Deep Contradictions of the Protests in Israel - Derya Koca
Anti-Netanyahu actions have been taking place in Israel for months. Netanyahu, who started his fifth term as prime minister, is trying to pass through a narrow tunnel that is surrounded by the corruption case, street demonstrations, Pandemic crisis, and economic crisis. Netanyahu's star would have been expected to shine in such a period when Zionism has increased its aggression in the region, the "Agreement of the Century", which aims to erase the Palestinian state from the map forever, seized Jerusalem as a historically symbolic move. However, things are not that easy for Netanyahu.
At the root of the protests against Netanyahu are the contradictions created by the construction of Zionis: crisis, authoritarianism, impoverishment. Netanyahu has been in power since 2009 and hasn't won a majority in the last three early elections. Authoritarianism is the very natural consequence of the construction of the Zionist state that also means constructing a warplane in the middle of the Middle East. Not only Netanyahu but all right-wing leaders, including Erdogan, follow the same path: controlling the judiciary, buying the media, ruthlessly suppression of the protests, putting on great fortunes, enriching their supporters …
Public dissatisfaction in Zionist Israel manifests itself in the protests which are on the rise again as of September. In this article, we will try to understand both the nature of the actions and the crisis of Netanyahu. And let's ask the way to the point we will reach with the question: Is it possible to establish democracy in Israel, the gendarmerie of US imperialism, as the actions in the streets demand? How should socialists approach the mass movements in Israel?
Bibi in crisis
Israel escalated the Zionist project and its motivation based on the constant war did not protect him from the downturn of the economy and the pandemic crisis. Since March, when the first quarantine was implemented, cases in Israel have started to rise significantly again.
After the quarantine, masses of laborers- mostly tradesmen and unemployed- took to the streets. The reason is that Netanyahu did not fulfill his election promises of the aid packages. Unemployment has increased from February’s 3.5 percent to 21 percent now. In the West Bank, it rose from 25 percent to 40 percent, and in Gaza, it was above 50 percent even before the pandemic. Therefore, the deep crisis experienced by the Palestinian people is much deeper than what we have seen in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.
Netanyahu quickly lifted quarantine and measures to get rid of the effects of the crisis. When the number of cases exceeded 3 thousand on September 3 and reached a historical peak, a new quarantine decision was made . This is enough to overturn the economy that is not doing any good.
The OECD and the Israeli Central Bank predict that the economy will see a 6 percent drop, which is the sharpest drop in the country's history. If this trend continues in Israel, which fell into a recession in August, GDP will fall by 28.7 percent compared to the previous year. Of course, it is obvious that the Palestinians will be affected most by this impoverishment. As the crisis continues to deepen all over the world, it would be unthinkable for Israel to remain unaffected from this. However, Bibi's political career is in serious danger as the situation is combined with the social unrest created by the attempts to establish full authority over the judiciary and the state. It is pointed out in the polls that the rate of trust in the prime minister, which was 56 percent in April, has decreased to 30 percent.
The government crisis, which has started in 2018, was partially solved with the coalition of Netanyahu and his rival Benny Gantz on May 17, 2020, after 18 months of no government. According to the right-wing coalition agreement called "Emergency Union Government", the two leaders will alternately serve as prime ministers. Netanyahu's Likud Party finished first with 29.4% and the Blue and White alliance finished second with 26%. So even the coalition hardly gets the majority in the 120-seat parliament.
In domestic politics, there are tensions that intersect on different axes of different Zionist parties, such as Jews of secular US origin, those who act along the axis of Western liberal values, fundamentalists, and those who in favor of a two-state solution. Thus, Netanyahu’s authoritarian project causes tension in domestic politics to the extent that his project does not compatible with a coalition of these parties and reconciliation of different interests. Netanyahu's aggressive attacks in the Middle East, saying, "We will take Jordan Valley”, “We annex the West Bank”, “We will hit Hezbollah ...", also escalates the tensions of domestic politics.
Netanyahu is constantly fighting with the judiciary and the police to achieve his goal of becoming the only authority. At the root of this fight is the corruption investigation directed against him. Netanyahu, being trialed on three separate cases, is the first prime minister in Israeli history. If found guilty, he may drop out of politics or even go to jail. This process is also making a contribution to the authoritarianism campaign by saying that "a small minority who has taken over the judiciary is imposing leftism on the country". His expectation is to get stronger with political processes and to tear from these cases.
Bibi is not happy with the coalition he has formed with his ruling partner, the Blue and White alliance. He wants a new early election in which there will be an absolute majority to get rid of the parliament, where even the budget could not approve. His own future is his top priority right now. And this causes an increase in the dose of authoritarianism.
Israel passes a law allowing gov't to bypass parliament on COVID-19 decisions at midnight only 29 by 24 "majority"; He authorized him to impose restrictions for up to a week that means the Israeli parliament's control over the government to be eroded. Netanyahu defended the law: "it delays the implementation of government decisions" and then "Legal rules constrain us, it is amazing that everything must be enacted." he added.
As a classic far-right politician, Netanyahu declared the actions that intensified during July and rose again last week, as "leftist" and “anarchist."And, he lashed out at media: " “There has never been such a distorted mobilization [of the media],” he said. “I would have said Soviet [media mobilization], but its already North Korean in manner.” However, the majority of those on the street are from the central/liberal Black Flag Movement, which was formed as a division from Netanyahu’s centrist coalition partner as a reaction to the Blue and White coalition participated in the coalition government despite the corruption cases and his authoritarianism. Netanyahu needs polarization So it is in his best interest to summon the specter of communism just as his brother Trump.
Trump and Netanyahu's paths cross existentially, not just in hostility to the left. Recently, the agenda of the UAE-Israel agreement and joint declaration with Bahrain, which will benefit these two far-right leaders, is critical. Netanyahu, who wants another early election, becomes the "leader" who advances the victory of Zionism in the region and succeeds in breaking the Arab front with these agreements. He also hopes that the "Arab normalization" will lead to deepening economic relations with the EU. For Trump, who is looking for materials before the election, the agreements are another success of Israel under the leadership of the US in the Middle East. Following the talks, Netanyahu gave the following not so convincing messages to domestic politics: "We have worked on this for many years ... This is a major change in Israeli history and also in the history of the Middle East.” While the US administration announced that Israel suspended its "annexation" plan after the normalization agreement with the UAE, Netanyahu said the plan is "still on the table”. The future will show the truth.
An Israeli Democracy?
The Israeli judiciary has been judging Netanyahu- who has committed countless wars and crimes against humanity in Gaza, the West Bank, Syria, and Iraq- for corruption. Netanyahu, who is on trial for three separate cases of fraud, bribery, and abuse of office. He will therefore do everything to expand his diminishing support and stay in power to get rid of any punishment. This goes all the way to causing an all-out conflict with the judiciary, which he accused of launching a "left-wing coup" to dismiss him.
Israeli is not only the armed gendarmerie of the US in the region but also the ideological gendarmerie. In order to gather the settlers from all over the world, they built a country with the money of imperialism: they established a Western type of prosperity and political system in the Middle East. That’s why, the Israeli society, is full of contradictions. Tel Aviv is the showcase of Israel, where the only mass Pride Parade in the Middle East is held, boasting the world's most vegan restaurants. Behind this showcase is a bloody war machine. Politics are carried out by establishing balance and alliances between the settlement of Jews from different geographies and different tendencies, such as the USA, Argentina, and the former Soviet countries, and the political tendencies of the illegitimately gathered population (in a political atmosphere where almost each established their own Zionist party). A wide range of Westernist, fundamentalist, identity, conservative Zionism …
In Tel Aviv, the masses, who are tired of the economic crisis, take to the streets, bring things to another dimension. Mass actions were taken against social insecurity for workers and the non-distribution of even the limited funds promised. The Black Flag movement-led protests demand Netanyahu's resignation, cancellation of the annexation plans, solution for impoverishment and unemployment. Tens of thousands of people participated in the protests. Even teachers went on strike against the high risks amid the pandemic. The Israeli police, who are usually busy with torturing and massacring Palestinians every day on the streets, have repeatedly attacked the activists harshly. Since July, the streets of Israel have become home to class contradictions.
An anti-Zionist political alternative is needed for demands such as democracy and anti-authoritarianism to rise in Israeli society. However, such a reality is out of the question now. We, revolutionaries, approach the class-based separation of the Zionist bourgeoisie and the working people as a favorable development. However, there is currently no political ground for such an alternative.
Zionist Israel is a police state. And this state will crush any social demand whether it comes from the Jewish people or the Palestinian people. To fulfill even the most basic demands of the Jewish laborers, the Zionist state of Israel should be demolished because it is the outpost of imperialism and also the enemy of the Jewish people. The advancement of the masses, who take to the streets in the face of unemployment, futility, and epidemic, can only be possible with an anti-Zionist working class program. The reaction of the Jewish working people living in Israel to the crisis and the demands of the masses, who are demanding democracy and economic solutions, highly depends on the question that "whether Zionism will be destroyed or not.”
The path of Jewish workers is currently in contradiction with the police state which based on annexation and occupation. But what they have to is to unite with the historical struggle of the Palestinian laborers and crystallize with the program of destroying the state of Israel. Otherwise, the mass movement will be left with this deep historical contradiction, and the only thing that changes will be the name of the Zionist leader. The separation of Jewish laborers from the Zionist project and the realization of the Palestinian struggle on the basis of the unity of workers and peoples would mean the only real progress for the Middle East. This progress is not possible without the defeat of religious and nationalist reactionism in the Palestinian territories. The mullah regime of Iran, the sectarian regime of Lebanon, the order established after the invasion in Iraq … They all feed on each other and make the Middle East a total hell. The way to end these reactionary forces in the Middle East and for both Jewish and Palestinian people to live freely is through the regional class struggle. The internationalist program of the Permanent Revolution is the only way of salvation for the peoples of the Middle East.
 Among the quarantined regions are the regions where Orthodox fanatical Zionists live and the Arab neighborhoods where crowded weddings are held. Orthodox people also cause the virus to spread rapidly due to crowded religious ceremonies. This base, which Netanyahu's far-right government tried to appease, reacted strongly to the prohibitions of worship. Yaakov Litzman, the head of the far-right United Torah Judaism party, the Minister of Construction and Housing, who also runs the occupying Jewish settlements, and an ally of Netanyahu, protested the Sunday curfew. He said that "hundreds of thousands of Jews from all walks of life will prevent prayers in the synagogues.” and after he resigned. In Jerusalem, hundreds of ultra-Orthodox fanatics clashed with the police during protests against the local closure of three high-infection neighborhoods and local isolation in four other towns and cities. 10 of the fanatics who blocked the roads, clashed with the police, and destroyed the police barricades were arrested. Similar debates kept the country busy for a long time after the pilgrimage of Ukrainian Jews was restricted as part of the first Pandemic measures.