In three straight days of shelling of civilian areas in Gaza, Israeli planes have killed 30 Palestinians and injured more than 90, including six children and three women. The deliberate bombardment of civilians began the night of May 9, as families slept in their beds. The attacks, allegedly aimed at a few leaders of the resistance group Palestinian Islamic Jihad, killed entire families, destroying to date five buildings and damaging more than 300 apartments in what can only be called a massacre. The air strikes continue.
Such is the nature of the Israeli state, which marks the 75th anniversary of its founding on May 14.
Born out of the massacre and displacement of 750,000 Palestinian people in 1948, Israel has always been an artificial colonial state, and all of Israel’s governments have been racist and anti-Palestinian. Attempts were made to hide this, however, along with the fact that Israel has always been an agent of imperialism, especially U.S. imperialism, and a dagger aimed at the Arab people.
Today, however, the poison is no longer sugar-coated. Israel is governed by open fascists and self-declared advocates of racist genocide, homophobia and misogyny.
On Dec. 30, 2022, a new government was formed in Israel headed by the murderous Binyamin Netanyahu, who has been prime minister several times before. Israel has a parliamentary system of government, meaning that the party or coalition of parties that win a majority of seats in the Knesset — the parliament — gets to name the prime minister and other members of the cabinet who will govern the country until the next election. In this election, Netanyahu’s coalition won 64 of 120 seats. Two of the parties in his coalition are religious fundamentalists — Shas and United Torah Jerusalem — who don’t allow women to serve in government. These two parties won 18 seats between them. And a bloc of two fascist parties — Jewish Power and Religious Zionism — won 14 seats. So, if any of these four parties withdraw support for the government, it would collapse and a new election would have to be held. This partly explains the strong influence that these ultra-reactionary parties have in the government.
This is not to say that the previous government — or any of the governments in Israel’s history — have been progressive. All have been racist and anti-Palestinian. As an example, under the last so-called “centrist” government led by Yair Lapid, multiple attacks on Palestinian homes, olive groves and people took place on more than a daily basis. Between just October 10-21, 2022, according to Israeli newspaper Haaretz, more than 100 such attacks took place, with the Israeli occupation forces joining in the assault with the fascist settler gangs.
The term “fascist” is not used here in a hyperbolic or exaggerated way. The favorite chant of these fascist gangs is “Death to the Arabs.”
Fascists in key government positions
What is new about the latest government is the presence in key positions of the leaders of the fascists, particularly Itamar Ben-Gvir of the Otzma Yehuda (Jewish Power) party and Belazel Smotrich of the Religious Zionism party in key positions in the government. A new “National Security Ministry” position was created by the passage of the “Ben-Gvir bill” on Dec. 27. As minister, Ben-Gvir will have control over the infamous Border Police in the West Bank, one of the key instruments of the repressive colonial apparatus.
Nothing could be more revealing about Ben-Gvir than his hero-worship of Baruch Goldstein. In 1994, Goldstein, a dual U.S.-Israeli citizen from New York, murdered 29 Palestinian worshippers and wounded 125, including many children, inside the Mosque of Ibrahim in the West Bank city of Hebron. Ben-Gvir kept a photo of Goldstein on his living room wall until grudgingly taking it down in order to run for the Knesset in 2020, saying, “For the sake of unity and a right-wing victory in the elections, I’m removing the photograph in my living room.” Ben Gvir’s response to the Israeli bombing of Gaza on May 9 that killed 13 people and wounded 20: “It’s a nice start.”
Like Ben-Gvir, Smotrich stands for the expulsion of Palestinians from the West Bank and inside 1948 Israel. In October 2021, he told Palestinian members of the parliament, “You’re here by mistake, it’s a mistake that Ben-Gurion didn’t finish the job and throw you out in 1948.” Ben-Gurion was Israel’s first prime minister who presided over the mass expulsion of Palestinians.
Also like Ben-Gvir and several other members of the new government, Smotrich is deeply racist, misogynistic and homophobic. In 2016, he tweeted that he supported the segregation of Palestinian and Jewish women in maternity wards (Jerusalem Post, April 6, 2016). And in 2015, he said that developers should not have to sell houses to Palestinians (J.Post, July 16, 2015). In a mockery of a Gay Pride parade in 2006, Smotrich organized a “Beast Parade,” made up of animals. Ten years later he tweeted, “I am a proud homophobe.”
For many years, Smotrich has advocated a “shoot-to-kill policy” for the occupation forces in the West Bank. Asked in 2017 what he would do about a Palestinian child throwing stones at a demonstration, he answered: “Either I will shoot him, or I will jail him, or I will expel him.” (Guardian, Mar. 12, 2017)
Ben-Gvir and Smotrich are not the only ultra-reactionaries in the cabinet. The so-called “Minister for Women’s Advancement” May Golan says, “Radical feminism is a hate movement,” and believes women already have too many rights. And it goes on from there.
Massive protests in Israel refuse to bring up violence aimed at Palestinians
Massive anti-regime protests, unprecedented in their size and scope, have erupted in cities and towns across the state of Israel over the past four months.
Demonstrations which had been taking place every Saturday night since mid-January exploded in numbers on March 26, when huge protests followed the firing of the “Defense” Minister Yoav Gallant earlier the same day. Gallant was dismissed by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu for speaking out against a plan for “judicial reform” that if adopted would constitute a legislative coup. The “reform” would be a crucial first step opening the door for a wide-ranging series of reactionary measures by the ruling coalition.
On March 26, hundreds of thousands took to the streets and much of the country was shut down by a general strike the following day. This came after thousands of military reservists announced that they would not report for duty in protest of the plan. On March 27, Netanyahu announced that a final vote would be postponed for four weeks, obviously hoping that the interlude would diminish opposition energy.
The glaring omission in the demonstrations has been any mention of those who are the primary targets of the new regime — the Palestinian people. Even participation by Palestinians living inside the 1948 borders of Israel with the Palestinian flag has been discouraged or, in some cases, prevented. Instead, the protests have been seas of blue and white Israeli flags.
The fascist National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Givr announced that anyone carrying a Palestinian flag in the Jerusalem protests would be arrested and jailed.
He was saved the trouble of carrying out his threat by the protest organizers who made it clear that they didn’t want to “confuse” the message that this is a family dispute among Israel-loyal Zionists. Video has been widely circulated of attacks by protest participants as well as security forces on the tiny handful of who dared to unfurl Palestinian flags.
In exchange for tolerating the pause in voting on the judicial reform, Ben-Givr was promised by Netanyahu that he would be able to set up a “national guard” under his direct command. Such a new military formation is expected to be composed of thousands of volunteers from the most fascistic elements of Israeli society and carry out horrible atrocities against Palestinians.
There can be no democracy in an apartheid system
Leaders of the Israeli protests say that they are fighting for democracy. But it is not possible to speak of democracy in any real sense inside an apartheid system. Under the defunct South African apartheid system, whites could vote, go to court, print newspapers, etc. But no one could credibly call apartheid South Africa a “democracy,” and no one today can credibly claim that Israel does not have an apartheid. system. Whether in Gaza, a huge outdoor prison, the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem, or inside the 1948 borders, Palestinians live under a system of racist discrimination and apartheid. Apartheid is an international crime.
Given the $3.8 billion in military aid and the invaluable diplomatic/political protection provided by the United States to Israel, Washington’s view is of the utmost importance to any Israeli government. The inclusion of undisguised fascists and other extraordinarily regressive ministers doesn’t match up well with the time-worn notion of Israel as ”the only democracy in the Middle East.”
Israel’s key role in the U.S. empire
Why does the U.S. give such generous support to Israel, $3.8 billion per year in military aid along with other forms of aid? This for a country that has a western European standard of living, where 65% of the population vacations abroad every year, has on average 19 days of vacation and universal health care. In other words, much of the Israeli population has a higher standard of living than at least half the U.S. population.
And Congress regularly votes overwhelmingly for nearly every resolution supporting Israel. This has led many people to believe that support for Jewish people is the reason why. But some of the most vicious anti-Semites are among the biggest supporters of funding and arming Israel. It was in 1969, during the administration of Richard Nixon — an extreme hater of Jewish people — that annual U.S. funding for Israel soared from the millions to the billions of dollars annually.
And it is not a question that pro-Israel organizations are well organized, well funded and influential. Nor is it in dispute that they can stampede nearly the entire Congress into voting for the most one-sided and outlandish positions of support for Israel. But does the pro-Israel lobby — or Israel itself through the lobby — control and direct U.S. policy in the Middle East? To put it another way, does the tail wag the dog? Is it really conceivable that a small, dependent country could call the shots for the most powerful empire in the history of the world? The answer to all of these questions is no. Israel is part of the U.S. global empire, not the other way around.
The pro-Israel lobby has been empowered by the U.S. ruling class and political establishment, which see Israel as an important instrument against the liberation movements of the Arab and other peoples of the Middle East. The pro-Israel lobby has been allowed to grow strong in the same way as the now-declining Cuban counterrevolutionary lobby.
Supporting apartheid South Africa
Israel gave key support to the apartheid government in South Africa in the 1970s and 1980s, particularly when it was “inconvenient” for Washington to be seen openly supporting the racist regime. In the mid-1970s, Israel built an electrified fence along the Namibian-Angolan border. Namibia was then a colony of South Africa, and the liberation movement, the Southwest Africa People’s Organization, was waging an armed struggle to free the country. The SWAPO guerrillas had bases in Angola, a country that had just achieved its independence from Portugal.
Israeli-South African collaboration led to South Africa testing a nuclear bomb in the South Atlantic in 1979. From Washington’s point of view, this was a very positive development, one that the U.S. leaders fully supported. The South African apartheid regime not only ruthlessly oppressed the African people inside its own borders and in Namibia, it also served as the enforcer of U.S. and other imperialist interests in all of Africa below the equator. Apartheid South Africa’s counterrevolutionary role in Africa was much like that of Israel’s in the Middle East.
Bolstering Washington’s fascist clients in Latin America
During the 1980s, Israel trained and armed the Guatemalan army when it was carrying out genocide against the Indigenous peoples of that country. The U.S. Congress had cut off direct aid to Guatemala’s extreme right-wing government, but the White House and Pentagon were dedicated to destroying the revolutionary movement. This was at the height of the U.S. proxy wars in El Salvador and Nicaragua.
The Israeli secret police joined with the CIA to train torturers in Chile and other countries of Latin America after CIA-coordinated military coups in the 1970s. Israel gave military aid to Taiwan, and supported right-wing dictatorships in Africa.
Hammering Arab liberation
Nowhere has Israel’s role as a watchdog for imperialist interests more benefited its sponsor than in the Middle East. Israel has been an ever-menacing hammer against the Arab countries — especially more progressive governments — that won real independence in the two decades after World War II.
Israel joined with the British and French imperialists in attacking Egypt and the new Nasser government in 1956.
Israel’s victory in the 1967 Six-Day War, when it took over the West Bank, Gaza, Golan and Sinai, was a major blow to the more progressive nationalist forces, especially in Syria and Egypt. It was after this war that the U.S.-Israel alliance became what it is today.
In the mid-1970s, Israel intervened to support the fascist elements in Lebanon’s civil war. In 1978 and 1982, Israel invaded Lebanon. In 1982, Israel occupied Beirut and carpet-bombed the capital throughout the summer. In 2006, Israel’s five-week assault on Lebanon deliberately destroyed much of the infrastructure, which had just been rebuilt after years of civil war that Israel helped fuel.
Israeli bombers destroyed an Iraqi nuclear power plant that was under construction at Osirak in 1981. This was at a time when the Iran-Iraq War was raging. The U.S. government was publicly “supporting” Iraq in its war against Iran — where the U.S.-installed Shah had been overthrown in 1979 — and did not want to take responsibility for such an extremely hostile act. As the Iran-Contra affair later revealed, the United States was supporting Iran as well as Iraq in the hopes that they would destroy each other.
In a thousand different ways, the existence of the state of Israel as an artificial and colonial state in the heart of the Arab world has profoundly distorted regional development for the benefit of imperialism, and to the detriment of the Arab and other peoples of the region. Today we are witness to frequent Israeli attacks in western Syria.
The leaders in Washington are above all businesspeople or their representatives. They are investors, who do not hand out money based on sentimentality or generosity. Sentimentality and imperialist diplomacy are mutually exclusive categories. As it has often been said, great powers have no permanent friends, only permanent interests.
U.S. leaders have sent hundreds of billions of dollars to Israel. Most of them view the money as being well spent. Because they are hard-headed investors, that assessment is subject to revision at any time. Having an understanding of Israel’s basic relationship with U.S. imperialism is key for supporters of the Palestinian struggle against Zionism and imperialism today. It is also important to know the conflict’s colonial roots, the origin and development of Zionist thought and the dynamics of the ongoing Palestinian struggle for liberation.
The current crisis in Israel has sent a shock wave through Washington. For a while, U.S. leaders have tried to play down the crisis, with President Biden, Secretary of State Blinken and others making repeated bland statements about “friendship, shared values,” and so on.
But a statement last month from White House National Security Council contained an unusual moment of honesty: “We are deeply concerned by the ongoing developments in Israel, including the potential impact on military readiness which further underscores the urgent need for compromise.”
So, there it is. All the talk about “shared values” and “friendship” is just that, talk. The real concern in Washington is about Israel’s readiness to play its assigned military role in the U.S. empire, the role for which it is so lavishly rewarded.
It’s more than a little ironic, that at the same time as extreme right-wingers, religious fundamentalists and outright fascists have taken control of the Israeli government, and when numerous organizations — Palestinian, U.S, Israeli and other International bodies — have issued reports documenting in great detail the apartheid nature of the Israeli state, supporters of the Zionist state in the U.S. and in other western countries have stepped up their campaign to make it a crime to criticize Israel in any way!
Unable to deny the grotesquely racist character of the Israeli state and government, defenders of Israel have fallen back on the long-discredited tactic of falsely claiming that anti-Zionism equals anti-Semitism, and therefore any criticism of Israel is anti-Semitic.
In their towering arrogance, the rulers of Israel have exposed the profoundly racist character of their state and society. There can be no more credible denials. Now is the time for all people who believe in justice to join in solidarity with the heroic and long-suffering Palestinian people in their struggle for self-determination and liberation, and to demand that the U.S stop all funding to Israel.