavim and My Israel, were forming armed militias to go to mixed cities on May 13.
“We are no longer Jews today,” one user wrote in a Telegram group titled ‘People from Holon, Bat Yam and Rishon Lezion go out to bring war’. “Today we are Nazis.” Perhaps the Board of Deputies, The Jewish Chronicle and supporters of the International Holocaust Remembrance Association misdefinition of anti-Semitism, who decry comparisons between Israel and the Nazis, will note that Israel’s Judeo-Nazis themselves recognise the connection.
Amira Hass, who with Gideon Levy is the most principled journalist in Israel, interviewed photographer Abdel-Afo Bassam on what happened when Israeli police invaded Al Aqsa mosque in early May.5 Over 300 Palestinians were injured, many seriously. Three lost eyes after being hit with sponge-tipped bullets.
Just imagine that the police had invaded a synagogue, firing stun grenades, tear gas and sponge-tipped bullets, and batoning those in their way. It is no wonder that synagogues in Israel became a target for Palestinians. For too long mosques and churches have been the target of far-right arsonists, yet some people seriously compared setting fire to synagogues in Bat Yam to the Kristallnacht.
Israeli politicians compared what was happening to a ‘civil war’, as Israel’s Palestinians mobilised to support their compatriots in Gaza and the West Bank. The Zionist ‘left’, which is prepared to go into a governing coalition with the far-right Yamina alliance, bemoaned the breakdown in co-existence in Israel’s ‘mixed’ cities. The reality is that, even when a city contains both Arabs and Jews, they live different lives in different districts. What we are seeing though is an influx of Jewish settlers, whose aim is to Judaise the cities, just as the Galilee, East Jerusalem and the Negev have been the subject of Judaisation.
As with all settler-colonial regimes, the only response of the Zionist rulers of Israel to Palestinian demands is brute force. Israel’s Zionist rulers are just as stupid as their Afrikaner cousins were in South Africa. They cannot see which way the wind is blowing until the gale is overpowering. Whether it be murdering children in Gaza or blinding demonstrators in Jerusalem, Israel demonstrates every day that it is a Jewish supremacist state, whose ongoing purpose is to remove Palestinians from their homes and confiscate their land - prior, that is, to ethnically cleansing them altogether.
However, it is clear that this time around Israel’s regular ‘mowing the lawn’6 in Gaza has backfired spectacularly. There is no doubt that prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu would like to have continued Israel’s 11-day attack. In 2014 Operation Protective Edge lasted for seven weeks, so why the difference?
Despite the desperate attempts by the Zionists to gain acceptance for the IHRA, whose sole purpose was to redefine anti-Zionism as anti-Semitism, it is clear that Israel’s propagandists and their rightwing Labour supporters have, if anything, politicised supporters of the Palestinians.
The 200,000-strong demonstration in London on June 22 was the biggest pro-Palestinian event there has ever been in Britain. But what was the reaction of the popular press? To see anti-Semitism where none existed. The Sunday Times led the pack with the headline, ‘Placards with anti-Jewish hatred mar protests by tens of thousands’. If true this would have been terrible, but what did these placards say? Did they say ‘Hitler was right’ or did they deny the holocaust? The Evening Standard told how these placards include slogans such as “Israel, the new Nazi state”, while another referred to “Holocaust part 2”. The Daily Telegraph informed us that one placard even read “Zionism is terrorism”! The Express told us that one placard read, “Stop doing what Hitler did to you!” and that “controversial banners referencing the holocaust and Nazis were spotted”.
In other words, the rightwing press have bought into the idea that any reference to Hitler or the Nazis in the context of Israel is automatically anti-Semitic. Of course, none of these placards were anti-Semitic. What they were doing was comparing the evils of the Nazi state to those of Israel, as do many Israelis themselves. They might be accused of hyperbole and exaggeration, but certainly not anti-Semitism. It is clear that the Tory press was determined to find that the Palestinian demonstration was anti-Semitic as a means of deflecting attention from the real issue - Israel’s genocidal attack on Gaza.
The irony, however, is that the following day, at a demonstration called in support of Israel by the Board of Deputies of British Jews - which claims to be the “Voice of British Jews” - no less than Tommy Robinson, the fascist and Islamophobic bigot attended. And despite the hypocritical attempts of the Board of Deputies to distance themselves from Robinson’s appearance, it is clear from the video footage that he was given a hero’s welcome by other demonstrators. What the BoD and groups like the Jewish Labour Movement refuse to face up to is why Robinson and his fascist supporters find Zionism and Israel so attractive.
The Mail’s online coverage of Robinson’s attendance was particularly dishonest. It told how a “grinning” Robinson was “spotted in crowd at a London pro-Israel demonstration a day after Palestine supporters waved Hitler and Nazi signs, as extremists continue to hijack London protests”. Not only does the paper which supported Hitler during the 1930s imply that Robinson was there by accident, but the message to anyone reading it was that Palestinian supporters had been waving swastikas and placards in support of the Nazi regime. Such is the depth of dishonesty of the gutter press.
What is clear though is that 2021 was not a rerun of 2014, as Netanyahu had envisaged. Not only were there mass protests on the street, but in the intervening period support for the Palestinians and opposition to Zionism had percolated through the American political system. Black Lives Matter and the struggle for racial justice in the United States had met up with support for Palestinian liberation. Intersectionalism is one of Zionism’s greatest fears.
After all, when 150,000 American police have been trained in the finer arts of choking, strangling and beating up by their Israeli counterparts, it is not hard to draw connections between Israel’s Jim Crow laws and white supremacy in the United States. The clear anti-black hostility of Zionism, which is resulting in the deportation of long-standing black Hebrew residents from Israel, has taken its toll.
Normally pro-Israeli Democrats have become favourable to the idea of halting the flow of arms shipments to Israel during the crisis. Even Chuck Schumer, the racist leader of the Democrats in the Senate and an avid supporter of the Zionists, kept unusually quiet. It is also clear that the Biden administration, which at the start of Israel’s attack gave it the green light, became increasingly uncomfortable, the longer Israel’s bombardment went on. It is clear that Biden effectively gave Netanyahu an ultimatum, making it clear that political support for Israel was draining away.
If Britain’s Jewish community refused to come out on the streets to support Israel’s blitzkrieg that was also true in the USA. American Jews, who have faced considerable anti-Semitism from white supremacists, spent an uncomfortable four years under Donald Trump, who combined anti-Semitism with ardent support for Israel. The spectacle of Israel invading mosques and evicting Palestinians from homes that they had lived in for 70 years, whilst murdering defenceless civilians in Gaza, has taken its toll.
There is no doubt that we are seeing a shift in the unquestioning support for Israel. Even The Guardian has been retreating from its automatic pro-Zionism, though whether this continues is a moot question. The New York Times emblazoned on its front page pictures of the 67 Palestinian children whom Israel had murdered, under the headline, ‘They were just children’.7 Humanising the Palestinians is a first for a paper which has engaged in reflective Zionism for the past 70 years. Recently its rightwing opinion editor, Bari Weiss, was forced to resign, as she found the political atmosphere uncomfortable.
Support for a one-state solution has grown, as the proposed two-state solution has been destroyed by the settlements. Liberal Zionists like Peter Beinart have now come out in support of abandoning a Jewish state in favour of some form of binationalism. In a landmark article in The New York Times Beinart wrote: “I no longer believe in a Jewish state.”8 For Zionism this is the equivalent of eating a ham sandwich in a synagogue. Beinart has even supported the idea of the Palestinian right of return - for long a taboo subject in polite society.9
It is always difficult to see history on the wing and to understand the nuances and shifts in political and public opinion. What is clear is that, as Israel drifts to the far right and the ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians looms on the horizon, the United States is not prepared to tolerate a repeat of 1948, with the consequent destabilisation of the Middle East. Israel is there to safeguard US interests, not threaten them.
For the Palestinians the clear task is to create a national liberation movement along the lines of the African National Congress in South Africa. Hamas, a reactionary Islamist organisation, cannot fulfil such a role, while Fatah is discredited because of its association with a corrupt and sclerotic leadership under Abbas. The key, however, to the situation remains the ability of the Arab working class and masses to be rid of the corrupt regimes that western imperialism has imposed upon the region in order to safeguard the theft of their natural resources.
Netanyahu has let the genie out of the bottle. Whoever becomes Israeli prime minister may have difficulty in putting it back.