ON the last day of February 20 years ago, 23-year-old American activist Rachel Corrie wrote to her mother from Rafah in the Gaza Strip: “I think I could see a Palestinian state or a democratic Israeli-Palestinian state within my lifetime. I think freedom for Palestine could be an incredible source of hope to people struggling all over the world. I think it could also be an incredible inspiration to Arab people in the Middle East, who are struggling under undemocratic regimes which the US supports.”
A few days later, she asked her father: “Let me know if you have any ideas about what I should do with the rest of my life.” It turned out to be her last email. On March 16, 2003, the rest of her life was stolen from Rachel. She was crushed by an Israeli bulldozer for standing in the way of a house demolition, a routine punishment for the families of purported or actual participants in the Palestinian resistance.
Last May, Palestinian-American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh was shot dead while doing her job: covering a raid by Israeli Defence Forces on the Jenin refugee camp in the West Bank. The “most moral military force in the world” first tried to pin the blame on Palestinian gunmen. When that fiction fell apart in the light of investigations by US media outlets, it conceded possible culpability for an ‘accidental’ shot, rather than the targeted killing that the evidence pointed to.
In both cases, the repercussions from Israel’s chief sponsor added up to zilch. In March 2003, the Bush administration was invading Iraq and had no time for American humanitarians. In May 2022, the Biden administration remained unmoved, beyond the occasional mumble. After all, throughout his political career, Joe Biden has taken pride in being a more or less unquestioning enabler of the Zionist project, regardless of what it entails.
Pause is unlikely to halt Israel’s drift towards fascism
The recent angst among the usual fans (with occasional reservations) of this project — from Thomas Friedman and even Alan Dershowitz in the US, to the likes of Labour MP Margaret Hodge in Britain — has been amusing to watch. Their quarrel with the latest Netanyahu administration is essentially restricted to its attempted judicial coup.
That was stalled on Monday, after Benjamin Netanyahu’s dismissal of his Likud defence minister — a day after the latter advised a cautious pause in pushing the legislation because soldiers and reservists were rebelling — led to some of the biggest demonstrations Israel has witnessed amid a flurry of protests in recent weeks, and the likelihood of a general strike.
The legislative changes are predicated on the assumption that the Israeli judiciary is too activist and secular, and this could be fixed by giving the parliamentary majority in the Knesset the decisive say in appointments to the benches. They would also make it harder for courts to challenge any legislation. The idea, in other words, is fewer checks and more imbalances.
An impressive proportion of Israelis have rebelled against this diminution of their rights, waving the national flag en masse to demand democracy — also known as the status quo. Netanyahu’s ultra-Orthodox and extreme-nationalist coalition was hoping to push through the changes before Passover in early April. Their idea of Israel does not include access for refugees, or equal rights for women or LGBTIQ communities, let alone more hurdles to annexing much of the West Bank. And the courts, for what they are worth, as well as the ‘anarchists’ defending the status quo, can’t be allowed to stand in the way.
It is likely that the reprieve will be brief. Netanyahu will return to this agenda soon, or else his coalition, inhabited by the likes of the fascistic Bezalel Smotrich and Itamar Ben-Gvir, will fall apart. Besides, there’s a personal stake for Netanyahu in controlling the courts: the corruption charges he has faced for years could still derail his political career.
What difference, though, will this make to the Palestinians stranded in Gaza, regularly gunned down in West Bank towns, or subjected to the depredations inflicted by settlers — illegal except under Israeli and US law — across the West Bank? ‘None whatsoever’ is a reasonable response.
A US billionaire-sponsored think tank, the Kohelet Policy Forum, is behind both the current judicial agenda and the 2018 Nation-State Law, passed in 2018 under a previous Netanyahu administration, that decisively — perhaps irrevocably — entrenched Israel as an apartheid state. The crimes committed since 1948 by Zionists who were well aware of the Nazi parallels have rarely attracted the concern or ire of its sponsors or allies in the West, several among whom have effectively criminalised the anti-racist boycott, divestment and sanctions campaign.
A variety of Israeli bulldozers, including Netanyahu, remain in place. When will they ever learn? Not in my lifetime, I suspect.
Published in Dawn, March 29th, 2023
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