By Samantha Borders
Another predictable election has come and gone in the state of Israel, keeping Benyamin Netanyahu as its apartheid-state chief. This outcome could almost bore the world with its consistency, were it not for the horrible reality of it keeping in line with policies of entrenchment and damnation of peace negotiations (although, this could be seen as a development and admission that they were false to begin with).
Despite the cheers that are surely echoing throughout Israel and its supporting bodies, there is also a sense of disappointment and disillusionment around the world. Although Israel has not chosen to move more to the left or right, its stayed course is indicative of a dangerous mindset that is all too telling of the general state of affairs within the country. The specters of Operation Cloud Pillar and Protective Edge seem to bring the Israeli state deeper into the moral quagmire rather than call for reflection and change.
However, if you sit down and think about it, the election results are fairly predictable. As Professor Ilan Pappe so eloquently stated on his Facebook page, predicting their outcome is “[n]ot a big deal if you understand the DNA of the Zionist Settler State and its electorate”. Simply put, why vote to bring in a new regime when you are perfectly content with the status quo?
Such support of the current government can also been seen as a way to embolden those who would seek to stamp out dissenting voices. Just yesterday, former IDF soldier, BDS activist, and Jewish Voice for Peace member Eran Efrati was attacked in Montreal after giving a lecture against the apartheid practices in Israel. This news spread quickly throughout the internet as an example of the violate nature of hardline supporters of the Middle East’s “only democracy”. At times, this can come across as the primary modus operandi for those involved in the attempt to end the conflict: to attack first and ask questions later.
And yet, as demoralizing as these events may seem, other groups inside Israel have been inspired to voice their opposition. Religious, military, and civilian groups alike have voiced warnings regarding voting in a new government that would not challenge the present circumstances. Rabbis for Human Rights, a non-partisan group dedicated to seeking justice for Palestinians, had its president Rabbi Arik Ascherman issue a statement following the publication of the election results. Entitled “No Country for Non-Jews?”, he writes that in reference to the implications of what has occurred:
If Kahlon will stick to his declared principles, there is some hope that something good will come out of these elections for Israeli Jews living in poverty. There is much less of a chance that anything good will come out of these elections for weak and underprivileged non-Jews. (Palestinians, Negev Bedouin, African asylum seekers, etc.)
Additionally, until now there has always been a majority that wanted to believe that their leaders were working for peace, even if that wasn’t true. Whether or not Netanyahu really meant what he said about a Palestinian State …, we see that there is now a majority that is willing to say “It is OK that our leaders won’t work for peace.”
Other condemnations of these developments have come out of groups like Yesh Gvul, who support democracy and Israeli refuseniks, further emphasizing that
“the elections indicate that considerable portions yet among Jews in Israel want to continue the occupation. Because segments in Israel still believe Balhae and said racism against the Palestinians in the occupied territories.”
And perhaps the most politically neutral movement, the Parents Circle, erected a temporary monument to the future victims of the conflict, intended to remind the electorate about the pitfalls of electing leaders who do not proactively seek peace. The moving video reiterates the human cost the occupation has already accumulated, and asks the viewer to vote with conscience and to honor the inevitable future victims of violence. Although this movement predated Netanyahu’s victory, the video was posted with reproachful words regarding the missed opportunity Israeli voters had on Tuesday.
In spite of these remarks, one might ask what the importance of all these groups and their opinions are when compared to a majority who supports Netanyahu’s policies and leadership. The answer is refreshingly simple: not all is unified and well in the state of Israel. News outlets such as Al Jazeera America, The New York Times, and CNN all have pointed out the division exposed in this most recent election, with the latter even suggesting that there might have been voting fraud that allowed Netanyahu to win. Regardless of the validity of such speculations, Netanyahu’s victory may usher in a new era despite its seemingly everyday appearance. However, this era may be one that ultimately and paradoxically brings down the very regime he labored to protect.
This dissent and its increasing exposure must be maddening for Netanyahu, whose double-speak regarding the abandonment of the two-state solution has gained him extra notoriety within the last week. But this is only one manifestation of what is occurring at the present moment. The international community and even people within Israel are starting to give more serious attention to the ludicrous nature of the Israeli government. Perhaps it is too hopeful to say that this will incur lasting change, but it may not be out of reach to postulate that this could be the time for real change within Israel to begin growing and bolstering voices who wish to end this occupation and its violent madness.
In a historical moment that seems to only foretell of gathering storm clouds, there may lay an opportunity for a true, genuine peace process to begin. With the overdue acknowledgement of the two-state solution’s death emerging, the region may finally accept the reality that they already exist within the perimeters of a one-state solution, albeit currently under an apartheid regime. As voiced by Ilan Pappe in his book with Noam Chomsky Gaza in Crisis and Noam Sheizaf in a recent debate, there is a pressing need to pull Israelis of all political leanings towards a more democratic, positive future. The question is: will the opportunity be taken, or will Israel disappoint again and follow its historical habits of oppression?
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