As right gains, step up solidarity with Israeli left

Submitted by AWL on 12 February, 2009 - 7:31 Author: Ira Berkovic

As we go to press, both of Israel’s main centre-right parties — Likud and Kadimah — were claiming victory in the general election. Most exit polls gave 30 seats to Kadimah and 29 to Likud. Neither have enough seats to win outright, meaning the huge gains made by Avigdor Lieberman’s Israel Beiteinu party place this grotesque far-right formation in a position of enormous influence and power when it comes to forming a government. Ehud Barak’s Labour Party — right-wing social democrats on social issues and hawkish on the national question – have been relegated to fourth place.

As placards on Israeli demonstrations against the recent assault on Gaza put it, “in the election campaign, the graveyards won.”

It took a Supreme Court ruling to overturn a ban, vociferously argued for by Lieberman, on the participation of the two main Israeli-Arab parties in the election.

Lieberman is an Israeli-Jewish chauvinist who has openly called for population transfers of Palestinian Arabs; Israeli socialists have labelled him “a fascist”.

For those on the British left who deny the legitimacy of any Israeli-Jewish presence in the region, and insist that Israeli-Jews are a colonial settler caste akin to the South African Boers, Lieberman’s rise will be further evidence that all Israeli-Jews are bloodthirsty racists.

Those leftists for whom hatred of Israel, rather than solidarity with the Palestinians, is the point of departure may well rub their hands in glee at these results, claiming that they vindicate their perspectives. Those of us who take a different view — and maintain a belief in the national rights of Israeli-Jews and, though the questions are separate, in the revolutionary potential of the Israeli-Jewish working-class — assess this growth of Israel’s reactionary right differently.

As socialists in the UK, who face the likely victory of a Tory government at the next election as well as growing working-class support for the fascist BNP, we should know better than to use these elections to write off the Israeli people (or the Israeli working-class).

Israeli workers are suffering economically from years of neo-liberal government policy. Furthermore, they are fed on a diet of propaganda, from media and state, that constantly reminds them of the threats to their personal and national security, and emphasises the need for an uncompromising military response.

The top-to-bottom militarisation of society through national service normalises the place of guns, soldiers and war in everyday life. The mainstream bourgeois parties ratcheted up this propaganda offensive to build support for their assault on Gaza, but Lieberman — not Netanyahu, Livni or Barak — has benefited.

The results for leftist parties offer some glimmers of hope; most exit polls have Meretz, a politically inconsistent but broadly leftish social-democratic party (which ran as part of a new left-wing coalition) losing only one of its 5 MKs, with Hadash (a Jewish-Arab party with its origins in the Stalinist Israeli Communist Party) increasing its number of MKs to 4 or 5.

More widely, the continuing existence of a radical peace movement — led by organisations such as Gush Shalom and Anarchists Against The Wall and backed up by a growing movement of Israelis facing jail for refusing to serve in the IDF – should help us maintain our faith in the role of the Israeli people in carving out a solution to the conflict that sidelines the likes of Lieberman for good.

As Israeli peace activist Adam Keller says, if Lieberman in 2009 reflects what Israel sees in the mirror, “it is not enough to smash [it] – it is necessary to change thoroughly what this mirror reflects!” By making practical solidarity with the anti-war movements, the refusers and all working-class resistance to neo-liberalism, we can help Israelis begin to do that.

Comments

Submitted by martin on Sun, 22/02/2009 - 15:30

Vivienne Porszolt in Sydney, Australia, has circulated the following contrarian analysis of the Israeli elections from Shraga Elam. It concludes by expecting a Netanyahu-Livni coalition government, and saying "Netanyahu has to keep the old Israeli line of leaving the so called two states option open while acting against it..."

Vivienne Porszolt comments: "Here is another view from an expat Israeli journo which looks a useful alternative view... I think many people use the term 'fascist' too lightly, though there can be no doubt that there are fascist trends in Israel, as there are in the US, the UK and Australia, though these have been slowed down in these countries after the latest elections".

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The Israeli elections do not signal a shift to the right as many commentators believe. Actually it is more a shift to the center of the Israeli society with no much place for ideology, but mainly for opportunism and corruption. Against central figures of all the three leading parties there are criminal investigations with strong evidence and the differences between them are not so deep as the impression is.

Many of the so called Zionist left gave their votes to the center party Kadima because they wished in this way to block Likud’s head Benyamin Netanyahu. Netanyahu himself was not interested that his party will get too many votes because otherwise more radical right wingers on his list would have enter the parliament and this would have made his position towards US-president Barack Obama even more harder.

Avigdor Lieberman, one of the big winners of the elections, who got a large support for his popular anti-Arabs slogans is not considered by the radical right wingers to be one of theirs. One of the reasons is that he supports in a soft form of the so called “Two States Solution”, which they completely reject. His anti-Arab racism is not stronger than that of the most Zionist parties ever was, he is just more honest on this issue.

Therefore it is not surprising that various extreme right wingers claim that they lost the elections and one of them, Israel Harel even complained in a radio interview that his opponents in the Zionist map the Meretz party lost so much. For him this is an expression of a process that the Israeli society is undergoing, it becomes less ideological.

Because Netanyhu wants to improve his position towards the USA, it is also very likely that his coalition will include the Kadima and the “Labor” party of the present popular “defense” minister Ehud Barak. The “Labor” declares that it wishes to stay in the opposition and reconstruct itself, but this party had demonstrated always difficulties in withstanding the temptation of sits in the government. Joining the opposition will mean most likely the end of Barak’s political career and he knows it. The other “Labor” leaders will probably give in to the pressure to prevent a government with Lieberman, although they were already in a government with him.

The most likely scenario is that Netanyahu will share in rotation the Prime Minister office with the present foreign minister Tzipi Livni from the Kadima party. This is the most logical solution, because Netanyahu is not likely to get the support of the radical right wingers unless he’ll oblige himself not to make concession in the West Bank to the Palestinians and to Kadima and the “Labor” in Israel. That means this radical right wingers are not likely to recommend to president Shimon Peres to nominate Netanyahu as the one that should build the next government.

Netanyahu has to keep the old Israeli line of letting the so called two states options open while acting against it. Therefore he cannot have a government based on the right wing radicals, who wants a clear statement in the guiding lines of the government.

The elections make it also clearer for the consequent Israeli supporter of peace that their only chances to influence the country policy are in extra parliamentary structures.

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