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At 70: Let's let Israel implode

Israel’s democratic farce is collapsing, but little can be done today to challenge this from within Zionist institutions

They are desperate as they have never been before. In their impatience and immoderation, Israel's institutions hasten, with their own hands, the end of Zionism. We might even see it happening in our lifetime. 

For the first time in history, it seems they are realising that, in the long run, Zionism is indefensible and unsustainable. But that realisation is not creating a genuine collective introspection that could move Israeli society towards social transformation; rather, the opposite is happening. In a scattergun approach, Israel fires in all directions, to protect, as British essayist Perry Anderson famously put it, "what it has made of what it has taken". 

Celebrating Palestinian deaths

Their strategy is revealing: Threats need to be contained, and strengths must be augmented. The backbone of the Zionist project involves the social mobilisation of Israeli citizens. The combined sight of Israeli soldiers celebrating the killing of unarmed Palestinians, while others take their seats at makeshift balconies to watch – as in an outdoor cinema – Palestinian protestors being shot at, shows the extent to which the colonial gangrene has expanded in the Israeli social body. 

Israeli Jews are the spine of this project, but diaspora Jews are its reservoir. Anywhere Jewish dissent blossoms, the Zionist spectre is there to crush it. All means are kosher: Israel's rabbinical courts may soon have unprecedented power over non-Israeli Jews.  

It is evident that for Israel, the threat posed by Palestinians is not in their actions: To the Zionist mind, Palestinian life in itself is a manifestation of war

Not only are Palestinian protesters executed by military snipers at the Gaza border as a matter of policy, but the Israeli government also justifies it. In response to a Supreme Court petition filed by human rights groups, the state of Israel said that the Gaza protests fell into the category of a state of war, and thus human rights law did not apply to the rules of engagement. 

There is something tragic about appealing to Israeli courts to defend basic human and civil rights. Israeli courts have never been a bulwark of freedom. In the past, the military would have refuted the extent of the death toll; but today, unapologetically, the official story adapts law and morality to make sense of Israel's policies for Israeli eyes and ears.

This shift points to a cultural degradation that the world must acknowledge: when the perpetrator rationalises and celebrates its crimes, the space for dialogue has been extinguished. Israel must be ostracised until it complies with international law, just as the BDS movement is demanding.

Erasing the occupation 

In recent years, the Israeli government has been attempting to control and restrict donations to human and civil rights organisations in the country, while encouraging militaristic activities in schools and erasing all discussion of the occupation in civics textbooks.

Human rights defenders are also blocked from bringing their messages into Israel's social space: this week, two prominent US human rights lawyers, Katherine Franke and Vincent Warren, were detained at Ben Gurion airport for 14 hours, interrogated and deported. 

On the external front, Israel has created more and more official institutions to fight against BDS, recruiting US legislators in the effort as well. Yet these attempts are insignificant compared with the growing mass of people and organisations around the globe joining the BDS movement, winning more victories each year.

People take part in a demonstration calling for a boycott of Israel and for the recognition of the state of Palestine in Paris in 2015 (AFP)
Now, Israel also convicts Palestinian poets. Dareen Tatour was convicted this month by an Israeli district court of incitement to terrorism because of posts on social media - particularly, because of her poem titled: "Resist, My People, Resist Them." No other decision could defeat its purpose more than this ruling; to silence poetry is to excite its passions.  

To the Zionist mind, Palestinian life in itself is a manifestation of war

It is evident that for Israel, the threat posed by Palestinians is not in their actions. To the Zionist mind, Palestinian life in itself is a manifestation of war. The intensification and expansion of this applied hatred towards Palestinians requires the tightening of Israeli mobilisation. It is not inconceivable that at some point, Israelis will have to express their loyalty in more visual and louder ways, perhaps as Culture Minister Miri Regev conceived for Independence Day commemorations, with children wearing yellow stars

Enhanced executive powers

In the meantime, the institutional authoritarian ring closes on Israelis. Firstly, to be on the safe side, the Israeli parliament is about to make sure that it can override Supreme Court decisions that challenge the Jewish or militaristic character of the state; and secondly, Israel's prime minister can now declare war in consultation only with the minister of defence, regardless of the cabinet's position. Both decisions enhance the power of the executive, which for decades has dominated the Knesset without any significant political opposition. 

Israel's democratic farce is collapsing. MK Dov Khenin of the Joint List has warned that Netanyahu is leading the country towards a Masada-style suicide. But little can be done today from within Zionist institutions. 

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The Joint List must immediately leave the Knesset. Whatever its small victories are, its presence continues to legitimise the vermin. Let's let the Knesset become a pure Jewish parliament, to better resonate with the dynamics of the state and society. Let's let Israel implode from its own bile. 

In the meantime, Palestinians and anti-Zionist Israelis on both sides of the Green Line can begin establishing the foundations of new democratic institutions. Once the political institutions of Israel implode, alternative political tools will be available.    

- Marcelo Svirsky is a senior lecturer at the School for Humanities and Social Inquiry, University of Wollongong, Australia. He researches settler-colonial societies, particularly Israel-Palestine, and focuses on questions of social transformation and decolonisation.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Eye.  

Photo: Anti-Zionist ultra-Orthodox Jews burn an Israeli flag in Jerusalem's ultra-Orthodox Mea Shearim neighbourhood on 2 May 2018, during celebrations for the Jewish holiday of Lag BaOmer (AFP).

This article is available in French on Middle East Eye French edition.

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