Last month, Denver Zionist groups held their annual “Walk for Israel,” an event that is part of the larger public relations efforts to obscure the crimes committed by the apartheid state of Israel.
Speakers at the event espoused that the march was a “celebration” of the “only democracy in the Middle East,” and tried to distance themselves from Israel’s worst human rights abuses by claiming it was not a “political” endorsement of all (!) Israeli ethnic cleansing actions and policies. However, counter protesters including the Party for Socialism and Liberation, Jewish Voice for Peace and the Colorado Palestine Club responded that a “celebration” of Israel is inherently a celebration of occupation, racism and violence against the dispossessed Palestinian people.
Israeli elections: the far-right versus the far-right
The Walk for Israel, and all Israeli PR, is all the more outrageous in light of recent elections in Israel, where candidates across the board celebrated the murder and expulsion of Palestinians with openly fascistic rhetoric.
In April, Israelis voted to reelect the Likud coalition headed by Benjamin Netanyahu, the far-right, long-serving Israeli Prime Minister. Israel under Netanyahu has seen the passing and implementation of the Nation-State Law, which reserved “self-determination” only for the “Jewish people.” With its passing, Netanyahu stated that Israel is “the national state, not of all its citizens, but only of the Jewish people.” Netanyahu and the Likud have allied with far-right politicians around the world, including Brazil’s fascist president, Jair Bolsonaro, and Venezuela’s failed-coup leader Juan Guaido. Netanyahu’s government has also continued Israel’s illegal and internationally-denounced annexation of the West Bank and the Golan Heights.
Other far-right politicians ran against Likud and Netanyahu. Ayelet Shaked, Netanyahu’s former Justice Minister, ran in a new right-wing party which ran a supposedly ironic commercial praising fascism. In the campaign ad, Shaked lauds “activist restrictions” and “supreme court restraints” before spraying herself with a perfume labeled “fascism,” saying “smells like democracy to me.” In 2015, Shaked had said that “[Palestinian mothers] have to die and their houses should be demolished so that they cannot bear any more terrorists.”
The main opposition coalition, headed by Benny Gantz and the Blue and White party, ran mostly on a right-wing platform with few positions that clearly diverged from Netanyahu. Earlier in the election, Gantz released a campaign video celebrating the “quiet” that prevailed after “parts of Gaza were returned to the stone age” in 2014 during a 51-day attack that left 2,000 Palestinians dead.
Blue and White recognized that they could not win without other far-right support, so they focused their campaign on Netanyahu’s recent corruption scandals, while not taking positions fundamentally different from Netanyahu’s. In the weeks before the election, Netanyahu voiced support for annexing settlements in the West Bank and claimed total Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights in Syria. Blue and White refused to issue a statement of opposition or support to this (in other words, agreeing with Netenyahu but without wanting to say so), despite the UN denunciation of both statements. Since the election, Blue and White have released their full platform, which includes support for further settlements in Gaza and Israeli control of Golan Heights.
The historic so-called “left” in Israel, led in the Knesset (Israeli parliament) by the Labor Party, poses little opposition to the far-right mainstream. While Gantz and Blue and White refused to issue a statement on Netanyahu’s call for annexation of settlements, Labor’s statement shows only a difference in tactical orientation while pledging loyalty to the racist-Zionist cause: “Whoever runs away from the two-state solution will get one state with an Arab majority and the end of the Zionist vision. The Labor Party is… committed to… maintaining a Jewish majority.” Recently, Labor denounced the UK Labour Party and Jeremy Corbyn as “anti-Semitic” over support for the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement.
The outcome of this election between pro-colonial forces as well as the ever-deepening spread of fascism in mainstream Israeli society will mean more violence against the Palestinian people. Already, Israeli occupation forces have killed or injured thousands of protestors including EMTs, journalists, and children in response to the peaceful Great March of Return movement in the Gaza Strip, which rallied against Israel’s illegally constructed apartheid wall every Friday for more than a year, demanding the fundamental right of return for all Palestinians. Vigilante terror carried out by Israeli settlers in illegal West Bank colonial outposts is rampant.
Walk for Israel tries and fails to intimidate
At the Walk for Israel in Denver, a coalition of counter-protesters showed solidarity with Palestine. The goal of the counter action was to break through the PR lies told about Israel.
When asked about why she attended and helped organize the counter-demonstration, Reema, member of the Colorado Palestine Club, highlighted the importance of the presence of the Palestinian community at events like this one. She emphasized that while U.S. Zionists are celebrating Israel, Palestinians are denied the right to return to their homes. Israeli PR stunts do not change the fact that Zionism is “hostile and dehumanizing.”
Security for the Walk for Israel instructed marchers to not engage with counter protesters, but some Zionists could not contain their hatred. At the beginning of the event, a person in a “Trump 2020” hat confronted the counter-protest by shouting and waving an Israeli flag. During the march, a person in a “MAGA” yarmulke sang in Hebrew and skipped by the counter protestors. In another instance, a person in a Walk for Israel t-shirt drove by protesters yelling “Israel will live forever and you will all die!” The pro-Zionists especially spewed their anger at Arab American men and women.
When asked why JVP organized this event, JVP member Abby Harms stated that they were there to show there are members of the Jewish community who stand with the Palestinian people. “We’ve grown in numbers. The first year we had five people, and today we have 55. The mainstream public is becoming more aware.”
The growth in both numbers and power of the movement in support of Palestine shows that the truth of Israel’s ongoing abuses against the Palestinian people is more powerful than shallow promotional campaigns and gimmicks. The Walk for Israel brazenly tries to present a violent and fascistic state as friendly, peaceful, and kind. But more and more people are seeing through the lies!